Bisexuality in Books

If you can’t write the great bisexual novel, surely you can buy it?

Back in issue 93, I was writing my own novel packed full of incidentally bi characters in protest at a lack of books of this type on your average bookshelf.

Unsurprisingly, I got to twenty-four thousand words, and gave up in favour of less edifying pastimes of watching telly and looking for amusing pictures of cats. However, writing my own book set me to thinking about what books there are out there, so here I am as your detective into all things papery and bisexual, reading through novels so you don’t have to.

A bi-themed book isn’t too hard to spot. All you need is a character with an attraction to people with more than one formation of genitals.  The hard bit (hurhur) is finding such a book that you can bear to read more than a few sentences of.  Too often diving into the rainbow-stickered section of my local library I uncover one of the many literary crimes against bisexuality.

I’m sure you would recognise them on sight.
–    First we have the genre of bisexuality as a Big Issue. The character is Bisexual, and this is an Issue. The reader realises it is an issue because Character never stops going on about their Bisexuality. Sadly, no-one knows how these books finish because no-one has ever read beyond the first 3 pages without throwing the book into a dark corner. Or going irrevocably mad.

–    The next section is devoted to an innocent Proper Heterosexual/Homosexual dealing with the Trauma of their partner who just Can’t Make Up Their Mind.  Here the bisexual is a cipher for the unreliability of modern life, and such books are best dealt with by shredding and being added to a bowl of All Bran for some much needed roughage.

–    Then we get porn.  I have nothing against good porn, but sadly the lack of the above qualification is what deprives this genre of any point in existence.

–    The last section is barely a literary crime against bisexuality, but deserves a mention.  Old classics where the concept of anyone copping off with another from their own gender is so absurd that the fact that a portion of their sex life is more normative only heightens the perversity of the former. Some excellent books are in this category, but none make you feel pride in one’s bisexuality.

With so many literary crimes out there, what is worth reading?  Well this issue I have been diligently researching the work of Adam Roberts.  This guy is good.  He writes with the beauty of an English professor (which he is), and the imagination of a physicist (which he is not).  Quite apart from appealing to the strong geeky contingent of the bi population (he is a sci-fi author, after all), his books contain within them a nod to every form of lifestyle & sexuality on, and off, the planet.

A woman asks the protagonist during a tea party of his search for a life-partner,

“It is a woman you’re thinking of?” she asked. “Come, let’s not stand on stupid ceremony. You can tell me. I know boys as well.”

Roberts gives us a variety of sexualities, polyamory, body-mods to provide new orifices, gender-bending, and an endearing story arc where a man discovers his devotion to scat.

Perhaps most importantly, all these character traits aren’t the point of the story.  A character has two dads, and then goes off on a fascinating trip around the Galaxy where we discover that the universe is not all as it seems. In our lives, the curiosity of how we love is never all that interesting, but the people we fall for and our daily adventures are unending sources of fascination.  If our lives can entertain us this much without our thoughts having to stray to the novelty of our sexualities, shouldn’t the books we read offer the same attraction?  Adam Roberts recognises this, represents characters we can identify with, and then goes on to write some of the most mind-blowing yarns on your local bookshelf.

Bethan recommends if you’re new to Roberts’ writing that you start with “Stone”.


This article originally appeared in BCN magazine issue 95, April 2009.

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