In 2013, Sfé R. Monster tweeted the following:
“I think an anthology of sci-fi/fantasy/adventure comics with a queer focus would be way cool. Someone make that so I can be in it.”
After a successful Kickstarter campaign, The Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology, featuring 18 stories by 26 contributors, was published in September 2015. I only joined Twitter and the booksish online community in 2016 so I did not know that this kind of book existed or I would have backed it immediately. It tells the kinds of stories that I have always wanted to read and will always want to read — stories that depict homosexuality and queerness as normal, as non-issues because our lives aren’t defined by oppression. I enjoy reading “issues” LGBTQ book as much as the next person, but I sometimes I just want to read a fun romp of an adventure with heroes that are also Queer.
This anthology is one of the most important works of Queer literature I have read in a while. Granted, I haven’t read the vast majority of Queer literature, but Beyond is personal and special. This is the kind of book I wish I had read when I was a teenager, or even younger, because it would have shown me perspectives and ways to live a life authentically that I considered unimaginable.
Many of the stories in this anthology are sad and serious because the Queer people do sometimes experience grief and tragedy. But the majority of the stories are exciting adventures that will elicit a variety of emotions as you read. This collection is fantastic not only because of the content of the stories themselves is great, but also because there is an impressive variety in the way Queer people can experience life and adventure.
As a kid and teenager who was in the closet, even I thought families with same-sex parents were unusual and unthinkable because that’s what I was told by the culture around me. However, seeing stories like the ones in Beyond that normalize same-sex parenting would have been immensely influential to my younger self and would have taught me how beautiful and natural such a family can be much sooner.
Just look at how adorable this family is! The story on the left was one of my favorites because it was adorable and depicted a family with two dads who go on a quest to save their young daughter from the goblins who kidnapped her! Everything about it was delightful, fun, and the positive representation of this kind of family was heartwarming.
Queer women of color take center stage in several of the stories, which I personally appreciated because often Queer narratives are led by men, usually white men. Seeing these women drawn and depicted with nuance and respect was beyond refreshing and necessary.
There is also trans representation in this anthology! I have personally never read or heard about any sci-fi or fantasy stories featuring trans protagonists (please recommend some below), so the few that were in the anthology were the first I’ve ever read. I know that trans representation can often be problematic even when it’s well-intentioned, and I am far from being an authority on trans issues, but I thought all the stories with trans characters were well-done. If you are trans and have issues with any of the stories in the book, please let me know in the comments below. I am always willing to learn.
The Dragon Slayer’s Son is a story about a trans boy who wants to follow his culture’s tradition of becoming a man by slaying a dragon. It’s like a rite of passage for the culture, which I understand, but the part about slaying dragons being seen as a particularly masculine thing bothered me a little. Traditional cultures, which this one appears to be, attribute masculinity to physicality and violence, so I get it. But I have always held that fantasy stories don’t have to reflect our world’s cultures because writers can literally write about anything they want and set any rules and standards they want. Overall, this was a minor issue I had with what was otherwise a great story. Especially, the ending!
Some of the stories are more memorable than others, as is always the case in anthologies, but they are all worth your time because they each carry an important message. Choosing to read these stories also makes an important statement — that the narratives of Queer people matter, that Queer creators and editors matter and that people need and want more content like this.
Currently, the $20 softcovers are sold out. But you can buy a copy of the PDF straight from the publisher for $10. Believe me, it’s definitely worth it, so show your support! You can buy a copy here. They also have some Limited Edition Hardcover + PDF combos, so if you have the money, you should add this anthology to your collection!
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Disclosure: I was given a free review copy by an editor of the anthology in exchange for an honest review.
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