JY Yang’s Tensorate novellas, comprising The Black Tides of Heaven (2017), The Red Threads of Fortune (2017) and The Descent of Monsters (2018), explore a world with a very different attitude towards concepts of gender. Featuring a diverse cast of characters of a variety of different genders, the series takes a fundamentally intersectional approach to worldbuilding.

The first two novellas follow two siblings, twins, who in discovering their different genders are led on different paths in life. Reading these novellas through the lenses of various queer theorists, beginning with Judith Butler and branching outwards, this paper aims to explore the ways in which different characters relate to their gender identities, and the ways that those identities are received by the world.

The series moves beyond the concepts of cis and trans as we would understand them. Children are considered to be genderless until (and if) they choose to declare otherwise, and magic and science combined have the ability to fit people’s bodies to their identities, in the majority of cases. The exceptions to this are few, but significant, and are used to explore the diversity of ways that bodies and gender identities interact. Some characters understand their gender from a young age, while others take longer to reach that understanding.

Present in two of the novellas (Threads and Descent) is a character known as Rider. They are from a different continent, and unlike most of the other characters, they use neutral pronouns as an adult. The reactions towards Rider, including misgendering and a sense of scepticism towards their identity, are used by the author to explore the issues that non-binary people face even in a world that has a much more libertine attitude towards gender.

About the speaker

Thomas Moules is currently a freelance academic, with a BA(Hons) in English Literature from Anglia Ruskin University and an Mlitt in Fantasy Literature from the University of Glasgow. They have written and presented papers on a variety of topics, and plan to return to academia to study for a PhD.

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