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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: "Confessions of a Queer Curator" by Lynne M. Thomas

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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: "Confessions of a Queer Curator" by Lynne M. Thomas

I came out as a bisexual woman in 1992, during my first year at Smith College. I spent much of college doing everything I possibly could to get my hands on queer content of all kinds. I was desperate to see myself represented. Because it was Smith, I had an immediate support network of friends who gave me a roadmap of materials to follow. (Our dorm had an anonymous Porn Fairy: if you mentioned having strong queer attractions, a pile of varied queer porn would appear outside your door, so that you could explore as you needed to, in relative privacy. A note explained that when you were done, you should leave the pile outside your door once more, and it would magically disappear until it was needed again.) This was in the days Before Ellen, when LGBT popular culture was still niche and often hard to find.

So I vacuumed up LGBT films, books, and comics. I attended queer dances and meetups. I came out to my parents right before I left for my Junior Year Abroad in Paris. (It went … poorly, but we eventually reconciled.) As college came to a close, I decided I wanted to pursue a career as a librarian or an editor, with an LGBT focus, if at all possible.

I wasn’t a geek growing up or in college. What SF/F I would casually walk by in bookstores, video stores, and movie theaters in the 1990s didn’t really seem to be aimed at me. I wasn’t seeing a lot of women featured, and even fewer LGBT characters, as in most mainstream entertainment.

While I was earning my library masters’ degree, I dated a woman who was a SECRET GEEK. (In the mid-90s, it was sometimes easier to come out as queer than as a nerd.) She introduced me to an an entire world of queer SF/F that I didn’t know existed, beginning with the works of Mercedes Lackey. I was deeply grateful to see queer characters like Vanyel and Stefen in The Last Herald-Mage series , and discovered that I really enjoyed speculative literature. We watched Xena: Warrior Princess with its not-so-subtle subtext between Xena and Gabrielle. I became rather passionate about that show. After we broke up, and I married Michael, I continued loving Xena--we spent part of our honeymoon at a Xena convention, my very first--and I became a fan of other shows with queer content (text or subtext) like Doctor Who and Buffy.

All of this led up to landing my dream job at Northern Illinois University. I became the Curator of a Rare Books and Special Collections department that contains SF/F and Gender Studies materials. My geekery and my queerness both became completely central to my professional work, as if my entire life had been leading up to this.

Part of my job is to make up the historical record by selecting the materials that will survive to be studied. I have an unparalleled opportunity to commit the political act of documenting many underrepresented communities--including women writers, writers of color, and queer writers often dismissed as “not important enough” to document. Though many institutions are collecting SF/F or queer materials, few places handle the combination of the two. I found when I began researching a decade ago that quite a few creators from underrepresented communities were being overlooked, particularly within SF/F. I made it my mission to find these authors and make sure that their literary papers would be also be saved for posterity, if they so desired. Queer-friendly conventions like Wiscon became my new home. I’ve spent over a decade building up NIU’s collection (http://libguides.niu.edu/sciencefiction) to include the papers of queer SF/F writers among its ranks.

When I consider younger Lynne, coming out at Smith and desperate to see herself in literature and entertainment, I wish I could hand her books like Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint, Elizabeth Bear’s Stratford Man duology, Maureen McHugh’s China Mountain Zheng, Catherynne M. Valente’s Palimpsest, or Brit Mandelo’s Beyond Binary anthology so she could see that speculative fiction can and does represent people like her. This is why I document these works. (It’s also why I edit such works, but that’s another essay).

This is also why I’m asking you to support Queers Destroy Science Fiction. We need future queers to know at first glance that we exist in imaginative SF/F works. And always have.

The best way to ensure that is to be able to hand them this special issue.

___________

Three-time Hugo Award winner Lynne M. Thomas is the Co-Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Uncanny Magazine with her husband Michael Damian Thomas. The former Editor-in-Chief of Apex Magazine (2011-2013), she co-edited the Hugo Award-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords, as well as Whedonistas and Chicks Dig Comics. She moderates the Hugo-Award winning SF Squeecast, a monthly SF/F podcast, and contributes to the Verity! Podcast. In her day job, she is the Head of Special Collections and Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University, where she is responsible for the papers of over 70 SF/F authors. You can learn more about her shenanigans at http://lynnemthomas.com/.

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    1. Gemma Renwick on February 7, 2015

      Like you the shay'a'chern of Mercedes Lackey's work were some of my first times in reading in sci fi or fantasy of people like me. And to read about the hawkbrothers where not only were there gay couples, but they were openly gay with no stigma was just completely incredible (using all meanings of the word)! I was in my twenties when I started reading Mercedes Lackey and had been avidly reading all sorts of fiction my whole life, I started reading adult sci fi and fantasy at about 9 and it took at least another 11 or 12 years for me to find any written fiction where I was fully represented. This despite having devoured entire sections in several public libraries. So I agree that those younger readers coming up need to be able to find books that truly resonate with them much more easily than we did when young.