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):
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”.
Some of Starlog’s readers weren’t happy about the dig at Bryant and Starlog’s pro-gay stance:
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.”
If we can’t condemn gays, then we can’t condemn anyone! It’s a slippery slope!
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:
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.