Saturday, November 25, 2017

Best LGBT Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2015-2016

Update 11/26/17: Miscategorized bisexual story “Seasons of Glass and Iron” as lesbian. Updated both lists.
In addition to regular monthly ratings we’re going to start publishing occasional lists of excellent stories from particular subsets of Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF). We’ve previously done this for Hard Science Fiction, and this month we’re doing it for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) stories.

As always, our focus is on the stories, not the authors. These are stories with memorable LGBT characters—not necessarily stories by noted LGBT authors. These include excellent stories in which a key character merely happens to be an LGBT person as well as stories where the LGBT angle is crucial to the plot.
Also, these are stories that had at least one recommendation from a “prolific reviewer” (that is, any reviewer who reads at least 500 stories a year from major print and online sources); no single reviewer can really capture the tastes of all readers, so drawing from a pool of reviewers makes it more likely that we haven’t omitted anything.
The 33 stories are written by 30 authors and published in 15 magazines or anthologies from 2015-2016. Moving forward, we’ll probably produce an annual list for the previous year during Gay Pride Month (June), but we wanted to do something with the material we had for the past two years.


Our favorite from this list is “The Briar and the Rose,” by Marjorie M. Liu which reworks the Sleeping Beauty tale in a unique way.
Epitome by Tegan Moore1  Time: 25m (Novelette)  IssueAsimov's 09|16
(SF AI) Shelby's friend Vivian faces a long recovery from a head injury, and she can't bear the loss of her company, so she starts using an AI surrogate.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4 RHorton:4
Secondhand Bodies by JY Yang  Time: 19m (ShortStory)  IssueLightspeed 68
(SF) Agatha wants a svelte replacement for her plump body, but since she can't get one grown in a reasonable time, she looks into an illegal swap.
The Briar and the Rose by Marjorie M. Liu  Time: 31m (Novelette)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(High Fantasy) The Duelist serves the cold, beautiful Carmela but loves Rose. Separating Rose from Caramela is going to be the challenge of her life.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4
The Muses of Shuyedan-18 by Indrapramit Das  Time: 29m (Novelette)  IssueAsimov's 06|15
Lesbian couple studying the native life on Teysanzi make a real impression on a towering alien.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [2]  Recommended By: GDozois:5
Those Shadows Laugh by Geoff Ryman  Time: 32m (Novelette)  IssueF&SF 09.10|16
(Near-Future SF) The secretive parthenogenetic women of Colinas Bravas usually don't allow outsiders into their country, but they invite Ms. Vargas to fix a genetic problem with their children.


