Hello, my lovely lemons! 🍋 How are you today? I’m doing well, still enjoying Pride Month and reading every queer book I can get my hands on. I wanted to do a discussion post today, one that very much fits the Pride Month theme.
You see, I’ve been reading more Adult sci-fi and fantasy lately, and because I’m me I very much want all of it to be LGBTQ+. And while what I’m looking for definitely exists, there’s a sharp contrast between the volumes available in YA vs Adult.
While representation in Adult literature as a whole is certainly a talking point, I wanted to look more specifically at the type of worlds we’re seeing in sci-fi and fantasy. I want more queernorm worlds. I don’t know how niche this term is so I’m going to explain it and you can forgive me if you already know.
A fictional world in which LGBTQ+ identities are accepted as standard. Abbreviation of queer normative. “The Murderbot Diaries are set in a queernorm world.”
A queernorm world is essentially a fictional universe within a novel where being queer, a lesbian, trans, asexual, polyamomorous, or anything else under the LGBTQ+ banner is “normal”. There’s no prejudice, and characters won’t encounter homophobia or questions about their identity. Often, there’s no need for characters to come out or use labels because no one is assuming their identity in the first place.
And as a queer person, reading queernorm books is so cathartic. It’s healing in ways I can hardly express. Every time I come away from a queernorm book I feel a little more settled in my identity, a little more able to own and accept who I am. Living inside a fictional world with characters who are so truly themselves, and are able to be that way because they’ve never experienced pushback, or had to cope with people telling them their identity is bad or wrong… It gives me hope. It lifts me up and tells me “there is nothing wrong with you”. It gives me the courage to be a little less apologetic, a little more like these characters that I love.
My most recent experience of this is with Gideon the Ninth. I’ve already spoken about my love of that book, but I’ll never do it justice. It’s a book about lesbians. It says so right on the cover, so clearly even the most blatant homophobe couldn’t deny it. And Gideon is truly a big ol’ lesbian. Her Disaster Gay™ energy and love of women can be felt on every page. And I adored it. To read about a girl checking out other girls, and have it portrayed as totally normal and not “predatory” as it often is in the real world – it was amazing. It made me so happy, and this was all just background to the actual plot!
That’s what I want. I want more of that. I want books that make me feel accepted. That show me a potential future in which everyone is accepted. I read books to escape, to bring me happiness. Every time I read a book in a completely fictional world – a world the author has complete control over – where they decided that it simply wouldn’t be realistic, that the setting couldn’t function or be believable without homophobia, or racism, or any of the prejudices we’re forced to live with in real life, it cuts me a little inside.
There’s something about queernorm worlds that makes me feel so seen. They give me a chance to imagine, to envision a life I could’ve lived. To think about how I would feel within myself if I had never known prejudice. If I had seen myself growing up, if I had been exposed to queerness my whole life and had it treated as something normal and everyday. If I could forget every time I had to sit through family members discussing why gay marriage shouldn’t be allowed or complaining that [insert slur here] was on TV.
Every opportunity I get to spend time encapsulated in a safe, queernorm world is time in which I feel a little more free. Every time I pick up a book I feel like I’m visiting a new place, and when it’s a place that welcomes and accepts me with open arms, it’s a wonderful feeling. Another brilliant example of this is The Priory of the Orange Tree. I think it was actually the first queernorm book I read, and the feeling was revolutionary for me. It was small details, like a gender neutral wedding ceremony, that really set the tone (and gave me the warm-and-fuzzies).
Since I’m here to encourage more of these settings, I think I’d best name a few that I’ve read! There’s Becky Chamber’s Wayfarers series, which really hits the mark. Gender neutral titles are the standard, and gender neutral pronouns like xe/xyr pop up frequently. The Murderbot Diaries features lots of characters in queer and polyamorous relationships, as well as gender nonconforming folks. Both are great examples of Sci-Fi set so far in an imagined future that those kinds of prejudices no longer exist. It’s a beautiful thing to think about. And as I’ve already mentioned, Gideon the Ninth and The Priory of the Orange Tree are fantastic fantasy tales.
I wish I had more recommendations to put here. But as far as I can recall these are the main ones I’ve read. I’m sure there are more on my TBR, but without reading a book it’s hard to know whether it really has that all-uncompassing, naturalised feeling of queerness. If you have any recommendations please let me know, because I chase that cathartic feeling every day.
And don’t forget to recommend me all your favourite LGBTQ+ books in the comments! I’m still working on my post with all your recs for the end of the month, so drop me a comment if you haven’t already.