Homosexuality in speculative fiction

Gay science fiction is a term used for science fiction and fantasy fiction which incorporates gay themes, often by way of the sexuality of the protagonist or a major character. It may have sexual imagery and aspects of science fiction erotica. It may also explore, in a wider (queer) scope, the varieties of sexual experience that deviate from the conventional. Many awards and anthologies treat all alterntive sexualities as a single entity, whereas here only gay male SF is discussed. For specifically lesbian Sf see Lesbian science fiction.

As genres of popular literature, science fiction and fantasy often seem even more constrained than nongenre literature by their conventions of characterization and the effects that these conventions have on depictions of sexuality and gender. On the other hand, science fiction and fantasy can also to promise more freedom than do nongenre literatures to imagine alternatives to the privileged assumptions of heterosexuality and masculinity that suffuse our culture. __FORCETOC__

In speculative fiction, extrapolation allows writers to focus not on the way things are as nongenre literature does, but on the way things could be different. It provides science fiction with a quality that Darko Suvin has called, "cognitive estrangement," the recognition that what we are reading is not the world as we know it, but a world whose change forces us to reconsider our own with an outsider's perspective. When the extrapolation involves sexuality or gender, it can force us to reconsider the most basic heterosexist assumptions in our culture. In science fiction, such estranging features include several technologies that reconfigure sex or reproduction. In fantasy, such features include iconographic figures, such as mythological deities and worthies of alternative history, who allow for further reinterpretations of human sexuality and gender.

Author and editor Nicola Griffith has written that GLBT readers tend to identify strongly with the outsider status of mutants, aliens, and characters who lead hidden or double lives in science fiction.

An authoritative and comprehensive guide to science fiction literature up to 1989 featuring gay, lesbian, transgender, and related themes is Uranian Worlds, by Eric Garber and Lyn Paleo. The book covers science fiction literature published before 1990, providing a short review and commentary on each piece.

True History by the Greek writer Lucian (A.D. 120-185) has been called the first ever gay science fiction Story. The narrator is suddenly enveloped by a typhoon and swept up to up to the moon, which is inhabited by a society of men that are at war with the sun. After distinguishing himself in combat, the king gives the hero his son the prince in marriage. The all male society reproduces (male children only) by giving birth from the thigh or by growing a child from a plant produced by planting the left testicle in the moon's soil.

Homosexuality in SF Literature

Homosexuality during the Pulp era (1920-30s)

Prior to the 1960s, explicit sexuality of any kind was not characteristic of science fiction and fantasy. Although the covers of some 1930s pulp magazines showed scantily clad women menaced by tentacled aliens, the covers were often more lurid than the magazines' contents. For many years, the editors who controlled what was published felt that they had to protect the adolescent male readership that they identified as their principal market. In such a context, writers like Edgar Pangborn who featured passionate male friendships in their work, were exceptional; almost until the end of their careers, including so much as a kiss would have been too much.

As the demographics of the readership broadened, it became possible to include characters who were more or less undisguised homosexuals, but these, in accordance with the attitudes of the times, tended to be villains: evil, demented, or effeminate stereotypes. The most popular role for the homosexual was as a decadent slaveholding lordling whose corrupt tyranny was doomed to be overthrown by the young male heterosexual hero.

One of the earliest examples of genre science fiction that involves a challenging amount of unconventional sexual activity is the early science fiction novel Odd John (1935), by Olaf Stapledon. John is a mutant with extraordinary mental abilities who will not allow himself to be bound by many of the rules imposed by the ordinary British society of his time. The novel strongly implies that he has consensual intercourse with his mother Pax and that he seduces an older boy who becomes devoted to him but also suffers from the affront that the relationship creates to his own morals.

Homosexuality during the Golden Age (1940-50s)

As the readership for science fiction and fantasy began to age in the 1950s, however, writers like Philip Jose Farmer and Theodore Sturgeon were able to introduce more explicit sexuality into their work. Sturgeon wrote many stories during the Golden Age of Science Fiction that emphasised the important of love, regardless of the current social norms. In his short story The World Well Lost (1953), first published in Universe magazine and collected in A Saucer of Loneliness, homosexual alien fugitives and unrequited (and taboo) human homosexual love are portrayed. The tagline for the Universe cover was "[His] most daring story"; Its sensitive treatment of homosexuality was unusual for science fiction published at that time.

Sturgeon would later write Affair with a Green Monkey, which examined social stereotyping of homosexuals, and in 1960 published Venus Plus X, in which a single-gender society is depicted and the protagonist's homophobia portrayed unfavourably.

Although not usually identified as a genre writer like Sturgeon, William S. Burroughs in 1959 published Naked Lunch, the first of many works such as The Nova Trilogy and The Wild Boys in which he linked drug use and homosexuality as anti-authoritarian activities. The result was a surreal narrative that estranged the action from the ordinary world as science fiction and fantasy do.