Our favorite story about gay men is “Destroyed by the Waters,” by Rachel Swirsky. It’s deeply moving and features a gay couple who’ve been married for fifty years. Since we’re a gay couple (together 21 years) we may be biased on this one, so a second choice is “Calved,” by Sam J. Miller. What’s remarkable about “Calved” is the way all the pieces fit together at the end for a shattering conclusion.
A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson  Time: 1h:54m (Novella)  IssueTor Novella 10/25/16
(Fantasy/SF) Young Aqib has a bright future as a noble, but he meets an enchanting foreigner who makes him consider risking everything.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [2]  Recommended By: JStrahan Nebula Hugo
Calved by Sam J. Miller  Time: 17m (ShortStory)  IssueAsimov's 09|15
A refugee from drowned New York City tries to reconnect with his teenage son during a break from the menial work he does on ice boats.
Das Steingeschöpf by G.V. Anderson1  Time: 21m (ShortStory)  IssueStrange Horizons 12/12/16
(Historical Fantasy) On the eve of the Nazi takeover, a young German man's first assignment fixing a living statue becomes more complicated than he expected.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [5]  Recommended By: RSR:5 Readers
Destroyed By The Waters by Rachel Swirsky  Time: 20m (ShortStory)  IssueDrowned Worlds 2016
(Climate Change) Derek and Zack visit the underwater ruins of New Orleans, where they'd honeymooned fifty years before.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [5]  Recommended By: RSR:5
Edited by Rich Larson  Time: 10m (ShortStory)  IssueInterzone 259
(Near-Future SF) Two teenage boys spend a weekend with a friend who's just been "edited." The narrator struggles to accept the changes in his friend and wonders if things can still be the same.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [5]  Recommended By: RSR:5 SFEP
(Martian Steampunk) A group of Englishmen sharing an evening in a pub near a canal on "Old Mars" meet a stranger who knows their secret and makes them an offer.
The City Born Great by N.K. Jemisin  Time: 20m (ShortStory) 09/28/16
(Modern Fantasy) A young hustler discovers that he's supposed to play a big role in transforming New York from a city to a City. If he can survive it.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: Hugo
The Knobby Giraffe by Rudy Rucker  Time: 11m (ShortStory)  IssueLightspeed 71
(Hard SF) Irit wants to do her Ph.D. thesis on quantum physics and the mind. She lost her girlfriend four months ago, but she thinks there may be a way to change reality.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [2]  Recommended By: RHorton:4
The Siren Son by Tristina Wright1  Time: 21m (ShortStory)  IssueLightspeed 75
(Fantasy) Neal and Killian are young lovers. Together they think they can keep the dragons from destroying the world.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: SFRevu:4
(SF "Magic") Demane is a young "sorcerer" whose magic is half-forgotten high-tech. He's helping guard a caravan which needs to pass through the Wildeeps, a place with dangerous magic of its own.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [5]  Recommended By: RSR:5
The Visionaries by Albert E. Cowdrey  Time: 23m (ShortStory)  IssueF&SF 01.02|16
(Urban Fantasy) Jimmy and Morrie's "Paranormal Services" investigates a haunted forest--tree farm, actually.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4
Things With Beards by Sam J. Miller  Time: 15m (ShortStory)  IssueClarkesworld 117
(Horror) Following a disaster in Antarctica, MacReady spends summer 1983 in New York and starts to wonder what he might have brought back with him.
When The Stone Eagle Flies by Bill Johnson  Time: 26m (Novelette)  IssueAnalog 06|16
(Time Travel; Martin & Artie) A group of lost time travelers tries to make the fall of Nineveh happen in a way consistent with the future they're trying to get back to.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: GDozois:5


Very few stories feature an openly bisexual protagonist for some reason. We really like “Seasons of Glass and Iron,” by Amal El-Mohtar. It has the strong plot and strong characters that we favor.
Both of the other two are really good. “The End of the War” is an extremely powerful story for many reasons, but the protagonist’s bisexuality is not material to it. In “Not a Miracle but a Marvel,” bisexuality is key to the plot.
Not a Miracle But a Marvel by Tim Pratt  Time: 20m (ShortStory)  IssueUncanny 12
(Modern Fantasy) Two couples come to a cabin by the lake to relax and enjoy four days together. Then one of them disappears.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4
Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar  Time: 18m (ShortStory)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(Fairy Tale) Tabitha has been walking a long time, trying to wear out seven pairs of iron shoes; Amira has been sitting alone on a glass hill that suitors try to climb.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4 JStrahan Nebula Hugo
The End of the War by Django Wexler  Time: 41m (Novelette)  IssueAsimov's 06|15
(Military SF) In deep interplanetary space of some other solar system, war is fought between squads of self-replicating robots while their human operators engage in almost-friendly conversation.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [5]  Recommended By: RSR:5 SFEP Readers


