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Lewis Padgett’s “Mutant,” Jewelle Gomez’ “Gilda” – Boogieman in Lavender

LGBT people are regarded as “the Other,” and sci-fi and fantasy specializes in characters who are “the Other.” And “the Other” is often perceived as a metaphor or stand in for minorities and the oppressed. Queer people were not a regular topic of public discourse in the closeted world of the Golden Age of Science Fiction of the ‘30s through the 50s.

And in this world, two very heterosexual writers wrote a series of stories about a very science-fictional form of “the Other.” Beginning with the story “The Piper’s Son” in February 1945, Lewis Padgett told of a near-future group of mutants with a strange power that makes them shunned, feared and easily identifiable. Rendered hairless, they are disparagingly referred to as “Baldies” and are feared and shunned by ordinary humans for the simple reason that they are telepathic. The mutations have been caused by atomic radiation (keep in mind; this story first appeared in Astounding Science Fiction’s February 1945 issue, that’s several months before the atomic bomb’s existence burst upon the world. And about a decade and a half before the X Men first saw print.

The Baldy stories became a series, and a very good one, and were collected in 1953 as “Mutant” as by Lewis Padgett, a pen name of the husband and wife writing team Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore. The book (available on Kindle) is what is known as a “fixer-upper;” that is, a novel made from short stories and here enhanced with a wraparound story which introduces the other stories in the book.

Jewelle Gomez’ “The Gilda Stories” may not have been intended as a fixer-upper; it is a novel whose chapters can be read as a collection of linked stories which following Gilda, a former slave who becomes a lesbian vampire in the 1850s. The stories follow her through the next two centuries, through the early 1900s, into the year 2020 (!) through the 2050s. The novel was published in 1991, and some of the chapters have been published as individual stories. In an era where there is a glut of works about vampires, “The Gilda Stories” remain a classic of vampire fiction, and not just lesbian vampire fiction.

And like “Mutant,”  “The Gilda Stories” has never been out of print.

Jeff Baker blogs about reading and writing science fiction, fantasy and horror on or around the thirteenth of each month. He recently quit his day job to write full-time. He lives happily in Wichita, Kansas with his husband Darryl who remembers Gilda Radner on SNL. He regularly posts fiction at https://authorjeffbaker.com, His Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/Jeff-Baker-Author-176267409096907/

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