Thursday, August 02, 2007

Gay Men and SF

Tim S. suggests that my complaints about male SF might need to be limited to straight male SF. As far as I know, we don't have enough gay men writing SF, though I know many wonderful fans who are gay men. Maybe the writers are here, but I'm not finding them. Are there gay men writing good SF? Who are they?

For some reason that I don't entirely understand, male gayness is a threat to the power structure in this society. It need not be. Ancient Greece was able to combine gayness with oppression of women, class oppression and slavery. But here and now, the patriarchy sees gayness -- at least when it's out of the closet -- as a terrible threat to its existence.

Out gay men are living in a society where prejudice, social oppression and violence are not abstractions which they can safely ignore. If they are true to themselves when they write, they are going to be challenging the status quo.

I don't think women write better SF because of hormones. I think it's because women are looking at society critically, questioning the status quo and arguing for a better world; and they are doing this because of their history of experiencing oppression and fighting against oppression.

(I rewrote this after I posted it, and it's mostly new from this point on. I felt it was too much like a manifesto. It's hard to talk about modern America without sounding like a manifesto.)

Gay writers and minority writers are in the same situation as women. Some members of oppressed groups identify with the oppressor and believe -- strange as it seems to me -- that there is a place set for them at the great, white, straight, Christian, rich folks' table. Or, as a gay friend of Patrick's told him, they believe if they are very good and well behaved and obedient, they will be forgiven for being gay.

But the people I admire realize that they cannot tell the stories they want to tell -- and express the feelings they want to express -- if they are obedient. Their truth is not the same as the oppressor's truth. When I wrote this post originally I mentioned James Baldwin and Samuel R. Delany as writers who spoke their own, personal truth. I can mention them again.

For me, the truths of people who are in conflict with the status quo are more interesting than the truths of people who fit in. Which I guess is why I'm interested in seeing more science fiction by gay men. Though the straight guys who are fascinated by very large, hard equipment and neat ideas based on contemporary physics should -- of course -- keep writing. Let a hundred schools contend, and a thousand flowers bloom.


Blogger Zab said...

Samuel R. Delany - not my favorite sci fi writer, but certainly a serious one.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Tallgeese said...

Thank you for writing this. Hal Duncan's "Vellum" was for me a fantastic gay male perspective on Empire and resistance. I wish I had read your essay before I finished my panel handout on Empire for Diversicon. It is interesting how self-censorship works.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Tim Susman said...

Glad to inspire discussion on this topic. In my own writing, when I create imaginary worlds, I always posit a society in which gay relationships are accepted. What I don't always do is think about the larger implications of that. The story I'm writing now deals with an alien society that is matriarchal, and there is a niche for same-sex pairings in that, but it's very different for the males than for the women.

As for gay SF writers, well, the small press I help run and contribute writing to, Sofawolf Press, publishes a lot of fiction by gay authors. (We're at if anyone cares to take a look.) The "New Tibet" universe I created particularly seems to attract a lot of gay-relationship stories (which, oddly, I mostly didn't write). It's interesting because the focus of the press is not gay fiction, but "furry" fiction. Nonetheless, there seems to be some overlap between those communities, which is the material for a whole other post (people not comfortable in their own skin, different/outsider stories, etc.).

Lastly, the "Bending the Landscape" series edited by Stephen Pagel (among others) had some good SF and fantasy stories. I found the horror collection to be mostly missable, but the SF and fantasy collections were worth perusing.

3:05 PM  
Blogger lydamorehouse said...

Uh, I might be wrong, but isn't Geoff Ryman gay?

6:28 AM  
Blogger Eleanor said...

Hoo, boy, are you right. Geoff Ryman is gay and a wonderful, important writer. I have no idea why I missed him.

7:26 AM  

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