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Nowt So Queer As Aliens

From the very beginning, I knew I wanted Interplanetary Homesick Blues to be a bit queer. As a gay writer, I wanted LGBT heroes at the centre of the action, saving the day and smooching it out.

I followed through with this plan with a super gay first draft – with plenty of flirting, nude swims and even a sex scene with Cal and Droov in Phyllis’ ship. But as I contemplated more during the redrafting process, I realised the plot was becoming so complex, it was hard to keep the story moving along AND help the reader to really care about Cal and Droov’s relationship. There were a couple of really forced Flash Gordon moments – real ‘FlashI love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!’ stuff. Not good for anyone.

What I needed were more sophisticated ways to bring in queer and LGBT themes beyond just having two men occasionally kissing while they saved the world.

The first change was to make Cal non-binary rather than male. This one change immediately introduced a whole theme of ‘passing’ and ‘passing privilege’ that runs through the first part of the book. Celaphynes look like human males so they take on that gender identity in order to blend in. But what have they given up in order to ‘pass’? The loss of Cal’s gender identity is one of the many losses he has experienced in his efforts to live on Earth.

On the subject of gender pronouns, I did try and use ‘they’ and ‘them’ for Cal, but since he shared most of his scenes with Droov, it just became too cumbersome to differentiate what Cal was doing and what they were both doing. But it’s something I plan to revisit.

Passing privilege is also addressed by the Major in the first chapter who questions the morality of Cal being able to live free just because he can ‘climb stairs and use door handles’. Within the LGBT world there has always been tension between those who can ‘blend in’ (straight-acting ‘masc’ men and femme women’) and those whose appearance and behaviour make that impossible. In the book, the same tensions are played out – just with tentacles and eye-stalks.

Droov, however, doesn’t give any thought to such issues. He just wants to shag as many people as he can and his tastes steer towards those who present as male. But I don’t think he could ever label himself as ‘gay’ – he just likes what he likes. It’s us humans that feel the need to put the labels on.

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