Women in Queer SFF: R.E. Stearns on An Overabundance of Jacks

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September is Women in Queer Sci-fi & Fantasy month here on Just Love, where we’re highlighting the ladies who bring the ‘epic’ to Epic Fantasy, or who go further than any woman has gone before in space.

Author R.E. Stearns is definitely ready to push boundaries in SFF. Her upcoming novel, Barbary Station, can be summarized in three words: pirate space opera. Oh, did we mention? It’s got badass queer lady POC main characters. Hell yes.

Welcome R.E.!

Every Woman Jack of Us
by R. E. Stearns

Hi, I’m R. E. Stearns, author of Barbary Station, a novel which I hope will soon be joined by many more sci fi novels about women who love women (WLW).

I am so impatient for more WLW novels in science fiction! What are publishers trying to do, hide from customers? Here we are in the damned 2010’s, and WLW sci fi literature is still at the stage where every other protagonist is named Jack. Male-focused science fiction moved on from Jack in the 1990’s, didn’t it?

Slight, calming tangent: Here’s a discussion of the etymology of the name Jack and the expression in the title. There used to be so many people called Jack that the name came to mean “all of them.” Like Becky for white women 😉

All of those fictional Jacks appear in genres that are trying to be “relatable” to people who don’t usually read that kind of story. The name Jack says “Look, this main character is a supersoldier/space detective/intergalactic spy/starship captain just like you’ve read about before, only she has a woman love interest!” Which is great! Actually, can we get all of those in one character? Has somebody written that yet?

The point is, we’re still calling our WLW characters by “relatable” names because readers and publishers still need to be convinced that WLW science fiction is something they can like.

Sure, sometimes we authors just want our own “Jack,” our own action heroine with a nostalgic name. That’s fine. But we need more than five sci fi books with WLW protagonists per year (which is the most we get on average, according to data from Science Fiction Books for Lesbians).

You’re already helping the effort to get more and better WLW sci fi by following this blog. Authors and publishers need to know that there’s an audience out there, waiting for new queer books! Although, let me assure you, some up-and-coming authors were writing about non-straight characters for years before their first novel was published.

Of course, the other way to tell publishers and authors that there’s an audience is to drive up demand for representative stories in paying venues. If you can’t do that personally, talking about books which feature characters you like and reviewing them in public places gets those stories more attention. Also, thank publishers and authors who create what you want to read more of. Even anonymous thanks means a lot.

All of that said, I’m totally excited for Autonomous by Annalee Newitz, which comes out very soon and has a Jack whose adventures I look forward to following. That’s the kind of story every woman Jack of us should support, if we want more like it.

I’m loving this month’s theme of Women in Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy, and I hope this post added something to make you go “Hmm.” Barbary Station is a science fiction novel from Saga Press about girlfriends in space and the artificial intelligence that’s trying to kill them. Its release date is October 31, 2017, and you can pre-order it now, if you are so inclined.

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You Can Pre-Order Barbary Station from:


Barnes & Noble

Adda and Iridian are newly-minted engineers, but in a solar system wracked by economic collapse after an interplanetary war, an engineering degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Desperate for gainful employment, they hijack a colony ship, planning to join a pirate crew at Barbary Station, an abandoned shipbreaking station in deep space.

But when they arrive at Barbary Station, nothing is as they expected. The pirates aren’t living in luxury — they’re hiding in a makeshift base welded onto the station’s exterior hull. The artificial intelligence controlling the station’s security system has gone mad, trying to kill all station residents. And it shoots down any ship that tries to leave, so there’s no way out.

Adda and Iridian have one chance to earn a place on the pirate crew: destroy the artificial intelligence. The last engineer who went up against the security system suffered explosive decapitation, and the pirates are taking bets on how the newcomers will die. But Adda and Iridian plan to beat the odds.

R.E. Stearns wrote her first story on an Apple IIe computer and still kind of misses green text on a black screen. When not writing or working, R. E. Stearns reads, plays PC games, and references internet memes in meatspace. She lives near Denver, Colorado with her husband/computer engineer and a cat. Her debut novel, BARBARY STATION, arrives October 31, 2017 from Saga Press!

You can find her online at @re_stearns on Twitter and at www.restearns.com .


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