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Today I am thrilled to welcome New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger! Her immensely entertaining Parasol Protectorate series, a comedy of manners set during an alternate Victorian era populated by werewolves, vampires, and other supernatural beings, follows the adventures of Alexia Tarabotti—who literally has no soul. Though this series is now complete, she’s expanded the world through other books, including those in Custard Protocol, an ongoing series set after the Parasol Protectorate; Supernatural Society, stand alone LGBTQ romance novellas; Finishing School, a young adult quartet; and more.

Imprudence by Gail Carriger Soulless by Gail Carriger

Got Queer Characters In Your Fantasy? Blame Mercedes Lackey

You know what I get asked a lot?

Why do you include gay characters in your books?

I find the question confusing. Like, Gail, why do you include food in your books? Or descriptions of dresses? Or fragment sentences? It’s part of my DNA as a writer. My world view. My world.

But that also seems to trivialize the whole darn thing.

I guess what I’m really being asked is…

Why did it never occur to you not to?

And to that I say: Blame Mercedes Lackey.

Back when I was first transitioning into reading adult books, it was pretty natural to cross from children’s fantasy (there was no YA as a category back then) into adult fantasy via Mercedes Lackey. (I still hold that Arrows is, in fact, YA. It simply has never been packaged that way. Silly marketing.)

For me that transition went pretty smoothly because, well… her books featured girls and soul bonded horses. I’ve always been one of those super girly girls (aside from being totally not squeamish about bugs and food and dirt and climbing anything that will stand still long enough for me to get up it and… where was I?) Oh yes, so child Gail began reading adult books because white horses with purple eyes on cover. Duh.

Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey Knights of Ghosts and Shadows by Mercedes Lackey and Ellen Guon

Mercedes Lackey always inhabits her work with gay and lesbian characters. They are not always central characters, as they are in the Last Herald Mage series, but they are always there. (Keep reading Lackey and you end up with poly relationships. Gail, age 14 thought Knight of Ghosts and Shadows had the most romantic ending of any book EVER, and kinda still does.) All these relationships are presented in a supportive light. Which made perfect sense to child Gail with all her Berkeley and San Francisco poet, artist, dancer, musician aunties and uncles (and uncles who were also aunties).

Since then as a grown up professional authorbeast, I’m lucky enough to have socialized with Mercedes on a few occasions. She is just as warm and wonderful as you might hope. I’m afraid when I first met her, my author buddy Lauren Harris and I rather fan-girled all over her. Almost entirely because we wanted to impress upon her the fact that her books were so important because they gave us a model of fantasy that included alternate sexuality. As she went to pains to point out, there were other genre authors doing this before her. But those authors were generally less accessible to young women readers. Her books were/are important because in them queer wasn’t a big deal. It just was. And so when Lauren and I began to write it just was for us, too. In Lackey’s books queer was normal.

And normalization is a powerful instrument of change.

Gail Carriger
Photo Credit: J. Daniel Sawyer
Gail Carriger writes comedies of manners mixed with paranormal romance. Her steampunk books include the Parasol Protectorate, Custard Protocol, and Supernatural Society series for adults, and the Finishing School series for young adults. (All of them contain queer characters in a myriad of forms.) She is published in many languages and has over a dozen NYT bestsellers. She was once an archaeologist and is overly fond of shoes, octopuses, and tea.