Book Review: ‘Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology’ Edited by Sfé R. Monster

It’s an odd phenomenon that, somehow, the queer character seems to always be left out of the adventure narrative. Be it sci-fi, fantasy, or even a dystopian narrative, you’ll find that LGBT protagonists are nowhere to be found. Each of these genres are typically riddled heteros played by nondescript white romantic leads in their movie adaptations–a Chris Pine or Rachel McAdams.

What Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology aims to accomplish, and succeeds at, is representation in an underrepresented area. This beautiful collection of comics, edited by Sfé R. Monster, gathers a huge diversity of styles and narratives.

Told from every possible universe and with every walk of life, Beyond is a feat in making sure to include and champion every version of diversity you could want in a queer anthology.

Most notably, Jon Cairns ‘O Type Hypergiant’ a beautifully-told story about two male humanoids who are designed by humans to live in space and catalog stars. Lonely out there in the center of the universe, the two men fraternize and pass the time in chummy ways which inevitably grows romantic. As their space pod falls in danger, the two grow closer and realize what their companionship means in the midst of turmoil.

Take also “The Graves of Wolves” by Adrien Closson, which follows a futuristic lumberjack-type and his bizarre alien son on a snowy forest wasteland, in a dystopian fatherhood story that would make Cormac McCarthy jealous.

Some of the most gorgeous lines are in Niki Smith’s “Islet” which follows a quasi-lesbian relationship on a desolate planet. Though romance is heavy in this story, it’s obvious that a far more complex relationship is at stake.

I was particularly moved by “Of Families & Other Magical Objects” by Reed Black, which tells the story of two adoptive fathers, one white and one black, who have to rescue their daughter from a kidnapping in a hidden dream world, guided by a rabbit-like changeling.

There’s also an ambitious comic by Wm Brian Maclean that has no real words at all, playing with engendered blobs to create a narrative that defies romance, normalities, and gender altogether.

“Barricade” by Alison Wilgus and Anisa Espinosa is yet another triumph in illustration within this anthology. The story follows two female astronauts on a planet where both their lives and their hearts are in danger. As they carry on a mission together, mystery envelops their characters, and they learn to trust and respect each other in a story that relies more on the art than the words. And it is beautifully told that way, too.

The editor writes in his opening letter:

I remember being a kid, not yet having the words ‘queer’ or ‘trans’ or even ‘LGBT’ but desperately looking for a hint of a reflection of those things I felt within myself in the books I wanted to read, and the stories I buried myself in.

The few reflections I found were warped like funhouse mirrors: evil and amoral queer people cast as over-the-top villains, campy stereotypes […] The world seemed full of fun escapism, packed with high-fantasy and science fiction adventure stories where not even the sky was the limit, but for all their fire breathing dragons and aliens form other worlds, none of them included me, or anyone like me, as a hero

Here’s to creating more reflections, more heroes, as we celebrate the emergence of this fantastic portrait of gay/queer surreality. The many voices in this collection are to be celebrated, and we should look forward to reading more of their work.

Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology
Edited by Sfé R. Monster
Beyond Press
Paperback,9780990995685, 272 pages

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