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Queers Destroy Science Fiction! is a special issue of the Hugo-winning magazine LIGHTSPEED 100% written—and edited—by queer creators.
Queers Destroy Science Fiction! is a special issue of the Hugo-winning magazine LIGHTSPEED 100% written—and edited—by queer creators.
2,250 backers pledged $54,523 to help bring this project to life.

Personal Essay: "All That Glitters" by Jill Seidenstein

Posted by Lightspeed Magazine (Creator)

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: "All That Glitters" by Jill Seidenstein

I am a queer nerdy female.

I came to science fiction as a young teen, as I was forming my sense of self, to have something to talk about with the smart boys. I had no idea about my own sexuality. I often wished I could be a brain with feet with none of the messy things having a body entailed. From a very young age, I had a sense that I was not like everyone else. It could be due to being an identical twin, or perhaps it was being Jewish in a sea of very vocal Christians. I moved a few times as a child, so was new on the scene. I excelled in school and this set me apart, too.

I studied and observed my peers to learn what was acceptable, and what wasn't. I mastered the skill of fitting in. Fitting in, which meant cutting parts out that I perceived as being unacceptable. I witnessed the calumny heaped upon people who were different and wished to avoid it, as most people do. I learned to segregate the different facets of myself, only revealing each part to people I thought were safe. I learned to pass. Passing means not being seen for your whole self. It means not expressing your whole self. I thought those parts were unacceptable and more than that, meant I was broken. I lurked on the fringe, believing that these aspects of myself put me there. It was incredibly painful.

I loved reading science fiction, because it showed me worlds of possibility. I didn't like my small town, the small world I moved in, dominated by the cult of football and toxic masculinity. My friends and I were outsiders, smart girls who didn't fit in. I tried in every way to make myself as small and unnoticeable as possible. Escaping into other worlds was a relief from the pressures, real or imagined, in my own.

I accompanied Meg and Charles Wallace Murry on their wild adventure with Mrs. Whatsit to save their father. I flew with Lessa on the back of her dragon to fight the Thread. My mind bent in delicious ways as I worked to understand LeGuin's agendered people of Winter.

It wasn't until I got to college that I examined my sexuality. I looked within science fiction to explore this facet of myself, but I don't recall finding anything that connected with my queer identity. I drew the conclusion queerness was a separate universe from the world of sci-fi, despite Le Guin's story. To not see yourself reflected in the larger world is a form of erasure. Nowhere that I looked did I see a representation that contained the entirety of me. There were no mirrors, no reflections, only absence.

I almost never found a place where all the different parts of me fit. I could hang with the nerds, but I had to leave my sexuality at the door, or I could hang with the queers, but they didn't get the nerdy stuff.

In the last several years, I moved from reader to writer, partly because I didn't see myself reflected in the stories I like to read. I searched for writing communities for close to two decades, but it wasn't until I found Clarion West that I found one that felt hospitable to queers AND writers. Instead of segregating out my various identities, the two could inform each other. I didn't have to erect barriers or leave behind any part of myself.

Last year I learned about Lightspeed Magazine and the Women Destroy Science Fiction! Kickstarter. I got a physical copy of the issue and read it slowly, visiting it from time to time, because I couldn't bear for these stories written by women LIKE ME to be over, and because I was afraid I would be disappointed. Each time I picked it up to read another story, a key turned in a lock I didn't know I'd closed. I wanted to yell YES with every word I read. I wanted to weep with relief as I recognized myself in story after story.

I welcome the destruction of the few, limited definitions we have of what it means to be human. I want more! More representation, more diversity, more options. As I've integrated my own identities, I want to see the barriers and walls come down in the wider culture. I want to create bridges and extend hands to invite more people in. Instead of relying on word-of-mouth or stumbling across stories that resonate with queer identities, I want them to shine as brightly as a sparkling, glittery disco ball!


Jill Seidenstein contains multitudes. In addition to the above, she is a librarian, writer, yogini, traveler, and photographer. She enjoys tea in the coffee-obsessed city of Seattle. You can find her nattering about all of these things on Twitter as @outseide.

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