Starlog Deals with Gay Rights

Vincent   January 15, 2015   Comments Off on Starlog Deals with Gay Rights


I’ve recently been making my way through old issues of the sci-fi fandom magazine Starlog on the Internet Archive (all available free). The last thing I expected when reading these old issues was stuff dealing with gay rights. It was the 70s, the height of Star Trek and Space 1999 obsession and I was always under the impression that gay rights wasn’t something that was openly talked about, especially in a sci-fi fan publication. However, science fiction has traditionally discussed hot button social issues, so I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised.

The first incident was after Starlog 4 (1977) where they ran a short story titled “Arena” that featured illustrations of a nude male, particularly that one on the top of the page which was in a two page spread. Nothing was salacious about the drawings and they didn’t even show the naughtiest of bits (the want). Well a Prudey Pruderson wrote in to complain about the nudity and the fact that it might turn people gay (letter appeared in issue 6): least favorite feature in this issue of STARLOG (no. 4) is your story "The Arena". Not so much the story as the artwork. When I opened the mag I thought I had mistakenly picked up an issue of Playgirl. I weep for todays' science fiction's publisher feels he must display a naked body on the cover. I am personally shamed and embarrassed by such "progress." The human form is such a beautiful creation of God why do we exploit it so? I feel also that you, as the publishers and editors, should remember that the young fans you cater to are human and subject to sexual problems (such as homosexuality). Does your artwork influence them? I write this not as an enemy, but a fan of STARLOG; therefore I feel it my duty to warn you against nudity, whether male or female.  ...Of the many letters we received about our publishing of Fredric Brown's award winning short story, this is the only one that complained about the artwork. The human form is indeed beautiful. That's why a painting of this quality is a joy to behold, in addition to being the only possible way to illustrate the story accurately. The artist, Boris Vallejo, is one of the best known and most talented in the business. His knowledge of human anatomy and his ability to render figures of impressive stature and lifelike sensuality is, to most people, a source of pleasure... not shame and embarrassment. Before a reader spends a great deal of time worrying about other people's sexual problems, he would do well to get his own house in order.

Oh snap, weirdo!

But that’s not all! In Starlog #9 they dissed anti-gay rights activist and popular singer (at the time) Anita Bryant and her successful campaign in Florida to overturn an anti-discrimination law (with the hilariously named coalition of “Save our Children”.

One of the strongest, most enduring themes in science fiction (including movie and TV scripts) concerns human reactions to alien beings. Initially aliens may appear to be fearsome and threatening, but often their knowledge and experience proves to be of great benefit to the human race... provided we see their differences not as strange and undesirable but as unique and fascinating.

In simple terms, the science fiction theme of appreciating individual uniqueness is "live and let live."   Perhaps Anita Bryant, the frightened bigots that follow her, and all the other moral and political dictators of the world would be less fearful of people who are not carbon copies of their values and would relent in their efforts to force the rest of the world into their personal mold if they had more literary interests in science fiction.

Some of Starlog’s readers weren’t happy about the dig at Bryant and Starlog’s pro-gay stance:

...I read STARLOG for news of sci-fi, not for uninformed political or philosophical speculation. I say "uniformed" because the unnecessary swipe at Anita Bryant in the otherwise admirable October "From The Bridge." The Dade County ordinance Miss Bryant helped to repeal was one that violated the "live and let live" spirit you cite approvingly-it imposed on private businesses and even Church schools the burden of being forced to hire avowed homosexuals, despite the fact that what they stand for may be 180-degrees away from what these organizations believe.

Ahh, the old, “people should be treated like garbage because we don’t like them for some reason” argument mixed with, “I’m only here for the entertainment, not the important messages that sci-fi can teach us.”

... We, the readers, are asked to believe, without a trace of reason, that no behavior different from our own ought to be condemned. If that were true, then why do you condemn Bryant & Co. for their behavior? If homosexuality, or whatever, is tolerable, not to be condemned but even welcomed for its difference, then why not bigotry? Why not anything?

If we can’t condemn gays, then we can’t condemn anyone! It’s a slippery slope! is all very well and good to talk about the beauty of diversity, but a society can not long survive without a common set of values to hold it together. One of the prime values of civilization is the superiority of heterosexuality over homosexuality, for reasons such as stability and continuity, among others.

Basically, for this guy it’s all well and good to watch Star Trek and learn lessons about overcoming our human frailties and embrace different ideas and cultures, but you gotta keep them gays in their place.

Starlog’s response is interesting in that it does take the stance that the anti-discrimination ordinance wasn’t a good thing, saying that forcing someone to do something is never a good thing. This argument falls apart when you consider laws exist to force people not to drink and drive, commit murder, as well as to not discriminate in hiring practices based on age, race, or sexual orientation. However, Starlog does stand up for gays in their response:

The Dade County ordinance was not under attack. That ordinance would have forced association, which is just as morally deplorable as forced separation. Force, in any form, is not a proper part of free society. The ordinance was a desperate attempt, like so many of the racial laws passed during the 60's, to RIGHT a long-standing WRONG. The ordinance should NOT have passed, but the attitude expressed by Anita and her followers as part of their battle against the ordinance, should have vanished with witch hunts, Klan rides, and thumb screws. Bumper stickers like "Kill a Queer for Christ," and public rally statements like "...a homosexual would just as soon kill you as look at you," are ample proof that their concer was NOT "live and let live" nor individual rights. The reason bigotry should not be welcomed for its difference (if this question really needs answering) is the same reason that the Mafia should not be welcomed by honest citizens. People whose avowed purpose is forcing behavior and whose tactics avowed purpose is forcing behavior and whose tactics allow physical or mental harm to others should never be equated with people whose differences liek in their skin color, their religion or nationality, or their sexual orientation. The color of your skin does not cause pain to others. Neither does your choice of bed partners. And if you think ideas like this are out of place in STARLOG... think again. Science fiction isn't just about spaceships and lasers-it's about people and life and the way things ought to be in the future if we are to survive as a human race.

Let’s get a slow clap on that last bit.

Fun Fact: Anyta Bryant’s discriminatory campaign against gay people ended up killing her career. Oh, and when she divorced her husband a bunch of her super fundamentalist idiot supporters abandoned her because divorce is wrong in the Bible.

These letters in an old sci-fi magazine from the late 1970s are a really interesting look back at history and both how much we’ve progressed as well as how many have remained stagnate. It always surprises me when someone is a science fiction fan, but also has backward beliefs. You’d think that being exposed to the critical thinking about other peoples and situations would have opened up their minds to new and non-primitive ways of thinking.

Oh well, we do live in a world where Star Trek somehow hasn’t had a gay character, despite the fact it was the series that had an interracial kiss in the 60s and taught us a robot could also be human.