Tag Archives: LGBT

Hopeful Science Fiction: A Theory of Flight

Click on the tag “hope” at this bottom of this post to read about all of my suggestions for hopeful science fiction. If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure like to hear them. Leave a comment below or send me message about it on Twitter.

Recently, I discovered the Better Worlds series, a science fiction anthology of short stories and films about hope that was published at The Verge two years ago.

A Theory of Flight

Justina Ireland’s “A Theory of Flight” is the first instalment of this series. It was about a daring plan to build an open-source rocket could help more people escape Earth. Click on the link in the first sentence of this paragraph to read it for free or scroll to the bottom of this post to watch the short film version of it. There are mild spoilers in this post, so reader beware after this sentence.

Photo of Earth taken from space. The largest continent in view is Africa.

When I first began this series, I talked about  my expectations for hopeful science fiction.

This type of sci-fi isn’t about creating a utopia or brushing aside the very real challenges people face. It’s about finding hope and fighting for a happy ending no matter what the circumstances are.

Carlinda was no stranger to conflict or struggling. She was a black woman who’d grown up in a low-income neighbourhood. This may have been set in a future version of Earth, but the obstacles she faced were the same ones that people from all of these groups face today.

The big difference between her time and ours had to do with how much the environment had degraded thanks to climate change. Life on a hot, polluted planet was beyond difficult, especially for people who didn’t have the money or social clout to get away from Earth.

Cooperation

Carlinda had some money saved up from a well-paid job building spaceships for the wealthy folks who were fleeing Earth for safe colonies on Mars and Europa.

Her funds weren’t enough to get her to either of those places, though, much less help anyone else to join her. This futuristic version of society was so economically stratified that the vast majority of people were doomed to live out short, painful, poverty-stricken lives on Earth.

Or were they?

The beautiful thing about Carlinda’s open-sourced plans for rocket ships was that they could be built out of trash. Very little money was required to create them. All you needed were some workers who understood how to follow the plans and build something that could safely bring a few hundred folks to Europa.

There are some plot twists related to the political ramifications of this plan that are best left up to new readers to discover for themselves. Still, I loved seeing how the small percentage of humans who were wealthy and politically powerful reacted to the idea of ordinary folks taking their own fates into their hands.

Not only did it add a layer of urgency to the plot, it gave Carlinda and the people working with her even more of an incentive to keep building and to share their knowledge with as many other poor folks as possible.

A better world is possible, and it all begins with regular people banding together to creatively solve problems that are too big for any one person to fix on their own.

A Theory of Flight

Unexpected Love: A Review of The Shape of Water

Film poster for The Shape of Water. It shows the two main characters embracing.Content warning: racism, sexism, a few brief scenes involving blood, death of a pet, and sexual harassment. I will only mention the first three items in this list in my review.

The Shape of Water is a dark fantasy romance about a lonely janitor who falls in love with an amphibious humanoid creature who is being held in captivity by the U.S. government. It is set in 1962 in an undisclosed government facility.

This film was directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. It won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, as well as other honours at the Golden Globes, British Film Academy Awards, and the Critic’s Choice Awards.

The tags for this post do contain mild spoilers. I will not be discussing them in detail today but wanted to label this correctly for future readers.

Characters

Sally Hawkins as Elisa Eposito
Sally Hawkins as Elisa Eposito

 

Elisa was a mute woman who worked as a cleaner at a secret underground government facility. Her dear friend and chosen family member Giles described her as “the princess without voice.” She has a whimsical personality that found joy in little things like dancing down the hall or gently interacting with everyone she met.

While I can’t go into her backstory without sharing spoilers, I will say that she was someone who was quite alone in the world. She had no genetic relatives to rely upon.

 

Doug Jones as Amphibian Man
Doug Jones as Amphibian Man

 

The Amphibian Man could not speak, but he was intelligent. Very little was shared about his background in this film other than the fact that he was the first of his kind discovered by humans.

 

Richard Jenkins as Giles

 

As mentioned above, Giles was Elisa’s dear neighbor and friend. He’d worked as an adverting illustrator for many years but was struggling to find work as his industry switched from painting to photographs for the imagery in ads.

He was a kind, gentle, creative man who could be a little absent-minded when it came to looking after basic needs like fixing himself dinner. Like Elise, he was quite alone in the world for reasons I’ll leave to future viewers to discover for themselves.

