The Quest for Queer Lit

I was hanging around the guilds on HabitRPG when another user gave a heads up to queer writers: Have you heard about Strange Horizon’s “Our Queer Planet” issue?

The sci-fi e-zine is hosting a celebration of queer identity, specifically looking for “work that explores intersectional queer imaginaries and experiences around the world,” with an emphasis on stories set on Earth (timeline variable). So I looked through my past fiction, and some of my best sci-fi stories feature gay male leads or gender-non-binary aliens–but none of them take place on Earth.

So, I decided, I’ll just have to write something new.

But then, I asked myself, what’s queer literature?

It’s not an entirely hypothetical question. Is it simply fiction featuring queer characters, or does queer identity need to be a plot point in particular? All the stories I’ve imagined since I set out to write something feature diverse characters, but their being queer isn’t a pivotal part of the plot–it’s simply a part of who they are as individual characters.

Perhaps it’s too progressive, to delegate being gay to background character data. Certainly, it influences plot development, but in the future worlds I’ve envisioned, you could just as easily insert a hetero couple without the experience differing drastically: I write for the emotional experience, not the societal perceptions thereof.

An alt-earth seems like a safer route than pure sci-fi, at least for me: but how might have things differed, and how might it have changed the social constructs such that queer identity could be a central facet of the story? Too few changes and it’s contemporary realism with some sprinkles of sci-fi, but change too much and I’ll need a novel just to set the stage before the story can begin.

Maybe I’m just floundering for inspiration. It’s been a long time, now that I think of it, since I’ve imagined a wholly new story–everything I’ve written for months now has been new installments in stories inspired when I was still a child.

The last wholly “new” thing I wrote was more than a year ago.

And, trust me, if my gender-non-conforming alien story were set on Earth, it’d be my first choice for “Our Queer Planet,” but I guess it’s more a “Their Queer Planet” story.

Of course, trying to write a story with the premise of it being queer fiction is itself antithesis to my process: I start with a name or situation, an idea for the ending and beginning, and then I allow the characters to fill in everything in between.

I think my stumbling block is precisely the question I started with: what makes a story queer lit? Is it the presence of queer identity, or something stronger or deeper?

What are you thoughts? And how do you get started writing stories like this?

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