Cold, Crossed Genres, & Flash homophobia

Update 10/6/09: The deadline for submissions for the LGBTQ issue was September 30, 2009. Submissions for that issue are no longer being accepted. New submissions with LGBTQ themes are still welcome, so long as they ALSO have elements of Crossed Genres’ current theme: see the current genre page for details.

Crossed Genres ad for its upcoming LGBTQ ad -- rejected by Flash Fiction Online editor Jake Frievald with the explanation Sorry, I don’t accept sexually themed ads.

Crossed Genres ad for its upcoming LGBTQ issue -- rejected by Flash Fiction Online editor Jake Frievald with the explanation "Sorry, I don’t accept sexually themed ads."

A day or so after Outer Alliance Pride Day, in honor of which I posted an excerpt from my novel-in-progress Mistress of Woodland,[Ref #1] I read on Outer Alliance’s blog that Crossed Genres, a monthly science fiction/fantasy magazine published both online and in print, was accepting submissions for an LGBTQ issue to be published in December November. [Ref #2] In fact, Crossed Genres, itself an Outer Alliance member, had posted a version of its call for submissions as its own Outer Alliance Pride Day post.[Ref #3] Submission deadline: September 30.  If you write SF/F with LGBTQ themes and/or characters, give it a look & consider submitting some work. Besides short stories, Crossed Genres also accepts articles, artwork, serial novels, novellas, and webcomics.  See their full submission guidelines.

Cool.  I’ve been far from trying to market short stories, since I don’t generally write them, & earlier this year I decided that in any case I intend to do most publishing & marketing of any work that I actually complete (one day I will actually do so!) myself.  But on the other hand — this seemed like a great opportunity to challenge myself to something different.  So last Saturday, I started work on a story taking place in the same story universe as Cold, a novel I started writing a couple years ago as a part of National Novel Writing Month.

From an early description of Cold, before I commenced writing it:

Cold is (or will be) a novel about two young women who live on a planet in the late stages of terraforming. They’ve just met again at age 17 after one of them, Boleyn, returns from a sort of exile that she & her family have been in since Boleyn was 12 due to some kind of disgrace that her parents got into — they’d been sent to some kind of hardship duty at a remote project facility for five years. Emphasis will be more on human & social issues than on science (good thing, since I’m not a scientist) — I want to explore how human communities, & the overall ecologies they are part of, might evolve in a place that’s truly new, with no other populations whether human or alien to be “conquered” or “assimilated”? How does a planet that was formerly barren of life become, eventually, “home”? [Ref #4]

November 30, 2007: Celebrating the successful completion of NaNoWriMo 2007 with my friend Chris, another NaNoWriMo winnter

November 30, 2007: Celebrating the successful completion of NaNoWriMo 2007 with my friend Chris, another NaNoWriMo winner that year

The good news about Cold: I successfully wrote 50,000+ words during a very frantic November 2007, & was a NaNoWriMo winner that year. The bad news about Cold: as most NaNovels are at the end of a frantic November, it’s still pretty drafty, & far from finished.  (I started a “second” Cold in November 2008, to continue the story, but got not quite halfway through the month before personal issues got in the way of my being able to write.)  One day….

But in the process of writing in November 2007, I learned a few things about the history  of my characters’ terraformation project, some of it going all the way back to its origins in our own solar system. And so when I decided to attempt a submission for Crossed Genres‘ December LGBTQ-themed issue, I decided to take it back to that time, when the first ships containing human populations first set out for the generations-long passage across the Long Dark between the stars.

I’m not sure of its title yet — it might even be “Long Dark.”  I know the name of one of my two principal characters, which I discovered last Saturday at one of my favorite “what to name the baby” (that is, “what to name the character in my story”) websites: Jyoti, an Indian female name derived from the Sanskrit ज्योतिः (jyotis) meaning light.  At the time, it was simply important that the name be an Indian female name that I like, but in writing today I discovered that its meaning is plenty important too, & that’s very cool: I write at my best when I’m making discoveries in the process.  The name of the other principal might be Esti, which might mean sweet or honey if you’re Basque, or star if you’re Persian, or a misspelled version of Eesti, which is Estonia.  I’m happy with any of these meanings.  And now you know that the names of my characters is pretty important to me.

Will I finish this story in time to submit it? Beats me, but I’m sure gonna try.  Will it be accepted? Not up to me, but I’m sure gonna try.  Is it worth the doing in any case?  Yes.  So I’m on my way.

