Feb 25, 2014

Andre Norton: Gay Subtext Science Fiction in My Junior High Library

I found The Hobbit during fifth grade, in the Folklore section of the Denkmann Elementary School Library, and thought it the best book ever written.  There were rumors of a sequel, something about rings, so I checked out Moon of Three Rings, by Andre Norton.

That wasn't it.

Thereafter, through junior high and high school, I hated Andre Norton, and refused to read any of her works.

But when I was in college, the bookstore gang loved Andre Norton, especially the girls (any girl who was a sci-fi fan put her on the top of the list).  Mary, who asked me to see if her brother was gay, was a big fan.  So I gave Ms. Norton another try.

And found a homoerotic paradise, where men forged intense, passionate, loving bonds with men, mostly with covers that were beefcake-heavy masterpieces.

The Time Traders: crosstime adventures of crook-turned-adventurer Ross Murdock and his far-future companion Ashe.

Galactic Derelict: Ross and Ashe are accompanied by muscular Apache Travis Fox to investigate a space ship from another galaxy.

Storm Over Warlock: A Terran survey expedition is attacked, leaving only two survivors: elite Scout Ragnar Thorvald and servant Shan Lantee.  They must travel together across the hostile planet to safety.

Voodoo Planet: Same plot, Voodoo Planet.

 Star Man's Son: Two muscular barbarians bond in a post-apocalyptic world.

Operation Time Search: Photographer Ray Osborne is accidentally transported back to ancient Atlantis, where he befriends the muscular young Cho and gets involved in royal intrigue.  And the most explicit gay romance I've ever seen in science fiction.

And on and on -- she wrote hundreds, and is still publishing, though she died in 2005.

There are also a lot of novels about women forming strong same-sex bonds, and a few with heterosexual romances.

I don't know why the gay subtexts predominate.  Maybe Norton was writing for an audience of juvenile boys, and assumed that they wouldn't be interested in hetero-romance "yet."?  Or maybe she thought that the world of intergalactic exploration would exclude women, just as her contemporary society excluded women from the sciences and technology.

I just wish I had read them in junior high.