We’re absolutely delighted to welcome Alex Powell to the blog today as part of Diverse Books Month. Alex is a Canadian author, living in Vancouver, who writes for Less Than Three Press, writing mostly Sci-Fi and Fantasy although they love writing cross-genre work. Alex identifies as pansexual and gender fluid and this is reflected in their fiction. Please join us and give Alex a warm welcome 🙂
1. What does the term “Diverse Books” mean to you?
To me, diversity means that anyone, from any walk of life, can look on the shelf at a bookstore or in the library and find a character that they identify with. It’s not as complicated as some people like to think. It’s about representation of all the different facets of the world, because right now, the literature of the western world is largely skewed towards only one or two types of story, which I find very boring.
2. You write for Less Than Three Press. How did you come to be published with them and do you think it’s important to have publishers that cater to specific areas of diversity?
Actually, one of my friends, who is also a queer writer, directed me towards Less Than Three Press. That friend already had a story accepted for submission, and I decided I wanted to try and publish a story as well. My first novella, Across Borders was accepted for a themed collection call.
I do think it’s very important to have a press that caters specifically to LGBTQ+ fiction, because it’s a very scarce genre right now, but there are a lot of queer readers that are looking for that type of diversity in writing. It’s hard to dig up in mainstream publishers, and until quite recently, there have been roadblocks to publishing queer fiction with mainstream publishers. I know Less Than Three Press not only publishes the more popular gay and lesbian novels, but is also making sure to accept and market stories with main characters with other LGBTQ+ identities such as bisexual, asexual, trans, and genderqueer.
3. Your books tend to be sci-fi and fantasy. Do you feel that these genres are more open to writing diverse books?
I think that it should be easier to write about diversity in sci-fi and fantasy. These are worlds that people have created, and it is up the the author what type of people they want in that world. Authors shouldn’t be constrained by things like “historical accuracy” or “realistic diversity” – which are still just excuses, because even England has had a lot of diverse history.
However, I find that a lot of mainstream sci-fi and fantasy books still have problems with diversity and aren’t any better than any other genre at being open to characters of diverse backgrounds. In some cases, I’ve read a book that I hoped would have diverse characters and instead ended up badly misrepresenting characters and culture.
4. I saw on your blog that you’d attended a Read and Write with Pride event and it sounded fantastic! If you could encourage more events for authors of diverse books, what would they be?
I had a great time at the Read and Write with Pride event in Edmonton, which took place at a local bookstore – Audrey’s Books. I really like local events like this one, because then writers can meet other writers who also write diverse works as well as readers. It gives writers a real sense of community and support.
As for authors who live most of their writing life online, blog hops, giveaways and author chats are also really fun to take part in! You’ll find me both on and off the web making friends with other authors.
5. Please share with us some of your favourite diverse authors and/or books.
I have a lot of authors that I love a lot, and I’m going to share my favourite sci-fi and fantasy authors who also write LGBTQ+ characters.
Tanya Huff is a Canadian author who writes fantasy and space opera. Most of her stories have at least one queer character, and one of her sci-fi stories has an entire race of omnisexual aliens.
The Last Herald-Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey is about a gay character who struggles with both his sexuality and with his newly awakened mage status.
The Privilege of the Sword – by Ellen Kushner is about a bisexual girl whose uncle makes her learn how to swordfight.
Static – by L.A. Witt is a sci-fi story about a genderqueer protagonist who is trapped in a body of male sexby his controlling family even though this character (and others) can normally switch between male and female (gendered pronouns are used, and they switch whenever the character does).
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Some great recommendations! Thanks, Alex! Alex has also written a piece for us today about why they started writing LGBTQ+ fiction 🙂
Hello everyone, my name is Alex Powell, and I write LGBTQ+ fiction with Less Than Three Press (http://www.lessthanthreepress.com/). I generally write science fiction and fantasy with LGBTQ+ main characters.
I started writing fiction with LGBTQ+ protagonists because I couldn’t find any stories that had queer characters when I was younger. Even as a teenager, queer characters were few and far between, and often given tragic and unsatisfying endings. I knew that I wanted to see books that had relationships in them that portrayed LGBTQ+ relationships the same way as they did straight relationships.
I was so tired of seeing the same, overdone trope. Not only did it tell me that people like me were doomed to a tragic end, it said that all of LGBTQ+ relationships were the same. Those stories told me that no matter what we did, queer people would never be happy, no matter how much they tried. It also painted a very isolating picture. Those books never told me that there were lots of people like me, a full ten percent of the population, people that were out there fighting for their rights, creating a community, supporting each other, and finding happiness together in spite of the odds.
Queer characters never got a fairytale ending.
I wanted to give us that. I wanted other LGBTQ+ people the happy ending they deserved to have, and to know that they could obtain.
For a long time, even queer books were about just that: being queer, and how hard it was. There were no uplifting stories with an LGBTQ+ main character, or stories about queer characters slaying dragons, finding treasure, going on adventures, meeting aliens or flying space ships.
I wanted that for us too. I wanted queer characters to be able to do the same thing that straight people did in books and movies. Why couldn’t a queer person be a superhero, or a knight in shining armour? I wanted stories where the queer narrative wasn’t just about being queer, existing as queer, I wanted us to go out there and have our own adventures.
So that’s what I wrote about. I gave my LGBTQ+ characters romantic relationships where the main conflict wasn’t about homophobia. I gave them adventures to go on that weren’t about a huge societal struggle, just an individual one, against villains they could actually fight against and win. I tried to give my readers a story where they can connect to a character that might be like them.
I think it’s important to write these stories, and to have a separate market for these books, because not only are books with LGBTQ+ characters hard to find, some publishers still prefer their main character to be straight, and will ask authors to change the gender of one of the characters to fit a heteronormative role. I know this, because I know authors of queer fiction who have done this, followed through with these demands, because otherwise, their book wouldn’t be published.
I know that my publisher is actively looking to diversify the type of stories accepted for publication. Gay and Lesbian romances are still much more popular, but books with bisexual, asexual, genderqueer, and trans protagonists are also accepted and gaining readership. I also know that Less Than Three Press publishes exactly the type of LGBTQ+ stories I’ve always wanted: ones in which queer protagonists get their own adventure and happy ending.
Yeah, sure, it is realistic that LGBTQ+ people can have hard lives, and have to struggle to figure out their identities and accept that part of themselves.
But we already know what our reality is like. I want to know what it’s like to ride a dragon.
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Me too! I bet it’s like an insane rollercoaster. I’d probably be sick but it’d still be fun!
To learn more about Alex’s books, please see below:
Rangers over Regulus
Liberty is a vampire living on a space station where those who seek to avoid the government always land, and spends his days working for the assassin who runs the place. Life is as peaceful as a colony of thugs at the edge of civilization can get. Then a Ranger shows up…
Maíra has always wanted a unicorn, but isn’t quite prepared when one shows up on her doorstep and kidnaps her—and proclaims that Maíra must confess her feelings to the girl she loves. Maíra is definitely reluctant to follow through with that, but everything changes when Carol is kidnapped by a demon…
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To learn more about Alex, please visit their site at: http://alexpowellauthor.com/ and you can see their page at Less Than Three Press here: http://www.lessthanthreepress.com/author-alex-powell/
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us today, Alex!