So, this is my first column and I’ll take the opportunity to introduce myself and the basic topics of this column.
I’m what is politely called an Independent Scholar of Speculative Fiction. I’ve delivered two papers on the subject of Aboriginal Canadians in Canadian Futurism. Back in the early 90s I’d edited a bibliography of Queer Positive Speculative Fiction which indicated whether content was Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Other-Gender. I also co-wrote an article for the (sadly) defunct Body Politic on Gay/Lesbian subtext in mainstream comic books.
After some 20 years of writing slash, I took a Master Class with the wonderful Mr. Karl Schroeder who taught me how to structure fiction that was longer than 10,000 words. The first, so far only story, I’ve been paid for was published by Dreamspinner Press in an Anthology.
But I’m not here to talk about myself. I’m here to talk about the history of Queer content in Speculative Fiction. I’m also going to be talking a lot about why it’s important to know our own history.
Without knowing our own history we end up being stuck re-inventing the wheel. It’s not that a wheel is a bad thing. Wheels can be fascinating in their own right. But once we have a wheel we can think about different ways to use them. We can fasten wheels to a plough pulled by an animal and we now have something new: a cart that can help us move things from one place to another. We lighten it up and make it more maneuverable and we’ve made a chariot. We can use wheels to harness the energy of the wind or water to grind our grain. We can use the size of wheels to mark out time. Once we have the wheel we can build clocks and motors.
But if we have to spend all of our time re-inventing the wheel we’ll never be able to consider what else we can use the wheel for and that’s a problem for Queer fiction. Writing Queer stories is not new; not by any means. We’ve been telling stories of same-sex love dating back thousands of years, like the Epic of Gilgamesh. We’ve been talking about gender fluidity and changing gender roles for that long as well. Speculative fiction has been around for as long as there has been fiction. When the sages of old looked at religious texts and found something that didn’t make sense to them they’d write their own fan-fic, (one of the most famous being Satan rebelling against G-d and getting kicked out of Heaven). But for us to be able to pull on this history we have to know about it.
Speculative fiction was a great milieu for queering stories. Instead of talking about the way things are, which abusive authorities tend to frown upon, we could tell stories set in places that did not exist. We could tell truths under a carnival disguise of whimsy.
I’ll be introducing, or re-introducing readers to some of the old tropes that is no longer in our collective memory. One column will be talking about what happens when male gods get pregnant. (How many people know that the Norse wrote MPreg about Thor?) I’ll have a column talking about how a famous feminist’s daughter wrote what is generally considered the first science fiction novel and how a Gay director shaped our understanding the this monster. I’ll have a column talking about how long before vampires turned sparkly they were representations of same-sex love. I’ll have a column about how long before Captain Jack was invited aboard the Tardis; people loved a Hero mainly for his bisexuality.
My next column, early next month, will be looking at women-only planets. How do straight men, straight women, and lesbians write about Lesbian Utopias? Look out for “Where the Boys Aren’t.”
John Allenson is a pen name for someone who has a horribly insulting real life name he does not use on social media. He has had a long process in trying to be an author but may actually be making some progress. He’s a gender-queer Jew who lives in Toronto.
This column is a tour through some of the bits and pieces of Queer themed Speculative fiction over the past few millennia.