A Bondage Analysis of Tolkien (Ep. 184 - Lord of the Rings)

This Week's Guest: Nayland Blake

Where do you see yourself 200 years in the future? My guest this week is artist Nayland Blake, for whom sci-fi and fantasy were an opportunity to create the future that he was sure he'd never have. Growing up in New York in the 1960s and 70s, it seemed like imaginary worlds were his only opportunity to inhabit a world where he could be openly gay. But then he moved to San Francisco, and lo and behold, it appeared that the future had finally arrived.

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BTW, I hope you'll join us for the next Sewers of Paris live chat. It's on Saturday August 11th at 2pm Pacific. There's a link at the top of the Sewers of Paris twitter feed.

And if you're looking for more queer podcasts, check out the show I host with some fantastically funny drag queens Queens of Adventure. We play an ongoing and very queer Dungeons & Dragons adventure full of action and suspense and shady banter. We've got some announcements about live shows coming up soon -- subscribe to the podcast and get on the mailing list at QueensOfAdventure.com.

This Week's Recommendation: Rejoined

Thanks again to Nayland for joining me. You can find links to the stuff we talked about and video clips at SewersOfParis.com. For this week's recommendation, let's stay with the sci-fi/fantasy theme and take a look at the show Deep Space Nine -- specifically the episode Rejoined.

I made an entire video about this episode as part of my Culture Cruise series on YouTube -- you can find that at SewersOfParis.com as well. But to sum it up: there was a rise in exploitative lesbian kiss episodes in the mid-90s, with various sitcoms and hourlong dramas throwing women at each other to make out for a few seconds for the sake of ratings. Invariably, the characters involved in the lesbian kiss would "get over" their feelings and move on and never do anything gay again. But at the time, even a few brief moments of queerness felt absolutely glorious.

The episode Rejoined focuses on a character who, for complicated sci-fi reasons, experiences a sort of re-incarnation every time they die. Every time they're brought back to life, they're forbidden from resuming past relationships -- again, for complicated sci-fi reasons. But that requirement is put to the test when the character Dax meets another of her species, a former lover from several lifetimes ago. They thought they were over each other. Turns out, they're not.

The episode does everything it can to be an allegory about the social stigma around homosexuality without ACTUALLY saying anything about homosexuality. The characters are shunned when they resume their relationship, they face death, they are told they'll lose everything if they follow their hearts. But in the context of the episode, those consequences are all tied to their society's rules about interacting with former lovers. Nobody ever mentions the fact that they're two women.

At the time that episode of DS9 aired, there had never been a same-sex relationship on Trek, or a main character who even hinted at being queer. For all we know, those could have been the only two lesbians in the entire universe.

These days of course we've been given a same-sex couple on Star Trek Discovery, which is nice -- but a bit late, considering Star Trek is a franchise founded by a captain whose ship was basically powered by his heterosexual libido. I'm glad that the show's finally admitting that there are queer people in space, and that they're boldly catching up to where everyone has already been.

Stuff We Talked About

Dhalgren
By Samuel R. Delany