* * *

Meanwhile, in the busy week between last Saturday & this, in which I spend a good chunk of my waking time in the grey, another chunk of time (some of it overlapping) at work, another chunk writing about the (so far) failed lawsuit against the Alaska Judicial Council, & another chunk rewatching episodes from “Dexter” Season 3 — stuff was going on with Crossed Genres too.

Namely, some of the same type of gunk I wrote about in my second post on Outer Alliance Pride Day: homophobia in the world of science fiction and fantasy. [Ref #5] This took the form of the chief high muckety-muck of Flash Fiction Online, a guy named Jack Frievald, rejecting Crossed Genres’ ad — the same ad I’ve posted at the head of this blog — with the explanation, “Sorry, I don’t accept sexually themed ads.” [Ref #6]

WTF?  Sexually themed?

Bart Leib, the Crossed Genres editor who was placing the ad, had much the same reaction, so he wrote to Frievald seeking explanation.  While Frievald’s response — you can read it here on the Crossed Genres blog — was civil & thoughtfully written, it’s essentially again of the “love the sinner, hate the sin” variety: in essence, Frievald accepts that, in his words, “LGBTQ people are children of God — literally — and as worthy of respect as any other human beings” and “*being* gay — having those feelings — is simply how LGBTQ people are, and attaches no guilt to them” — which is, granted, a good deal less nasty than what we in Anchorage heard all summer from the Christianist right during our late great Summer of Hate.  But nonetheless, Frievald believes that no one besides monogamous heterosexual couples who have never been divorced should be permitted to marry, that only married couples should ever have sex, and that “those who promote ‘gay rights’ are acting under misguided beliefs about what we should or shouldn’t do as a society, and I don’t want to promote or condone those behaviors or beliefs.” [Ref #6]

I.e., he’s saying to us: “you’re a child of God, & being LGBTQ is simply who you are, no guilt attached — but your efforts to secure equality under the law with other children of God who are simply being who they are is misguided & wrong.  It’s not only okay for you to have fewer rights than us heterosexuals, but is in fact exactly how I believe society ought to be ordered.”

Here we go again.  Is that hate?  is that homophobia?

I submit for your consideration the thought that homophobia or hatred doesn’t by necessity require spittle-flecked lips, such as we in Anchorage had to continually shield ourselves from over the summer just passed.  I don’t imagine that every husband who believed it was the proper order of the world that his wife be disallowed from voting, from owning property in her own right, or from refusing sexual intercourse when he wanted it, believed that he hated his wife.  But I’ve sure never been able to put those beliefs down to love either. Or justice.  Or with how a society ought to be properly ordered.

Maybe I could put it down to liking.  After all, Frievald has divorced friends, single mother friends (even single mother family members!) who had sex out of wedlock, heterosexual married friends who use contraception — all of these friends having made choice he disapproves of, he nevertheless still likes them.  One can imagine he has gay, lesbian, bi, and/or trans friends that he likes, too.  In fact, in comments on Crossed Genres‘ blog post about the ad rejection, after Rod Santos — a gay writer who had previously sold work to Flash Fiction Online — expressed regret about Frievald’s beliefs, Frievald responded,

Hi, Rod, and thanks for the comment. I enjoyed working with you and liked you before I knew you were gay, and now that I know, I still like you and would enjoy working with you in the future, if you care to do so.

You’re one of the very few who has shown a modicum of actual tolerance — mutual respect despite fundamental differences — and I appreciate it. [Ref #6]

Yep.  He likes him.  Just as so many of the red-shirt-wearing Christianists in Anchorage this summer who claimed to have LGB or T friends but nonetheless testified before the Anchorage Assembly that we were undeserving of equal protection from discrimination.

Some friends.


I submit for your consideration the thought that liking someone does not by necessity mean that you care one whit for that person’s fair treatment or well-being.  I submit for your consideration the thought that considering someone to be your friend does not by necessity mean that the other person feels likewise about you, or that your behavior with regard to that friend is, in fact, friendship.

