While researching queer fantasy markets, I discovered Collective Fallout. It’s a literary magazine dedicated to queer speculative fiction.
Issues are themed, and the one I ordered – Vol. 3, Issue 3 – was called “Futuristic.”
It blew my mind. In a good way. If you’ve read my reviews, you know it doesn’t happen often that I go off raving about stuff I read.
The stories are imaginative and tightly written, and I’ll get to some of my favorites. But what I responded to, most wonderfully, was the sum of the issue’s parts: wild, conceptual fiction as a platform for queer possibilities, and often queer transcendence.
Most of the authors take the future theme from a dystopian perspective. Warren Rochelle’s “Green Light” posits the rise of a multinational, totalitarian empire, genetically engineered warriors, and a substratum of outcasts fending for survival on a war-ravished frontier. In Christopher Keelty’s “Toll Road,” bio-contamination leads to a politically-fractured state where Catholic knights vie with leather-clad biker dudes called “the Dawn.”
Somewhat smaller in scale, and charming in its quiet way, is Terence Kuch’s “Other I Now.” In Kuch’s future, media technology has born the creepy pastime of ‘voying’, downloading other people’s memories. When Kuch’s narrator Ned rents out a memchip that is uncannily like his own memories, he goes in search of his “other I,” and discovers another life he might have lived.
The struggle to live queerly and authentically is a theme tying many of the stories together. It’s sometimes the main narrative drive, as in the case of Rochelle and Keelty’s stories where an accumulation of heterosexual power has begotten a nightmarish era of persecution for their queer protagonists.
In Derrick W. Craigie’s “Tales of K’Aeran: A New Road,” opportunities for queer living are contrasted when two strangers, from different fantasy clans, band together for survival in a sub-zero neutral zone. The Highborn woman Tatyana comes from an elite society where being caught with her female lover brought about a campaign for her assassination. Her companion Garon, from the martially-centered Nathikan clan, reflects on the more nuanced traditions of his people, who hold heterosexual marriage as a tribal obligation, but believe in the essential practice of choosing additional lovers for personal fulfillment, whether hetero or homo.
Caleb Wimble’s “Singularity” evokes queer otherness through allegory. The central character’s choice to undergo experimental cloning, after a terminal diagnosis of brain cancer, sets off violent, global organizing by “humanists.” “Synths” are criminalized because they are seen as an affront to the way God intended humankind to be.
I was surprised by the romantic spirit of the stories, a universal thread, which may be a bit too ‘on-the-nose’ for some readers, but it worked quite well for me. Rochelle’s “Green Light” has an outcast teen and a young warrior, trained to exterminate the masses, deferring life and limb to be together. The story invokes the poetry of Walt Whitman. “Singularity” finds love possible between a man and the clone of his former boyfriend.
Not a bad thought that in the future, love will conquer all.