To celebrate Pride month, Foyles hosted an evening with four brilliant queer authors to explore the power of their voices within the literary sphere. The writer and blogger Willow Heath, known for their blog Books and Bao, chaired the panel. The incredibly impressive panel featured Alison Rumfitt, Juliet Jacques, Nat Reeve and Rivers Solomon.
To open the discussion the authors begin with a reading from their works. Alison Rumfitt, author of the gothic horror novel Tell Me I’m Worthless read from her upcoming novel, demonstrating her visceral and graphic narratives which focus on the modern trans experience, exploring trauma and fascism. Prolific author Juliet Jacques, followed with a reading from her 2021 novel Variations: a short story collection exploring British transgender history through the use of found material and real-life events. Writer and researcher Nat Reeve read an excerpt from their debut novel Nettleblack, released in June - a work of queer historical fiction set in Victorian England. Finally, Rivers Solomon, an author whose speculative fiction novels explore race and queerness brought the readings to a close with a reading of their latest novel, Sorrowland - a gothic science fiction novel that explores America’s history of racism and marginalisation of those deemed ‘undesirable’.
The panel was ultimately exploring the importance of queer voices in literature, as a way for queer people to tell their own stories, alongside exploring and interrogating queerness through their work. But also, as Juliet Jacques points out, queer voices in literature are important as they can give voices to the queer people who have been silenced throughout history.
When turning to the question of genre fiction and the contributions queerness can make within genres, Jacques turned the question around and asked ‘what can genre fiction offer queer writers?’. As an author of historical fiction, she spoke to the way that the genre can help give voices to those silenced in history, explaining that fiction can help evade the theoretical issues of transcribing identities in history. Unlike Jacques, Rumfitt’s recent novel plays with horror and gothic genres as she explained that this allows routes into empathy through character identification,, alongside the queerness that exists in the genre itself through its poking at societal norms. Solomon also touched on this through the lens of speculative fiction as a genre that welcomes weirdness, and therefore is a genre that seems to be made for explorations of queerness.
Heath then moved the conversation to a discussion of the queer literature that impacted the panel as Reeve expressed their love for Oscar Wilde, stating that when they first read Oscar Wilde they ‘lost their mind’. Reeve further explained that Wilde is one of their writing inspirations as they write back to Wilde within their work.
As the conversation turned to the impact of being a queer voice in literature, Nat Reeve expressed that they simply can’t be anything else and that being a queer author has allowed them the opportunity to write their debut novel focusing on queer characters with Cipher Press.
The most important takeaway from this event was a discussion on what readers can do to support queer authors. Solomon asked readers to look beyond the tables at their favourite bookstores and instead research queer authors and their works through queer publishers like Cipher Press and works published through small independent presses alongside self-published work. Solomon expressed that since many queer people are often socially and economically marginalised, it is essential to seek out queer authors to support them.
Ultimately, this event was a beautiful celebration of queer literature and the wonderful queer authors who write them.
Edited by Maisie Allen, Literature Editor