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Milk - Zer Netmouse
December 18th, 2008
09:32 pm

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Milk
Though I just got back from a trip and am fighting a cold, I really wanted to go to the special benefit screening of "Milk" today at the Michigan Theater, so I did.

It was not a huge crowd; oddly subdued, really. I'm sure many of us were wishing the film had been released before the November vote on proposition 8 in California. On my way out after the movie I heard the ticket-takers saying there had been just over 200 of us. Hardly a full house.

During the reception before the film I ate some snacks and found that I knew no one in the lobby, so I trusted my fannish radar and walked up to someone and struck up a conversation. The fellow did indeed turn out to be an SF fan, and we chatted amiably about our favorite authors for a while, then he asked me:

What was the first science fiction you remember reading in which some of the main characters were gay?



Before you read on: what is your answer?

I was a little stuck on that question. Trouble and Her Friends came to mind as the first one like that I read where I also met the author. But I don't remember noting it when I first read about a gay couple in SF. Possible because I grew up in Ann Arbor, where being gay wasn't considered particularly strange. Thinking back after the show, I remembered that Heinlein had a few gay (and even trans) characters, but I think probably the first books in which I saw gay characters really be partners was in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series. He mentioned Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, by Samuel Delany. I happen to be reading Delany's autobiographical The Motion of Light in Water right now, which we both agreed is an excellent book. Sad to say, it is also the first book by Delany that I've read (unless I read Nova when I was young, but I can't remember for certain), though I have of course read several of his short stories.

Anyway, I hope you will answer the question and also ask it of other people because I think it is an interesting question.

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From:tlatoani
Date:December 19th, 2008 03:26 am (UTC)
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John Varley's Titan/Wizard series comes to mind, but I think there may have been something by Niven earlier. Hmm.
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From:starfarmer
Date:December 19th, 2008 04:22 am (UTC)

Pleasedtameetcha

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Hi Anne!

It was nice meeting you tonight, and imagine my surprise to find
my question posted here...I'm looking forward to seeing what
people have to say.

I'm also looking forward to getting ivolved in your local
activities as I am able.

In the meantime, please feel free to connect to me on facebook...
the name is "Lenadams Dorris"

Cheers!

Len
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From:netmouse
Date:December 19th, 2008 09:01 pm (UTC)

Re: Pleasedtameetcha

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Awesome! nice to see you here. And the group website I was trying to point you to last night is http://www.stilyagi.org . We also make announcements on the LJ group Stilyagiaircorp.
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From:lirrin
Date:December 19th, 2008 04:48 am (UTC)
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I honestly can't think of any off the top of my head. I'm sure I've read some, and probably back quite a ways, but nothing springs to mind with an obviously gay character. The first thing I thought of was the big bruiser guy and his blond boy-toy in Road Warrior, but that's a movie. *heh*
From:starfarmer
Date:December 19th, 2008 04:50 am (UTC)

Context

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I also should note that I am probably older than many who post here, and that gay people as sympathetic characters in popular culture or literary works were thin on the ground during my "formative" years.

Although I, too, probably encountered a lurking gay presence in the vastness of the SF universe prior to SIMPLGOS, what stunned me (and stuns me to this day) was that a book I bought from a gift shop in O'Hare during a snowbound layover had *as its narrative focus* the love relationship between two men (*and* it was a deeply creative, intelligent, well-written and ultimately satisfying novel, too!)

And that was reinforced by SIMPLGOS's other (perhaps less) transgressive themes like hybrid families consisting of alternating generations of different species.

And who can forget rock licking as a gourmet endeavor?

Anyway, I imagine that for many younger LGBTetc today the appearance of same-sex protagonists and a focus on their relationships in an SF setting would be considered just one of many possibilities...and one that is often handled as poorly, artistically speaking, as other sorts of relationships!

Len
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From:cherylmmorgan
Date:December 19th, 2008 05:00 am (UTC)
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Almost certainly Heinlein. My memory of Stranger in a Strange Land is a little fuzzy, but definitely I Will Fear No Evil.
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From:sageautumn
Date:December 19th, 2008 12:19 pm (UTC)
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Stranger is my guess also, though thinking about it, I don't know that any of them were strictly gay.

I should re-read the book... all I remember about it now is that it totally ticked me off.

Other than that... ...either nothing I've read has had gay characters, or (and much more likely) it just didn't stick out in my head. Or, perhaps, I just didn't get it.
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From:netmouse
Date:December 19th, 2008 12:59 pm (UTC)
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There are no strictly gay characters in Stranger, just bisexual activities. Do you remember what about it pissed you off?

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From:sageautumn
Date:December 19th, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC)
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Yeah. I got the message that God=sex=love.

Love is sex. Um, no.

Sure, I dunno, maybe I got it wrong, but it seemed a way way strong message to me.
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From:cherylmmorgan
Date:December 19th, 2008 05:49 pm (UTC)
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Hmm, good point. Heinlein's characters tended to be more polysexual than strictly one way or the other.

If you want to rule those out, then the first book was probably The Female Man.
From:starfarmer
Date:December 19th, 2008 05:02 am (UTC)

Miéville

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Also, I finally remembered the title of the China Miéville novel I was raving about:
Iron Council.

Here's a brief summary as found on Wikipedia...
"Iron Council (2004) is the fourth novel by China Miéville, set in the same universe as his previous books Perdido Street Station (2000) and The Scar (2002), although they can all be read independently of each other. In addition to the steampunk influences shared by its predecessors, Iron Council also draws several elements from the western genre.

Iron Council is perhaps the most overtly political of China Miéville's novels to date, being strongly inspired by the anti-globalization movement, and tackling issues such as imperialism, corporatism, terrorism, racial hatred, homosexuality, culture shock, labour rights and war.

The novel won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2005, and was also nominated for the Hugo Award and the World Fantasy Award that same year."
This, too, has at its heart a gay man and his relationship with another man. And oddly enough, a lot of both the fan and "critical" reviews focused on this aspect as being "unnecessary" and "detrimental" to the book. The more things change... ;')

Len
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From:nwhyte
Date:December 19th, 2008 05:05 am (UTC)
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Frederik Pohl's Gateway.
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From:nwhyte
Date:December 19th, 2008 08:00 am (UTC)
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Or possibly, as boywhocantsayno reminds me, Imperial Earth.
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From:boywhocantsayno
Date:December 19th, 2008 05:39 am (UTC)
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I think it would have to be Imperial Earth. My father had a copy and I read it when I was probably about 8-10 years old, though at that age I didn't clue in to the bisexuality of the main character.
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From:atdt1991
Date:December 19th, 2008 06:36 am (UTC)
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Huh. Uhm, I remember a few bisexual characters in Heinlein, though I don't remember anyone specifically gay offhand.

I also read the Valdemar series, the book series that my first gf was obsessed with.
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From:grndexter
Date:December 19th, 2008 02:37 pm (UTC)
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I guess I've always been clueless. I never noticed any at all. (And unless the author makes it a point, I still don't.)
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From:sarahmichigan
Date:December 19th, 2008 05:08 pm (UTC)
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I don't remember for sure, but it was probably John Varley.
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From:jojomojo
Date:December 19th, 2008 06:47 pm (UTC)
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It's a bit of an odd one given how her alien genders work, but 'The Left Hand of Darkness' by Ursula LeGuin.
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