As this queer space opera opens, Lu, a compassionate scientist who lives among a colony of peaceful refugees from across the universe, discovers Fassen, a young soldier in training who has sworn to resist an oppressive empire. Fassen is the only survivor of a rebel convoy that was fleeing imperial forces. They crash-landed on the planet where a group from Lu’s colony is setting up a temporary research site.
Lu offers Fassen not only a way back to the rebel base but also an offer of friendship and kindness that Fassen is unfamiliar with. Before they warp back to their own solar systems, Lu sciences up an interstellar cell phone so they can keep in touch. “No one should ever be alone the way you were,” Lu says. “Let’s stay friends, okay?” It’s perhaps the fastest meet cute in the galaxy, and it marks the beginning of Blue Delliquanti’s subversive take on the trope of star-crossed “lovers.”
To be clear, Across a Field of Starlight is not a romance. It is not the story of two ill-fated heroes who are destined to find each other again, fight a tyrannical regime and fall in love. Delliquanti, who has mined the stars for previous queer space epics, including their acclaimed webcomic “O Human Star,” has composed a gentle, loving story about friendship that is not only uninterested in romance but also actively pushes back against its familiar beats. Amid a story that can sometimes feel overloaded with sci-fi specifics, these moments of subversion are crystal-clear pearls of thoughtful provocation. Why do Fassen and Lu need to fall in love to make their relationship worthwhile? For that matter, why does art need a purpose? And is destruction the only way to win a war?
It’s Fassen whose story fits the classical hero’s journey in this tale, and their character arc—a young person in search of their own identity—is particularly moving, especially among the book’s heteronormatively transgressive cast of characters. Bellies are out, hair is long, and the line between feminine and masculine is tossed into the sun.
Readers who have been searching for something to fill the “Steven Universe”-shaped hole in their hearts will find comfort here. As in the beloved Cartoon Network program, characters are diverse in shape, color and size. They, too, are young, emotional and learning about themselves and the strange beings they meet during their adventures. Delliquanti’s colorful, expressive art is also perfect for cartoon lovers.
Warmhearted but challenging, full of love yet aromantic, Across a Field of Starlight is an ambitious queer take on what it means to be star-crossed.