Leon Trotsky once wrote, “Art, it is said, is not a mirror, but a hammer: it does not reflect, it shapes.” I suspect that this phenomenon is more intense in works of speculative fiction* than, say, spy thrillers. These stories are well-positioned to plumb and amplify the pressing issues and paranoias of their times; more to the point, they often offer high-concept utopian solutions, be they progressive or reactionary.
So I was amused to see the Guardian ask: Why are there so many new books about time-travelling lesbians?
In 2016, I sat down with my co-author Max Gladstone to write our novel This Is How You Lose the Time War, which follows two time-travelling female spies as they fall in love. That same year was also when I first heard people speaking earnestly and frequently about feeling as if they were in the wrong timeline, as the Brexit referendum results rolled in and Donald Trump was elected US president.[…] But our novel is just one of several recent stories of queer women time-travelling. There is Kate Heartfield’s Nebula-nominated novella Alice Payne Arrives and its sequel Alice Payne Rides, which see two 18th-century women – lovers – become embroiled in a war. There are also Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade, Kate Mascarenhas’s The Psychology of Time Travel, Kelly Robson’s Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach and Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline. […] I wrote to each of these authors in anticipation of this piece and it turns out we were all drafting our books in 2016.
The article is a quick and a good read. I haven’t picked up This Is How You Lose the Time War yet, but it’s near the top of my list. I did read two books last year that featured time-traveling lesbians, though, just chewing through a random pile of space opera.
This article reminded me of a fun piece on Doctor Who**, which found that the Doctor was significantly more likely to overthrow the government during the Thatcher era. More recently, interviews revealed that this was quite intentional:
[Script Editor] Cartmel said it was almost a job requirement to detest Thatcher.
When asked by John Nathan-Turner, the producer, what he hoped to achieve in being the show’s script editor, he recalled: “My exact words were: I’d like to overthrow the government.
And right now, in the show’s thirty-eighth season, the Doctor is a woman for the first time.
I’ve touched on the alt-right attempts to ‘reclaim’ speculative fiction before; may their number of victories continue to be zero.
*I will once again not apologize for using this industry umbrella term, which refers fantasy, sci-fi, most horror, “weird”, magical realism, etc.
**Written by trans spec-fic author Charlie Jane Anders, incidentally.