Beautiful Men, Strong Women: Books and Online Resources

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Sep 19, 2003 (Updated Jan 6, 2004)


The Bottom Line I'd be happy to hear from anyone who has more examples in their libraries.

A Brief and Informal Bibliography:

(I have not listed works included in the text. Please note that both sections are really just the tips of their respective icebergs, particularly the "Strong Women" section. There is a lot of overlap, although not perfect congruence, hence I've set up two sections.)(Note: "S" denotes science fiction; "F" denotes fantasy. If not noted, either the lines are very blurred, or it's clear from context.)


Beautiful Men:


Michael Bishop, Unicorn Mountain: Includes a gay AIDS patient as one of a group investigating the mysterious deaths of unicorns on the mountain. One of the few books in this area that includes AIDS as part of the universe. The portrayal of character is very realistic: from a group of people who are not always very nice to each other, Bishop has fashioned a haunting and magical story.

Chaz Brenchley, The Devil in the Dust (Volume One of the “Outremer” series): Male-male relationships among desert tribes, hero is sexually ambivalent, independent women. Hypnotic prose. F

Lois McMaster Bujold, Ethan of Athos: Relates the adventures of an emissary from an all-male world in the mixed-sex universe – he can hardly wait to get home. One wonders, however, why Bujold thought it necessary that censorship of all reference to women on Ethan's homeworld was necessary, although it does provide a nice satiric note (think about religious fundamentalists' efforts to quash all reference to gays and lesbians anywhere). S

C. J. Cherryh, “The Fortress Series” (a/k/a the “Galasieni Series”), (tetralogy): Very deep and sincere non-sexual love between two main characters, both male; slight hints of homosexuality in some other characters; few female characters, but most are strong. A good example of the wider application of the term “erotic.” F

Diane Duane, The Door Into Fire, The Door Into Summer, The Door Into Sunrise: Same-sex relationships are given, intelligent, capable women abound. F

David Feintuch, The Still, The King: Prince Rodrigo engages in a relationship with his loyal vassal. Unfortunately, he is such a spoiled, obnoxious prick that I can’t bring myself to read the second book. F

Lynn Flewelling, “Nightrunners” (series): Notable for its realistic and sensitive handling of two men falling in love, pitting the awkwardness of youth against the self-doubt of a checkered past. F

Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress: Heinlein throws in “line” marriages as an alternate way of making a family – and all the husbands and wives have to love the new fiances. S

Charles Ingrid, “The Points of Chaos” (trilogy): Non-sexual relationship between two men, one human, one alien, with an extraordinarily intense emotional bond. Eros at large. S

Elizabeth A. Lynn, "The Chronicles of Tornor" (trilogy): A progression, from unspoken and unrequited love through male-male incest (brothers) to a fairly full-blown female-female relationship. F

Rebecca M. Meluch, Sovereign: A beautiful story about a young, very human alien who is a king on his own world, and who falls in love with a man on Earth; asks some interesting questions about the relationship between gay men and their fathers. S

Fiona Patton, The Stone Prince, The Granite Shield: The first a dynastic adventure story with a deeply passionate and romantic male/male relationship central, the second a war and revolution story in which one of the protagonists takes a male lover in addition to his female romantic interest. In both, the context includes institutionalized same-sex relationships in the form of the Companions (courtesans contracted to the aristocracy, a practice with long antecedents in our own history) in a milieu in which sexuality is fluid. Needless to say, strong women abound. F

Marta Randall, Journey, Dangerous Games: Male-male relationships incidental and secondary; competent women in a family saga. S

Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett, Armor of Light: Elizabethan fantasy has pedophile Christopher Marlowe as part of delegation sent to save homosexual King James of Scotland from black sorcery. F


Strong Women:

This list just got out of hand, so was severely pruned; the following are essentially highlights from my own library.

Poul Anderson, Operation Chaos, Operation Luna: A werewolf married to a licensed magician in an alternate universe; in anything magical, she (the magician) is the leader; if it’s not magical, they negotiate.

