As a member of the Outer Alliance, I advocate for queer speculative fiction and those who create, publish and support it, whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity. I make sure this is reflected in my actions and my work.
Roughly (only!) two weeks ago, I posted about starting a group like this. Before I knew it, a remarkable group of people had banded together to form a true alliance of writers in the speculative fiction community dedicated to supporting (and celebrating!) queer contributions in a positive way. That, my friends, is what the Internet is for.
I identify as straight, but, from a personal writing perspective, queer characters have always figured into my books. In The Aldersgate, Queen Maelys is a lesbian and her scorned lover is the High Counselor, Kaythra Bav. In the same book, an entire race of genderless people, the Sibs, exist. In Queen of None, Nimue falls in love with Hwyfar, and finds a remarkable freedom in the embrace of another woman; in Pilgrim of the Sky, the only person in the worlds who Matilda truly loves more than her own miserable self is a woman named Deborah.
My current novel-in-progress is a slightly different story. I started this book ten years ago and have since rewritten it twice. But it took until last year for me to realize that my protagonist, Peter, was in fact gay. And this revelation… changed quite a bit of the story’s dynamic. Writing his journey has been extremely emotional and, well, rather remarkable.
Did I mention this is heroic fantasy? So yes, pardon the long intro. I’m trying to make this brief, but brevity is not my forte.
At any rate, to set this up: Peter is the son of a farmer, but he’s been prepared his whole life for entrance to the Abbey at Tibale. He’s grown up with a young man named Andrew, who is five years his senior. Peter’s always been in love with Andrew, and hoped that he felt the same way in kind, but he’s never known for sure. Andrew is sent away to the abbey years ahead of Peter, and Peter of course waits for the day they can be reunited again.
Once Peter enters the Abbey, he confronts Andrew about his feelings and… well, things end going spectacularly wrong. Peter becomes so angry with Andrew when insists their love isn’t mutual (after they kiss, mind you) that ultimately, Peter is expelled from the Abbey entirely. But Peter, being Peter, can’t leave it at that. When he has a chance to turn in a group of Dissidents (underground magic-users), he returns to the Abbey hoping for redemption. Sadly, that doesn’t work out so well. Peter nearly burns the Abbott’s quarters down, and gets thrown into their jail. While he’s awaiting word, Andrew pays him a visit.
From Chapter Two of Peter of Windbourne
Peter was wrested out of contemplation by the jostling of the door above, followed by the sound of soft footsteps. He waited, expecting to see Lusien again. Perhaps he was coming to retrieve the dishes.
Except it was not Lusien. It was Andrew.
He was dressed in the common habit, which was unusual for him; Andrew was the First Brother, and typically wore the long, blue-hemmed robes of the station. His head was also bare and his curls fell below his ears. He no longer required a tonsure, as he had been named years ago. Andrew’s face was pale green in the light of the lantern he carried, the flame’s warmth muted by the blue glass.
But he was still handsome, still beautiful in that light. Peter tried to look away; he had not seen Andrew face-to-face since the incident, and though he had hoped for the chance he had not held too tightly to it.
“Peter,” Andrew said, lowering the lantern to get a better view. Peter knew he looked terrible, crumpled up in the corner the way he was, but he didn’t move. Andrew’s eyes were sunken, and he looked worried.
Peter didn’t say a word. He hadn’t a word to say.
“I hope you didn’t come here on my account,” Andrew said, his voice tinged with just enough accusation to rile Peter. “Because…”
“Because what?” asked Peter, sitting up a little straighter in the cell. He had been slumped over, cradling his dead hand. “Because you were afraid I’d tell the truth? That someone might believe me?”
“It is wrong,” Andrew said, holding up his hand. “I regret that I ever gave you the impression—”
“Impression?” laughed Peter, the harsh humor of the situation heavy on him now. “You’re just here because you’re feeling guilty now that you know they’re going to do worse things to me than send me back to Windbourne.”
“Peter, you must realize your situation is dire,” Andrew pressed. “You are… you are still my friend, and I care about what happens to you.”
“You said you loved me once,” Peter blurted, the tears in his eyes distorting the light from the lantern.
Andrew looked away toward the door.
Peter continued. “Why is it that we are taught constantly about love, and yet we are not allowed? The scriptures say when the gods left us with a commandment to love—to love and to foster love. So how is it meant only for some and not others?”
“It means… to love, to make children. It was a blessing, Peter, not a decree.”
“So I’m unworthy of it, then,” Peter said.
Andrew sighed, rubbing the side of his face. It was an action familiar to Peter, one he had seen since they were children, and it was no less dear. “You have made a great many bad decisions, Peter, and there’s nothing I can do about it now. We couldn’t have… it doesn’t matter what you feel because it isn’t how the Brothers behave.”
“You’re telling me that Capern and—”
“It isn’t how they should behave,” corrected Andrew.
“I know you loved me, once.”
“As a friend—”
“You lied to me,” said Peter. The words were stronger than the sound behind them, as in despair his voice had fallen to a near whisper.
“I have an important place here, and I shouldn’t have come to you that night—it was only because I care for you that I did. But you went too far.”
Peter had lost control, true. But he had been so angry. Gods! He had been scorned by the man who was both his love and best friend. It had felt like the end of the world.
“I don’t care if they send me to the prison islands,” said Peter. “At least I’ll be away from the likes of you; at least I won’t have compromised what I knew in my heart for… what? Special robes? Or do you get something more from the Abbott that I don’t know about?”
“You’re worried about the prison islands?” asked Andrew, his face expressionless, his eyes cold.
“After what you pulled in the abbot’s quarters, it’ll be far worse for you than the prison islands,” said Andrew with a sigh. He turned the lantern around and left, not looking back.