There are a lot of excellent, memorable stories to choose from in this category. If we had to pick a single one, it would be “Three Points Masculine,” by An Owomoyela, a military story in which a trans man is forced to serve in a women’s unit because he failed the army’s masculinity test by three points. He’s furious to find a dress-wearing “template” male in his unit, because he’s sure the person is faking it to get out of combat duty. This intense story of how they get to know each other and eventually had to depend on each other really stands out.
(Magical Realism) Hannah watched her sister Melanie die, incinerated with her own magic. Hannah can't accept that and sets out to use her own magic to put things right.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [2]  Recommended By: SFEP Nebula Hugo
Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire  Time: 2h:09m (Novella)  IssueTor Novella 04/05/16
(Portal Fiction; Wayward Children) Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children helps kids who passed through a portal to another world and returned unable to cope with this one.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [5]  Recommended By: RSR:5 JStrahan Nebula Hugo
Grandmother-nai-Leylit's Cloth of Winds by Rose Lemberg  Time: 46m (Novelette)  IssueBCS 175
(High Fantasy; Birdverse) Raised by her grandmothers, Aviya thinks about her future, and thinks about trying to find the source of a magical scrap of "cloth of the wind."
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4 Nebula
Last Hunt by Vylar Kaftan  Time: 17m (ShortStory)  IssueAsimov's 09|15
A young, pre-European Inuit girl and her cousin witness a falling spaceship, and she insists they investigate, wondering if it is a message from the spirits.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4
Left Behind by Cat Rambo  Time: 20m (ShortStory)  IssueClarkesworld 116
(SF) Shi handles elderly clients who are recruited to help steer starships through space. Her job is winding up, and one of her last clients presents a special challenge.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: GDozois:4
The Gentleman Of Chaos by A. Merc Rustad  Time: 13m (ShortStory)  IssueApex 87
(High Fantasy) An immortal assassin threatens the new king, so he has his sister trained as the ultimate bodyguard.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: SFRevu:4
The Jeweled Nawab Jungle Retreat by Priya Sridhar  Time: 17m (ShortStory)  IssueBCS 214
(Indian Steampunk) Mr. and Mrs. Coates came to India to hunt the most difficult prey, and no one can convince them that hunting the Great Worm is suicide.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4 RHorton:4
(Historical Fantasy) Perpetua must pretend to be a man in order to carry on her father's glass business. She makes a great success from glass eyes, even before she realizes how special they are.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: RHorton:4
The Plague Givers by Kameron Hurley  Time: 36m (Novelette)  IssueUncanny 10
(Fantasy) Thirty years ago, Bet beat the best sorcerer in the world, but at such cost she's been in hiding ever since. Now the plague hunters need her help again, but something seems very wrong.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: RHorton:5
This Is a Letter to My Son by K.J. Kabza  Time: 16m (ShortStory)  IssueStrange Horizons 04/11/16
(Near Future SF) Kellsey's a transsexual 11-year-old girl. Improved technology makes that easier, but also creates new problems, and she seeks advice from recordings her mother made for her "son" before she died.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4
This is Not a Wardrobe Door by A. Merc Rustad  Time: 05m (ShortStory)  IssueFireside 29
(Portal Fantasy) Ellie used to travel freely to the other world, but lately her door doesn’t work. In fact, all the portals are broken for some reason.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: Nebula
Three Points Masculine by An Owomoyela  Time: 20m (ShortStory)  IssueLightspeed 72
(Military SF) On top of fighting against an anarchist revolution, a soldier copes with what he's sure is a man pretending to be a woman in the Women's Volunteer Corps.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [5]  Recommended By: RSR:5


Greg and Eric have been a couple for 21 years, and Greg was an activist from 1979 to 2007 or so (GLAAD/SFBA in 1993). While representing LGBT employees at Microsoft, Greg’s biggest achievement as an activist was influencing Microsoft during 2005-2006 to add “gender identity” to its nondiscrimination policy and to amend its employee handbook to give HR sensible directions on helping employees who transition. Looking up this history made us realize our use of “transsexual” is dated and moving forward, we’ll use the “GLAAD Media Reference Guide” published by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation as our standard.

3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Mr. Hullender, what is your response to the open letter by many authors at who are very critical of your reviews of transgender stories?

    1. We just got off a plane after being out for 2 weeks. We'll have a response tomorrow.