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Homosexuality in Space

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Ollie I found Haldeman's exploration of homosexuality in this novel very interesting. It starts out as a necessity, since planet Earth's population has exploded and something has to be done to stop it. Soon, with gays running the government, it becomes imposed on the population. The narrator eventually finds himself in the position of being one of the only heterosexuals left.

To me, it felt at first that Haldeman was inverting roles and showing to heterosexuals what homosexuals experience on a daily basis: prejudice, ignorance, etc; but then Haldeman goes and complicates things in the end by making Charlie, a homosexual, decide to convert to heterosexuality and join other "old timers" in planet Middle Finger (Middle Finger to the army? To gays?)

I couldn't help wondering if Charlie was deeply in love with William, but knew nothing would ever happen. So, to make sure he could be together with his love, he decided to convert his sexuality so as to be able to live on the same planet as him.

What are your thoughts on how homosexuality is depicted in this novel?


Larry Best take it with a pinch of salt! Its one way of controlling a population tho!


Timothy K. I just considered it a plot device that Haldeman used to display how radically a society can change in(relatively) short amount of time. I don't think he was trying to make a social statement about Homosexuality.

Its was just a metaphor for the culture that Haldeman left when he went to Vietnam, and the much change culture he returned to in the early 1970's.

This is probably one of the top five science fiction novels ever written by an American by the way. I enjoyed it very much


Sarah I find the idea of a gay man in a gay society pining for the one man unavailable to him a little dubious. I mean, yes, there is a thrill in wanting what you can't have, but that seems like masochism to me.


Richard great book and pretty bold in it's exploration of things, the follow on is superb but the ending seems to utterly divide folk - i loved it but a few of me mates hated it

as for the homosexual side of things, i honestly gave it no thought. it was there and i accepted it and read the story, it didn't seem controversial or shocking in any way


Random Sarah Pi wrote: "I find the idea of a gay man in a gay society pining for the one man unavailable to him a little dubious. I mean, yes, there is a thrill in wanting what you can't have, but that seems like masochis..."

I don't know. I've seen a lot of straight people (male and female) pining and obsessing over someone they couldn't have, especially when young.


Sarah BunWat wrote: "Yeah, but some people are masochistic. Anyway he isn't a gay man in a gay society by the end of the book. There is no gay society left, is there?"

No, that's true. I just figured they went to the same place because they did have more in common (their experience at war) than most of those around them. Anything familiar is comfortable when you're in an alien environment.


SubterraneanCatalyst I don't think Haldeman was trying to make any real statement about homosexuality per se. I agree with Timothy K. above and his opinion about it's usage in the book.
Regarding Charlie- I wasn't surprised at all that he decided to convert and go follow William. I sensed that his character was in fact in unrequited love with William. Besides, Charles was as adrift in time/temporally as was William. Since they had survived a campaign together they were as close to contemporary as they could get with anyone considering the war was over and there would be, presumably, no one careening through relativistic centuries for war anymore.


message 9: by Brandon (last edited Sep 27, 2011 09:08PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brandon Fox As many of you probably know, this book is headed for the big screen, to be directed by Ridley Scott. In 3D! I've seen posts worrying that the story will be de-gayed since it will be a big-budget production, but have no idea if the fears are justified. (Studios apparently worry about offending audience segments, except I guess the LGBT segment.)


Phillip Simpson Timothy K. wrote: "I just considered it a plot device that Haldeman used to display how radically a society can change in(relatively) short amount of time. I don't think he was trying to make a social statement about..."

I agree with Timothy in that Haldeman didn't really have an agenda with the homosexual angle. It was merely an indication of the passage of time and the subsequent societal changes. I do however, also applaud him for what was probably a very controversial plot device at the time (and him being a vietnam vet and all - I wonder if he received any negative feedback at the time?). This is probably my favourite book of all time. As Iain Banks stated (I think) - it's a book that's damn near perfect.

For another depiction of homosexuality in fantasy/sci fi, check out Richard Morgan's, The Steel Remains. Excellent.


