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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: "The Desperate Task: Making the Invisible Visible" by Christopher Barzak

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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: "The Desperate Task: Making the Invisible Visible" by Christopher Barzak

Growing up, I read fiction to travel in my mind and imagination to other places, real and imagined. I grew up in a small rural town, and my family wasn’t the sort that travels extensively. They were sort that put down roots several generations back and remain to this day firmly rooted. So reading was a way for me to go out into the world, to see new places, different types of people, and to learn about the various possibilities for my own identity.

Out of all the kinds of characters one can encounter in fiction--in speculative fiction in particular, where aliens abound and the human race itself can be transfigured into something quite different from what we know of ourselves now--there was a particular absence that, later, when I was in my early twenties, I couldn’t help but notice: characters of queer identities.

Every sort of literature--whether it is grouped by genre, gender, nationality, ethnicity, or what have you--has invisible men populating the shadows of their stories, where they remain unnoticed for one reason or another. Queer characters were the ones I didn’t know speculative fiction lacked until I began to understand this part of my own identity in my early twenties, after which I began to look for people like myself in the books I’d already read and loved, only to realize months into this task that I wouldn’t find many.

It wasn’t until the mid 90s that I started to see queer characters in science fiction. Maureen McHugh’s China Mountain Zhang introduced me to a science fictional near future where diversity truly existed. Richard Bowes’ Kevin Grierson stories, which eventually became the novel Minions of the Moon, lifted the veil that hides the demimonde, where those invisible populations often exist in decades where they were not (or possibly will not be) acknowledged or admitted into the greater family of man. These two books--one science fiction, the other a dark fantasy--gave me hope that I might find more reflections of myself and people like me in literature, in stories set in the future, the past, and also in the present day, where those reflections might take root rather than flit between what has been and what may come.

The desperate task of seeking out those reflections eventually gave way to my taking on a different task: creating some of those reflections in my own stories, to put the forth for others who so desperately need stories that help them understand themselves within this world and in other, imagined worlds. I’m thrilled to see so many people supporting an endeavor to bring together more and more of these kinds of stories within the literature of speculative fiction, and I hope that even more will join in that support as we attempt to make the invisible visible.

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Christopher Barzak is the author of the Crawford Fantasy Award winning novel, One for Sorrow, which has been made into the recently released Sundance feature film Jamie Marks is Dead. His second novel, The Love We Share Without Knowing, was a finalist for the Nebula and Tiptree Awards. He is also the author of two collections: Birds and Birthdays, a collection of surrealist fantasy stories, and Before and Afterlives, a collection of supernatural fantasies, which won the 2013 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Collection. He grew up in rural Ohio, has lived in a southern California beach town, the capital of Michigan, and has taught English outside of Tokyo, Japan, where he lived for two years. His next novel, Wonders of the Invisible World, will be published by Knopf in 2015. Currently he teaches fiction writing in the Northeast Ohio MFA program at Youngstown State University.

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