Exploration Log 2: Al Thomas’ “Sex in Space: A Brief Survey of Gay Themes in Science Fiction” (1976)

Today I have the second post in my new Exploration Log series. Some posts will be a brief survey of the various SF-related non-fiction I’ve read. Other posts, I hope, will be a jumping off point for my own research. In this instance, I’ll share the elements of an article that resonated with me.

Check out my previous post on publishing Ursula K. Le Guin behind the Iron Curtain here.


Al Thomas’ “Sex In Space: a Brief Survey: A Brief Survey of Gay Themes in Science Fiction” first appeared in Gay Peoples Union News, Vol. 5, N. 12 (September 1976). You can read it online here.

In 1971, inspired in part by the Stonewall Riots of 1969 that brought national attention to the gay liberation movement and Wisconsin’s earlier and lesser known LGBTQ riots, the Gay Peoples Union (GPU) was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as “a social service agency dedicated to the needs of the gay community” and “concurrently dedicated to educating the community at large about gays and lesbians” (source). An offshoot of the Gay Liberation Organization at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, the GPU was the “‘first’ at many things” including community center, gay health clinic, and published a monthly periodical called GPU News (source). The publication soon gained national recognition for its broad coverage of topics to the gay and lesbian community. GPU News produced the “first regularly scheduled, scripted gay and lesbian [radio] program in the nation” between 1971-1972 and collaborated on multiple programs with the mainstream Milwaukee news sources. For recordings and other pieces of ephemera check out the University of Wisconsin-Madison digital collection. For a brief oral history of attending a GPU meeting, check out this fascinating interview with Don Schwamb and other early members.

The article I’ll cover today–Al Thomas’ “Sex In Space: A Brief Survey of Gay Themes in Science Fiction” (September 1976)–appeared in the publication’s heyday in the 70s before it folded due in the early 80s due to lack of volunteers (source).

Al Thomas, about whom I’ve been able to find nothing about, surveys the state of science fiction on gay (and occasionally lesbian) themes up to 1975. While the article itself is riddled with errors that impact the conclusions he reaches, “Sex In Space” is a fascinating look at how science fiction was viewed by the gay liberation movement of the day. I’ve provided each work with gay and lesbian themes covered in the article below.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction and Fantasy Purchases No. CCCXII (J. G. Ballard, Roger Zelazny, John Wyndham, and Joel Zoss)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. The Impossible Man and Other Stories, J. G. Ballard (1966)

From the back cover: “THE IMPOSSIBLE MAN is the eighth book by J. G. Ballard to be published in the United States. Since the publication of his famous first two novels in 1962, The Wind from Nowhere and The Drowned World, no writer in modern science fiction has received higher acclaim from the critics:

“…the freshest new talent in science fiction since Brian Aldiss.— DAMON KNIGHT

“Ballard is one of the brightest new stars in post-war fiction… he may turn out to be one of the most imaginative of Wells’s successors.” — KINGSLEY AMIS

THE IMPOSSIBLE MAN gathers together nine of Ballard’s most recent stories. A few samples:

In “The Drowned Giant” an enigmatic visitor is subjected to the various kindnesses of man…”

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Book Review: Hothouse (variant title: The Long Afternoon of Earth), Brian W. Aldiss (1962)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

Brian W. Aldiss’ Hugo-winning Hothouse (1962) imagines an oppressive, violent, and alien Earth transformed by “the long age of the vegetable” (187). The surviving humans live–“more by instinct than intelligence” (54)– in a continent-encompassing banyan tree in constant fear of killer flora and fauna. Aldiss succeeds in constructing a profoundly unsettling worldscape encyclopedic in its details with unusual rituals of survival. There’s the existential sense throughout that the humans, detached from any memory of their past, who attempt to survive are but frantic movements of an apocalyptic paroxysm. Inventive, relentless, hallucinogenic.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXI (Phyllis Gotlieb, John D. MacDonald, Robert Onopa, and Peter George)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Sunburst, Phyllis Gotlieb (1964)

From the back cover: “In the hideous aftermath of the atomic sunburst. The people of Sorrel Park had been written off. Now they were nothing but a kind of human garbage, festering and hopeless.

In the center of town lived the worst of the human garbage–and by far the most dangerous. They were a breed of terrible children, possessed by terrifying supernormal powers. They were a new race of monster bred out of the sunburst, and if they ever broke loose they would destroy the world…”

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Generation Ship Short Story Review: Fred Saberhagen’s “The Long Way Home” (1961)

This is the 15th post in my series of vintage generation ship short fiction reviews. Today I have an unusual take on the subgenre–a young scavenger couple encounter a mysterious blip on their radar!

