The Problem With Gay Fantasy-Fiction

Pyrofennec does an excellent job highlighting the issues of Rape In My Anti-Tolkien.  I wanted to elaborate a little on a more specialised area of fantasy.

Why is there so much rape in my gay fantasy fiction?


It doesn’t happen in books with straight male protagonists, unless it’s to his girlfriend, his wife, his mother, his sister. Rape is something that he never needs to contend with on a personal level. It’s just not on the radar. It’s this special crime saved for all the men who are not straight and women.

There’s a whole lot of awful tropes in fantasy fiction featuring gay and bisexual male protagonists. The heroes are almost always stunning beautiful and exceptionally talented, there’s usually a dark secret and a tragic past thrown in, they’re underappreciated, misunderstood, and their lives are filled with Angst with a capital A, but don’t worry about it, they’ll get over it with the love of a good man, at least until he dies in horribly tragic circumstances.

But  what annoys me most is the prevalence of rape. I can’t say I’m too fond of the incest either, I’m certainly not fond of lovers being murdered or characters being killed just because.  But I hate the rape.

Here is a list, of fantasy fiction, that I’ve read, which has cis-male protagonists who are either gay or bisexual (there’s a couple of exceptions but they’re listed below). I’ve mentioned accounts of both rape and deaths (except in the cases where I just can’t remember).

Just to be clear if magic is used to coerce someone into having sex that is rape.  If someone is not conscious (and has given no prior consent) then having sex with them is rape. Forced to have sex, be that magically or otherwise, is rape.

As for the deaths, not all of them are equal. Some are the heroes, some are the heroes’ lovers, some are secondary characters, some are minor characters, some are the villains and some are mentioned in passing. For some books I’ve listed them out and others I’ve just noted there are deaths. Some of the books have worlds in which everyone is bi and so any death is going to be that of a bisexual character, others we’re speaking of 50% of the book’s non-straight population being killed off. I’m not going to differentiate here.

I’m not commenting on the quality or the literary merit of the books below. There are books on the list I enjoyed and books I loathed.

On to the list!

Poison Study: Commander Ambrose

Poison Study by Maria V Snyder tells the story of Yelena Zaltana, who begins the tale awaiting execution for a murder that she did commit. The society in which she lives is one in which murder is murder and there is no leniency regardless of what her motivations might have been and so she refuses to explain herself or offer excuses. She is granted a last minute reprieve if she agrees to serve as the Commander’s poison taster. It is a position that is considered to be a death sentence but given the choice of certain death and a chance to live she takes the latter. Yelena’s story is interesting on many accounts, not least because she is a woman of colour in a land of fair-skinned northerners, but I am not going to discuss her here.

Instead I’d like to discuss one of the secondary characters, Commander Ambrose, who is the ruler of Ixia, the country in which the story takes place.

Continue reading

Open discussion: Ars Marginal in 2011 (plus year in review)

So WordPress sent me this nifty little e-mail thing telling me how Ars Marginal is doing.

Numbers and shit
Wordpress tells me that this blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2010. That probably means about 1,000 clicks from actual viewers and 18,000 times of me editing and moderating and shit.

According to WordPress, this means I’m doing “Wow.” I guess that ain’t bad, but I want this bad boy to get 1,000 followers and another 10 or so contributors. Ambitious? Probably. But I’ll try. I need some volunteers (read: YOU) to help out, though.
More about stats and shit