I offered to host guest-blogs for the LGBT+ SFF Storybundle that Melissa Scott organized this year -- only a little over a week left to take advantage of this great bundle! -- and she sent the following along for me to post. (It previously appeared on her own blog.)
I'm not sure if Mighty Good Road is the oldest book in this summer's LGBT+ Storybundle, but it's close: it was published in 1990, the last book I published with Baen. (Don't get me wrong, Baen didn't drop me because of queer content — or anything else, for that matter. I'd had a good run with Baen, but they weren't willing to match Tor's offer on Dreamships, and Betsy Mitchell, who had been my editor, had moved on - the usual publishing round.) Some things have held up pretty well — I think "interstellar trains" remains cool regardless — and other bits of the technology haven't, but one thing, I think, remains unusual. It's a novel with a queer protagonist in which queerness is in no way the focus of the story.
Gwynne Heikki is a lesbian, in a long-term, stable, happy relationship with her business partner, Marshallin Santerese. She's also half-owner (with her lover) of a salvage company, and as far as the story goes, that matters far more than her sexuality. That's not to say that her sexuality is erased; far from it! Everyone knows that she's half of a female couple, but their reactions to that depend on their feelings about her and Santerese as individuals, not on their feelings about queer people. Heikki is respected, and at times disrespected, for the complex person that she is.
And that, I think, is something that's still uncommon even in SF/F: a queer protagonist for whom queerness is part of a whole, another version of normal — where queerness is highly present, and a queer person is the point of view character, but queerness is not a contested social issue. Of course, SF/F is one of the best media for trying to imagine that, offering writers the freedom of every imaginable future and universe, but it's not been as common a choice as I had always expected.
When I wrote Mighty Good Road, this seemed like a radical act of imagination: what would the world look like if there were no social conflict over being any flavor of queer? What would a queer woman look like if she had never been oppressed, either as a woman or a lesbian? There is, of course, always a place in literature to confront oppression, to show its effects and mourn out losses, but it is also valuable, I think, to imagine oppression’s absence, its utter defeat. I still believe we need to consider the question: what might the world look like — what might we look like — when we win?