Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.



August 29, 2016

F&SF "books about loving everybody"


Nisi Shawl writes fantasy and science fiction. On the website of her current publisher Tor Books, she offers some recommends for good poly tales:


Five Books about Loving Everybody 

Words are powerful magic. Finding a word — polyamory — to describe my romantic and sexual relationships made it possible to tell people what I was doing: my friends, my family, my lovers, and most importantly, myself. I was a college dropout when I first encountered the term polyamory, which we’ll define here as the conscious romantic and/or sexual involvement of three or more consenting adults.

The comic book which introduced me to the name of this concept, and which I read so eagerly, has gotten lost somewhere in my forty-plus years of raggle-taggle relocations. Its main character was named Polly,[1] and I think the front cover was mostly black…. At any rate, it left me longing for further literary examples of this newly validated category of human behavior: stories about kissing and hugging and making love with everybody, without guilt or shame. Which I both wrote and found....


Her five choices, with a paragraph or two for each, are:

Tales of Nevèryon by Samuel R. Delany (1979)

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler (2005)

“«Légendaire»”, short story by Kai Ashante Wilson (2013)

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (2015)

Black Wine by Candas Jane Dorsey (1997)


None of these recommendations are “about” polyamory. More accurately, these stories are around polyamory: loving everybody figures into what they’re about in different ways — as an exception, as a cultural marker for travelers in time and space, as a signifier of civility and sophistication, and so on. I’m sure that a thorough search would provide at least as many examples of ways of portraying polyamory in SFF as there are of practicing it.

Take my suggestions. Read them. Read my work as well, for you’ll find that, as I noted earlier, I’ve definitely written polyamory into several of the worlds I’ve imagined.


Her whole article (August 29, 2016).

And read the comments! They're by intelligent people offering many more examples, and not just Heinlein. Many of these books and stories I'd never heard of. Go add your own favorites.

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Update: The very same day, queer-fantasy author Shira Glassman gave her recommendations for poly fiction, with good descriptions, on LGBTQ Reads. They're all quite recent:

She Whom I Love by Tess Bowery (2015)

Kneel, Mr. President by Lauren Gallagher (2015)

Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver (2014)

Midnight at the Orpheus by Alyssa Linn Palmer (2015)

Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi (2013)

● The Fierce Family anthology (2014)

Her whole article: Recommendations for Polyamory in Fiction, by Shira Glassman (Aug. 29).


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1. That can only be Polly Morfus of Far Out West comix! The Kerista commune in San Francisco published them as as part of its prolific poly and hippie-consciousness outreach literature in the 1970s and 80s. "Even Eve" Furchgott, one of Kerista's most articulate spokespeople, wrote and drew the comix. Example. Actual paper copies are historic collector's items.

But I'm pretty sure Nisi Shawl is mistaken about encountering the word polyamory there. I suspect she is misremembering polyfidelity, the term invented and promoted by the Keristans. I have never been able to find the word polyamory used prior to its invention in the late 1980s and its first publications in 1990-1992. If you know otherwise, please write me!

–Alan M.
  alan7388 (AT) gmail.com

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Blogger Kevin said...

Just reread an old book. Poul Anderson's The Avatar from 1978. The protagonist is married and has a lover. The wife and lover know each and are friends and very aware and consenting of the situation. The hero repeatedly makes a point of loving both women and not being able to live without either as do they. The lover is a bit of free spirit and has other lovers with whom she meets with while on an adventure with the hero. Overall, it's an ok story, not one of Anderson's best, but he is comfortable with polyamory as way of life and not as a gimmick to get people to read his books.

September 09, 2016 6:18 PM  

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