Phillip Simpson Brandon wrote: "As many of you probably know, this book is headed for the big screen, to be directed by Ridley Scott. In 3D! I've seen posts worrying that the story will be de-gayed since it will be a big-budget p..."

I didn't know it was being made into a movie! How exciting!


message 12: by Wrey (last edited Mar 30, 2012 12:53PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Wrey Fuentes I have to agree with Timothy K. Having been a gay service member myself (USAF) I went into this book a little hesitant as to how the matter would be handled. Would I relate? Would I be offended or put off? The truth is that in true old-school style, the author is using the genre to open a lens of intense magnification on one aspect to say something about the human condition that he himself was experiencing. Gays have, do, and will forever continue to serve in the armed forces in droves. Trust me, were every gay and lesbian person in uniform to wake tomorrow with a big green dot on their forehead, Uncle Sam would keel over dead from an infarction. Haldman could not have been immune to this knowledge and ran with it as a metaphor for his own feeling of squarepegedness in a round-holed world.

Timothy K. wrote: "I just considered it a plot device that Haldeman used to display how radically a society can change in(relatively) short amount of time. I don't think he was trying to make a social statement about..."


message 13: by Wrey (new) - rated it 3 stars

Wrey Fuentes Never mind everything I wrote in the previous post. I was frankly mistaken. I just finished reading this novel and I turned the last page and felt slightly offended. I guess that's as valid an evocation of emotion as any for a writer to attempt, but... that's how I felt. Offended. Gay World as penultimate stop to Maximum-Bizarre Gestalt-Humanity World sat poorly indeed with me. The rest of the novel may well have been the very pinacle of writing, but I was completely distracted by this typical-for-the-time treatment, or rather, mistreatment of the gay community.


message 14: by Kip (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kip TBH I always found the transformation of the entire society's sexuality to be utterly cringe-worthy. It's been a while since I read it, so if I get my facts wrong then please correct me, but isn't it handled by some kind of social engineering handed down by the ruling classes? There is no hint of a science fictional explanation (gene engineering or mind control or whatever)to the mass sexuality change is there? Also, isn't the rationale for it purely for population control? Again, please forgive me if I am mistaken in my memory of the novel and please correct me - but isn't this incredibly flawed? Surely contraception or enforced sterilization would be more effective? Certainly birth control has had a negative effect upon population growth in the developed world. And how could any top down decree change the entire populations sexuality? I mean, if this was possible then surely there's never have been any homosexuals in the best part of the last 2,000 years in the West. All of which I could accept in an absurd or satirical novel, but FW isn't that - it's pure realism in its execution of its premises.

While I like FW, I must confess to never understand its massive fan base in the SF community. Each to their own tho...


message 15: by Xdyj (last edited Apr 22, 2012 08:58PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Xdyj It's written in a times when lgbt ppl were not treated with as much acceptance as today, & I do imagine it to be offensive while I read it (Wrey's comment above confirmed that). And I'm not sure but is it because in the 1970s birth control was not yet as easily accessible as today?


message 16: by Wrey (last edited Apr 16, 2012 05:52PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Wrey Fuentes This right here that I quoted from your post is the correct bit of rationale that is given in the book. Population control. And you are correct that the author makes no attempt to explain how this bit of grand social engineering might happen. It's given a complete gloss predicated on the antique idea that people can chose fellahs over Felicias, or widdershins likewise, the way one might chose between a Toyota or a Nissan. The author, in keeping with the time period in which the book was written, clearly felt no compunction not to use gayness as a symbol for the future's increasing strangeness.

As I mentioned in the review I gave on this book, I read it as part of an LGBT spec-fic reading list (I myself belonging to said community) and frankly it's not the kind of book I would recommend to someone from within "the community" unless it were under the proviso of it being interesting to read how we used to be portrayed in literature, if at all.

Simon wrote: There is no hint of a science fictional explanation (gene engineering or mind control or whatever)to the mass sexuality change is there? Also, isn't the rationale for it purely for population control? Again, please forgive me if I am mistaken in my memory of the novel and please correct me - but isn't this incredibly flawed?


message 17: by Kip (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kip Wrey wrote: "This right here that I quoted from your post is the correct bit of rationale that is given in the book. Population control. And you are correct that the author makes no attempt to explain how thi..."

