Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassified)

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by starri, Jul 9, 2011.

  1. starri

    starri Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2006
    Location:
    New York, NY
    I may be about to step in something bad, and if I've crossed a line, I understand if I need to be warned or banned or whatever, but this is something that's been bugging me since I read Marco's excellent "Ruins of Noble Men" short story.

    Specifically, it bothered me that Marco outs Commander Miller and kills him off in the process. I haven't gone back to reread the other books, but I don't remember that coming up before, and the only time I even think he appeared in a narrative was Reap the Whirlwind

    And that kind of touched off something.

    Yeah, I'm a gay Trekkie. After the franchise proper has pretended I don't exist for 40+ years, seeing TrekLit show that maybe there's also room for me in the future was really refreshing.

    But of late, it means less and less to me, because it's starting to feel like we're just there as token nods to diversity, rather than as fully realized characters. The one that sticks out most in my mind at the moment is Ranul Keru, who has basically been a monk since the death of Lieutenant Hawk which happened, what, eight, ten years ago in continuity? Meanwhile, no one seems to have any squeamishness about Dr. Ra-Havreii making the rounds among Titan's female crew.

    T'Prynn lost her lover, and while I think that was rather beautifully written, it was still another Dead Gay.

    I hope Etana Kol and Krissten Ricter are still together, but who knows if we'll ever see them again.

    If there are any gay characters currently in TNG or VOY, I can't think of them.

    Although, in fairness, I do have to say that way Christopher handled the de facto bisexuality of the Deltans in Watching the Clock was very, very well done.

    In any case, I don't want to sound ungrateful, because it's nice to see my life reflected in something I love so much. I just wish that, in 2011, TrekLit could go a little more boldly.
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    Keru hasn't been a monk. There have been references here and there to him showing interest in another crewmember (for instance, the end of Sword of Damocles implies he's having a romantic rendezvous with someone, though the gentleman is not identified by name), though nobody's gotten around to developing that thread in detail.

    There are plenty of LGBT characters in Trek Lit, many of them alive and well if not recently featured in the books. You can find an extensive catalog of them in this earlier thread in this forum:

    http://www.trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=87663
     
  3. Defcon

    Defcon Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    May 9, 2003
    Location:
    Germany
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    This thread from a while ago might be interesting for you.

    ETA: It seems Christopher was a few seconds faster. :)
     
  4. starri

    starri Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2006
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    I apparently missed that entirely. Guess I need to go back and re-read it. I just remembered his utter disinterest in Ensign Norellis, and since Norellis left the ship after Destiny, I know that wasn't going to go any farther. I think I remember Andy Mangels saying that Titan's transporter chief was supposed to be gay too, but that it didn't make it into the narrative.

    Anyway, thank both of you for the heads up.
     
  5. MatthiasRussell

    MatthiasRussell Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    May 3, 2011
    Location:
    Seattle
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    I think your perception is COMPLETELY off, starri. Treklit has been extremely open to many forms of sexuality, has not shied away from the subject, nor has been particularly harsh to homosexuals. In book 1 of Vanguard a woman in a hetero marriage having a hetero affair was killed. Someone in a hetero relationship was killed in Declassified. I see no discrimination; the books have made the variety of sexualities a non-issue in the future.
     
  6. starri

    starri Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2006
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    Maybe it's just a question that we're (from my perspective at least) underrepresented and, at least until Christopher and Defcon were kind enough to point out more examples than I had at my fingertips.

    I'm not saying I want some kind of quota system, and no matter what else, TrekLit has been an order of magnitude more diverse in that regard than Trek-proper. I am very appreciative of all of our authors, but there was something about the VGD death that stuck in my craw a little. Despite that, I still think Marco told a very good story.
     
  7. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2002
    Location:
    Montgomery County, State of Maryland
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    I think it's perfectly reasonable to say that TrekLit has featured the "Dead Gay" trope too often. I also think it's important to bear in mind that they probably never meant to use that trope as often as they have or to imply that there's something wrong with being LGBT or what-have-you. One can point out the need to improve their depictions of LGBTs without implying that it's for want of effort or ill will.
     
  8. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2008
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    ^ That's fair.
     
  9. starri

    starri Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2006
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    If I implied that, it was completely unintentional, and I apologize. I certainly don't think there's any kind of sinister purpose behind the turn of events, and as I've said, I think all of the TrekLit authors and editors deserve a lot of credit for being much braver about the issue than any of the people at the filmed Trek, and I know of at least two out gay producers there.

    But, like I said, there was something about the VGD death that stuck in my craw
    where we have Aole Miller, who is what the pop culture observes at the gay blog AfterElton.com calls a "Barely There Gay", not only being killed "offscreen" but leaving behind a husband we'd never heard of before (as far as I remember)
    . Maybe that jumped out at me because two days after I finished Declassified, I married my fellow Trekkie partner of eight years and it had more resonance for me that it might have otherwise.

