My History Month Talk

My LGBT History Month talk last night went rather well, I though. We had 24 people there, which is much better than any of the Bristol Festival of Literature events we did last year. It was also a very varied group. There were LGBT activists, trans people, political radicals associated with Hydra Books, and BristolCon people. I like doing cross-fertilization.

The audience noted the large number of impressive feminist works coming from Australia. I should note that books by male Australian writers such as Stephen Dedman and Sean Williams also address gender changes.

I promised I’d do a reading list with all of the books I mentioned. Some people on Twitter were asking for a transcript. I didn’t do a recording because I knew that there would likely be trans people in the audience and I don’t want to scare anyone, but I’ve added some notes here regarding why particular books were mentioned.

There are, of course, many more SF&F books that feature trans people. Many of them I know about, and quite a lot I don’t. Feel free to suggest other titles in comments. The list is below the fold. I have linked to my reviews where available and where the review addresses the gender themes. Note that some of these reviews are quite old and I may have changed my view of some of the books. See also this essay which I wrote for ICFA two years ago and which was published in Finnish (I think in Cosmos Pen) last year.

The 1950s — reinforcing the binary

“No Charge for Alterations”, H.L. Gold – Published in Amazing Stories, available as a stand-alone from Project Gutenberg

The 1960 — SF starts to think serious about gender

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin (the Genthenians are not trans human’s, but Genly Ai’s reaction to Estraven’s change mirrors real world reactions to gender transition)

I Will Fear No Evil, Robert A. Heinlein (cross-dresser porn)

The 1970s — the influence of radical feminism

The Female Man, Joanna Russ (Janice Raymond’s conspiracy theory of trans women rendered in fiction)

Trouble on Triton, Samuel R. Delany (much more nuanced, though lacking a theory of gender identity)

The Passion of New Eve, Angela Carter (excellent contrast of man-made woman with a woman made by experience of life)

The 1980s — mostly quiet

Friday, Robert A. Heinlein (spooky parallels between Heinlein’s “artificial people” and trans people)

The 1990s — we have the technology

Steel Beach, John Varley (embarrassing)

Shadow Man, Melissa Scott (based on Ann Fausto-Sterling theories)

Mission Child, Maureen McHugh (sensitive portrait of trans man)

Chasm City, Alastair Reynolds (example of gender change as a life choice)

Excession, Iain M. Banks (freedom to change gender implies sexual equality)

Ian McDonald — a journey of discovery

Sacrifice of Fools, Ian McDonald (problematic use of cross-dressing and transsexuals as an indicator of insanity)

River of Gods, Ian McDonald (well realized portrait of gender change to “nute”)

Brasyl, Ian McDonald (exuberantly genderqueer)

21st Century — all trans all the time

Ilario, Mary Gentle (excellent on intersex, unfortunate trans politics)

Glasshouse, Charles Stross (gender swapping in virtual worlds)

Dangerous Space, Kelley Eskridge (Mars, a gender-free character)

Supervillainz, Alicia E. Goranson (ordinary genderqueer folks mistaken for super villains, fight evil Capitalists)

Eon & Eona, Alison Goodman (sensitive portrayal of trans woman in YA novels)

The Book of Transformations, Mark Charan Newton (one character in fantasy novel happens to be trans)

Stormlord’s Exile, Glenda Larke (trans male supporting character)

The Bone Palace, Amanda Downum (sympathetic genderqueer character, awkwardly introduced resulting in unfortunate trans politics)

Nightsiders, Sue Isle (trans man of of main characters)

The Courier’s New Bicycle, Kim Westwood (main viewpoint character is genderqueer)

Beyond Binary, Brit Mandelo (ed.) – not yet published (anthology of stories featuring genderqueer characters)

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