Table of Contents
Also on this website:
Toby Johnson's books:
GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe
THE FOURTH QUILL, a
novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The
Dimensional Structure of
Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"
The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the "Statement of Spirituality"
You're Not A Wave
What is Enlightenment?
What is reincarnation?
How many lifetimes in an ego?
Emptiness & Religious Ideas
Experiencing experiencing experiencing
Going into the Light
Meditations for a Funeral
The way to get to heaven
Buddha's father was right
Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal
The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika
Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva
John Boswell was Immanuel Kant
The Two Loves
Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook
Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer
The Way Out by Christopher L Nutter
The Gay Disciple by John Henson
Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry
Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr
Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois
Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson
Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low
Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman
The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman
Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor
Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine
The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada
The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook
The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther
The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel
Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak
Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez
Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr
Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman
Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano
The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo
The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar
Occam’s Razor by David Duncan
Grace and Demion by Mel White
Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso
The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery
The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass
Review: The Future Is QueerEdited by Richard Labonté and Lawrence Schimel
Arsenal Pulp Press / ISBN 1-55152-209-8
Paperback, $17.95 U.S. $22.95 Canadian, 212 pages
Nov 1, 2006
Reviewed by Toby Johnson
The title of this science fiction anthology edited by two respected names in gay publishing, “The Future is Queer,” suggests a prediction for the prevalence and acceptance of gender variance in the imagined world to come. Since sci-fi functions as a kind of new mythology—analyzing values, projecting trends, warning of dangers and creating self-fulfilling prophecies—such a collection of stories about how gender variance and sexual deviance will be accepted and even esteemed in a more enlightened future time would be appropriate for the cause. The triumph of science over superstition, tolerance over prejudice, and knowledge over ignorance does promise better times for homosexuals of tomorrow.
But that isn’t what the title turns out to mean. It’s more nuanced—sinister?—than that. The prediction “the future is queer” uses the dictionary definition: what’s likely to be coming down the pike is going to be very strange. Thing are changing and changing faster than anybody can keep track of and changing in ways we don’t expect or comprehend. So The Future Is Queer is a lot queerer than a collection of utopian predictions.
In eight substantial stories, one of them almost of novella length and one a four page comic strip, seven women and two men address and extrapolate issues of technology, medicine, surgery, artificial intelligence, cloning, spirituality, etc. to suggest just how strange the future might be.
The collection opens with accomplished science fiction writer/editor L. Timmel Duchamp’s intriguing—and gay male sexy—story “Obscure Relations.” A powerful politician is secretly keeping a stable of clones of himself from which to harvest organs in event of need. How this scenario would be worked out is interesting: the clones are staggered in age, they’re not allowed sexuality and are given drugs to curtail desire, they’re kept sequestered and are raised like brothers but with personalities suppressed. As the story opens, the eldest clone has murdered the original politician and taken over his identity and stopped taking the sex suppressants. When he returns to the secret compound for a little R&R and finds himself enamored with one of his younger versions, he is tempted to stop the sex suppressants for them all. The story raises some very interesting questions about identity.
Joy Parks’ “Instinct” tells of a future after same-sex marriage has become legal and gay people have been assimilated into society—and out of existence. It’s a world where all children are lab-produced, sex change is routine, dating is by computer, and an underground railroad helps real lesbians escape into secret societies where they can again be “different.” Here’s a Cassandra call to gay marriage advocates! Be careful what you ask for, you might get it. And Caro Soles’ “The Chosen Few” warns about the acceptance of gays in the military with a tale of two male lovers bravely, though suicidally, banding together, like Spartan couples, on a mission in which the homosexual troops are intended to be sacrificed. Being homosexual and childless might make openly gay/lesbian soldiers expendable!
Candas Jane Dorsey tells a wistful story about a circle of friends meeting surreptitiously to celebrate the winter solstice after the new calendar has moved official New Year to a more convenient time of the season. It’s a bleak future, but the friends join in a Wiccan-like ritual to pledge their affection and hope. “…the darkest evening of the year…” is the sweetest —and most poignant— story in the anthology.
The comic strip by Neil Gaman and Bryan Talbot (the two male contributors) warns of a future in which deviance has been erased from history to create a “utopia” with no problems! Q.E.D. Let’s not go there! The people are blanks.
Diana Churchill’s “My Long Ago Sophia” tells of government meddling and tragedy in the life of lesbian mothers. The protagonist’s trauma is resolved with the help of a virtual reality device and a good dose of self-forgiveness. The sci-fi gimmick of the V.R. machine deftly communicates a psycho-spiritual lesson.
Psycho-spiritual lessons are also the heart of the longest story, “The Sleep Clinic for Troubled Soul” by Japanese Canadian writer Hiromi Goto. This is an impressive, mind-bending, if somewhat disturbing story of a lesbian suffering insomnia after a breakup who seeks help through a futuristic dream therapy. Told from inside her dreams, the therapy reads like a psychedelic adventure with wild special FX. The story’s about integrating the disparate “selves” human beings carry around in their memories; it’s a lesson about being whole.
Several of the stories deal with transsexualism, envisioning a future in which sexual identity is fluid and alterable. The final story, “The Beatrix Gates” by Rachel Pollack—really a quartet of vignettes—imagines a cure for cancer that allows people to be redesigned from inside at the cell level and makes “nano-transformo” —including sexual reassignment— unlimited. One of the vignettes is an allegory about transsexual experience using “Red” and “Green” as the mutually-excluding opposites instead of male and female. Even though the metaphor comes across a little obscure, this is the best description of transsexual drive I have ever read. It’s a marvelous example of how sci-fi can remythologize the terms of common experience to elucidate and give new and deeper meaning.
In the brief prefaces by the editors, gay literary critic extraordinaire Labonté writes about the veiled homosexual allure he found as a boy in sci-fi’s imaginative futures. I resonated with that. Partly because it is dominated by women writers, this anthology is not as overtly gay male sexual as Labonté hints. But the portrayals of gay feelings—of both women and men—throughout the collection seem accurate and insightful. And the promise the future is going to be very queer indeed is well-established. Maybe as a gay visionary, I’d prefer different futures from these. But as a reader I was well-satisfied. My imagination was piqued. And that is what sci-fi is supposed to do. This anthology does it quite queerly.
Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.
Johnson's Lammy Award winning book
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of
Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated
PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are
available now from Lethe
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