Friday, January 18, 2013

Spending time with old Sci-Fi

Many many years ago when I started coming out, there wasn't quite the amount of gay fiction available as there is today. And a good majority of what was available wasn't readily available to me. (Given I couldn't go to an adult store to get one of the "Adults Only" novels, and the book stores where I grew up didn't have a Gay and Lesbian interest section as of yet.)

These days, that isn't so much of an issue. Thanks to the internet, gay men are a click away, bookstores on-line and in storefronts have gay and lesbian interest sections, and the variety of fiction is much less limited.

But, back in the very early 90's...not so much.

I was blessed to meet a lesbian named Dakota when I really started coming out. Dakota was a councilor at a camp I was at, and was the first person I met who ever came out to me. She had a workshop one night on gays and gay issues, which I attended, and it was there that she passed out a wonderful list of books of interest for gay men and lesbians. Mind you, it was only about 7 pages, and about 4 of those pages were non fiction (mostly under the old Allyson imprint), but still, it gave me things to read that my small town library might actually have in stock. (Let's see. I remember Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles being on that list, The Front Runner (which I've still never read), and a little book called Ethan of Athos by Lois McMasters Bujold. I found that particular book on a school field trip to Dayton, OH, in a large book superstore that is no longer there.

I remember the terror in buying the book, and hiding my purchase from my classmates. And reading it furtively in my room. I was kind of disappointed at the lack of Jackie Collins-type literary smut, but I also wound up engrossed in the book, which was a very quick read. (Years later, I met the author at a book signing at the very same store I bought the book at in the first place and had her sign it for me.) 

Anyway, my roommate also got a Nook for Xmas, and I've been giving him a hand downloading audiobooks via the library. (He listens to books at work, since he has a desk job.) A few days ago, I found him Ethan of Athos while looking for one of her other series. I got it for him, and wound up re-reading my copy in the course of a few hours.

Ethan is a reproductive specialist on a planet of all men. He runs one of the many facilities with uterine replicators allowing men to reproduce without the aid of "uterine replicators on legs." However, given that the planet's society was founded with only 8 different uterii, it's not surprising that they wear out after 200 years. It comes as kind of a shock, though, when replacement uterine cultures show up that aren't human, boxes empty, etc. Thus how Ethan manages to get delegated to travel off world to find out what happened to those uteri. He leaves his rather flighty sometimes lover behind, and manages to engage in a wonderful adventure aboard Klein Station.

Well, I enjoyed the adventure. Ethan... not so much. He grows quite a bit, but remains true to his character throughout. There's no sudden discovery of latent heterosexuality by the end, he doesn't die... Which is a better fate than most gay characters get. While none of her other books feature a gay main character, she does have several supporting characters who are sexual minorities, none of which are stereotypes. When I started coming out, this was something I very much needed. As such, I highly recommend this and the rest of her work to anyone who likes Space Opera and Fantasy.


  1. James, what a great post. And thanks for sharing your experiences about coming out of the closet, too.

    I AM happily adding "Ethan of Athos" to my list, and no worries, I have yet to read "The Front Runner," either, although I have had the book for several years.

    1. I think the individual book is out of print these days, so look in used book stores and the like. Or, it is part of the omnibus Miles, Murder, and Mayhem along with 2 of the other books in the series.

      But yeah, it's an old favorite with a special place in my heart.

    2. I shall certainly check, my dear. Thanks for the reply.

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