Why Write Queer

I started writing queer characters and themes for the reason that I hear many other LGBTQIA+ writers cite: these were the stories that I wanted to read. When I sold my first novel, in 1984, most of us added, these were the stories I wanted to read, and that I couldn’t find anywhere else. These days, I hear that less, and there has certainly been a boom in queer SF/F. You don’t have to be part of a whisper network to hear which books have queer content, or learn to interpret publishers’ coded references. Both small presses and mainstream houses are now happy to tell you that there are queer characters and themes and even worlds, and we’re all the better for it.

I also write queer characters and relationships because they were things I knew, well and in-depth. These were my friends and chosen family, polished up and shown at their best and bravest, or carefully edited to look at my own fears and flaws. When you write SF/F, this is the only way you can really follow the old adage “write what you know.” I will never cultivate artificial life in a virtual garden, or rely on implanted skill-chips to do my job, but I do know what it’s like to be in a mixed-class relationship and the way difference can blind-side you. I know what it’s like to have a crush on another girl, and not know what to do about it. If I am any kind of a writer, I can portray those feelings in a way that readers will recognize their emotional truth, and that adds extra verisimilitude to the hard SF trappings.

Another reason people always give for writing queer is the importance of representation: if you don’t see yourself in a role, a job, a state of mind, you can’t ever get there. And representation does make a difference. It’s so much easier to be out, for example, when you see other people who are out and still going about their lives in a perfectly ordinary way, without the horrible consequences so many of us were threatened with. It’s easier to believe that not all doctors are men (and not all nurses are women) when you’ve seen a woman cardiologist, or noted the they/them pronouns on your doctor’s ID badge, or seen your mother looked after by an enormous bear of a head nurse, the fabulous (and family) Kevin.

But, even more than that, we need lots of representation — we need representation that doesn’t just tell one story (all too often, the tale of the tragic queer), but that tells as many of our stories as we are willing to tell. Each of us has something new to say, something that no other writer can say, and the more voices that speak, the wider our representation becomes. That’s one of the things that I like most about doing the Pride Storybundles: I always end up finding new writers with new stories, and my world opens up yet again. That’s what I hope at least some readers will find when they read my work — a new story, a new shape to the world — and its why I keep writing queer.

(And in case it wasn’t obvious — the 2023 Pride Storybundle is now available! There are five books in the regular bundle, plus twelve in the bonus, making for a total of seventeen. We’re offering a mix of novels, novellas, and short story collections; we have science fiction, space opera, fantasy, dark fantasy, historical fantasy, and more. There are newer writers and new work, and reintroduced some older stories you may have missed the first time around. It’s a bundle that celebrates our myriad identities and shows off the work of some of the best writers working today. And, as in previous years, you can set aside some of the purchase price to benefit Rainbow Railroad, an NGO helping queer folk escape state-sponsored violence and persecution worldwide.)