“Pushing the Envelope” resource list

(Last significant change: 4 June 2006.)

(Lightly edited in 2021 to remove and replace some broken links and improve some unfortunate phrasing. But this list is still unfortunately cisnormative in some ways.)

Compiled for the “Pushing the Envelope” panel at WisCon 2006.

This list provides some starting points for discussion of how to go about pushing the boundaries of sfnal portrayals of sexual orientation and gender.

Here's the panel description, lightly edited:

Melissa Scott's Shadow Man is an example of the thesis that the most cutting-edge writing/thinking about gender (i.e., about deconstructing the binary sex-gender system) is happening in science fiction, though almost no other SF/F out there has pushed our ideas about sex-and-gender as radically as that book did (though some have come close). In a post-W28 online journal entry, Jed Hartman wrote, “I think the real-world spectrum of gender possibilities is more interesting and broader than most of what's available in SF.” Sadly, that appears to be true. How do we push the envelope? How do we effectively clamor for more radical thinking/imagining about sex and gender in SF/F? What can fans do? What can writers do?

The following is not in any way a comprehensive list of works touching on issues of gender, sexuality, and orientation. There are other booklists that cover such topics. This list is a sampler. If you'd like to suggest an item for the list, drop a note to Jed with the title and author and a brief description of what about the work pushed the envelope for you. Note that a work's lack of inclusion on this list doesn't necessarily indicate that we believe the work doesn't belong on the list.

Some recent (and forthcoming) envelope-pushing fiction:

Some relevant nonfiction:

Some older envelope-pushing fiction:

Panel participants: