Anyone not heard of Queers Destroy Science Fiction yet?
I think it’s both a very cool, and very sad, thing.
First off: the cool. It’s not about queer characters, though they (logically) have said if they have to choose between two equally good works they’ll probably pick the one with queer characters over the one without; it’s about queer writers. Normally my opinion is that such details are wholly irrelevant. I couldn’t care less if my favourite authors are bigger into goats than Lord Byron (if you don’t get it I suggest that ignorance, in this case, is bliss), so long as they tell a good story.
But the rationale for this just plain rocks. The thing is that there are a rather vocal group of vitriolic homophobes, transphobes, people who assume bisexuals are more mythical than unicorns, etc. SciFi personalities from widely recognised fans, to authors, agents, even editors. Too, there’s this habit for the agents/editors to say things to the effect of “good story, but the queer quotient is too high”.
John Joseph Adams: It’s mostly people complaining about the presence of queer characters appearing in stories that I’ve seen, as opposed to complaining about the sexuality of the authors themselves. But of course by complaining about the sexuality of the characters, they’re telling queer authors that their POV is not welcome.
As one example, take a look at some of the lower-rated reviews on Amazon of my anthology THE END IS NIGH (http://www.amazon.com/End-Nigh-Apocalypse-Triptych/dp/1495471179/). There were several readers there complaining about the very existence of queer characters in the stories. And that’s in a book where I think literally 5 stories had any mention of queerness (out of 23). One story was political (about marriage equality), but the others just contained queer characters, yet the very presence of queer characters “destroyed” the stories for them. That’s what Queers Destroy Science Fiction! is rebelling against.
As another example: We did a Facebook “promoted post” to boost the signal about the Kickstarter. Within a few minutes of that going up, the post got comments like “No queers in my scifi please” and “Being gay is wrong.”
So, it’s a great protest of this attitude, and I love great protests. Pickets and clever chants have their place but are not, strictly speaking, positive nor always terribly powerful/effective (besides, too many slogans these days aren’t even all that clever; they need to find some old 1960s hippies to help). This is so many kinds of positive and powerful. It’s also heartening that the Kickstarter earned US$53K of its US$5K goal.
But it brings me to the sad: it’s heartbreaking that such a thing should even seem necessary, let alone show strong evidence of being necessary. Queers Destroy Mysteries or Queers Destroy Romance or Queers Destroy Westerns (okay, maybe Westerns) … no such feeling that this is a Thing (though it can be, there’re agents for Romance that won’t handle LGBT material … how rude!). Science Fiction, though?! Of all genres that should never have needed such a thing as this, SF was it.
Science Fiction is the genre that is supposed to make us ask questions, to dream, to show us a better future to strive for or warn us from a path towards a terrible one. It paints the world of the noble gentlemen heroes known as Lensmen, it gives us the bleak dystopian corpocratic UV irradiated hells of cyberpunk, the alien scapes of Star Wars … the new gospels of love and acceptance of Stranger in a Strange Land.
Too much of it, today, though is caught up in … I’m not sure what to call it and what my wife has to say about it is horribly unladylike and R-rated … if I cleaned it up and censored some of it.
I’ve said before that I adore Science Fiction (and its sister genre, Fantasy, so commonly collectively known as Speculative Fiction), and I do wish I had more SF ideas than I do. But I don’t really read much newer stuff, in fact I’m wont to not even be able to bring myself to consider so much of what is dubbed SciFi these days (and a sad proportion of Fantasy along with it) as legit; I just can’t bring myself to count these works as the same genre as Bradbury, Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Doc Smith, and Jules Verne. They just don’t really push the envelope of human imagination in the way that even some of the pulpiest garbage from back then could. As for Fantasy, it’s doing better, but there’s quite a bit lately that I feel has Lewis & Tolkien spinning in their graves such that we could connect them to turbines to power the world.
There was a time when the biggest names in SF, along with some of the least names in it, would look at the world and write things … oh hell, SciFi has been ill for so long … the beginning of the end was when Star Trek: TNG not only didn’t start with even a single character who wasn’t cis+straight, but never got one … we had to wait for Talia & Ivanova in Babylon 5.
I could go on like this for ages. It’s just that it isn’t only about representation, but about the fact that if our new mythology (Fantasy) and our dreams of the future have no place for women, people of diverse ethnicity, or queers … what hope have we of ever being accepted? Luckily the slack is taken up by drama & comedy, Will & Grace, and Orange is the New Black among others, take up the slack left by SF falling asleep on its job.
So, it’s cool Lightspeed is stepping up to the responsibilities of the genre, but it’s pretty shite that they have to resort to such methods as this.