I’m a history nerd–a serious history nerd. You can tell from the setting of my historic fantasy novels from Bella Books. The Alpennia series (starting with Daughter of Mystery) is set in an alternate early 19th century Europe, and the social and political history of the times are woven throughout the plot. Historic sexuality is both the most fun and the most frustrating aspect to research. The frustration comes in part from how fragmentary and hidden the historic record can be, especially for women’s sexuality. Another frustration comes from the expectations we bring to history, especially as readers of historical fiction.
One of the driving forces of the modern lesbian fiction community is the desire to see ourselves–our lives, our dreams, our desires–reflected in the stories we read. But, as L.P. Hartley wrote in his novel The Go-Between, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” How are we, as writers, to be true both to our characters in the past and the forces that drive us to create them? This was the puzzle that led me to focus on hunting down historic research on lesbian-like women in the past, and on the tropes and motifs that help us to connect with them. (“Lesbian-like” is a term devised by historian Judith Bennett to allow for discussing these types of themes and events without needing to assign people in history to a defined category of “lesbian”.)
After decades of collecting research materials for my own use, in 2014 I started a blog–the Lesbian Historic Motif Project –to talk about and share those materials with other writers and readers of lesbian fiction. In 2016, the blog added a podcast (the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast, hosted by the Lesbian Talk Show). Earlier this year, the podcast expanded to air weekly, adding author interviews and discussions of current lesbian historical fiction. And in 2018 I’ll take my goal of encouraging the writing and enjoyment of the genre one step further and begin publishing fiction on the podcast.
Call for Submissions
The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast will be open for submissions during January 2018 for short stories in the lesbian historic fiction genre, to be produced in audio format for the podcast, as well as published in text on the website.
- We will accept short fiction of any length up to 5000 words, which is a hard limit. We will be buying at least two stories, possibly more, depending on length (if we get some really great shorter works). If the experiment is successful, it may be repeated in the future.
- We will be paying professional rates: US$0.06/word.
- The contract will be for first publication rights in audio and print (i.e., the story must not have appeared in either format previously) with an exclusive one-year license. (Exceptions can be arranged by mutual consent for “best of” collections within that term.)
- Instructions on how to submit will be made available on the LHMP website closer to the submission period. Bookmark the call there for follow-up:. NO SUBMISSIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED OUTSIDE THE SUBMISSION PERIOD OF JANUARY 2018.
What We’re Looking For
- Stories must be set in an actual historic culture–i.e., a specific time and place in history–and the plot and characters should be firmly rooted in that time and place. (No time-travel or past memories, please. And no supernatural elements, just ordinary history.)
- Stories must be set before 1900. We’d love to see stories that reach beyond the popular settings of 19th century America and England unless you do something new and interesting in them.
- Romance is optional–by which I mean story lines focusing on the establishment of a new romantic relationship–and romance stories should have some other strong element in addition to the romance.
- We are not looking for erotica. Sex may be implied but not described.
- Stories should feature lesbian themes. What do I mean by that? Especially given the emphasis the LHMP puts on how people in history understood sexuality differently than we do? This is where we get into “I know it when I see it” territory. The story should feature protagonist(s) whose primary emotional orientation within the scope of the story is toward other women. This is not meant to exclude characters who might identify today as bisexual or gender-queer, or who have had relationships with men outside the scope of the story. But the story itself should focus on lesbian themes expressed authentically within a historic context.
- Stories need not be all rainbows and unicorns, but should not be tragic. Angst and peril are ok as long as they don’t end in tragedy.
- Authors of all genders and orientations are welcome to submit. Authors from traditionally marginalized cultures are strongly encouraged to submit, regardless of whether you are writing about your own cultural background.
Fire up your keyboards and find a story in the past that inspires you!