    TNG has Picard and Beverly, TTN has Will and Deanna, VOY has B'Elanna and Tom, ENT has T'Pol and Trip, and sure, all of those series have seen deaths of straight characters too. I just kind of wish, in 2011, Trek would be able to give us a stable gay or lesbian relationship with a major character (and I'm not advocating just switching around an existing character for the sake of diversity, but it would be nice if a gay man or a lesbian got a happy ending for once too.

    I'm sorry, I just want to repeat that I truly hope haven't insulted any of our writers. More than anything, I want to read stories that are good, but this is just something that's been bugging me for about a week.

    Thank all of you for the wonderful stories.
     
  10. j3067

    j3067 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2011
    Location:
    Prepping for the next Great Tribble Hunt
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    I think that you have a point, Starri. Tragedy does not discriminate based on any factor, but you're right that no promenate LGBT couples seem to EVER beet those odds. I also understand that this is not supposed to be an issue in the 24th century, but we all live (and read) here in the 21st.

    If a qualifier is required, I am a straight person. With that said, I take away something completely different from Ranul Keru. I think that his monkish life is very meaningful. It shows the depths of a love that was lost and has not been, and may never be, replaced. He experienced something rare for a person of any persuasion and he treasures that. I think that his situation is profound and I kind of hope that he stays monkish (and has a really big adventure). I'd prefer that the relationship you want to see be depicted with other characters.
     
  11. Wally

    Wally Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2009
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

     
  12. starri

    starri Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2006
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    Not for nothing, but Trip was dead in canon until TrekLit revived him in part to pair him with T'Pol.

    I don't necessarily think it needs to be Ranul either, but he an T'Prynn are probably the highest profile of TrekLit's LGBT characters (I'm sorry, I wasn't a fan of either SCE or NF), and I guess I tend to notice them the most.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    Consider the larger context. How many relationships in Trek Lit period, regardless of orientation, involve tragedy and loss? Fiction is not about things going smoothly. Fiction is about crisis and conflict. It's a writer's obligation to put all one's characters through hell. It's not any one group that's being singled out. Wally's right that canon characters are usually protected from out-and-out death (usually), but there have been heterosexual Trek Lit couples that have been split by death, including:
    Sonya Gomez & Keiran Duffy
    Chakotay & Kathryn Janeway
    Carter Greyhorse & Gerda Asmund

    Those are just off the top of my head.
     
  14. starri

    starri Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2006
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    Fair enough, but there are also plenty of TrekLit couples who manage to stay more or less happy too:

    Miranda Kadohata and her husband
    Phillipa Matthais and her husband
    Atish Khatami and her husband
    Mac Calhoun and Elizabeth Shelby
     
  15. neogothboy74

    neogothboy74 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2006
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    I know exactly what you mean starri. I'm a gay Trekker too and I started that other thread that lists, with the help of many, the LGBTQ characters of Trek Lit. It's not all that it could be; that's certain. But it's inclusive in a way the shows / movies have yet to be...it's progress. I mean, remember when Trek Lit barely scratched the surface and now...well, it's not perfect but there's variety. There's more than 1 LGBT character. It's too bad you don't like the New Frontier stories because they're really quite inclusive and often times characters aren't presumed to be straight (even when they are) which is quite refreshing in any sort of fiction. I meant to set up a website with all the info and to comment on things but then my life took a turn and I've never really recovered enough to get around to it.

    I hoped for a LGBT character in the shows from Next Gen on and was mostly disappointed by everything we got...though DS9 seemed to at least suggest that LGBT peeps existed, which was something. But the way television is now, I'd be shocked if there wasn't a gay character in any future series. When Trek didn't include us in the past they missed an opportunity to be ahead of the curve....but now? It would be like they were behind the times. I mean tv scifi / fantasy started getting more inclusive when Trek was still on but now it's really getting somewhere. Babylon 5, Hercules / Xena. Buffy / Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, A Game of Thrones, Spartacus, Doctor Who / Torchwood, Stargate: Universe, Caprica / BSG, True Blood, Heroes, Warehouse 13... They've all been inclusive to varying degrees. It's hard to imagine a new Trek not being part of that.
     
  16. starri

    starri Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2006
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    My thing with New Frontier is that while I love PAD's comic writing (X-Factor is one of the few comics I bother to buy anymore), with a few exceptions, I don't really care for his ST writing. But I digress.
     
  17. neogothboy74

    neogothboy74 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2006
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    I didn't like his Trek writing at first either. I read the first New Frontier books when they were new and hated them. Then in 2008 (I think it was) I gave them a 2nd chance and I loved them. I don't really know what prompted the change in response...it definitely has it's own flavor but I'm good with that now. The inclusiveness helped I'm sure.
     
  18. Marco Palmieri

    Marco Palmieri Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2000
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    Hi, everybody. I hope you’ve all been well.

