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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.
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: "Go Bisexual Space Rangers, Go!" by Cecilia Tan

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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: "Go Bisexual Space Rangers, Go!" by Cecilia Tan

I feel like bisexuality has a special place in science fiction. Maybe this impression comes partly from growing up with a sole bisexual role model in the 1970s and '80s--David Bowie--whose image was also that of a space alien at the time. I don't think it's a coincidence, though, that Bowie chose both to represent himself as bi and as unearthly, and that I chose science fiction as the genre I liked best. Bowie used both elements of image to establish himself as an outsider and I, as a budding young outsider by dint of both my bisexuality and my bi-racial identity, choose science fiction as "my" genre. I don't think I was aware at the time that I chose it because it gave me the room to imagine worlds where I belonged.

As I grew older and moved from Star Trek (the original show) and Lost in Space and Madeleine L'Engle and whatever else I could get my hands on at the public library that had a dragon or space ship on it, I discovered that perhaps I wasn't the only person who felt like bisexuality had a special place in science fiction. In 1981, I was in junior high school and I spent my allowance by riding my bicycle to the local indie bookstore to buy the works of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Roger Zelazny, and Anne McCaffrey. At the time I didn't know what I was searching for. I was already writing by that time: Tolkien knockoffs and inventing my own superheroes and dreaming up planetary societies. But by high school I had started to notice that the only books where bisexuals (or pansexuals or omnisexuals) ever appeared in fiction where they were treated as a normal, everyday part of life were science fiction or fantasy books. In regular "real life" literature, if you introduced a bisexual character, it was like putting a gun on the table in the first act. By the end of the book they had to have cheated on someone or gone mad. Sigh. Whereas in science fiction you could have characters who swapped gender and therefore messed with the concept of "hetero" or "homo" sexuality (Samuel R. Delany, John Varley), where there were group marriages (Diane Duane), or line marriages (Robert Heinlein), or other social and gender structures (Ursula K. LeGuin).

It took a while for this all to soak through my consciousness. Sense of wonder is wonderful for disarming one's resistance but sometimes it left me at the end of a book sort of panting and limp, wondering what had just happened? But then again, how else could a 1980s teenager who seemed to be the Only Bisexual On Earth (except maybe for David Bowie, who might have just been pretending) be expected to react to the fact that an element of her core identity, bisexuality, was by then a genuine bog-standard SF genre trope? Sometimes it wasn't even a core element of the book and maybe that was even more exciting, the idea that bisexuality could be part of the status quo.

The almost incidental nature of the bisexuality trope in sf/f meant being ambushed by drive-by sexuality epiphanies. But maybe every teenager feels that way about coming to grips with any form of alternative sexuality while growing up in a sex-negative culture? I certainly didn't mind it and I don't regret reading all that science fiction during my formative years. And I sure as hell don't ever regret writing it or joining the community of writers and editors and fans who embrace diversity and difference in all forms.

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Cecilia Tan is the award-winning author of many novels and short stories, the founder of Circlet Press, and she wants you to know all her characters are bisexual unless proven otherwise.

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