Thought I’d do a group post of all the LGBTQ+ reading I’ve done this month. (Though next year I plan to think ahead; I’m going to assemble the list as I go, and on the first of June next year I’ll post a list of all the LGBTQ+ reading I’ve done between the two Junes, and that way if someone wants to read any of it for themselves, then they actually have time to do so while it’s still Pride Month.) Bizarrely, all but one of the books I’m listing here is something I got by backing it on Kickstarter. (I spend way too much money there.) Most of them, furthermore, are graphic novels. Which is so weird, because I don’t really think of myself as the graphic novel type. Manga, yes, but graphic novel, not so much. There were also a few other good LGBTQ+ related books I got off Kickstarter that I’ve already read, but since it wasn’t this month, I’m not including them here. (I should have thought of them sooner and done a post at some point during the month. *sigh* I am still not fully back in the blogging habit. Or even, like, halfway back in it. I’m maybe a quarter of the way there. Maybe.)
I’m going to list them alphabetically, because I don’t think I can remember what order I read them in. (Also, please keep in mind that I spent the first half of the month reading stuff for the Read Harder challenge instead, until I realized I ought to put that aside for Pride Month-appropriate reading. Because, you know, 50th anniversary and all.)
Ben, the Boy Who Paints His Nails – There’s nothing overtly LGBTQ+ about this, aside from the rainbow theme, it’s more just about accepting people. A children’s picture book can only do so much, after all. It’s teaching about acceptance in general, and I think it does a nice job of it.
Laria’s Diary: Prelude to Mystics of Sapphia – This comic book is a side-story to Mystics of Sapphia, a lesbian visual novel I backed on Kickstarter. The game hasn’t come out yet, but they sent the physical copy of the comic out anyway, since it takes place before the game. It’s a pleasant read, except for the ending, which as you might expect is rather dark, setting up the story for the game. (I don’t remember the story for the game anymore, because my brain has been crowded with too many other things lately, but…)
Lemonade Summer – A collection of short, LGBTQ+ positive comics, child-friendly, but still interesting for adults. Some of the stories feature the same kids (and/or their siblings) and some of them don’t interlock with the others at all. The common thread is really finding acceptance for who you are, no matter who that is. Extremely sweet, but without being saccharine.
Letters for Lucardo, Volumes 1 and 2 – In these graphic novels (or are they the print form of a webcomic?), a handsome, young-looking vampire prince falls in love with his sixtyish scribe. I have to admit, I kind of backed this one out of “wait, what?” more than anything else, but it’s very compelling. Lucardo’s love for his elderly scribe Ed is pre-existing in volume 1: it starts out with him confessing to the scribe, who was already quite smitten with his handsome employer (and had been actively flirting with him for a long time). It was a good idea to start there; with their love already a thing, we don’t watch Lucardo falling for the rather ordinary-looking older(-looking) man and wonder what he sees in him, instead we just watch their interactions and realize that yeah, Ed’s actually quite wonderful, very charming and funny, and you end up quite sold on their romance. Of course, Lucardo’s family is not so sold… (I think this is the only one on this list with explicit sex scenes. Of which it has a pretty large number.)
Now Loading…! – This is the only non-Kickstarter work in the bunch. I found this manga at…um…probably Barnes & Noble…and thought it looked cute. And it was cute. Cute and sweet. Not a lot more than that, but it was refreshing that it was about the characters getting close to each other and gradually developing romantic feelings rather than about them being in a rush to leap into bed. (Yeah, I’ve seen some yuri manga like that. Though yuri is not as bad on that score as yaoi is.) Somewhat idealistic about video game programming, but not as much so as some other things out there.
Paint the Town Red, Volume 1 – In this graphic novel, a badly wounded vampire takes refuge in a hospice run by a couple of werewolves. Not that the two werewolves are a couple; in fact, one of them starts dating the vampire. The big surprise to me in this was how quickly our two heroines went from strangers to lovers; the narrative skipped over a lot of time so we didn’t watch them adjusting to each other, making the leaps from strangers to friends to lovers. (It did specify that the time had passed, however, so it’s not like they just hopped in the sack within days of meeting.) But it’s not a romance story, so it makes sense that the creators didn’t want to waste a lot of time on setting up the two of them as a couple, when that’s just part of the background of the main action, as it were. It’s refreshing that they don’t try to make both of them fit the “pretty girl” type.
