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 UnionNews, 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.
Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. Japan Sinks!, Sakyo Komatsu (1973; trans. by Michael Gallagher, 1976)
From the back cover: “WORST DISASTER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD!
A FISSURE in a wall–a land survey mysteriously out of true–a small island disappearing overnight–and one of the worst disaster in the history of the world is born. Only one man suspects the truth, but his theory is so unprecedented, his predications so horrifying that even his fellow scientists ignore him.
Then a series of devastating earthquakes strikes, and suddenly the authorities are prepared to listen. But time is short and as they frantically try to ward off the disaster the crust of the earth begins to shift…”
As always, which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. Worlds Apart (variant title: Born Leader), J. T. McIntosh (1954)
Richard Powers’ cover for the 1958 edition
From the back cover: “ROG FOLEY had never seen Earth—and he never would. For all that was left of Earth was an atomic funeral pyre in the sky.
ROG FOLEY was a leader of the new generation of humans who were born and raised on Mundis, the distant planet circling Brinsen’s Star and to which the last survivors of Earth had escaped in a 17-year journey through space.
The 1977 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wolheim and Arthur S. Saha (1977) is a glorious anthology of SF published from the year before containing rousing works by the established masters (Isaac Asimov and Brian W. Aldiss), philosophical gems from New Wave icons (Barrington J. Bayley), and gritty and disturbing commentaries on masculinity by the newer voices (James Tiptree, Jr.). While Richard Cowper and Lester del Rey misfire, the overall quality is high for a large Continue reading →
The 1972 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wollheim (1972) doesn’t feel like a “best of” collection. The majority of the contents are unspectacular space operas and hard SF in the Analog vein. Amongst the chaff, a few more inventive visions shined through—in particular, Joanna Russ’ mysteriously gauzy and stylized experiment replete with twins and dream machines; Michael G. Coney’s evocative overpopulation story about tourist robots; Christopher Priest’s “factual” recounting of human experimental subjects that isn’t factual at all; and Barry Malzberg’s brief almost flash piece about differing perspectives all tied together by the New York metro.
On the whole, I give it a solid recommendation although the best can be found in single-author collections.
“The Fourth Profession” (1971), novelette by Larry Niven, 3/5 (Average): Nominated for the 1972 Continue reading →
Little pleases me more than reading the fascinating cross-section of the genre presented by anthologies from my favorite era of SF (1960s/70s). After the success that was World’s Best Science Fiction: 1967 (variant title: World’s Best Science Fiction: Third Series) (1967), ed. Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr, I decided to browse my “to post” pile of recent acquisitions and share a handful with you all. As is often the case, the collections are peppered with stories I’ve already read—I’ve linked the relevant reviews.
Filled with authors I haven’t read yet—Stephen Tall, Robin Scott, Roderick Thorp, Jean Cox, Christopher Finch, etc.
…and of course, many of my favorites including Gene Wolfe, Ursula Le Guin, Barry N. Malzberg, and Kate Wilhelm (among many many others).
Scans are from my collection.
1. The 1972 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wollheim (1972)
Recently reminded of Fritz Leiber’s beautiful story “A Pail of Air” (1951) which I reviewed a few years ago in the eponymous collection, I was delighted to come across another one of his short story collections. Thankfully, no Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories are in sight. And of course, another Richard Powers cover…
On twitter I mentioned my ignorance regarding the work of Isidore Haiblum, the author of the “the first Yiddish SF novel” according to the blurb on The Tsaddik of the Seven Wonders (1971). I have not come across a copy of that particular novel yet, but, another even lesser known quantity joins the books arrayed in piles across my library.
Here are three short reviews. Either I waited too long to review the work or in the case of the short story collection, the handful of poor stories (amongst the many gems) faded from memory and I couldn’t convince myself to reread them…
I apologize for the brevity and lack of analysis. My longer reviews definitely try to get at the greater morass of things but hopefully these will still whet your palate if you haven’t read the works already.