One of the reasons science fiction and fantasy are so loved by fans is the possibility of exploring themes and ideas beyond what would be possible in our world. The sci-fi comic Artifice takes advantage of this to portray a different kind of LGBT romance.
Sci-fi is rife with themes that could be considered LGBT, but Artifice, written by Alex Woolfson and drawn by Winona Nelson, goes beyond symbolic portrayal. Though Deacon is an android, he at least looks unmistakably male. His love interest, Jeff, is a human cisgender male. Theirs is no heartwarming boy-meets-boy story, either. Deacon is also an assassin, sent by the corporation that owns him to kill Jeff, among dozens of others, for being a liability to their business.
In a reversal of the usual tropes regarding artificial intelligence, Deacon deviates from the plan and saves Jeff instead, even killing what was supposed to be his back-up to get them out of a bad situation. The fact that he was able to do this at all, let alone because he had come to care about this boy, sets him very much apart from others of his kind.
Jeff happens to be different in his own way as well. He is a young gay man, and in this futuristic world, prenatal screenings include finding out if the fetus will be gay—and most that are identified as such are aborted. Artifice doesn’t hesitate to point out the parallels between their reasons for feeling different, and consequently, feeling alone.
Though the comic is drawn in its own style, its creators are counting on pulling in fans from the yaoi genre. “Yaoi” essentially means “plotless porn,” of the male-on-male variety. However, English-speaking fans often use it to describe any book or comic centered around gay male love.
Despite what some news outlets might think, yaoi is nothing new in either Japan, where it comes from, or America, where it’s been on bookstore shelves (sealed in shrink wrap) for over a decade now. Artifice was originally posted on Yaoi911, which is run by the comic’s writer Alex Woolfson; it also hosts several more of the titles he’s done.
A gay man himself, he told 429Magazine, “Even though I’m writing for other grown-ups, I’m trying to create the kind of story I always wanted to see growing up… and that’s a kick-ass genre story with a hero, a real hero, who just happened to like other guys.”
The violence and, yes, sexual content in Artifice does mark it as for mature readers, but rather than being an excuse for zero-gravity sex scenes, it’s a true science fiction story with well-rounded characters and a plot that promises to make readers really think.
The paperback is available in bookstores now, and it can still be read online at Yaoi911; find it here.