This post came about while I was writing an answer to an Ask Me Anything question. What I wanted to say about the history of lesbian fiction was taking me far too far off on a tangent.
From Fandom Fiction to Published Fiction:
The 21st century boom in lesbian-centered novels
Do you love fandom fiction? What about those stories when the writer has transplanted characters to other times, given them other backstories, other situations to deal with? Within fandoms, this can be called AU writing or “uber” (thanks to the Xena fandom for this term). It’s still using the character names, so it can’t be shared as original fiction.
But it really is. While you’re changing the character’s histories and the setting, change the names. I realized the potential of uber-cum-original when I generated original names for a long novel I was writing back during my Star Trek: Voyager fandom days. Removing the “recognizable” elements meant I explored new motivations for the characters. I was building a new story from the inside out.
Now for the “history” lesson. Back when the Xena series was winding down in 2001-2003, there was a boom in these AU/uber stories, mostly outgrowth of Xena and Gabrielle’s soulmate bond and the India story arc talking about them meeting over and over again in multiple lives. The series itself did this with “The Xena Scrolls” way back in season 2 and several in seasons 5 and 6. These stories were called “uber.”
But really, they were original fiction. They had different lead characters. Take out the “descendants of the bard and warrior” subplot you still had fully realized original plots.
And some writers got these published, or started small self-publishing houses that published their stories and those of maybe a couple friends. Eventually it expanded. There were announcements on Xena boards nearly every month of stories that were headed into publication or just released. This was the birth of Bella Books, Bold Strokes Books. Bella’s website morphed from just their own authors’ books to being a place that would help sell indie authors’ self-published, or other smaller presses’ books, too. Bella Books distribution site still exists today. And Bold Strokes Books produces almost as frequently as mainstream Harlequin did back in the 1980s. Other publishers that were born at that time, like the original company that produced my novel Turning Point and its sequel Turn for Home, PD Publishing, are now out of business.
The Golden Crown Literary Society was also born during that time out of a desire to see some of these books gain recognition when Lambda Literary didn’t seem to be doing so. (I am happy to say that Lambda is doing a far better job now with recognition of the many genres of lesbian fiction.)
On a personal note, my first novel Turning Point was submitted to both organizations and was a finalist in the Debut Author category in 2008.
While recognition as an author is nice, it is not the sole reason to support organizations like these, of course. Both Lambda and GCLS have in their mission statements the stated desire to enhance the visibility and understanding of queer (used solely as an umbrella term) literature.
So that’s a short history on the “second boom” of lesbian fiction. I’d say we’re in a third boom now, with the advent of Amazon KDP and new writers arising out of new F/F subtext (and text, thank you Person of Interest, The 100 and Grey’s Anatomy and more) fandoms all the time.