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Lesbian Sci-Fi Genre Basics

Definition of the Lesbian Sci-Fi Genre.

The Female Man Book Cover, Lesbian Sci-fi genre fiction

The Female Man Book Cover


Science fiction is a genre that superficially deals with technology and its application and impact on society yet the depth and width of it can span from Victorian Steampunk to Space Operas. Its a genre that can blend with many others from mysteries to westerns. The first science fiction story, written in 2nd century BC, was about a trip to the moon. The modern science fiction genre dates back to the late 19th Century with classics like War of the Worlds. The Lesbian Sci-fi genre views these struggles of technology in society through a lesbian lens.

The first lesbian (and the earliest featuring a ftm transgender protagonist) science fiction novel,The Anglo-American Alliance, was published in 1906. However, the queering of this genre began in earnest with the rise of the Gay Liberation movement in the 1960s. Early LGBT works in science fiction include Theodore Sturgeon’s “The World Wells Lost” (which dealt with a pair of gay aliens) and The Female Man by Joanna Russ (which featured a feminist utopia).

The impact of technology and societal evolution on sexuality and gender is a important issue in queer science fiction. For lesbian science fiction, the trope of the lesbian separatist society is a recurring theme (especially earlier works).  Some authors in lesbian science fiction include Joanna Russ, Ursula Le Guin, Nicola Griffith, Jane Fletcher, Chris Anne Wolfe, Barbara Ann Wright, Alice Walker, Ruth Diaz and James Tiptree, Jr.

Characteristics of the Lesbian Sci-Fi genre.

The Caphenon, Lesbian Sci-fi genre fiction

The Caphenon by Fletcher DeLancey


Lesbian science fiction shares many commonalities with its straight counterpart.  The extraordinary setting and tools create the frame for the story. The tone and prose can vary greatly. Characters can be used to highlight the issues and atmosphere and the ‘other’ creatures/technology can be metaphors. However, many science fiction novels are written for sheer entertainment without themes heavily expounded on. Pace will vary depending on whether or not the action or theme is the emphasized.

 Science fiction concerns itself with the moral, social, and intellectual quandaries that come from technology and change. Alien worlds, computers/artificial intelligence, genetic modification, alternative worlds, time travel, psychic powers, space exploration, futurism, and utopia/dystopia are recurring tropes. Lesbian science fiction has two unique recurring themes in the lesbian utopia and the dystopic books wherein a woman has to fight against a patriarchal society to free her sisters.

Appeal characteristics of the Lesbian Sci-Fi genre.

Dynama by Ruth Diaz, Lesbian Sci-fi genre fiction

Dynama by Ruth Diaz

  • Story Line: Lesbian science fiction explores LGBT controversies and issues through placing them in a strange and distant setting.  Complex world building and characterization are a staple of science fiction books and series. Depending on whether themes or action are the focus, authors will emphasized characters or situations. Science fiction’s variety also extends to if the story will be psychological or action oriented. Lesbian science fiction often deals with women bucking the patriarchy.

 

  • Frame: The setting is very important to science fiction. It is often the defining characteristic for readers. They are looking for a fantastical setting that transports the reader to another land. The frame often mirrors the tone and atmosphere of the work and the questions asked within the story. For lesbian characters in science fiction, world building is key as many plots are influenced (to varying degrees) by how the setting views homosexuality. Lesbian Sci-Fi adds more intersection to science fiction.

 

  • Characterization: Science fiction concerns itself more with the ideas and situations than characterization. Yet lesbian fiction often deals in emotional relationships and romance. The amount of series in the lesbian sci-fi genre leads to characters developing and being explored in depth over time.  More literary science fiction engages in heavy characterization.

 

  •  Pacing: Science fiction can range from action-fueled pulp pieces to ponderous literary works. The pace will depend on the kind of story that is being told. Flashbacks, multiple points of view, and multiple plot lines are common in more complex science fiction series and stories. Lesbian Sci-Fi genre is grounded in the extremes of literary and pulp.