Friday, November 27, 2015

Me on Beyond

Title: Beyond: The Queer Sci-fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology
Editors: Sfé R. Monster & Taneka Stotts
Contributors: Gabby Reed & Rachel Dukes, Niki Smith, Reed Black, Christianne Goudreau & Taneka Stotts, Ted Closson, Wm Brian MacLean, Blue Delliquanti, Shing Yin Khor, Kiku Hughes, Jon Cairns, Sfé R. Monster, Kate Ebensteiner & Bevan Thomas, Savannah Horrocks & April J. Martins, Dylan Edwards, Kori Michele Handwerker, Kristina Stipetic, Anissa Espinosa & Alison Wilgus, Lin Visel & Leia Weathington, A. Stiffler & K. Copeland

Swashbuckling space pirates, legendary dragon slayers, death-defying astronauts, and monster queen royalty. All this (and more!) in Beyond, the queer sci-fi and fantasy comic anthology. Featuring 18 stories by 26 incredible contributors, the Beyond anthology celebrates unquestionably queer characters hailing from across the spectrum of gender and sexuality, from and centre as the heroes of their own stories; exploring the galaxy, mixing magic, having renegade adventures, and saving the day!

Beyond is a comic anthology full of emotion, honesty, and hopes for more visible representation in science fiction and fantasy. Each story hammers home the idea that queer characters, meaning gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender or non-binary or genderfluid or however the character defines themself, are present in sci-fi and fantasy. That they have their stories to tell. They they can be the hero or the heroine, the saviour or the rescuer. That they don't have to be the villain, immoral or evil or horrifying. That they are people, even when they're aliens, creatures, or androids.

All 18 stories are wonderful in their own way, each with amazing art, but here are some highlights.

"Optimal" by Blue Delliquanti. Sort of a prequel story to her ongoing webcomic O Human Star, this tells the story of Sulla, the young android made by Brendan Pinsky in order to keep the consciousness of his research partner Alistair Sterling alive, and her figuring out how to navigate in a new body. A female-gendered body. Because, according to Sulla, there's always room for improvement.

"O-Type Hypergiant" by Jon Cairns is intriguing, a sort of pure impossible science fiction story rooted in science and possibility (if such a description could ever make sense). The Instamen are artificial humanoids, sent off by humans to catalogue stars and live on time-bending satellites. It's a rather poetic story with some wonderfully detailed artwork.

"Twin-Souled" by Bevan Thomas & Kate Ebensteiner shows a tribe of aboriginal people using their magicks to combine with totems to protect their village. These people fight for love, for the ability to love whomever they wish, no matter their gender, and to be whomever they wish, no matter their gender. Even when the spirit of the totem they are bound to is a different gender than they are. To me, this story is one of the saddest, but it's filled with so much hope and love.

"The Next Day" by A. Stiffler & K. Copeland. In a world where the sun had gone dark, where the shadows stretch across the land and light is rare, a man wanders. He claims that without light, man is without hope. But one day he meets another wanderer, and as the two of them travel, as they fight against thieves, as they grow closer, the man discovers that when they are together, he needn't fear the dark. Because his light is close to him.

I love the idea of this anthology. Too often queer characters are pushed to the side in genre fiction, in prose, comics, and film, but now there's this continues wave of webcomics and crowdfunded anthologies with a huge variety of queer characters. If the modern world as we know it is full of people of different genders and sexualities, why can't science fiction and fantasy be the same way? Why can't there be more escapist genre fiction for queer people in print, on TV screens and movie screens? There's already tons of it for straight people. These stories drive home the fact that queer characters can have hopes and dreams, that they can have fun and laugh. That they can have pasts shrouded in mystery. That they can make mistakes, have regrets. That they can be in love, and be willing to fight for that love with every inch of themselves.

It makes my heart happy that this anthology exists, that there are people out there working so hard and creating amazing stories filled with diversity. If you've been looking for a collection like this, full of aliens and magic and hard journeys and honest emotion, full of representation, then check it out. I think an anthology like this is perfect for teen readers.

(I backed this anthology on Kickstarter and received a PDF and a physical copy. Those interested in Beyond can head over to the Beyond Press website.)

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