The Pride, trade paper volume 1 – So this one is the collected first volume of a comic book about an all-LGBTQ+ superhero team. (Well, almost all.) I’m not big on superhero comics, and based on my experience reading this I doubt that’s going to change any time soon. I did enjoy the writing and the characters in this, but the jump in art style between each issue was horribly jarring for me. I’d love to see these characters adapted into something with a set art style, whether it be animation, live-action, or whatever else you might come up with. (How about a video game? That would be sweet. Like an action RPG where you can switch between the different heroes as the situation warrants. With long, visual novel-style cut scenes between missions. That would rule.) However, I doubt I’ll be reading any more of the comic, because I just can’t take the art style jumps. Also too much fighting and not enough character interaction. (There is a reason, after all, that I do not normally read superhero comics.)
Roadqueen: Eternal Roadtrip to Love – When I looked at the Kickstarter page for this, I somehow came to the conclusion that it was like Haruka and Michiru (Sailors Uranus and Neptune respectively) if Michiru was evil. That wasn’t it. Like, at all. But it was fun and charming all the same. (Only now I kind of want to read a fanfic where Michiru is evil…)
And finally, a list of things I didn’t finish this month:
Bang! Bang! Boom! [New York] – The Kickstarter was technically for the first volume of the web comic Bang! Bang! Boom!, but since it was available as an add-on (or was it a different tier to get both?) I also got this prequel novel. It’s set in during the 1920s, in a slightly alternate reality where magic is uncommon rather than impossible. (Also slightly alternate in race relations, as there’s a very important police detective who is described as “African American,” an anachronistic term if you’re in the real world, and it’s also highly anachronistic that he would be in a position of power in the 1920s, but since this is an alternate history situation, I’m willing to accept it.) It’s the story of two men in a Polish immigrant mob, one of whom has very powerful fire magic which tends to make things blow up. (Hence the title.) Even if I didn’t know the web comic was about them as a couple living on the west coast (I assume the novel will cover why they had to leave), it’d be pretty obvious they were going to end up together, even if they didn’t start out liking each other at all. Anyway, I’m liking it very much so far; I’m only about halfway through, but I don’t think that’s likely to change. (Usually, by this point in a book, I pretty much know where I stand on it unless it louses up the landing, but the worst failures are impossible in this case since I know the two leads are alive years later.) I suspect this will have explicit sex scenes later on, which would mean Letters for Lucardo is not the only one after all.
Luscious Spirit Collection – This…how do I put this? Ultimately, it was my own fault. I went back and looked at their campaign page, and they did have links to samples of the stories in this. I could have followed those links and seen just how amateur they were and saved myself however much money I backed this for. I forced myself to read all the way through the first story, which was set just after Prohibition and didn’t seem to understand that a lot of things were very different in the 1930s, from money (no one would have dared charge $3.25 to read someone’s fortune unless they were charging it to a Rockefeller) to race relations (the term “African American” was not coined until the 1990s) to gender roles (you would not ask a woman in the 1930s what she does for a living, because you would assume she didn’t work unless she said otherwise). Part of what kept me going was knowing that the next story was written by someone else. Only it wasn’t actually much better. The grammar was slightly better and there were fewer continuity errors (someone’s nickname changing from one page to the next, a garment changing from a sweater to a sweatshirt and back again, but…when I saw there were another fifty pages in that story, I just couldn’t take it. I had to stop. (Especially since the rest of the stories were by the first author.)) The first thing they needed to do with the money they raised on Kickstarter was to hire a professional editor, and they plainly never did that. I actually kept folding over the corners of pages with examples of each type of egregious error so I could report on them, but…I’d feel like a bully if I actually did that. I already feel bad about saying this much as it is. (This tried to have explicit sex scenes, but they were so awkwardly written that I don’t think they count as explicit anymore.)
