Until the phenomenon of fandom engulfed popular culture (thanks to Joss Whedon, JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer amongst others) many a hardcore geek like myself found ourselves under much derision for our devotion to all things “genre”. That most of us did not match the thoroughly Americanised stereotypes that were foisted upon us, from Comic Book Guy to Big Bang Theory, mattered not a whit. On several occasions I found girlfriends, actual or potential, perplexed by the contrast between my outward public persona (how I was perceived by others) and what they learned upon getting to know me better. Apparently men who drive fast cars and live fast lives should not read books about alien spaceships and ever-living elves (tell that to the late great Iain M. Banks!). In fairness I always left a clue here or there to the multifaceted nature of who I am. The Converse shoes and Danger Mouse wallet were a dead giveaway, after all (or at least they were until the “mainstream” adopted such visual cues as their own). But then in real life as in drama some people prefer the one-dimensional.
However one thing most Sci-Fi and Fantasy fans could say in the defence of their interests, and rarely with challenge, was the openness of their minds. Not just on fiction or art, or even technology, but on society and humanity itself. Thing is, I’ve never met a racist Sci-Fi fan. No, truly. Nor have I met any homophobic ones. Oh, I’m not saying that such don’t exist. I’m sure they do. We’ve had the debates about Frank Miller and the excoriating of Orson Scott Card (on the latter I’ve always enjoyed the self-delusional rhetoric of “I hate homosexuality but I don’t hate homosexuals”. Which is like saying “I hate the Irish language but I don’t hate those who speak the Irish language”. And we all know what cerebral excrement that is…). However I personally have never encountered discriminatory views on… well, pretty much anything. The laissez faire live-and-let-live attitude of geekdom was one of its greatest merits. No doubt the new-found popularity of all things cult will make it in times to come a more accurate reflection of wider society (as just another consumerist product) but for now I believe tolerant liberalism remains at its core. In Ireland at least. So when it comes to sex and sexuality for instance, well if you’ve read and understood John Varley’s Steel Beach or any of Banks’ Culture series it is a bit hard to become worked up about people’s biological preferences. Honestly, who cares? Or to put it another way, why not?
As always I ramble on but this discursive introduction brings me to a genuinely touching and very personal post by the blogger Aoife Hart which I thought I’d highlight. It’s in the form of an open letter from Aoife to a niece she has never met nor it seems likely will ever do so. The reason for their enforced separation? Aoife is a transsexual woman, a corrective of one of the quirks of nature that her family seem unwilling to accept. To be perfectly honest I find people’s hesitancy with or the inability to accept transgender men and women beyond my comprehension. I wear reading glasses. Should I not do so because my “natural state” is to be myopic? My youngest sister had her tonsils removed because they left her frequently unwell and susceptible to illnesses. Should she have not done so because tonsils are a “natural part” of who she was? Human physicality and physiognomy is constantly subject to artificial change, change to what we want it to be or to what it should be. The female religious fundamentalist who claims that improvements to the human condition are “against nature” is the very one who will dye her hair with caustic chemicals and daub her lips with colours containing fats from a pig’s arse.
I will say no more on the posting for it is a personal matter and it is not my place to do so except to direct you to the letter itself.