Looking for comics that feature a wide variety of sexualities and genders? Want all-ages science fiction and fantasy stories where the characters are “unquestionably queer” and their gender and sexuality isn’t treated as an allegory? Then check out the crowdfunding campaign for the upcoming comics anthology Beyond.
Beyond is already well past its funding goal on Kickstarter, but if you want to support the anthology, there is still plenty of time to contribute — and get yourself a physical or digital copy of the book. Editor Sfé R. Monster (Eth’s Skin) and assistant editor Taneka Stotts (Full Circle) have collected 18 all-ages comics by 26 contributors, including A. Stiffler and K. Copeland (Find Chaos and Lesbians 101), Blue Delliquanti (O Human Star), Kori Michele (Prince of Cats), Leia Weathington (The Legend of Bold Riley), and Brittney Sabo (All Night).
We spoke with Monster over email about how the anthology got started and what kinds of stories we can expect:
io9: What made you decide to decide to put together an anthology?
Sfé R. Monster: It was September 2013 and I was joking around on Twitter saying that there should be a queer sci-fi/fantasy comic anthology and somebody should make that so I could be part of it. I was (and am) frustrated by the lack of queer representation and diversity in media by-and-large, but especially in the genres that I enjoy and care the most about. Sci-fi and fantasy have infinite potential for all sorts of diversity, and it has always baffled me that these stories that accept aliens and magical dragons without question still struggle when it comes to featuring anything more than cisgender, heterosexual casts of characters.
The tweet I made was an off-the-cuff comment, but the response was an overwhelming “you should make that anthology.” A lot of people whose work and opinions I admire said that if I organized the project they would like to be involved, so after a little bit of thought (and a little bit more convincing) I decided the worse I could do was try, and dove in.
Why did you choose science fiction and fantasy in particular as genres for your anthology? Why do you want to present queer characters in these genres?
I chose sci-fi and fantasy because they both have such incredible potential as platforms for queer storytelling. Both sci-fi and fantasy are places where anything is possible, and giving people a limitless prompt like that meant the contributors to Beyond could get stuck in good and deep without feeling like they were being “unrealistic” or were creating something unbelievable.
I wanted to present queer characters in sci-fi and fantasy because plain and simple: I don’t think there are enough. Too much about queer representation is relegated to reading between the lines, or picking up on a subtle hint in a subtle way, or a token background character. First and foremost for Beyond I didn’t want there to be a single second of doubt as to whether these were queer stories. It was important to create that kind of unquestionably queer space to show openly queer characters thriving in places where they don’t often get the spotlight: in high-stakes, daring-do, swashbuckling adventures, and in sweet, sentimental, magic-laden moments, and all that stretches in between.
We’ve already enjoyed the works of many of your contributors. Are there new creators you learned about in collecting the anthology who you’re particularly excited about?
I think without a doubt the best part of Beyond is that it introduced so many new, incredible queer comic creators into my life. I am remarkably biased, and adore every comic and individual who is involved with the anthology, however a few of the standouts are: Taneka Stotts (who, along with being a writer and contributor to the anthology, is also working with me as Beyond’s assistant editor), Reed Black (he has a truly unique style and his Beyond comic tells a wonderful story about family and goblin kings), Brittney Sabo (who inked my Beyond comic, and has an incredible eye for monsters and magic), and Levi Hastings (who is master illustrator and the Beyond Anthology’s cover artist).
I know that you list some of the tired tropes you didn’t want to see in this anthology, but can you give us a little tease of the sorts of stories we can expect and that might surprise us?
When we put out the open call for submissions for Beyond I stressed that we were looking for diverse stories, and, to my absolute joy, that is something that everyone contributing a story to the anthology embraced with verve. Something I personally did not expect (but am overjoyed to include) was a focus on family— Several of the stories blend family (and queer couples raising children) with high-stakes adventure in a way that I feel is really important and integral to Beyond. ‘The Graves of Wolves’ by Ted Closson follows two fathers raising their adopted alien child on a war-wrecked planet, and ‘Islet’ by Niki Smith is about family and PTSD and quiet magic between two mothers and their child. Other stories reinvent and remix the genres in ways I haven’t seen before. For example: ‘Luminosity’ by Gabby Reed and Rachel Dukes seamlessly combines sci-fi and fantasy, mixing magic with interstellar travel.
The thing I love most about Beyond is that giving people the go-ahead to create stories about diverse genders and sexuality gave them a space to tell stories that many of them have always wanted to tell, but felt there was no market or audience for. Beyond is full of agender regents outsmarting space-pirate rogues, cultures without pronouns, visible and invisible disabilities, mixed-race families adventuring through goblin castles, and above all: unquestionably, incredible, queer content.
You can back the Beyond anthology on Kickstarter.
Two disclosures: 1) I personally backed Beyond because I happen to be excited about it, and 2) Beyond contributor Leia Weathington and I are both dues-paying members of the Couscous Collective.