CyberSexualities

A review of Don Bassingthwaite’s “Who Plays with Sin” in Bending the Landscape: Original Gay and Lesbian Writing: Science Fiction (The Overlook Press, 1999).
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cyberpunk, with its attraction to marginalized characters who live on the edge, has needed to be queered for some time, so it is refreshing to encounter a fantastic queering of the genre by Don Bassingthwaite. “Who Plays With Sin” is timely in its exploration of the ways that data can be manipulated and the ways that surveillance invades every aspect of our online presence…. and the ways that those online presences can be employed to either shore up or destroy reputations.

Thunder doesn’t conform to the typical assumptions about internet specialists, nor does he conform to assumptions about gay men. He is burly, strong, and tall, which works well for him in his position as a spider, a web master who uses the internet to seek out truths. His ability to resist stereotypes allows him to throw off those who see him, not conforming to their expectations and therefore giving him an edge in their dealings… particularly since Thunder’s world is one of rampant homophobia, where queerness has been made illegal and LGBTQ people are frequently imprisoned for their sexuality.

Thunder is a figure of resistance, resisting the passification and disempowerment of queer people. Even Thunder’s reaction to the pathologized, passivising term “homosexual” evokes a strong reaction from him: “Say ‘faggot’, say ‘queer’, say ‘gay-boy’. Even as insults, they had a raw power. Primal, street-level, animal-level. There was sex in the words. Say ‘faggot’ and there was a cock in your mouth – whether you enjoyed it or despised it, it was there. ‘Homosexual’ was cold. Clinical. Dead. Desexed, but with implications of perversity and mental illness. It was a safe word for straights, no more dangerous than a sterile tongue depressor.” Thunder illustrates the way that words can be re-appropriated for empowerment and that any image of queer people can be complicated by techniques of resistance.

This is perhaps why when he is approached by a man named Carter, who claims to be the victim of a corporate blackmail to make him seem as though he is gay and therefore subject to the potential loss of position and exile, Thunder tries to assist him to uncover the roots of this manipulation. But, Don Bassingthwaite doesn’t provide easy answers for his characters and this is a tale of convoluted messages and systems of resistance and oppression. There are no simple answers, and every message is complicated. In a world of surveillance and manipulation, nothing is easy and Bassingthwaite reminds readers that the web is always full of spiders.

To read more about the work of Don Bassingthwaite, visit his website at http://dbassingthwaite.com/ .

You can find out more about Bending the Landscape at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bending_the_Landscape .

 

Speculative SEXtember

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Speculating the Queer: an LGBTQ2 Canadian Speculative Fiction Reading With ChiSeries Peterborough Featuring Tanya Huff, Michael Rowe, Don Bassingthwaite, and Derek Newman-Stille.

Thursday September 18th at 8:00 PM, ChiSeries Peterborough will be having a reading by LGBTQ2 Speculative Fiction authors Tanya Huff, Michael Rowe, and Don Bassingthwaite hosted by Peterborough’s Derek Newman-Stille at Sadleir House, 751 George Street North in Peterborough.speculating the queer

We often focus on realist literature when we think of queer lit, but what about science fiction, fantasy, and horror? Queer-identified Speculative Fiction authors are able to explore the extents of queer identity in other worlds, throughout time and space, among the darkness, and within all of those spaces on the edges of imagination. Queer fiction has been under-represented in science fiction, fantasy, and horror, so lets let our authors imagine queer worlds.
Tanya Huff is the Aurora Award Winning author of The Smoke Books, The Blood Books, the Quarters Series, and the Keeper’s Chronicles. Her Blood Books were turned into the television series Blood Ties. In addition to the Aurora Awards, she has received nominations and made the short list for awards such as the Gaylactic Spectrum award, Locus Awards, and the James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award.

Author photo of Tanya Huff

Author photo of Tanya Huff

Michael Rowe is the editor of the anthologies Queer Fear and Queer Fear 2 as well as being the author of the recent novels Enter, Night and Wild Fell. In addition to his speculative work, Michael Rowe is an award winning journalist and has published for the National Post, The Globe and Mail, The Huffington Post, and The Advocate. He has won the Lambda Literary Award for the best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender awards for the year, the Randy Shilts Award for works of non-fiction of relevance to the gay community, and the Gaylactic Spectrum Award and has been a finalist for the Aurora Awards and the Shirley Jackson Award.

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Author photo of Michael Rowe

Don Bassingthwaite is the author of several books in the World of Darkness ethos, and for the Dungeons & Dragons series, and has published short stories in Bending the Landscape: Fantasy and Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction.

Author photo of Don Bassingthwaite

Author photo of Don Bassingthwaite

Derek Newman-Stille is a PhD Student in Canadian Studies researching Canadian Speculative Fiction. His review and interview website Speculating Canada (www.speculatingcanada.wordpress.com) has won an Aurora Award and he has been a juror for the Sunburst Awards.

Derek Newman-Stille with the Prix Aurora Award, October 6, 2013. Photo credit Dwayne Collins.

Derek Newman-Stille with the Prix Aurora Award, October 6, 2013. Photo credit Dwayne Collins.

From bisexual and lesbian vampires to gay and lesbian wizards to trans ghosts to queer voyagers through space to shape-shifting lovers, the characters created by these LGBTQ2 authors are complex, powerful, and fascinating. Their works explore ideas of homophobic violence, oppression, complex relationships, changes in body, queer futures, ideas of acceptance, and notions of resistance. Prepare to see characters that are far beyond the stereotypes and one-dimensional references to LGBTQ2 people we often see in popular media.
To join the event on Facebook, go to https://www.facebook.com/events/1525545660996707
And for more information about ChiSeries Peterborough events including this one, visit http://chiseries.com/reading-series-peterborough .

Perfect Bodies

A Review of Don Bassingthwaite’s “Too Much is Never Enough” in Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Fiction (ChiZine Publications, 2013)

Cover image of Imaginarium 2013 courtesy of ChiZine Publications. Cover art by GMB Chomichuk

Cover image of Imaginarium 2013 courtesy of ChiZine Publications. Cover art by GMB Chomichuk

By Derek Newman-Stille

We live in a society in which bodily perfection is considered a major goal. Our society privileges its ideas of beauty, its entrenched notions of health, and able-bodiedness. People medically modify their bodies, cosmetically alter them to appear more like the norms and desires of our society, altering their essential selves. Don Bassingthwaite’s “Too Much is Never Enough” allies this desire for bodily perfection with athleticism. Marco Cole finds himself modified, altered, his body more attractive than before… so much so that he can’t stop looking at himself. He becomes stronger, faster, and more dangerous. The danger from him is not just from his bodily abilities, but from the modifications that have been done to his mind. Whenever he suffers, whenever he has a conflict of morality or fear, his body triggers a Dopamine switch to make him learn to enjoy fear, and pain and to get rid of any concern

Like his body, Marco finds that his will is controlled. He is forged into a fighter for a championship match, but the main objective he has had forced onto him is to assassinate a man. He becomes the perfect killing doll, modified into a military Barbie, posed and perfected until he is nothing but plastic, a play thing of his owners.

Bassingthwaite explores the dangers of a system that is based on a desire for modification and the loss that occurs when bodies are changed, altered, and modified for a social purpose. Modifications and the social pressure to enhance the body and conform it to social notions of beauty and control are difficult to battle against, and it is hard to wrestle control away from the desires that are written onto our bodies.

To discover more about Imaginarium 2013, visit ChiZine Publications’ website at http://chizinepub.com/books/imaginarium/imaginarium_2013.php . To find out more about Don Bassingthwaite, you can visit his website at http://dbassingthwaite.com/ .