When Steve Berman of Lethe Press asked me to co-edit Lethe’s year’s best lesbian SF/F anthology, Heiresses of Russ, for 2014, I was (of course) honored to be asked. I read a lot of stories, discovered some new writers, was reminded of some old favorites, but, most of all, I was blown away by the number and quality of the stories that were submitted. It reminded me yet again how much the SF/F world has changed — when my first novel was published, back in 1984, I was told that queer characters and themes were highly unlikely to sell, and if they did, at best they would get you branded as just and only a queer writer, trapped forever in a ghetto within a ghetto. Over the last thirty years, that has all changed dramatically. LGBT+ characters are definitely part of the field, and if they’re aren’t as many of them out there as there were in the late 1980s/early 1990s, we’ve never returned to the assumption that writing queer is the death of one’s career. In fact, the number of writers for whom intelligent, nuanced, sensitive — and queer — writing about queer things is simply a normal part of their range has grown so large so quickly that it’s all but impossible to keep up. And that, of course, meant that winnowing the field to a dozen books for an LGBT Storybundle was going to be equally difficult.
I’ve made a couple of arbitrary choices to start with. First, no novels in which being queer means you’re evil (that should go without saying), nor are there any in which it’s a doomed and tragic fate. There are places for the latter, but in this group I want to celebrate queerness. I also decided to focus on small press offerings, on the theory that it’s easier to overlook them than books from the mainstream houses — and none of this really narrowed the field very much. In the end, I went with books that showed me new facets of the LGBT+ experience, books that expanded my vision of both queer and of SF/F. It’s a highly eclectic group, a mix of new and established writers, novels and short story collections; it includes historical fantasy, contemporary werewolves, superhero adventures, Victorian magic, a YA ghost story, secondary world fantasies, and a noir-inflected war between Heaven and Hell, but all of them are by authors who are at the top of their game. There are six Spectrum and Lambda Literary Award finalists and winners in the group, and Riley Parra has been turned into a web series by Tello Films, to debut in August. You’ll also find a diverse group of characters, worlds where the rules of sex and gender are profoundly different form our own, and stories that will hold you entranced to the very end.
I don’t claim that this is the (or even “a”) definitive LGBT+ collection. The field is far too large for anyone to claim that. What I can promise is that these books celebrate queerness — gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and just plain queer — and show off some of the best writers working today.
On a more serious note… Storybundle has always allowed its patrons to donate part of their payment to a related charity, and the appalling situation in Chechnya seemed to be one where donations could make a real and immediate difference. If you choose, you can donate part of the bundle’s price to the Rainbow Railroad, a group helping LGBT people escape persecution and violence worldwide. At the moment, they are concentrating on helping the victims of the attacks on gay men in Chechnya; your donation will be a potentially life-saving gift.