Sunday, March 29, 2009

What about film?

It's easy to make a list of queer sf. Of course, there'll be some variation, depending on how the list-maker defines both 'queer' and 'sf'.... Erm, that is, so long as we're talking about novels and short stories. What about film, though?

Is sf cinema behind the times, off in another universe, or so heteronormative (sorry, I mean that it's stuck thinking about things only from the perspective of a very cliched version of heterosexuality) as to be almost impervious to queer readings?

Not that there aren't some exceptions. Jackie Stacey has a great article on queer kinship in Gattaca, Roz Kaveney reads Independence Day's main theme as anxiety about male bonding leading to homosexual panic, Vivian Sobchak has done some work on the creepy representation of sexuality in AI, Mark Bould and Greg Tuck have looked at sexuality in Japanese sf films. The fact that I can list individual pieces of criticism off the top of my head is an indication of its dearth. SF cinema just doesn't seem very queer, so most of the critical options revolve, one way or another, around unpacking the heterosexism and/or homophobia and/or gender normativity (women must be girls and men must be manly), which while useful can get a bit tedious after a while.

So, here's a question. If you had to write about sf film from a queer perspective (any sort of queer perspective) what would you pick and where would your critical stance take you?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Top Ten Queer SF Novels

Ok, some caveats. First of all, my list only includes books written in English. I expect Sylvie may have quite a few suggestions for French-language sf. Then again, I'm interpreting sf quite broadly -- but only so broadly as to encompass works which would qualify (or have qualified) for the Tiptree Award.

Anyway, here's my top ten -- but I might change my mind at any minute:

1. Samuel R. Delany, Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand (I admit this may seem an odd choice, but I love this book)
2. Joanna Russ, The Female Man
3. Nicola Griffith, Ammonite
4. Hiromi Goto, The Kappa Child
5. Geoff Ryman, The Child Garden
6. Eleanor Arnason, Ring of Swords
7. Maureen McHugh, China Mountain Zhang
8. Melissa Scott, Trouble and Her Friends
9. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
10. Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber

Actually, there were so many entries that I might have chosen that this list, like all such, is really quite arbitrary. It was hard to leave off Kelley Eskridge's Solitaire and Candas Jane Dorsey's Paradigm of Earth. I could also easily have added more books by given authors -- lots of Delany, Ryman's Air, Griffith's Slow River, Scott's Shadow Man, and so on. And lets not even get started on novellas and short stories.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Queer Universes Wordle

I saw this on Nicola's blog and thought it was cool, so I made one for the first three pages of the introduction. The larger the word, the more often it occurs in the text.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What I am up to...

In her last post, Wendy asked : “What about the rest of you?”

Well, the rest of me is waiting for the release of Of Wind and Sand, the (forever delayed) English version of my novel Terre des Autres. It was supposed to be released in the fall, then winter, and now Edge’s website says April. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. Meanwhile, if you check the Edge link below, you’ll be able to read the first chapter (really, the prologue) of the novel.

best part of me is on sabbatical this year, which means that I’m writing. Fiction, theory, and a textbook. And reading. And pondering. And working late at night!

In the last months of 2008, I prepared a French version of the research on which I had based my paper published in
Queer Universes. It’s not really a translation, more of an updated version of a work in progress. The French title is “Sexualité, échange de pouvoir et science-fiction: Une étude SMiotique de quelques textes de science-fiction québécoise” “Sexuality, power exchange and science fiction: An SMiotic study of a few pieces of québec science fiction”] and the article has been published in Voix plurielles.

I have also been writing fiction, and my novel
Sagapolis (working title) has been sent to the publisher a few weeks ago. They have just told me they were finished reading it (yep, they are quick!), but they have not commented it yet. Wish me good luck!

Right now, my main concern is the paper that I will be presenting this summer at the Colloque de Cerisy (France) on science fiction. The theme of the conference is
Comment rêver la science-fiction à présent? [How to dream science fiction today?], and my paper (of course, I should say), will be on Élisabeth Vonarburg’s fiction.

And that’s all for now, folks.

Terre des Autres on Alire’s website:

Of Wind and Sand on Edge’s website:

“Sexualité, échange de pouvoir et science-fiction : Une étude SMiotique de quelques textes de science-fiction québécoise” in Voix plurielles :

The Cerisy conference Comment rêver la science-fiction à présent?:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

So, What's Everyone Up To?

