Mike Laycock (Birkbeck, University of London) “The Shifting Sexual Politics of Imperial Earth”
Arthur C Clarke’s Imperial Earth (1976) concerns Duncan MacKenzie’s voyage to Earth to represent Titan at the 500th anniversary of America’s declaration of independence and culminates with him cloning his ex-lover Karl Helmer to begin a family. The novel’s matter-of-fact depiction of bisexuality has earned it a place in Garber and Paleo’s Uranian Worlds (1990), a bibliographic work of alternative sexualities in science-fiction. But what is interesting are the novel’s omissions and what is left unsaid. Clarke is still somewhat evasive in an outright depiction of homosexuality. What particular makes this work remarkable, is the era in which it was published: the Stonewall riots in the US and the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the England and Wales had occurred only less than a decade earlier, the gay rights movement say a rapid expansion and politicisation through organisations such as the Gay Liberation Front in the UK. While it is tempting to view Clarke’s reticence in depiction of the relationship between Duncan and Karl as the restraint of an author who came of age of in an era of criminalised homosexuality, through its rather pragmatic portrayal of the their relationship, Clarke foreshadows wider debates of sexuality that are currently ongoing in queer theory: family (cf. Kath Weston, 1997), normativity (Weigman and Wilson, 2015), a questioning of essentialism (Foucault, 1976; Sedgwick, 1990). Thus Clarke’s novel is a paradox, simultaneously conservative and ahead of its time.
Mike Laycock is a PhD student at Birkbeck, University of London. His project is provisionally entitled “Queer Who: Doctor Who fandom, gay male culture and transitional space”. He has worked at UCL and currently works at the University of Kent.
Danielle S. Girard (Lancaster University) “Campaigning for a Fluid Future: Clarke’s Influence on Roddenberry’s Star Trek”
There should be no debate that Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek (which began its run in 1966) is a seminal work of science fiction television. However, getting it on the air – and indeed keeping it on air – was a continuous struggle that was made possible by Sir Arthur C. Clarke. As Roddenberry himself is quoted as saying on the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation webpage, “Arthur literally made my Star Trek idea possible, including the television series, the films, and the association and learning it has made possible for me.” Not only is Clarke perhaps the most influence SF writer, his influence on Roddenberry is why Star Trek has lasted 51 years to date. For the first portion of this paper I will examine the extent of Clarke’s influence on Roddenberry’s text, looking primarily at the scientific and political utopia that Roddenberry was intent on building in his 1966 series.
Once I have established the relationship between Clarke and Roddenberry as well as the foundation upon which Star Trek originally thrived, I will move to discuss the Gaylaxians’ letter-writing campaign in 1991 for the producers of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) to introduce a canonically gay character to the show. Clarke, who himself was queer, was quick to voice his support and endorsement of the idea. Unfortunately, before any such promise could be fulfilled, Roddenberry passed away and TNG remained starkly heterosexual. Here I will investigate sf’s major failings as a genre that is unpleasantly resistant to queer representation. I will examine Clarke’s 1975 novel Imperial Earth, which projects an idealized future in which fluid sexuality (specifically bisexuality) has become the new normal. I will further examine TNG’s two failed attempts at tackling queer issues (“The Host” and “The Outcast”) and argue that the monolithic portrayal of heterosexuality is antithetical to Clarke’s influence – not just on Roddenberry’s show, but on the broad spectrum of SF as a genre.
Danielle Girard is a United States native reading for her PhD at Lancaster University, UK. Her thesis, tentatively titled: Slashing the Frontier; Queer Representation and the Heteronormative Canon: Examining Star Trek and the Effects of Participatory Culture explores Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek through a lens of Fan Theory and Queer Theory. She is particularly interested in uncovering the relationship that exists between the textual canon and slash fanfiction.