    I just got back from a really fantastic weekend at Shore Leave to find a note in my inbox from another forum member, directing me to this thread and asking me to comment on it. If it would help you to know how and why this particular death came about, I’m happy to explain it.

    In crafting “The Ruins of Noble Men,” I needed Fisher and Desai to feel the sudden death of someone they both felt close to, a fellow Vanguard crewmember. Ideally it had to be someone who’d already been established in a previous Vanguard novel, but whose absence would not complicate the books that would follow Declassified.

    I settled on Aole Miller because of his appearance in Reap the Whirlwind, which you can find on Page 23-26 of that book, working with Desai in attempting to change Jeanne Vinueza’s mind about the New Boulder colony’s steps toward independence. Miller is also mentioned, but does not appear, in Summon the Thunder and Open Secrets. At no point in any of these novels is there any mention of his sexual orientation.

    For my story, in order to further reinforce how deeply Miller’s loss would be felt, I thought it would be useful to establish that he was recently married and therefore also being mourned by his new spouse.

    I then reviewed my copy of the Vanguard bible David Mack and I put together way back when the series was first being developed, which contained short paragraphs describing many of Vanguard’s supporting characters, including Aole Miller, so that I could see if there was any other relevant information about him that I should take into account. In doing so I was reminded that Aole Miller was conceived as being gay. I therefore worked that information into the section of my story that mentions his recent marriage and his mourning spouse.

    To the extent that this particular creative choice has contributed to the impression that same-sex relationships are disproportionately ill-fated in Star Trek fiction, I offer my sincere apologies. That certainly was not what I set out to do. My goal was simply to show that Aole Miller was loved and would be missed.

    By the way, starri, thank you for the kind review you wrote on your blog. I also took this opportunity to read the Declassified review thread, and deeply appreciate all the comments that have been posted. Writing “The Ruins of Noble Men” was a learning experience for me in many ways, and it’s instructive to see the various ways people think the story succeeded or failed.

    Thanks for reading.

    Best,
     
  19. lvsxy808

    lvsxy808 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2001
    Location:
    London
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    I can certainly see why the OP (and other people) would be sensitive to the subject, but I personally don't see that much of a problem. As a gay Trek fan too, obviously I love to see all sexualities represented in Trek Lit. But I don't feel like "We" have been targeted unduly for pain and heartache.

    Plenty of straight couples have broken up or had a partner die both on screen and in Lit. Even if we take screen canon out of the equation (since of course there are no gays on TV) I don't feel like LGBT-specific relationship trauma is of a higher proportion. If we take the 10% rule into account (mostly untrue but useful for some purposes), then of all the Lit-original characters, only a 10th would be LGBT, and I think the Lit has fulfilled if not exceeded that nicely.

    If I were to accept the premise that it seems like LGBTs are unduly targeted, and if I were to come up with an explanation, then it would be a combination of some or all of the reasons that have already been stated in this thread. In universe, the military is a dangerous occupation and people are going to die. Out of universe, drama comes from conflict. Nothing more sinister than that. If anything, I think it shows more inclusiveness, not less. LGBT people in Trek Lit live exactly the same lives as the heteros.

    I too am a member of AfterElton, and upon their recent announcement that Warehouse 13 would now feature a gay character, I commented that I was getting a bit tired of TV showrunners and cast members proudly stating that they have a gay character "but that their sexuality doesn't define them." I mean, it's saying the right thing, but that they are saying it at all kind of puts the lie to what they are saying. It seems to come from a place that thinks that gay people ARE just defined by their sexuality, but "aren't we being progressive by saying that's not the case here." They're making an issue of it not being an issue.

    I bring that up because I think that Trek Lit specifically doesn't do that - is better than that. In Trek Lit, LGBTs really aren't defined by their sexuality, and we don't need to be told so because it's the baseline that we start from in the first place. Keru doesn't walk onto the page with an internal monologue of "Yes, he's gay, but it doesn't define him." He's just gay. It really isn't an issue. And part of that is that gay people suffer the same relationship problems, including breakups and deaths, that everyone else does. As always, literature is light years of TV.
     
  20. starri

    starri Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2006
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Re: Humanoid Sexuality in TrekLit (Minor Spoilers for VGD: Declassifie

    Marco, thanks for jumping in here, and again, thank you for the story. Please don't think that I was reading anything homophobic into the development (and if I implied that, please accept my deepest personal apology).

    Miller did seem like a great character, if such wonderful characters as Fischer and Desai were so moved by his passing. And, even though the topic has been LGBT characters, like I said on my blog, Hallie Gannon was every bit as awesome as she was when this story began. I don't think I've ever come close to tears reading an ST novel, but Fischer's taking time at her memorial to catch her up with what had been happening got me awfully close.

    It may just have caught my attention because I read it in such close proximity to my own wedding.

    And because it bears repeating, again, thank all four of you gentlemen for this wonderful story.