I will add that Bart Leib expended a considerable amount of time and energy discussing the issue of the ad rejection and his correspondence with Frievald with other members of the Outer Alliance before he finally decided to post Frievald’s email.  I finally got a chance to review that discussion tonight.  It was only at the very end of it, after a discussion involving about 100 posts from various people, that Leib even revealed to us the identity of the market & the editor who rejected the ad, & only because in the end he decided — as most agreed — that it was a responsible thing to do to make LGBTQ SF/F writers aware if there was a market that had editorial policies unfriendly to their work, or that assumed that LGBTQ-themed work was by its nature “sexually themed.”  Some of what Frievald said specifically addressed his editorial policies with regard to LGBTQ-themed material:

I would probably not publish stories where the purpose was to justify or condone homosexual relationships, polyamory, and so on — I reject all “message” stories, even those that I agree with — but that doesn’t imply that stories containing those elements will automatically be rejected…. That said, I’ve only published one story that focuses on divorce, and it shows how dysfunctional divorce is (without being a “message” story)…. [Ref #6]

It’s not too hard to connect the dots — especially if you read Frievald’s entire letter — & conclude that even stories which portray characters who “just happen to be” in healthy homosexual relationships could easily be rationalized as “message” stories which justify or condone homosexuality — or that stories portraying an unhealthy or badly-ending homosexual relationship could easily be rationalized as a “non-message” story — if only because it didn’t justify or condone homosexual relationships.

In the end, I agree with others that that Leib’s responsibility towards writers who write LGBTQ-themed fiction trumped any privacy concerns about Leib’s correspondence with Frievald.  In the words of one commenter on Leib’s post,

Thanks for letting us know where not to waste our time. I think you made the right choice. [Ref #6]

So do I.

The Outer Alliance had this to say about it:

After much discussion within the Outer Alliance, a consensus has been reached that when our writers or publishers encounter a market that is specifically unwelcoming to queer content, that we ought to make sure our membership is aware of it so that they may decide individually whether or not they wish to try to conduct business with such a market.

It is adamantly not the function of the Outer Alliance to tell its members how to behave nor to police the world of speculative fiction publishing. We do, however, believe that our membership, and many more people outside the Alliance, would prefer to have the information when it becomes known that a publisher is specifically opposed to the things we stand for. [Ref #7]

While I was not party to the discussion at the time, I agree with this consensus all the way.

What again is it that the Outer Alliance stands for?  What do I, as a member of the Outer Alliance, stand for?

As a member of the Outer Alliance, I advocate for queer speculative fiction and those who create, publish and support it, whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity. I make sure this is reflected in my actions and my work.

If you’re interested in following this issue further, tacithydra at the LiveJournal blog Venturesome has been collecting commentary and updates. [Ref #8]


See also Kay Holt’s brilliant takedown of Frievald’s “I wasn’t really comparing homosexuals with pedophiles when I compared homosexuals with pedophiles” claim, which I didn’t have the emotional energy to even address myself.  Thanks to her, I don’t have to. [Ref #9] Kay Holt is co-editor with Bart Leib of Crossed Genres.  See also Bart Leib’s follow-up post about the controversy.  [Ref #10] The more I see of these people, the more I like them, & their ‘zine.


  1. 9/1/09. “Outer Alliance Pride Day 2009: An excerpt from Mistress of Woodland” by Melissa S. Green (Henkimaa).
  2. 9/2/09. “Submissions: Crossed Genres Calls for LGBTQ Spec Fic” by Natania (Outer Alliance).
  3. 9/1/09. “Outer Alliance Pride Day” by Bart Leib (Crossed Genres). Announcing its 12th issue, to be published December 1, 2009, as an LGBTQ-themed issue. (An announcement is also on Crossed Genres’ current genre page, but looks like the content there will change when they select their next theme.)
  4. 10/1/07. “About ‘Cold'” by Melissa S. Green (Henkimaa).
  5. 9/1/09. “Queer eye for the sci-fi (& fantasy): LGBTA writers & homophobia” by Melissa S. Green (Henkimaa).
  6. 9/9/09.  “SFF market rejects our LGBTQ ad” by Bart Leib (Crossed Genres).
  7. 9/9/09. “Regarding queer-unfriendly markets” by mbranesf (Outer Alliance).
  8. 9/9/09. “Freivald’s Flash Fiction Online is a Queer Unfriendly Market” by tacithydra (Venturesome).
  9. 9/10/09. “The Rejection Heard Round the World (well, technically…)” by Kay Holt (posting as sandykiss, LiveJournal blog). Kay Holt is co-editor with Bart Leib of Crossed Genres.
  10. 9/10/09. “Just keep your wide eyes wide wide open” by Bart Leib (Crossed Genres).
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