We’ve always been here, even in a galaxy far, far away…

A few weeks back when one of the serious news sites reported that people of color have only recently become involved in reading comics and science fiction, Arab-American past Hugo-nominated science fiction author Saladin Ahmed shared this historical photograph showing a bunch of African-American kids reading comics in the 1940s.

A few weeks back when one of the serious news sites reported that people of color have only recently become involved in reading comics and science fiction, Arab-American past Hugo-nominated science fiction author Saladin Ahmed shared this historical photograph showing a bunch of African-American kids reading comics in the 1940s.

So, one of the official new Star Wars universe novels came out last week, STAR WARS: AFTERMATH by Chuck Wendig, and it is getting flooded with one-star reviews. About a third of those reviews are along this line: “I don’t like the inclusion of so many gay characters because my personal opinion is that sodomy is not normal and I am tired of the liberal media trying to make me accept this lifestyle.”

Jim C. Hines has a post more thoroughly discussing the various negative comments, if you want to read it. But I think his best comment is:

Oh, dear. A galaxy that includes countless species and droids and races acknowledged the existence of homosexuality? WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? Can we PLEASE get back to giant slugs with a fetish for other species, green muppets, blue elephant people, and giant walking carpets? You know, characters who are normal.

Conservative pundit Earl Hall (here’s a DoNotLink link if you want to subject yourself to it) weighed in (including a really bad attempt to write some Yoda dialog), asking why there are suddenly so many gay characters everywhere: “Is there all of a sudden way more LGBT people in our population than we once thought? Is this really about diversity, or is it more about forcing a story line and lifestyle down our throats?”

First of all, yes, Mr Hall and all the bigoted one-star reviewers: there are more queer people in the population than you thought. But it isn’t suddenly. I’ve quoted before the CDC study in the 1990s about sexual activity that found that while Americans would rather admit to being heroin addicts than bisexual, if you just went by their sexual activity rather than asking them to identify their sexual orientation, about 45% of the population regularly engaged in sexual activity with both men and women. That and other studies indicate that only about 6% of the population engages primarily in sexual activity with members of the same gender. But that means that just (45% + 6 % = 51%) a bit over half the population of the planet is non-heterosexual.

That means that in the U.S. about 19,800,000 (that’s more than nineteen million) people are exclusively gay, while about another 148,500,000 (that’s over 148 million) people are bisexual/pansexual/whatever you want to call it.

And worldwide, the combined number would be 3,570,000,000 (that’s more than three-and-a-half billion) non-heterosexual people.

So, yes, a lot more than you think. And we’ve always been here. There was a wonderful scholarly article I read once that was dissecting clues in various documents and diaries and so forth from the 1890s that put forward a really good argument that men were having sex with other men more often in the U.S. in the 1890s for at least part of their adult lives than was happening in the 1990s. Just as an example.

Wendig has a couple of great responses:

If you can imagine a world where Luke Skywalker would be irritated that there were gay people around him, you completely missed the point of Star Wars. It’s like trying to picture Jesus kicking lepers in the throat instead of curing them. Stop being the Empire. Join the Rebel Alliance. We have love and inclusion and great music and cute droids.

And a bit later in the post:

And if you’re upset because I put gay characters and a gay protagonist in the book, I got nothing for you. Sorry, you squawking saurian — meteor’s coming. And it’s a fabulously gay Nyan Cat meteor with a rainbow trailing behind it and your mode of thought will be extinct. You’re not the Rebel Alliance. You’re not the good guys. You’re the fucking Empire, man. You’re the shitty, oppressive, totalitarian Empire.

Wendig also points out all the women and people of color appearing prominently in the trailers for the new movie, in case that kind of inclusion also upsets the one-star reviewers.

Finally, one last note about all those one-star reviews. Amazon’s algorithms push books to the top of recommendation queues based in part on the number of reviews, total. It does not take into account whether the reviews are good or bad. The algorithm cares only that lots of people feel strongly enough about a book to review it. And sales statistics seem to bear that out: readers are more willing to take a chance on a book that has lots of reviews, negative or positive.

I suspect a lot of those people read the negative reviews, see what the reasons a person dislikes a book are, and say, “Well, they may not like books like that, but I do!”

Regardless of that phenomenon, there’s an actual campaign on some conservative fan sites asking people who haven’t even read the book to go give it a one-star review. I don’t think the understand that just means that more people who haven’t heard of the book will have it recommended to them by Amazon.

But then, bigots have seldom been known for the brilliance.

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About fontfolly

I've loved reading for as long as I can remember. I write fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and nonfiction. I publish an anthropomorphic sci-fi/space opera literary fanzine. I attend and work on the staff for several anthropormorphics, anime, and science fiction conventions. I live in Seattle with my wonderful husband, still completely amazed that he puts up with me at all.

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