“We read to know that we’re not alone.” C.S. Lewis
Once upon a time a lonely teenage girl discovered Lord of the Rings, three books that helped her escape small town reality; at least for a few hours every day. Back then she knew that she was different but didn’t know why. Back then she had no idea that she was queer and even if she had known, the bleak reality was that there was no lesbian role model in her little backwater town. And no, there was no internet or lesbian fiction around either. Those were the days…
But fantasy stories? Yes, they could be found in the small town’s tiny bookstore. She read everything she could get her hands on, which certainly wasn’t much. Mostly the heroes were guys. Straight, white guys. Or beings. Whatever. Women hardly ever were the heroes – only Mary Poppins was different. And Pippi Longstocking.
For a long time those fantasy stories kept the girl sane and a tiny voice inside her kept her alive, a voice that whispered that there is more to life than the marriage, kids, and straight white guy her parents wished for her.
Today that girl lives a life she could never have imagined. That girl is me. I’m married to the most wonderful woman, meet cool people, travel a lot, and own a queer publishing house. My love for fantasy stayed with me until today. While I’m not a lonely girl anymore and enjoy a life I love (most days), I still read books that take me into different worlds or, even better, books about an ordinary someone who suddenly gets thrown into an extraordinary life.
Lord of the Rings still holds a very special place in my heart. I’ll never forget what that story gave me back then. However, I’m painfully aware of Tolkien’s limits when it comes to strong female characters. And after having visited Oxford recently I do understand a bit better why he was so focused on a male-dominated world in his books, given it mirrored his own society. Even today, entering one of those colleges felt like stepping back in time and into a different reality. In one college, I saw more than a dozen paintings of old men, which had pride of place on the walls – and just one woman.
Thankfully there are plenty fantasy stories today with strong female characters. Unfortunately a lot of them are overly romantic and over-sexualized, but there are still some real cool ones. And the best thing? There are fantasy, paranormal, and even horror books with queer protagonists. Not all of them are romances, either. Some are damn good fantasy stories or paranormal books. The protagonists are strong and clever and simply way cool. These were the stories I would have loved to be able to read as a teenager.
Because it’s October, Ylva has decided to celebrate the fantasy/paranormal/horror books we’ve published. All books in these genres are either free (see the short stories and anthologies) or reduced in price. Why not give these great books a chance and dive into other worlds with us.
“Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly.” Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections