(a note: I use „queer“ and „gay“ as pretty much interchangeable fuzzy umbrella terms. This is another of those things I don’t really feel like explaining, it turns out.)
(another note: if you want to page down through my–albeit high quality and correct–Thoughts and Feelings about queerness and fanfic and just see the extremely good list of recs, click here)
A little while ago while clearing out my inbox I found an email from myself sent back in 2017, that I had no memory of, containing a list of links I’d apparently meant to look at again. (I actually just did the same thing to empty out the 20-odd tabs I had open on my phone, so: enjoy, future Hauke.) The bulk of them were Sherlock Holmes and Jeeves & Wooster fanfics, which is a particularly mysterious gift from past me as I don’t remember reading any of those since around the end of high school, 12 years ago. Since finding that email, though, I’ve been intermittently immersing myself in a warm and delightful 19th/20th century English novel fandom nostalgia pool. Almost every Jooster fic still follows the exact same emotional beats it turns out, and I love it.
In my (re)exploration of this particular corner of Ao3, though, I’ve discovered a few fics that were unusual pearls, and they brought home to me that the things I read fic for have been changing a lot in recent years. Or maybe they just showed me what I’ve been missing in the fics all along. Don’t get me wrong, I have always appreciated some good fraught dramatic gay romance and/or good porn, but the thing that’s been missing, which I didn’t notice was missing until I found the handful of fics that had it, was: queerness.
It’s not enough for me anymore for fanfic to be gay, I want it to be Gay. So often fic that has ostensibly queer romantic pairings depicts the characters in a way that makes them feel like they’re floating in a void, where their non-straight-ness means absolutely nothing to their life beyond the person they love and/or fuck. I hear there are some gay people who live like that but I’ve never been able to relate to it at all. I want characters to have feelings about their queerness and weirdnesses of sexuality and gender, and most imnportantly I want there to be queer spaces for them to exist in and explore.
At most a fic might include some homophobia, setting-appropriate or not, for a quick angst hit. But I don’t want the hurt of gay-bashing if you’re not going to counterweigh it with the real-life comforts of gay mutual support and family and community, of carving out a space in the margins and making it beautiful. I’m not even particularly linked into offline LGBT communities right now, but I know the feeling of recognising other gays in the wild, I seek out or make my own small gay spaces and I talk to my gay friends about my gay life. Seeing those interactions in fic is so satisfying and comforting.
Now that I’ve experienced fic where characters have queer friends and experience queer spaces and resilience and suffering in context, I can’t quite get the same warm glow from ones that don’t include it anymore. Please give me more! There’s so much untapped potential here. Obviously I’m biased as a history and worldbuilding nerd, but I feel if you’re writing a historical fic and don’t use some of the amazing historical information and annecdotes out there you’re doing the world and yourself a disservice— there’s so much good stuff there. And if you’re writing in a fantasy or scifi setting you have the freedom to extrapolate and invite your own queer spaces and culture! That sounds absolutely amazing to me, are you kidding, why isn’t everyone all over this.