As a gay man who’s fascinated with science fiction, I’ve read many books in my 60 years of life. Science fiction was my escape from the struggle of being gay in a small rural town. I read many authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne and many more. In their books, I found amazing adventures about travelling to the stars, living on strange planets and the evolution of man.
Looking back, that was no small feat for a boy who read The Lord of the Rings at the age of 10. As I hit puberty, I was fearful of my real world, and being bullied in school, so books became even more important. It wasn’t until I left home at 17 that I discovered something that was missing in the science fiction books that I was reading: gay men. All the heroes were virtually white men and straight.
I can remember a day in the 1980s when I was waiting for a bus to travel to see my parents and had a ton of time before I had to be at the Greyhound station. So I went book and music shopping on Yonge Street in Toronto. I found myself in a very large bookstore. I can’t remember its name but I remember the rows upon rows of books.
I immediately went to the science fiction section and began looking through titles. I usually look at the title first, then the cover and finally the back cover. If it doesn’t grab me, then I move on to the next. I ended up finding a few interesting ones. Until I picked up one book. I had always been on the lookout for a book that might have a gay character in it. It wasn’t really something active, more in a passive, hopeful way. The cover of the novel had the Title of A Different Light by Elizabeth A. Lynn. I had no idea who she was. The cover showed a man running with a mask in his arms, a woman with big hair running with a tablet alongside him and then a guy behind who had a moustache, who was also running. The last man had some sort of weapon that he held at the ready. It must have tripped something in my mind as my hopes leaped as I turned the book over.
It was about a man who was ill with what turned out to be cancer even though it had been eradicated. He was told he would live 20 more years if he didn’t travel outside of space-normal. But he was willing to risk it all to make the jump into the Hype, the shimmering "not space" for one year among the stars. So, I turned to the first chapter and to my surprise, the first page had a Jimson looking at an image cube of a man named Russell. The man in the image had emerald earrings and red hair. Jimson reacted to the image and I knew that there were gay characters in this book!
On the bus home and onwards, I discovered pirates, lovers, psychics, and distant planets. I was in rapture! I remember reading it several times until I lent it to a friend who never gave it back. Several years later, I drew parallels to Jimson’s illness and HIV that was all around me. By the way, A Different Light was written in 1978 before the AIDS epidemic.
I now direct the narration to 2016 where I wrote my first novel about gay men in space. My world of Tam, Brogan, mind reading, pirates and adventure was inspired by aspects of the novel by Elizabeth A. Lynn. I have mentioned in some of my other blogs that my novel started out as a short story about 10 years previous. It sat unseen for that long before I felt inspired to pick it up again and complete it. Even though I no longer had a copy of A Different Light, I recalled the descriptions of spaceports, transportation and space travel faster than light. The story arc also included a heist, people with mental powers and a crew of misfits on Russell’s ship.
So, in my novel Life-Line: Origins, there are gay men, mind readers, pirates and sirens. I went from a claustrophobic short story about a man stowed away on a spaceship, trying to rescue his imprisoned partner to a whole universe in the novel. I loved writing my novel so I thank Elizabeth A. Lynn for inspiring another LGBTQ+ author to write science fiction with gay characters in it.
In my next few blog entries, I’ll be writing about the characters in my novel such as Tam, Brogan, Captain Farthing, Anghelloise and Bennett. I won’t be forgetting the bad guys too!