Literature
Songmaster

Beyond Bounds: Intergenerational Relationships in
Science Fiction and Fantasy
 by Linda Frankel
WHY READ OR WRITE SCIENCE FICTION and fantasy?  It might be because these tales can take you outside the contemporary context to eras and cultures where the mores and customs are quite different.  It is expected that writers in this field will search for alternative ways of living and thinking that might be totally beyond the bounds of today's society.  When it comes to intergenerational relationships, have science fiction and fantasy met this challenge?

Sometimes it takes courage for a writer just to present the way things are now -- especially when the story speaks from the viewpoint of a much vilified and persecuted minority.  I have deep respect for Poul Anderson because he dared to write with understanding of a boy-lover.

Poul AndersonIn Anderson's "Eutopia" Iason Philippou was hunted and persecuted throughout the fantasy society of Westfall for loving Nikki, a young person whose gender is unspecified until the story's close.  The reader learns that Nikki is really Nikias, the "most beautiful and enchanting of boys", when Iason has returned home to a more open society where the strictures of Westfall are regarded as barbaric.  The story leaves us with the impression that standards are culturally relative, and that it isn't necessary for a country to behave like the barbarians of Westfall.

Anderson voiced trepidations in the afterward to "Eutopia".  He feared that he would be persecuted for this story and called names.  The only name I have for him is "maestro".

Vonda McIntyre also wrote with intensity of an intergenerational relationship between beings of unspecified gender.  The adult and youth in "Wings" are winged hermaphrodites.  This story may be considered disguised and closeted, but there is no doubt of what the two protagonists felt for each other.

"Mikal's Songbird", a much praised story by Orson Scott Card, showed a man/boy relationship so tinged with eroticism that the author found it necessary to deny that they ever had sex.  The boy, Ansset, was the favorite of the Emperor Mikal.  This pair is reminiscent of the real life Roman Emperor Hadrian and his boy love, Antinous.  It is difficult for the reader to evade this knowledge, whatever the writer may say.  When Mikal was overthrown by a rival, all he asked for was a place where he could retire alone with Ansset for the rest of his life.  Mikal's love is a rebuke to the homophobia of his creator.

Short Stories by Orson Scott CardAnother story of sexless love is "Psi Clone" by Joan Hunter Holly.  The man, ironically named Minor, was a Total Psi.  This means that he was capable of exercising all known powers of the mind.  Since there was no one else like him, the authorities cloned Minor, hoping to use the clone as a professional world problem solver, like the original.  Minor invested all his vast unfilled needs to be loved and understood in his clone who grew up in almost complete isolation.  The boy was psychotic, but Minor still hoped he would be the ideal lover-companion of his dreams.  It was with great sorrow that Minor finally realized that his clone was dangerously megalomanic and must be killed.  Worse, Minor was the only one able to destroy the boy.  Minor's fantasy of romance ended in death, pain, and inner torment.

A vampire, Count Vardalek, also ended up having to kill the boy he loved in "The Sad Story of a Vampire" by Count Stenbock.  Vardalek's vampire nature finally overcame his affection.  Unlike Minor, Count Vardalek loses our sympathies.  He was a predator, not a hero.  The contemporary media gives the impression that all boy-lovers are Count Vardaleks.  It is impossible to deny that such individuals exist, but most boy-lovers do no harm to their young partners.  The vampire stereotype represents a calumny.

Sanford Friedman's "Lifeblood" also showed a relationship that began well and became destructive.  The hermaphrodite Agdistis had a near-idyllic relationship with the boy Attis, but it was marred by jealousy when the god Apollo also fell in love with the boy.  When Attis died, both Agdistis and Apollo went to Zeus pleading that Attis be made immortal.  Zeus stated that he didn't understand their obsession with one boy when there were so many others.  This strikes the reader as hypocritical coming from the deity who had to have no other than Ganymede by his side on Olympus.  I imagine that Ganymede either snickered or dropped in sheer astonishment the cup of ambrosia it was his duty to bear when he heard these words.  In any case, Agdistis and Apollo were refused and the dead Attis became a cult.

BradleyThere is a contemporary cult among some of the fans of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels.  The most popular character in the amateur publications, called fanzines, that deal with Darkover is the endless complex enigma, Dyan Ardais.  Originally a stereotypical villain in the first Darkover novel, The Sword of Aldones, he grew into a troubled and ambivalent personality with a strong penchant for boys.  He was in addition a respected leader and the best swordsman of his generation.  There is much to admire about Dyan, but he was no model in his behavior toward boys.  The man was a rapist.  No one is certain how many boys he raped.  In Heritage of Hastur he was required to answer for his abuse of Danilo Syrtis, and some readers would think he was not punished severely enough.