Until the late 1960s, however, few other writers depicted alternative sexuality or revised gender roles with Sturgeon's tolerance for the alternative or Burroughs's intolerance for the ordinary. Images of homosexual male societies remained strongly negative in the eyes of most SF authors. For example, when overpopulation drives the world away from heterosexuality in Charles Beaumont's short story The Crooked Man (1955), first published in Playboy inhumane homosexuals begin to oppress their heterosexual minority. In Anthony Burgess' The Wanting Seed (1962) homosexuality is required for official employment, part of an unnatural state of affairs along with by failing of the natural world and violent warfare.

Homosexuality during the New Wave era (1960-70s)

By the late 1960s, science fiction and fantasy began to reflect the changes prompted by the civil rights movement and the emergence of a counterculture. Within the genres, these changes were incorporated into a movement called "the new wave," a movement more skeptical of technology, more liberated socially, and more interested in stylistic experimentation. New wave writers were more likely to claim an interest in "inner space" instead of outer space. They were less shy about explicit sexuality and more sympathetic to reconsiderations of gender roles and the social status of sexual minorities. Notable openly gay male authors included Thomas M. Disch and Samuel R. Delany. Under the influence of New wave editors and authors such as Michael Moorcock (editor of the influential New Worlds) and Ursula K. Le Guin, sympathetic depictions of alternative sexuality and gender multiplied in science fiction and fantasy.

In the earliest stories of Samuel R. Delany, the gay sexual aspect appears as a "sensibility", rather than in overt sexual references. Nova (1968) is the first major science fiction novel with a gay male protagonist, nominated for a Hugo award and listed by critic David Pringle as one of the 100 best SF novel from 1949 to 1984. In some stories, such as Babel-17 (1966), same-sex love and same-sex intercourse are clearly implied but are given a kind of protective colouration because one character is a woman who is involved in a three-person marriage, the other two members of which are males. The affection all three characters share for each other is in the forefront, and sexual activity between or among them is not directly described. In later works, Delany blurs the line between science fiction and gay pornogrphy.

Nebula-winning short story Aye, and Gomorrah, which posits the development of neutered human astronauts and then depicts the people who become sexually oriented toward them. By imagining a new gender and resultant sexual orientation, the story allows readers to reflect on the real world while maintaining an estranging distance. Further award winning stories featuring gay characters, such as Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones were to follow (all collected in Delany's short story retrospective Aye, and Gomorrah, and other stories).

In his most famous science fiction novel entitled Dhalgren (1975), Delany spots his large canvas with characters of a wide variety of sexualities. Once again, sex activity is not the focus of the novel although there are some of the first explicitly described scenes of gay sex in SF. Delany depicts, mostly with affection, characters with a wide variety of motivations and behaviors, not, it would seem, with the intent of a kind of covert advocacy but with the effect of revealing to the reader the fact that these kinds of people exist in the real world.

In Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein (1973), the main character argues strongly for the future liberty of homosexual sex. Ursula K. Le Guin explored trans-species sexuality in The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), the sexuality of species in which individuals are neither "male" nor "female" but normally have both male and female sexual organs and reproductive abilities. Le Guin has subsequently written many stories that examine the posibilities SF allows for non-traditional homosexuality, such as the sexual bonding between clones in Nine Lives (collected in The Wind's Twelve Quarters).

Elizabeth Lynn's Chronicles of Tornor novels (1979-80), the first of which won the World Fantasy Award, were among the first fantasy novels to have gay relationships as an unremarkable part of the cultural background.

Modern Gay SF (Post New Wave)

Mercedes Lackey in her Last Herald-Mage Trilogy (1989), wrote three Fantasy books in which the protagonists, Vanyel and Tylendel/Stefen are gay, and their relationship is an integral part of the story. The story takes place in the Kingdom of Valdemar. The three books are: Magic's Pawn, Magic's Promise, and Magic's Price. These are not the only books by her to contain gay characters, but they are the first to contain a main character (Vanyel) that is gay.

Lois McMaster Bujold's Ethan of Athos tells of a reproductive scientist on a planet with no women.

In Unicorn Mountain (1988), Michael Bishop includes a gay male AIDS patient among the sensitively drawn central characters who must respond to an irruption of dying unicorns at their Colorado ranch.

Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series contains a society with a hierarchy partially based on the sexual partnerings of dragons. When dragons mate, their riders do the same. As most riders are male, homosexuality is common.

David Gerrold's young adult series starts with Jumping Off the Planet (2000), in which a father kidnaps his three sons and goes to the moon; one is gay. Gerrold received a Nebula award for a short story The Martian Child (1994). He later expanded it to book length; a feature film is expected in 2007. The story is semi-autobiographical: a gay man adopts a child.

In Geoffrey A. Landis's novel Mars Crossing (2000), the first human to land on Mars is a gay Brazilian geologist. A significant subplot of the novel is about his relationship to his (straight) wife, Estrella.

Duane Simolke received a StoneWall Society award for Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure (2004),which includes gay themes and characters.