Anne Bishop: "The Dark Jewels" trilogy was mentioned for its strong erotic component, but Jaenelle, Karla, Sylvia (not to mention the formidable Mrs. Beale) are all strong, independent women -- and that's just the good guys. F

Steven Brust: Almost anything by Steven Brust will present independent, capable women: Aliera e’Keiron, Sethra Lavode, Cawti, Norathar (and those are just from the Taltos cycle). Brust seems to avoid examination of sexual orientation, but then, it’s not required. F

Chris Bunch, “The Last Legion” (series): If for no other reason than the character of Monique Lir, non-com first, female afterward. S

C. J. Cherryh, “The Chanur Saga” (series): All-female starship crew on a merchant vessel; also explores, tangentially, the deeper meaning of love when a male alien (in this case, human) is given refuge on the ship. Cherryh is another who assumes strong women -- see also the "Morgaine" series and The Tree of Swords and Jewels for her fantasy treatment of women.

Charles de Lint: Once more, a writer who takes competent women as a given, in a rich urban fantasy context.

David Drake, With the Lightnings, Lt. Leary Commanding: Adele Mundy has it all – brains, capability, moxie, and a deadly eye with a dueling pistol. Drake in general draws strong women in his novels, although they may not be the focus. S

Tanya Huff, the “Keeper” series: Strong woman in spades; gorgeous man becomes lover and helpmeet. Younger sister is a lesbian (this week). F
Also, the “Blood” series: Tough ex-cop turned PI plus bisexual vampire. F
And, the “Confederation” series: Built around Staff Sergeant Torrin Kerr and her troops, which include humanoid aliens who exude pheromones that turn humans on like crazy. S

Jane Linskold: Changer, Legends Walking: Strong characters, period, male and female, who partake of strong archetypal components (consider gods, goddesses and heroes from the world's mythologies in modern dress), and these are character-driven books. F
Also: Through Wolf's Eyes, Wolf's Head, Wolf's Heart: "Wild child" premise: Blysse (Firekeeper) was raised by wolves and may be the heir to the throne. She is a little bit more than a handful. F

Holly Lisle: Pretty much everything I've read by Lisle provides strong, independent, capable women. F

Patricia A. McKillip: In general, gives good portraits of strong women. In particular, Heir of Sea and Fire from the Riddlemaster trilogy, focuses on Raederle of An, Lyraluthuin of Herun, and Tristan of Hed, and their adventures. "Riddlemaster" is a great YA coming-of-age story. F

James H. Schmitz: One of the first science fiction writers to portray strong female characters: Agent of Vega, The Witches of Karres, and the "Hub" stories; very suitable for young adults and even younger. S

John Varley, The “Gaea” Trilogy (Titan, Wizard, Demon: A spaceship captain becomes a goddess through love for her female astrogator. Very strong characters throughout. S

David Weber: The Honor Harrington novels (apparently ongoing, now into anthologies of the “shared universe” type): Arguably the reigning heroine of contemporary science fiction, intelligent, strong, determined, sensitive, vulnerable – the context is completely non-sexist, which is true of Weber in general. S

Michelle West, "The Sun Sword" (series): most of the main characters are women, and pretty strong in a variety of ways. Epic fantasy. F

Other resources:

There is a very helpful historical essay on the treatment of gay men and lesbians in science fiction by Joseph Marchesoni at www.glbtq.com/literature/scifi_fantasy.html, which includes a bibliography. Relatively scholarly, historically/critically oriented.

www.feministsf.org presents a specialized look at science fiction and fantasy.

Lambda Sci-Fi presents a recommended reading list at www.lambdasf.org/lsf/books/recommend.html#a

www.mamohanraj.com/balist.html is an extensive bibilography of mostly science fiction and fantasy that includes gay and lesbian characters.

www.daffodileleven.com/queerworlds/ , another book list.

And there is always Google.

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