Many fans believe Dyan was a victim of his society, however.  They feel he was subjected to awful pressures that would have broken a lesser man.  He exhibits a yearning for mutuality in his relationships with boys, but has given up on attaining it.  In other circumstances, Dyan might have been a better man.

Marion Zimmer Bradley echoed this fantasy in "Ten Minutes or So", a story that has appeared only in a science fiction convention program book and in an amateur publication.  It took place in an alternate universe where Dyan decided not to pursue Danilo, but instead responded to the loneliness of Regis Hastur.  Regis was a boy struggling with his gayness and unable to recover from an earlier gay relationship.  It was clear that Dyan could give Regis the reassurance he needed to banish the guilt and establish a positive identity.  Dyan also needed Regis badly.  At last, here was a boy who would love Dyan in return.  In "Ten Minutes or So" we get a glimpse of Dyan at his best.

"Darkover Summer Snow," by talented fan writer Eileen Ledbetter, told the story of Regis' earlier relationship that had left him so shattered in Heritage of Hastur and in the alternate universe of "Ten Minutes or So".  The essentially heterosexual Lew Alton had sex and telepathic intimacy with Regis, but then withdrew on the grounds that he didn't want to hurt the boy, causing Regis more anguish than the older youth could possibly guess.

DarkoverIt is interesting to note that "Darkover Summer Snow" was the first amateur story about Darkover.  When Marion Zimmer Bradley received it, she was so impressed that she decided to establish Starstone, the first Darkover fanzine.  Starstone has since ceased publication, but other Darkover fanzines have arisen to fill the gap.  In them, fans publish their amateur writings about Dyan, Regis and other well-loved Darkovans.

I have yet to see much interest from Darkover fans in Orain from Bradley's Hawkmistress.  Orain fell for the girl-in-disguise gambit.  I don't know why so many novels that deal with girls disguised as boys have her meet a boy-lover who falls in love with the disguise.  It has become a tired plot formula, but I had to mention one example.

In comparing Bradley's treatment of intergenerational relationships in the Darkover novels with the one shown in her circus novel, The Catch Trap, the same ambivalence is seen throughout.  The love between man and boy is shown as intense and wonderful, but it is always plagued by doubts and fears.  Like Dyan and Regis, neither Mario nor Tommy in The Catch Trap could achieve unalloyed happiness with each other.  Perhaps this is only realistic.  Who in actual life lives happily ever after?

Daniel Curzon brought realism to the legend of Zeus and Ganymede in "Mr.  Right".  Ganymede was portrayed as a cynical hustler who wanted to know what was in it for him when Zeus proposed a stay on Olympus.  Just when they closed a deal, the Trojan Vice Squad arrived to arrest Zeus for child molesting.  One vice officer called Zeus a buzzard.  Zeus, of course, had been in the form of an eagle.  The old saying about the eye of the beholder was never truer.

Tales of NeveryonThe boy Sarg was no hustler, but he was purchased on the open market.  The problem that marred the relationship between Sarg and Gorgik, the man who loved him, was slavery.  Gorgik himself had once been a slave and could not escape from ownership consciousness in his relationship with Sarg.  The stories about this pair, "The Tale of Small Sarg" and "The Tale of Dragons and Dreamers", in Tales of Neveryon by Samuel Delany are more notable in their dealing with S/M, but I mention them here because they are inter- generational.  In fact, Sarg was under the impression that while boys often have sex with each other, adult men were always heterosexual, and never are attracted to either men or boys.  Gorgik disabused him of this notion.

Heterosexism is exhibited by some science fiction writers, just as it often is by fictional characters.  This is highly unedifying and we'll hope to see less of it in the future, but Andre Norton, one of the more prolific writers, showed herself at her homophobic worst in an interview with Charles Platt published in Dreammakers II.  She seemed particularly concerned that one book would singlehandedly cause such a panic among librarians that they would cease to order science fiction and fantasy.  She also found it personally offensive, specifying that it dealt with gay incest.  Since I know of only one novel in the field that fits this description, Andre Norton had to be referring to The Dancers of Arun by Elizabeth Lynn.  Norton had not one word of praise for this novel's deft characterization or its inventiveness.  All she could see was a piece of smut that ought to be kept out of the hands of young people.

