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The Outer Alliance

September 2, 2009

The Outer Alliance Pride Day is the brainchild of a band of SF writers and readers who see the need for greater queer advocacy within SF. It’s wise and necessary and bold.

One willful misunderstanding I’ve seen bandied about lately is that queer activists and allies do what they do insincerely, that they are sort of burning the gay rights struggle to feed big, hungry engines of self-importance and sense-of-rightness. When the cause loses its cachet, the argument goes, these so-called allies will leave the gays by the side of the road and move on the hipper pastures.

I imagine some will sneeringly dismiss Outer Alliance Day on that reasoning. Proclamations of support! Must be all about ego. On the off chance that such a person is reading here, I want to briefly express my flailing puzzlement. There’s no doubt that plenty of folks use activism of one sort of another to stoke their own fires, but let me suggest that for 99% of us, this shit is personal. Whenever you tell me that my loved ones are subhuman, I will oppose you. Whenever you attempt to treat my loved ones as subhuman, I will oppose you. Is that surprising? Does that need explanation?

The SF community is a particularly important place to talk about issues of social justice. Partly because it’s a fractious, often stunningly conservative place, and partly because it’s the literature that deals in futures. An article linked on Futurismic today describes one function of SF:

Many forays into fictional futures, then, can give us alternative ways to make a new concept real. We can try on those futures by reading stories that make them come alive, seeing what effects these changes would have on society. And we can do more. By placing futuristic concepts in a tangible, fictional context, we can encourage their growth and dissemination.

“Futuristic concepts” here means — or can mean — a lot more than AI and nanomedicine. It can mean forward-looking and progressive social paradigms. SF is the literature that allows us to say, “What if things were this way?” It allows us to coyly dip our toes (or, hell, just damned cannonball) into the waters of change. There’s real, material value in that, in starting speculative conversations with human beings of all ages, perhaps people not yet born, a staggering aggregate of human potential that includes future mothers, future friends, future legislators and bosses and soldiers and pastors. It is profoundly important for the progressive, the open-minded and empathetic to command a presence in that conversation. It is important that we deal in futures.

The Outer Alliance’s lovely and official affirmation of the cause is this:

As a member of the Outer Alliance, I advocate for queer speculative fiction and those who create, publish and support it, whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity. I make sure this is reflected in my actions and my work.

And I do. And I will.

Many have linked to works of their own which illustrate this affirmation, but, dammit, my relevant stories haven’t come out yet. (One I can’t wait to tell you about. But, well, I have to wait.) So instead, here are a few excellent works that fight the good fight. If you read only one, make it China Mountain Zhang, which is easily one of the five best SF novels of the last century.

China Mountain Zhang
Maureen McHugh

Samuel Delany

Iron Council
China Miéville

The Privilege of the Sword
Ellen Kushner

Water Logic
Laurie Marks

If you’d like to join the Outer Alliance, the link is here.

(Originally posted here.)

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