Sci-fi, hi-fi and big old gayness: they go together like Major Tom, Harryhausen and, well, Dick – or Philip K Dick if you prefer. Plenty’s been said about the link between homosexuality and science fiction, but fuck it; I’m going to chew your ear off some more anyway. Mostly because I want you to come to The Magic Faraway Travel Agency’s June extravaganza, or to give its proper title “Whitney Houston, We Have a Problem”. What better way to guide the troubled soul diva back to Earth than staging a Sunday night at Brick Lane’s Vibe Bar, mashing sci-fi and hi-fi together with bands, games, installations, burlesque and drag (Ruby Venezuela’s sewing sequins on a new alien as we speak – she’s a big girl now, not so much I’m Every Woman as I’ve Eaten Every Woman.)
Unsurprisingly at the Magic Faraway Travel Agency (or MFTA as I like to call it, mostly so I can say “mufter”) we seem to combine gay science fiction with music an awful lot. Witness our previous creation Doctor Who Does Dallas (obviously, making up the titles is half the fun). Not that Doctor Who is intrinsically gay, but you’ve got to love a show that treats gay and lesbian relationships as a regular part of life in such a brilliantly honest way, and in a primetime family slot as well. Oddly enough, because it has never shied away from homosexuality, some quarters have voiced concerns that the show is becoming “too gay”. Oh really? Out of its entire massive supporting cast, all those companions, all those enemies, I can’t imagine that even Doctor Who manages to scrape together 5% of characters that are explicitly gay, lesbian or bisexual. And if you don’t believe that LGBT people make up at least 5% of the population (in fact 27% of male respondents identified themselves as gay according to a recent survey for The London Paper), then you need to look around you more carefully.
So what is the appeal of science fiction for us? Is it just that we’re represented more often in depictions of advanced civilisations? Are science fiction writers naturally more liberal because they let their imaginations graze further afield? I’m not sure if that always holds true, given the rampant homophobia of L Ron Hubbard’s Scientologists, or the Christian dialectics of C S Lewis. But then we’ve also got Robert Heinlein’s liberated heroes, the sexual freedom of Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius, Doris Lessing’s brutally honest Shikasta series, not to mention Alan Moore’s graphic novels, most of which feature protagonists of varying gender, race and orientation. Let’s just say that the opportunity for depicting a more sexually representative society is there for science fiction writers if they choose to take it.
There are the obvious fascinations of Flash Gordon in his skintights, likewise the camp stylings of the Starship Enterprise crew. Is it the campness of screen sci-fi that draws us? Camp is variously defined as effeminate or done in an exaggerated way for effect. Thus it tends to occur when people don’t understand, are unable, or can’t afford to reproduce the root causes of the effect they seek. The whole cult of body building might be described as camp, likewise the tendency of gay men to drag up in straight costume, be it scally, clone or combats. The frankly fabulous idea that the Enterprise crew would do their jobs much better in little booties and easily ripped figure-hugging spandex, or a fetching tights and minidress ensemble is camp beyond words. Yes, camp is certainly a part of it.
Then there’s the escapism, the glorious escapism of science fiction. People generally find sci-fi when they’re young. Ask adults and opinions on the matter very rarely sit on the fence, they either “get it” or they don’t. The isolation and impulse to escape felt by many children and teenagers is often put forward as a reason for this, and few feel more marginalised than the putative LGBT. Escapism comes so naturally to us it’s no wonder that sci-fi so easily becomes our spiritual home. And it’s no wonder that so many LGBT-ers fell madly in love with David Bowie the minute he started banging on about Major Tom and Starman. Here was a sexually liberated, sublimely camp, androgynously beautiful person singing of “floating in a most peculiar way”; a Starman telling us “not to blow it ‘cause he knows it’s all worthwhile”. I’m still waiting for another Bowie to merge sci-fi and hi-fi so effortlessly. Look out for next year’s MFTA production, “Aladdin Sane – The Panto!”
Which brings me back to “Whitney Houston, We Have a Problem”. Sadly, Whitney didn’t explore the space opera oeuvre as thoroughly as she should, leaving all cracks about space dust and moon rocks aside. But all the elements are still there: the mostly genderless love lyrics (Saving All My Love for You holds true just as easily for a closeted relationship), the high camp, the easy escapism into the world of Whitney’s voice. It’s a night made just for us, so troll down and say hello – you might even win something in our prize game. It’s called “Waiting to Inhale”.
By Mister Meredith
Magic Faraway Travel Agency