Catch 22: (Definition from Urban Dictionary): ‘A requirement that cannot be met until a prerequisite requirement is met, however, the prerequisite cannot be obtained until the original requirement is met.’
And there, dear reader, is the crux of what it is to be queer in the contemporary worlds of literature, film and television. We, the Queers, have arrived. We are accepted and or tolerated by a large majority of the population. Outside of communities and countries ruled by religious fanatics, we walk side by side with our straight counterparts. While this acceptance is hardly universal, it is the norm in many nations. Gay marriage – though opposed by some factions – appears to be accepted and endorsed by an increasing and vocal majority. Network and cable television worldwide broadcasts the idea that queer men and women can be good citizens, good workers and good parents. Little by little, baby step by baby step, we queers are being embraced by the mainstream.
Since the late nineties broadcasts of television shows such as Will and Grace and Queer as Folk, I saw the change coming. My parents were watching – and laughing or crying- about shows and films that depicted the LGBT community in a realistic, in-your-face light. We were there, we where queer, and – for the most part – people got used to it. Of course, we are still in the early stages of this renaissance ( and renaissance it is, for the prominence and acceptance of queers is far from an historical aberration) but we are a far cry from the rarefied ‘love that cannot speak its name’ zeitgeist of the last few centuries.
Queerness is out there. It’s on the TV, its in the cinema. It’s next door. Queers are no longer those amorphous rarefied things of fiction. We are no longer a ‘subtext’. We’ve come to that place where everybody knows our name. Maybe not all the crowd at the bar is happy in our company, but they can’t just throw us the fuck out. Not any more.
If you’ve read this far, you might well be thinking: what the hell has any of this to do with Queer Sci Fi? Well, doll, the answer is EVERYTHING. It is Catch 22 time, ladies and germs. We’ve met the requirement: we’ve become mainstream and acceptable. Yet it is our uniqueness, our ‘otherness’ that spurred us to desire inclusion within the ‘status quo’. We said: ‘Yes, I am different, but you must accept me as no different than you.’ And here we are, on the verge of fulfilling that dream. But at what cost? Will we sacrifice our ‘otherness’ to fit the paradigm?
Sci Fi has always been the genre which gives voice to the disenfranchised, the outsider. I believe that the sentiment, the soul-feeling of queerness can be found in works of Sci Fi more than in any other genre of literature or film. As I will show in future posts, Sci Fi fiction of the nineteenth and twentieth century opened doors to queer youth. Subtexts in Sci Fi films and television programs of the nineteen sixties, seventies and eighties spoke to generations of queer people who needed to know that somebody understood. The messages were coded, true. But we, the queers, understood that code and we brought that sensibility into the twentieth and twenty-first century.
Now that we can sit back and watch an afternoon talk show that deals explicitly with queer issues and lifestyles, when we can watch a prime-time drama that depicts explicit queer love-making, now is the time to re-claim and re-embrace that golden time; the time of the iconoclasts, the subversives, the brave writers who snuck that bit of queerness into Ultra Man, Buck Rogers and Wonder Woman. Now is the time to re-claim Sci Fi as the vanguard of queer expression. This is where it started and this is where it should continue. We can look to Batman and Robin (‘ward’ my ass) or to Captain Jack and various loves of multiple sexes, and we will find again and again that Sci Fi is definitely queer as folk.