I'll start by answering my own question. I've got an article on Samuel R.Delany's Triton coming out in the sexuality issue of Science Fiction Studies in November. It's called "Born to be Bron: Destiny and Destinerrance in Samuel Delany's Triton" and it takes a bit of a different direction from Guy's marvellous essay on Triton in QU. What I'm looking at mostly is Derrida's concept of destinerrance, which is a French language pun on destination and errancy -- a way of pointing out that even when your journey gets derailed, it sometimes gets you where you're going, but getting where you're going may also turn out to be mistake or derailment in its own right.

It wasn't until I started writing this that I realized how chock full Triton is of failures of transmission and journeys going awry. There's something very queer about that; it's hard not to read it as a commentary on the idea that being gay is a result of something going wrong, of not reaching the right destination, and so on. And since evolutionary biology seems to be becoming -- or to have become -- the dominant discourse these days, is it possible to think of queerness as a proper variation, rather than a failure to reach the right destination? A matter of genetic diversity, rather than a genetic flaw?

Anyway, that's what I'm up to -- besides plotting the start of The Book, which has the tentative title of A Queer History of SF. What about the rest of you?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Get the best price!

Looking around the internet, I see the price of Queer Universes varies quite a bit from online booksellers. In the US, the distributor for LUP is Chicago University Press, which has the book listed at $85.00 US. has it at the same price, but is selling it for $68.01 Cdn -- at the current exchange rate, that would be $52.84 US (plus shipping and handling). That's a pretty nice deal! At the moment, only the hardcover edition is available, so if you want to read the book and can't afford it, urge your local library to purchase a copy.

By the way, there are a few listed in second hand bookstores online and through re-sellers, but only one of these seemed to be genuinely used. And most copies had an asking price of over $100 US -- how does that work?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Welcome to the blog for Queer Universes: Sexualities in Science Fiction. The first anthology of this century to deal with questions of sexuality in science fiction, Queer Universes was published in May, 2008, by Liverpool University Press.

While there has been plenty of discussion about issues of gender in science fiction, as well as about feminist sf, the idea of thinking about how sf reflects both historical and contemporary attitudes towards sexuality is a relatively new phenomenon. Queer Universes provides a spectrum of viewpoints on the topic of sexuality and science fiction.

Science fiction cannot help reflecting on questions of sexuality. It's so deeply embedded in our lives -- even if we can imagine cultures where sexuality, reproduction, gender, family and so on operate quite differently -- that even the most chaste of sf has to make certain assumptions about how sexuality works. The base assumption, often, is that sexuality will be exactly the same in the future as it was at the time the writer invented her or his characters and set them loose in the universe. But that's only one potential scenario, and many other writers, from Robert A. Heinlein, with his line marriages and other alternative family arrangements, to Joanna Russ, with her woman-only planet of Whileaway, have found plenty of possibilities to explore in their work. Sometimes that work is about those contemporary and important questions around sexuality, gender, race and so on; sometimes sexuality is simply background information -- but even there it can be an important part of an sf story's "cognitive estrangement," to quote Darko Suvin.


Part One: Queering the Scene

1. Introduction: Queer Universes
Wendy Gay Pearson, Veronica Hollinger, and Joan Gordon

2. Alien Cryptographies: The View from Queer
Wendy Gay Pearson

3. War Machine, Time Machine
Nicola Griffith and Kelley Eskridge

Part Two: Un/Doing History

4. Sextrapolation in New Wave Science Fiction
Rob Latham

5. Towards a Queer Genealogy of SF
Wendy Gay Pearson

6. Sexuality and the Statistical Imaginary in Samuel R. Delany’s Trouble on Triton
Guy Davidson

7. Stray Penetration and Heteronormative Systems Crash: Queering Gibson
Graham J. Murphy

Part Three: Disordering Desires

8. ‘Something Like a Fiction’: Speculative Intersections of Sexuality and Technology
Veronica Hollinger

9. ‘And How Many Souls Do You Have?’: Technologies of Perverse Desire and
Queer Sex in Science Fiction Erotica
Patricia Melzer

10. BDSMSF(QF): Sadomasochistic Readings of Québécois Women’s Science
Sylvie Bérard

Part Four: Embodying New Worlds

11. ‘Happy That It’s Here’: An Interview with Nalo Hopkinson
Nancy Johnston

12. Queer Nature: Close Encounters with the Alien in Eco/feminist Science Fiction
Helen Merrick

13. Queering the Coming Race?: A Utopian Historical Imperative
DeWitt Douglas Kilgore