Thanks for the confirmation. Seems a pity that this part of the book isn't better justified. Much of the rest is fairly water-tight (if you accept its premises), but this element just did not work for me as a piece of speculative fiction... shame...


Jennifer Its one the best books I've read. Regardless of how he chose to write the story. I agree with one of the above posts, its more about how culture/society change and how quickly somthing that was once taboo can become part of the every day norm.


message 19: by Saul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Saul I wouldn't agree with those who say the author wasn't trying to make a statement about homosexuality. Though, I don't think he's taking a negative stance against the LGBT community. Instead, I felt the book was critical of the, so called, normal society of that time.

We must of course try to couch this book in the period it was written. America had lost its first big war, equal rights was a very hot topic, the LGBT community did not have the freedoms of today, and the fear of overpopulation was a reality (though birth control for women was taking off). In that world, this book gives society a big slap in the face. It's message? What you think is bad? Is really not so bad. And if you think war is good? Think again!

I don't know, maybe today there are some aspects of the book that don't read well, but that in my mind should not diminish the profound impact it had. Or maybe think about it this way: here is a book that helped our society get to where were are today. (This assumes you feel we have made some improvement :)

I for one think this book deserves nothing but praise. Even if there are issues by today's standards.


Paulose People as we know would rarely react the way the author has described it. Government imposed norms are usually fought against and this kind of an acceptance of the logic of the Governments thinking would almost never come to be.
Government endorsing or banning any kind of sexuality in future society seems to me like an impossibility. People tend to expect more freedom not less so its difficult for me to see the sense in the authors paradigm, however it may have made more sense when he wrote it, in the 70s.


message 21: by Jeff (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jeff For me, the most interesting part of the story was a man dealing with the effects of time dilation. You leave society behind for a few decades or centuries there will be some major changes. Haldeman's gay story line was a vehicle to show how dramatic the changes could be. Otherwise, I found it to be a distraction.


message 22: by Bob (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bob Wilson I'm ex-US service (USCG) and I'm not gay, but I'm def an ally. I agree 100% with Wrey...if the miltary knew what percentage of folks in the military were gay they'd keel over. Allys learn fairly quickly "Who gives a crud?". When I was trying to tie off a line in a gale or put out a fire, and the person by my side is as scared as I was, I didn't give a hoot what they did with his/her privates I remember an old chief Bosun's mate (who was way younger that I am now) saying 'I've been in the service 25 years and never met a gay person. If I did I'da turned him in." Made us laugh. That said Haldeman has written a terrific book that was way ahead of it's time IMO. He was writing more, I think, about the military culture and how you had to learn to get along. I highly recommend all his stuff.


message 23: by Kip (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kip Steve wrote: "This was a great read! Great thing about Fiction, it's just that. Don't try to make more out of it than just a book. I have nothing against gay people and this books story line was so good I really..."

Hmmm.... interesting, very interesting... So, you are saying: just read it > enjoy it > don't think about what you've read?!

I want to take the time to thanks for your profound words of wisdom. I look forward to your keynote speech on 'the novel' at this years Hay-on-Wye literary festival. Such keen insight is sadly quite rare these days and very refreshing! You seriously makes me reconsider the way I previously read the novel. There I was, like a fool, reading fiction, then thinking about its underlying conceits when all I needed to do was read it and put it down and say that it was good. After all, it's "just" fiction. Maybe I should go one step further and stop reading altogether? After all, some books contain these things called ideas, crammed with those confusing things like a subtext and metaphors and poetry and meaning... I feel there is a danger that they might make me think about the novel afterwards, that the book might leave a foot print in my mind and change me in some way, that I might apply my own critical mind upon the text and try to get something more out of it. Pah! Well, no more, my illiterate friend - NO MORE! I see the light!

Thank you so much. We can all learn from you to "not pay notice to such things."


message 24: by Steve (last edited Sep 19, 2012 11:15AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Steve I like the book, one of my favorite writers. A good read.


message 25: by Kip (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kip *like* :)


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