The portal fantasy subgenre and its themes of displacement, liminality, and “strange” children coming-of-age in even stranger otherworlds, has been read queerly by many readers across its history. From foundational academics like Alexander Doty to contemporary authors like A.J. Hackworth, many have noted the thematic and allegorical undercurrents in the portal fantasy that resonate with, and provide valuable escapism and catharsis to, young queer readers.
Seanan McGuire’s 2016 novella Every Heart a Doorway takes a playful, metatextual approach to the portal fantasy, not only by interrogating its tropes and history but by unambiguously portraying queer characters in the genre. By giving her fantasy narrative to a cast of explicitly queer characters, McGuire acknowledges the queer resonance that has long been present in the genre and brings it to the surface of her work, creating a dual-layer of queerness in the text that interweaves magical metaphor with textual LGBTQIA+ representation.
Rainbow rep: a queer protagonist, a non-binary love interest, various queer side characters including a mentor character and his husband
Content warnings: depictions of panic attacks and other trauma responses, dead parents in backstory, chronic illness
Premise: magic (known as maz) is a physical resource that comes up from under the ground, but to access it you have to pay the big bucks to the corporation that has monopolised it. What if you want maz but don’t have the aforementioned big bucks? Well, that’s where Diz and her crew of thieves come in. For years now they’ve had a sweet side hustle where they siphon maz and bring it to the highest bidder. It’s a risky business, though, and Diz’s friends want to graduate and move on with their lives. So Diz (reluctantly) sets them up for One Last Job… but rather than this being the end of their story, the crew instead finds themselves in the midst of a corporate cover-up that is putting millions of lives at risk.
Early ventures in queer young adult (YA) fiction followed certain conventions: they tended to be set in the contemporary world and their narratives focused on coming out, bullying, heartbreak or fighting for acceptance. Most unfortunately, these stories also have a long history of ending in tragedy.
There is absolutely a place for stories that address the often harsh reality of being queer in a heteronormative world. However, this history has left many adolescents (and adults!) under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella calling out for stories that break this mould.
Before the rose was there, the garden was full of moss. I started as a seed under it, waiting for the right time to sprout. Clover waited, and waited, and tended the garden, and didn’t listen to anyone who said she should give up. Moss, my other mother, she waited too. But Clover was the one who came out every morning and told me about her night, what she was planning on cooking that day, how Moss was going. […]
When my first two leaves emerged, Moss and Clover knew I would be okay.
I didn’t mean to be a strange baby made of plants, but it hasn’t caused any problems.
So begins Alison Evans’ Euphoria Kids, with the narrator, Iris, matter-of-factly regaling us with the tale of the beginning of their life: intermingled wordlessly with magic and a kind of dream-logic bizarreness, and intermingled effortlessly with queer love and affection. This sets the tone for the whole book: a dreamy, whimsical tale of understated magic that is almost rebelliously committed to letting its protagonists be. Continue reading →
Reviews, reviews, reviews! I keep writing them because I keep reading absolutely fantastic queer books! This time round I’m delighted to recommend these three, featuring superhero conspiracies, adventures in outer space, and the emotional tale of a friendship falling apart. Read on… Continue reading →
I’ve made my exhaustion with the Marvel Cinematic Universe quite public in the last little while. It just got so big, so convoluted, so self-conscious and yet so self-congratulatory. Which is a shame, because there really is some good stuff in there, and a lot of potential for fun… as this book reminded me, coming out of left field and smacking me over the head with an emotional investment in a slice of the Marvel world. Loki: Where Mischief Lies (penned by Mackenzi Lee, most famous for her queer historical YA) is a gorgeously written, tightly plotted tale of gods and magic that contains just the right amount of hijinks, and contains a frankly graceful rendering of Loki that gets right what makes his character so interesting and so likeable… and, as a bonus, he’s not at all heterosexual. Having picked this up for work and gone in with very few expectations, this book blew me away, and I am so delightfully baffled that it gets its own post. Continue reading →
And we’re back with the first trio of mini-reviews for 2020! This field continues to be a vibrant, diverse, very fun place to read: this time round we have a crew of Australian teenagers fighting off zombies, a summer camp romance, and a sci-fi-fantasy genre-blend with all the cogs and clockwork you could wish for. Read on for the thoughts and reflections… Continue reading →
Sex is considered an intrinsic part of being human, and the development of a relationship with sex and sexuality an intrinsic part of growing up. This societal narrative leaves people on the asexual spectrum—those who do not experience sexual attraction—on the margins and considered abnormal. This can have an especially negative effect on asexual adolescents who are not experiencing the ‘rite of passage’ that is sexual desire and experimentation with sexual relationships. This is why—as with all queer identities—it is important to represent and normalise asexuality within fiction, particularly fiction aimed at young people.
In this paper I examine two young adult novels with asexual protagonists—Kathryn Ormsbee’s Tash Hearts Tolstoy (2017) and Claire Kann’s Let’s Talk About Love (2018)—and how their protagonists’ asexual identity is woven into their coming-of-age stories and romance arcs. I explore the tropes, stereotypes, and misconceptions that have traditionally informed media depictions of asexuality, and how these novels divert from them to provide a more accurate and nuanced representation of the asexual experience; and, in doing so, establish patterns and tropes of their own from which a uniquely ‘asexual narrative’ suggests itself.
Guess who did some reading during the blog break? This guy. Click through for yet more recommendations, from cute summer rom-coms to heartfelt non-binary coming-of-age stories to lesbians on a quest to defy fate!
Here we are again, gang: this time with a sci-fi myth retelling, a quiet historical coming-of-age story, and a contemporary romance (featuring a love triangle that stays triangular). Read on… Continue reading →