The State of Lesbian Historicals in 2018

In this episode of The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast, Heather Rose Jones examines The State of Lesbian Historicals in 2018

Episode 30b

Now that I’ve been listing new historical releases for a year, what does the state of the field look like?

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Transcript

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[Music] this is Heather Rose Jones with the lesbian historic motif podcast this weekly podcast looks at lesbian themes in history and literature and historic research into gender and sexuality we talk about current historical fiction with queer female characters including fantastic versions of the past and have interviews with authors who write those stories and in months when we have a fifth show we’re proud to present new original lesbian historical fiction for your enjoyment one of the things I’d like to do this year with the podcast is to start looking more broadly at the field of publishing LESBIAN relevant historical fiction I’ve also started using the phrase lesbian relevant to describe my topic because it seems to better sum up my organizing principle of using the lesbian gays both in the blog in the podcast my content isn’t defined in terms of historic facts or personal identities but rather in terms of topics individuals and texts that are likely to have resonance for lesbian readers not that I have any problem with having non lesbian readers and listeners to one of my backburner projects has been to try to compile a comprehensive list of current lesbian relevant historical fiction quite a daunting task I started off with the contents of my own library a list from another longtime collector of lesbian historical fiction and several Goodreads lists on relevant topics as well as mining the back catalogues of lesbian presses but at this point I can’t claim my databases anything close to comprehensive except for the last year when I started hunting down new releases systematically with these caveats in mind here’s an overview of what’s getting published in lesbian relevant historical fiction and who’s publishing it keep in mind that I include historical that have fantasy elements as long as they’re set in an identifiable time in place for books released in 2018 I’ve identified a total of 83 titles slightly more than a fifth of them don’t have a named publisher other than Amazon digital which is not so much a publisher as a distribution service many of the named publishers are one author shops but I’m not in the business of evaluating the line between micro presses and self-publishing the remaining 65 titles were put out by 46 different named publishers with three-quarters of them putting out only a single relevant title now some of those are major publishers but I’m only interested in the historical titles with lesbian relevance only three publishers put out three or more relevant titles in 2018 and it won’t surprise anyone familiar with the field to know that those were strokes books Bella books and regal crest enterprises but together those three presses put out only 14 historical x’ in the year just a smidge more than one a month how does that compare to the last couple decades of publishing publishing via Amazon Digital may have increased substantially but self-published books are the ones I’m most likely to have missed prior to this past year the overall rate of single title publishers seems fairly constant and when looking at the top producers from my entire data set the top three come in the same order with bold strokes books at double the number of its nearest competitor Bella books and regal crest coming in about half of Bella the next competitor is Nayan Press which is a pretty strong showing given that nine closed in the mid-90s the lesbian talk show relies on support the support of you our listeners the support of those who like and review our show on their favorite podcast app the support of our patrons on patreon and the support of our sponsors we hope you’ll continue to enjoy and support the lesbian talk show so when and where are the stories being set several popular topics emerge stories set in a mythic early grease pirate adventures in the 17th and 18th centuries westerns generally involving a woman passing as a man or simply dressed like one Victorian era steampunk adventures women who find a chance at love during the two world wars about 80% of the stories published in 2018 are set in the 19th and 20th centuries with the vast majority being generally from the Wild West era through World War Two I used those landmarks advisedly because the settings clusters strongly around key events and genres and where’re they set other than a cluster of stories set in the greco-roman mythic past settings are dominated by the British Isles up through the early 19th century after which American settings take over settings outside the British Isles in u.s. are mostly related to World War two and it’s after math in my complete dataset covering the last couple decades the distribution is about the same except that we’re currently getting a bit more coverage before the 19th century there’s a lot of literary territory there for the claiming if you want to write something other than British regencies American Civil War and Wild West stories and books set during the two world wars I have a more detailed breakdown by geography and timeframe but currently a lot of this data is my best guess from the book blurbs so I’ll spare you eventually I hope to keep track of themes and tropes which would make for some interesting analysis of how people imagined the lives of lesbians in the past I plan to continue adding to my master database and we’ll try to find a way to make it a searchable resource once the metadata is a bit more complete what does all this mean for readers and for authors for that matter with 83 titles there’s certainly plenty to read I’ve only read a tenth of the twenty eighteen books though several others are queued up on my iPad but what the title is distributed across so many publishers most of them are either self-published or micro presses it can be a full-time job to try to track them down hint that’s why it’s a great idea to follow this podcast for authors I think one of the take-home messages is that if you want to stand up from the crowd pick a setting before the 19th century or somewhere other than America or the British Isles of course there are reasons why those settings are popular they’re familiar or they match popular genres and mainstream romance or they match our own family backgrounds but there’s so much more to explore for publishers I think one message is that authors of lesbian historicals aren’t finding a place with you I have no idea whether historical authors prefer to go independent or whether publishers generally aren’t picking up historical titles for that matter I don’t really have the comparative data for other genres to know how the numbers compare but I do know that readers who are hungry for historical –hz find slim pickings from the more recognizable presses and that creates a downward cycle in mainstream Rome historical czar a booming business I’d like to think that there’s a similar potential for people looking for romantic lesbian stories set in the past and someone who focused on that might find a wide open market niche [Music] I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the lesbian historic motif podcast if you want to follow up on anything we’ve covered see the show notes for links and to contact me with questions book announcements or topic suggestions if you enjoyed this podcast please rate it and subscribe on iTunes stitcher or pod bean and consider supporting our patreon and if you’re on Facebook check out the lesbian talk show chat group [Music]