Personal Essay: "Queers Digging and Destroying" by Michael Damian Thomas
When we set out to destroy science fiction with this Kickstarter, we didn't want it to be your ordinary, run-of-the-mill campaign. We wanted it to be full of smashing, crashing queer voices, telling what it really means to be queer reading and writing science fiction. One of the ways we hope to do that is by sharing a series of personal essays about the experience of being queer in science fiction.
Personal Essay: "Queers Digging and Destroying" by Michael Damian Thomas
“Just another attempt to gain civilizations approval of their flawed agenda. What does LGBTQ have to do with Sci-Fi and Doctor Who and what is there to celebrate? Kinda desperate to me....” --one-star Amazon review of Queers Dig Time Lords
Somewhere, there will be people asking why there’s a need for Lightspeed's Queers Destroy Science Fiction! issue. The question won’t necessarily come from a place of homophobia or negativity. Many will point to all of the marvelous QUILTBAG SF works and queer authors with awards and successes. Some will claim that an issue just focusing on QUILTBAG authors will further “ghettoize” these pieces and creators. Some will ask, “Why create this when the community is already so accepting?”
I can safely say that this magazine issue is still needed, because I recently co-edited Queers Dig Time Lords. I heard all of those things as we prepared the book about a show that has a very vocal queer fandom and many Out production staff members. I know firsthand what happens when you broadcast the voices of QUILTBAG creators-- both the marvelous and not-so marvelous things.
I’ve talked about the wonderful things in other places. I loved working with my co-editor Sigrid Ellis (who is editing the flash fiction for Queers Destroy Science Fiction). We published some phenomenal essays. The fact that our book which told the experiences of queer Doctor Who fans was nominated for a Hugo Award still astounds me. I was even a Guest at Alien Entertainment’s Chicago TARDIS convention twice because of this book.
But it wasn’t an easy road, and I want to discuss the less than wonderful things that happened to me due to the book, and the prejudices and microaggressions that still occur when creating a queer book as a QUILTBAG creator.
I identify as a genderqueer bisexual person. (Technically pansexual, but I first came out in the early '90s as bi and am still getting used to the different term.) I’ve been out since college, but I didn’t broadcast the information to some people. As many of you know, I’m the primary caregiver to my medically fragile daughter, Caitlin. My wife Lynne and I for years depended on my conservative family for breaks from Caitlin’s difficult care. They often watched her as we travelled to SF/F conventions for work. My aunt’s husband in particular is extremely homophobic, partially due to some complicated and horrific family history of his own. Lynne (who identifies as bisexual), and I often bit our tongues hard when we would drop Caitlin off and he would make sometimes violent, homophobic comments.
So when Sigrid and the publisher asked me to co-edit Queers Dig Time Lords, I hesitated, and then talked to my close friends about it. To say yes risked losing the only family help we had with Caitlin. My friends assured me that if it happened, they would step in. I said yes, and didn’t bring it up much with my family.
Sadly, my family was only one source of problems. Only days after I accepted the co-editor duties, I had my first awkward conversation with our publisher. He’d been talking to another editor at the press who claimed that there was already a “backlash” to me co-editing the book due to my marriage to a woman, though at that point I found that “backlash” comment odd and infuriating since the only people who knew about the book’s existence were the publisher, Sigrid, me, that editor, and my friends.
I later had the backlash confirmed due to a drunken convention conversation in a hotel lobby. A prominent, tipsy gay Big Name Doctor Who Fan decided to cross-examine me about my sexuality. He had decided that marriage to a woman meant I couldn’t be bisexual, and therefore I shouldn’t be involved with the book. He was adamant and belligerent as I basically gave him a bisexuality 101 course. He didn’t buy it.
Once released, Queers Dig Time Lords collected different microaggressions; this time, in the form of silence. A huge online retailer of Doctor Who merchandise that stocked every Doctor Who title from our publisher didn’t stock Queers. A very prominent SF/F magazine which reviewed all of the previous Doctor Who titles from our press suddenly couldn’t find room for a review of our book, even after the Hugo nomination. A well-known convention book dealer asked my wife Lynne, whose Chicks Dig Time Lords is one of their big sellers, about the Queers Dig Time Lords backlash they thought must be going on after Lynne asked why they weren’t carrying copies of Queers at a convention where we were appearing. I opened this essay with a particular Amazon review that vocalized what many seem to have been unfortunately thinking.
As for my family, they decided that they could no longer help with Caitlin. They didn’t give Queers Dig Time Lords as a reason, but they coincidentally decided to stop watching Caitlin when we asked them to take her for the Wiscon where we were having the Queers Dig Time Lords launch party. (The official reason was it was, “Too hard to watch her anymore.”) We haven’t talked to my aunt and uncle since. Our phenomenal friends kept their promises and have helped ever since.
So is this Queers Destroy Science Fiction! issue of Lightspeed necessary? Fuck yes. QUILTBAG creators and stories have made significant strides, but we are nowhere near a point where non-heteronormative voices are as accepted as their cis heteronormative counterparts. We need every opportunity to shine a light on these stories and creators.
I am so fucking proud that I co-edited Queers Dig Time Lords with Sigrid. It was completely worth it. Those stories needed to be told and not erased. So many reviewers, readers, and Doctor Who fans told us about how much they loved the essays. They let us know that the book touched them, and that they felt less alone after reading stories like their own. Others felt it gave them insight to being a QUILTBAG fan. I am so proud to be a part of that. (Hell, it was worth just to know that copies of Queers Dig Time Lords were included in every Hugo Voters’ Packet that went to certain Hugo Award campaigners’ supporters.)
Please help Lightspeed, Seanan McGuire, Steve Berman, Wendy Wagner, and Sigrid Ellis and all the rest of the QDSF staff create a place where more of these stories can be told in fiction and nonfiction by supporting this Kickstarter. These creators and stories need this spotlight and chance to sparkle.
Michael Damian Thomas is the Co-Publisher and Co-Editor-in-Chief of Uncanny Magazine with his wife, Lynne M. Thomas. He was a two-time Hugo Award nominee as the former Managing Editor of Apex Magazine (2012-2013), co-edited the Hugo-nominated Queers Dig Time Lords (Mad Norwegian Press, 2013) with Sigrid Ellis, and co-edited Glitter & Mayhem (Apex Publications, 2013) with John Klima and Lynne M. Thomas. Michael lives in Illinois with Lynne, their daughter Caitlin, and a cat named Marie. Caitlin has a rare congenital disorder called Aicardi syndrome, and Michael works as her primary caregiver. He and Lynne are the “Official Nemeses” of John Joseph Adams and Christie Yant. This is the greatest honor an editorial team can possibly earn.