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Science Fiction and Fantasy  
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In addition, magic enables fantasy to enhance the value attributed to alternative sexuality and gender. The magic is already an alternative to ordinary power, particularly in such power's masculine guise as brute force or military muscle. Wielders of magic, who are not usually distinguished by their ordinary power, become superior beings through their extraordinary power.

When these figures also embody alternative sexualities or gender identities, their extraordinary power revalues these alternatives positively. For example, once Vanyel's latent psionic powers are released through his homoerotic relationship, he becomes the leading protector of Valdemar, with his homoeroticism accepted as an essential feature of his character.

In Diane Duane's The Door into Fire (1979) and its sequels, the central protagonists are two lovers, Prince Freelorn and the sorcerer Herewiss. It is Herewiss's love for the prince that drives Herewiss to discover his innermost magic, a power using elemental fire, so that the two men can work together for the good of their kingdom. With these lovers in the lead, gay and lesbian relationships are depicted with approval throughout the series.

As such examples from the two genres indicate, when we consider how science fiction and fantasy tell their stories of sexuality and gender, we need to pay at least as much attention to extrapolation and magic in the narrative as we do to the conventions of characterization.

Once we have perceived the tension in these genres between freedom in the narrative and constraint in the characterization, we can refine this perception along two additional dimensions: how science fiction and fantasy balance the socially mimetic and nonmimetic, and how they have exploited more recent developments in narratology.

Reflecting the Social Context

In addition to extrapolation and magic, science fiction and fantasy use several features that reflect the social context in which they are written, such as the degree of explicitness with which the genres depict sexuality and the degree to which gender stereotyping is incorporated into their depictions of character. In addition, both genres use features that contrast more sharply with their social context.

In science fiction, such features include several technologies that reconfigure sex or reproduction. In fantasy, such features include iconographic figures, such as mythological deities and worthies of alternative history, who allow for further reinterpretations of human sexuality and gender.

Science Fiction and Fantasy before the 1960s

Prior to the 1960s, explicit sexuality of any kind was not characteristic of science fiction and fantasy. Although the covers of some 1930s pulp magazines showed scantily clad women menaced by tentacled aliens, the covers were more lurid than the magazines' contents. For many years, the editors who controlled what was published felt that they had to protect the adolescent male readership that they identified as their principal market.

In such a context, writers like Forrest Reid (1875-1947), Edgar Pangborn (1909-1976), or Thomas Burnett Swann (1928-1976), who featured passionate male friendships in their work, were exceptional; almost until the end of their careers, including so much as a kiss would have been too much.

As the readership for science fiction and fantasy began to age in the 1950s, however, writers like Philip Jose Farmer and Theordore Sturgeon were able to introduce more explicit sexuality into their work.

Farmer's "The Lovers" (1952) depicted human-alien miscegenation. Not only did Sturgeon make homosexuality an explicit element of science fiction in "The World Well Lost" (1953), he depicted it sympathetically, by making a pair of homosexual aliens refugees from a planetary culture as repressive as Senator Joseph McCarthy's America. And in Venus Plus X (1960), he depicted humanity as gender-neutral beings while pointedly satirizing the gender stereotyping of the period.

Although not usually identified as a genre writer like Farmer or Sturgeon, William S. Burroughs in 1959 published Naked Lunch, the first of many works in which he linked drug use and homosexuality as antiauthoritarian activities. The result was a surreal narrative that estranged the action from the ordinary world as science fiction and fantasy do.

Until the late 1960s, however, few other writers depicted alternative sexuality or revised gender roles with Sturgeon's tolerance for the alternative or Burroughs's intolerance for the ordinary. Images of homosexual male societies, for example, remained strongly negative in the eyes of most science fiction and fantasy authors.

When overpopulation drives the world away from heterosexuality in Charles Beaumont's The Crooked Man (1955), inhumane homosexuals begin to oppress their heterosexual minority. In False Fatherland (1968) by A. Bertram Chandler, an all-male culture collapses when women arrive, as the men spontaneously recover both chivalry and rape. And in "The Crime and Glory of Commander Suzdal" (1964) by Cordwainer Smith [Paul M. A. Linebarger], the title character destroys an entire planet of jaded homosexuals, who lured him there with a false distress signal.

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