As a reminder for anyone stopping by, all of the stories I’ll review in the series are available online via the link below in the review.

You are welcome to read and discuss along with me as I explore humanity’s visions of generational voyage. And thanks go out to all who have joined already. I also have compiled an extensive index of generation ship SF if you wish to track down my earlier reviews on the topic and any that you might want to read on your own.

Previously: Don Wilcox’s “The Voyage That Lasted 600 Years” in Amazing Stories, ed. Raymond A. Palmer (October 1940). You can read it online here.

Next Up: TBD


3/5 (Average)

Fred Saberhagen’s “The Long Way Home” first appeared in the June 1961 issue of Galaxy Magazine, ed. H. L. Gold. You can read it online here.

Among the Asteroids out Near Pluto

Marty and Laura–recently married and very much in love–form the crew of the Clementine, a robotic mining, ore refining, and hauling vessel. They spend their isolated existence identifying prospective asteroids out near Pluto. Laura, on her very first space voyage, remains his liaison in the control room when Marty scoots off in his space bike to investigate a blip on the radar. If it’s a wrecked hull of “a ship dead for decade, or a century, or a thousand years” if theirs by right of salvage if they could tow it into a port (181). The robotic librarian indicates that no such vessel has ever existed! Marty’s investigation reveals that the thirty-mile long hull is part of a two-thousand-year-old larger vessel that has suffered a possibly cataclysmic disaster.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCIX (John Brunner, Lester del Rey, John Domatilla, anthology of Best SF 1965)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Quicksand, John Brunner (1967)

From the back cover: “She had nearly killed a man who tried to assault her. She spoke a language no one could understand. Commonplace objects like clothing and cars were a mystery to her.

Paul was haunted and entranced by her. He licked at the secrecy that surrounded her until, inevitably, his fate became linked to hers. And she gave him a vision of a world more beautiful than any he had ever known.

THEY LIVED IN A PARADISES OF SENSUAL ECSTACY… UNTIL IT WAS TOO LATE. BECAUSE HER LOVE WAS LIKE QUICKSAND.”

Initial Thoughts: My Brunner obsession in my early 20s generated a packed few years of reading as many novels–the good and the bad–that I could get my hands on. This one escaped my grasp.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCVII (Jack Williamson, William E. Cochrane, a Groff Conklin anthology, and an anthology of gay and lesbian SF)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. 6 Great Short Novels of Science Fiction, ed. Groff Conklin (1954)

From the back cover: “THE BLAST: STUART CLOETE envisions New York City under atomic attack, and tells the story of the lone survivor.

COVENTRY: ROBERT HEINLEIN shows what happens to one of the last individualists, who request a sentence to purgatory.

THE OTHER WORLD: MURRAY LEINSTER reveals a savage, feudal civilization which lives off the sweat of slaves kidnapped from our world.

BARRIER: ANTHONY BOUCHER writers of a time traveler, and his strange encounters with the people who will come after us.

SURFACE TENSION: JAMES BLISH traces a race of microscopic men that works out its destiny under water on a planet somewhere far out of the galaxy.

MATURITY: THEODORE STURGEON depicts the agonizing plight of a super man born in our midst.

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Short Story Reviews: Alice Eleanor Jones’ “Created He Them” (1955) and Katherine MacLean’s “Interbalance” (1960)

Today I’ve selected two post-apocalyptic visions by female authors. I needed an antidote to the creepy last man/woman stories I’ve been reading recently. Alice Eleanor Jones spins a masterpiece about a housewife attempting to keep the entropy of a crumbling world and an abusive husband at bay. Katherine MacLean imagines a moment where the last representative of the American Empire, after all the rhetoric of progress and exceptionalism came crashing down in a nuclear war, interacts with a persistent and well-meaning native girl.

The links to the stories can be found in the reviews. Both are recommended reads for fans of 50s and 60s science fiction.


5/5 (Masterpiece)

Alice Eleanor Jones’ “Created He Them” first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Anthony Boucher (June 1955). You can read it online here.

Sometimes there are stories that transcend their short length with lasting power. This story has resided within me as if freshly read for weeks. Like some corrosive lozenge of love and hate, “Created He Them” eats you up from the inside.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCVI (John Brunner, Phillip Mann, Shepherd Mead, and a Frederik Pohl anthology)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

I planned to have a review up today. Unfortunately, August is always my least productive month writing as it marks the return to work after a much needed summer break. It’s been a rough few weeks! Stay tuned.

1. The Squares of the City, John Brunner (1965)

From the back cover: CHECHMATE IN PARADISE. Ciudad de Vados was a Latin-American showplace, a paradise…a flourishing supercity designed and run nearly to perfection.

But not quite. They had a traffic problem.

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