Dancers of ArunI would recommend The Dancers of Arun to a gay youth without hesitation.  The resolution of the struggles of the boy, Kerris, with alienation and with establishing his identity might be helpful to other teenagers.  His love for his older brother, Kel, is also an inspiration, since Kerris grows through the relationship and learns to be non-possessive.

It remained for Hakim to create a boy-love utopia.  In Crowstone the city of Suvyamara seems to have enough willing boys to satisfy any boy-lover's capacity.  Boy-love is considered the preferred form of relationship and is central to that culture's religion.  It is an intriguing concept.  The institutions, customs, and mythology could be developed more fully, however.  On the other hand, there is a plethora of sex scenes for the delection of aficionados.  Consider that Crowstone is at least three times as long as the average porn novel and you can easily calculate how much extra eroticism is packed between those covers.  As for those who would like to spend their next vacation in Suvyamara, I'm afraid it's in a distant galaxy far away.

I wish there were more woman/girl science fiction and fantasy novels.  Not only is their number few, but their quality is low.

Elizabeth Lynn, whom I praised for The Dancers of Arun, didn't do anywhere near as well for lesbian korephiles in The Northern Girl.  This ponderous and over-complicated epic loses the woman/girl relationship, such as it is, in a welter of detail and intrigue.

NeveryonaEqually dull is Neveryona by Samuel Delany.  The adventures of the girl hero come alive when she's in the only major city.  There she runs across Gorgik from Tales of Neveryon and is picked up by the lesbian Madame Keyne, joining the older woman's all-female household.  I've heard it said that Madame Keyne and the other women in this household behave like men in drag, but I found the existence of this menage of so much interest that this didn't bother me.  I suppose it matters more if the reader has a heavy investment in stereotypical differences between lesbians and gay men.  I for one would like to have seen more of Madame Keyne and company.  The heroine left them much too soon.  The rest of the novel had very little to recommend it.

In conclusion, I would like to say that this is by no means a complete survey.  There are many more short stories and novels than could have been included.  Even from this small sample it's easy to see the diversity in the field.  Even if science fiction and fantasy sometimes reflects the taboos of this society, it sometimes transcends them.  Then we have arrived in a freer realm -- beyond bounds.

Bibliography:

Anderson, Poul.  "Eutopia" in Dangerous Visions ed.  Harlan Ellison, New York: Doubleday, 1967.

Bradley, Marion Zimmer.  Hawkmistress, New York: DAW, 1982.

------------------------  Heritage of Hastur, New York: DAW, 1975.

------------------------  "Ten Minutes or So" in The Darkover Grand Council Meeting II Program Book, New York, 1979.

Card, Orson Scott.  "Mikal's Songbird," Analog, May, 1978.

Curzon, Daniel.  "Mr.  Right" in The Revolt of the Perverts, San Francisco: Leland Melott Books, 1978.

Delany, Samuel R.  Neveryon, New York: Bantam, 1983.

------------------  "The Tale of Dragons and Dreamers" in Tales of Neveryon, New York: Bantam, 1979.

------------------  "The Tale of Small Sarg" in Tales of Neveryon, New York: Bantam, 1979.

Friedman, Sanford.  "Lifeblood" in Still Life, New York: E.P.  Dutton, 1975.

Hakim, Crowstone, Amsterdam, Netherlands: Coltsfoot Press, Spartacus, 1983.

Holly, Joan Hunter.  "Psi Clone" in Futurelove, New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1977.

Ledbetter, Eileen.  "Darkover Summer Snow", in Starstone 1, ed.  Marion Zimmer Bradley.  Berkeley, CA: Friends of Darkover, 1978.

Lynn, Elizabeth.  The Dancers of Arun, New York: Berkeley Books, 1979.

--------------------  The Northern Girl, New York: Berkeley Books, 1980.

Mclntyre, Vonda.  "Wings" in The Alien Condition, ed.  Stephen Goldin, New York: Ballantine, 1973.

Stenbock, Count.  "The Sad Story of a Vampire" reprinted in The Dracula Book of Great Vampire Stories, ed.  Leslie Shepard, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1977.  Originally appeared in 1894.


From NAMBLA Journal Seven, Pgs. 40 - 42, 1986
Copyright © NAMBLA, 2007

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