China Miéville's Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award-nominated, and Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning Iron Council (2004) details a strained romantic relationship between two men on the alien world of Bas-Lag. Although the novel covers many themes, this relationship is one of the main plots in the novel.

Spider Robinson in Variable Star (2006), completed for Robert A. Heinlein, reveals two gay astrogators who then marry while on a trip to a distant planet.

Gay SF and the science fiction community

At least as early as the 1980 Worldcon (Noreascon Two), there were gatherings of gay and gay-friendly members of the SF community, including Samuel R. Delany, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Melissa Scott ; by 1988, the first Gaylaxicon science fiction convention was held. This led to the creation of the Gaylactic Network and the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards by the science fiction community. Gay-themed discussions are now a staple at conventions such as WisCon; For example, WisCon 30 features a panel discussing "Why Women Write About Gay Men."


Gay SF themes

Single-gender and hermaphroditic worlds

Many authors have used the freedoms offered by science fictional settings and plot devices to explore themes which, while not strictly gay, are closely related. A prime example is the Wraeththu (1987-89) trilogy by Storm Constantine, in which much of the male portion of the human race is converted to a new species of physiologically hermaphroditic post-humans. Other examples of alternative but not strictly gay sexuality in science fiction include Theodore Sturgeon's Venus Plus X and Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness.

Homosexuality in other SF media

Yaoi manga

Yaoi is a publishing genre which focuses on male/male relationships and is marketed at females. Anal sex is uniquitous. The genre originated in Japan and encompasses manga, anime, novels and d?jinshi. In Japan, this genre is called "''Boys' Love" and yaoi as a genre name is mostly used by western fans. Yaoi has spread beyond Japan; yaoi material is available in the United States, as well as other Western and Eastern nations worldwide. As with much manga and anime, SF and fantasy tropes and environments are common. For example Innocent Bird'' is a manga in which the main charcters are angels and demons. Ai no Kusabi is a 1980s yaoi light novel series involving a science fictional caste system. The characters of yaoi do not tend to self-identify as gay.

There is also "gay manga" specifically targeted at gay men, with gay characters. Yaoi writers and fans distinguish these "gay manga" as being separate from yaoi.

Homosexuality in SF television and Film

In general, SF on television and film has lagged behind literature in its portrayals of homosexuality. Sexual relationships in major SF franchises have generally been depicted as heterosexual in nature. Inter-species and inter-ethnic relationships have been commonly depicted, while homosexual and transgendered (LGBT) relationships are more rare. The platonic close male relationships in television and film science fiction have been reinterpreted by fans as slash fiction - Kirk/Spock being the earliest example.

Star Trek

The Star Trek franchise's lack of same-sex relationship has long been a sore spot with LGBT fandom, who point out that Gene Roddenberry had made statements in later life favourable to acceptance of homosexuality and the portrayal of same-sex relationships in Star Trek.

At first, homosexuality was treated as an "issue" within the new Star Trek franchises, to be dealt with as a theme in individual episodes, such as the 1992 episode "The Outcast," and the 1995 '''' episode "Rejoined," which was the first to feature a same-sex relationship and romantic same-sex kiss between women. Subsequently, the Star Trek franchise has portrayed a few same-sex kisses, but always in the context of either the evil "mirror universe" ("The Emperor's New Cloak") or body possession ("Warlord" and others).

In a 2000 Fandom interview, Star Trek screenwriter Ronald D. Moore suggested that the reason why no gay characters existed in the television franchise was because someone wanted it that way, and no amount of support from fans, cast or crew was going to make any difference.

In recent years, a few of the Star Trek novels, which are officially licensed but not considered canon, have featured serious direct (not alternate-universe, not due to body possession, etc.) same-sex relationships, including portraying a minor canon character (Lieutenant Hawk from '''') as gay.

List of SF books with major gay characters or themes

This is a sourced list of science fiction and fantasy novels, short story collections and anthologies that feature homosexual or male bisexual protagonists, or have major gay themes.

Author Book Year Awards Details Reference
Lynn Flewelling The Nightrunner series 1996- - Bisexual maj. char.
David Gerrold Jumping off the Planet 2000-02 Golden Duck award, Spectrum award, Lambda nominee, Nebula nominee, HOMer nominee x 2 Gay sec. char.

Book one of The Dingilliad trilogy

David Gerrold The Man Who Folded Himself 1973 Hugo nominee, Nebula nominee Time travelling maj. char. has sex with himself
David Gerrold The Martian Child 1994 Hugo award, Nebula award, Locus Award, HOMer award, Sturgeon nominiee Gay maj. char. adopts a child
Joe Haldeman The Forever War 1974 Hugo award, Nebula award, Locus award, Ditmar Award Future gay society.
Mercedes Lackey The Last Herald Mage trilogy 1989-91 Lambda award Gay maj. char.
Anne Rice The Vampire Chronicles 1976-99 - Bisexual and gay vampires

See also

External links

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This article is based on "Homosexuality in speculative fiction" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Homosexuality+in+speculative+fiction&action=history