Rainbow Arcade: Over 30 Years of Queer Video Game History – This is actually the companion book to a museum exhibit on the subject. Couldn’t see the exhibit because I haven’t got the time (or freely accessible money) for a trip to Germany, but it’s a nice big book on the subject and I’m looking forward to reading it. “So why haven’t you finished it, then?” you may be asking. Well, it’s like this: I was reading the introduction, and when it mentioned what a step forward it was when major games like Mass Effect offered same-sex romantic partners, I thought to myself “hey, I wonder if they mention Jun?” and promptly turned to the back of the book to look in the index, even as I thought further “nah, if they mention anyone, it’s probably just Kanji…”* So I get to the P section in the index, and lo and behold, yes, Persona 2 is listed just in front of Persona 4…and Persona 5 is listed behind that, with two pages beside it, unlike the other two, which both had only one (the same one, in fact). And why would that matter? Well, I’m not done playing Persona 5 yet. I don’t want spoilers. I’m hopeful that whatever they list it for will be positive (especially since one of the party members looks so much like Jun that I kept calling him Jun at first!) but it might just be for the negative of those two offensive gay stereotypes you meet on the street sometimes. 😦 (I’m also hopeful that one of the female party members is a lesbian, because she’s showing a lot of signs of not being into men at all, but…probably best not to get my hopes up too high in that regard. Though she’s definitely a lesbian in my head-canon, no matter what she is in the game.) Anyhoo, I’m looking forward to reading this once I get through that game.
* Oh, I should probably explain who Jun and Kanji are, for those who don’t know JRPGs. Obscure ones in Jun’s case. Persona 2: Innocent Sin was a Playstation game that was not translated into English at the time (c. 1997-8) for whatever reason. (I have heard a number of theories, including that there is a school shooting in the game…though I don’t actually recall one in reading the translated script of it. There were murders at a high school, but I think they were performed by demons, not guns. I dunno; it’s been a long time since I read that.) Like in all the games in the super-large Megami Tensei überseries, you play a silent protagonist. In that particular case, he’s a high school student named Tatsuya. And one of your party members is another high school boy by the name of Jun, who is passionately in love with Tatsuya. And towards the end of the game you make a dialog choice in which you must declare your own love for someone. And you can declare that you return Jun’s affection. (Sadly, they wuss out on this and by the sequel, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, Tatsuya loves 20-something Maya, regardless of what you chose. And, freakishly, she returns his love no matter how much you try to push her (as she has become the player character) to love his awesome older brother instead. Who is, you know, an appropriate age for her. And also awesome. Unlike Tatsuya, who is obnoxious once he starts talking.) We did eventually get Persona 2: Innocent Sin in English, when they did a PSP version many years later. (Though then they didn’t bring over the PSP upgrade of Eternal Punishment, despite the freakin’ cliffhanger ending! I mean, yeah, we’ve got the original PS1 version, but still!)
Anyway, moving on, in Persona 4, Kanji is one of your party members, and he’s suffering doubt about his own masculinity because he likes to sew and knit, which his society tells him that no man ever likes, so he is both trying to be extra macho (in terms of picking fights and generally acting aggressive) but also wondering if he’s gay and that’s why he likes pastimes boys aren’t supposed to like. So when he sees what seems to be an extremely pretty boy come up to talk to him and starts feeling attracted to “him,” Kanji concludes that he must be gay. The “boy” in question is, of course, a girl in a boy’s school uniform, and Kanji continues to crush on her even after learning she’s a girl (possibly more so), and he also has a bit of a crush on the girl in the party who’s a pop idol, so I’m not sure if that’s viewed as “backsliding” since he ends up not being gay after accepting himself as “gay.” Personally, I see it as “well, he’s probably bi with a preference for girls” and am okay with it, but I am curious to see what the book has to say. (After all, his real issue was gender role non-conformity (however that would be best phrased) not necessarily anything sexuality-related. Not even gender identity related, really.)