Octavia Spencer as Zelda Fuller 
Octavia Spencer as Zelda Fuller

 

Zelda was Elisa’s co-worker and friend who served as her sign language interpreter at work. Her personality was assertive and opinionated, the opposite of how Elisa generally behaved.

 

Michael Shannon as Richard Strickland
Michael Shannon as Richard Strickland

 

Richard was a United States Colonel in charge of the project to study the “asset,” as they referred to the Amphibian Man. He followed protocol strictly and was obsessed with getting the results his bosses expected.

Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Robert Hoffstetler
Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Robert Hoffstetler

 

Dr. Hoffstetler was the physician who was given the responsibility of figuring out the physiology of the Amphibian Man’s body. The U.S. government hoped to learn how to create astronauts who could better adapt to the rigours of space exploration by learning how this creature was capable of breathing both air and water.

 

David Hewlett as Fleming 
David Hewlett as Fleming

 

Fleming was the laboratory’s head of security. He was a rigid, unfriendly man who expected perfection from himself and everyone around him.

My Review

Prepare yourselves for some gushing. This was such a good story.

There was an immensely satisfying amount of foreshadowing. I’d imagine that anyone who is familiar with the romance or science fiction genres could spot the biggest plot twists coming ahead of time. This wasn’t the sort of film that relied on the audience not knowing what to expect next. It was how the characters reacted to them that was important, and this was something the filmmakers showed beautifully.

The cinematography was beautiful. I was immediately drawn into the plot thanks to how much effort was put into constructing this era. It was also interesting to watch shots that had important things happening in both the foreground and background.  They added so many layers of meaning to the storyline.

Octavia Spencer and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water.

I did find myself wishing that the racism, sexism, and other types of discrimination in this era was presented in a more nuanced manner. In my experiences with sexism and biphobia, a lot of it can be subtle depending on who is around and what prejudiced folks think they can get away with. People can convey so much with body language and the words they do (or don’t) use that I was surprised by how blatant everything was here.

Perhaps things were radically different in 1962 in this regard. I wasn’t alive then and will defer to people who may say this portrayal is more accurate than I originally thought it was. But I still would have liked to see these topics handled a little more sensitively. (I will also defer to other reviewers to discuss their personal experiences with racism and ableism as it relates to this point).

With that being said, I still really liked seeing how these various types of prejudice were not only expressed but intersected with each other and this is my only criticism of a film I otherwise loved. The storytellers did a good job of showing how someone might be advantaged in one area (e.g. race, social class, or gender) while still oppressed in others (e.g. disability or sexual orientation).

The numerous references to water in this film were well done. They included everything from bathing to hard-boiling eggs, and they were just the tip of the iceberg. One of the things I enjoyed the most as I was watching it was to take note of all of the aquatic-themed moments that needed a little more effort to take notice of. It was satisfying to add them to my list of these references and try to guess where the storytellers would subtly introduce the next one.

This isn’t a criticism in any way, but I did want to make note of the disclaimer about blood in this tale. There were a few scenes that included characters who were bleeding from non-accidental injuries. While the violence that caused these injuries was briefly shown on screen, I always like to warn my readers ahead of time about stuff like this. I’d be happy to discuss it in full, spoiler-y detail in private with anyone who needs to figure out if this is the right thing for them to watch.

I’d heartily recommendThe Shape of Water to anyone who enjoys the romance or speculative fiction genres.

The Shape of Water is available on Netflix and Apple TV.

Top Ten Tuesday: LGBT+ Books I Want to Read

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

This week is a Freebie week for Top Ten Tuesday, and it took me ages to decide what to write for it.

There are so many books out there that I’d like to read but haven’t gotten around to yet. Today, I’m narrowing my focus to those titles that are about LGBT+ characters because I haven’t been doing a good job of keeping up with these stories. There are a lot of good ones that have been published recently!

1. Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett

I knew someone whose parent committed suicide when we were in middle school. That experience drew me to this plot even more than the queer content.

2. Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

I can’t imagine how frightening it must have been to realize you were gay during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. Wow!

3. The History of Living Forever by Jake Wolff

The Elixir of Life is something I never grow tired of reading about. It will be interesting to see how these characters react to the thought of possibly living forever.

4. The Summer Demands by Deborah Shapiro.

It’s rare that a romance novel catches my attention, but the summer camp setting and adult protagonists of this one are unique enough that I’m curious to read it.

5. The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

A dystopian retelling of Little Red Riding Hood? Sign me up, please!

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos.

The strong focus on family history in this blurb was what first grabbed my attention. My family has all sorts of stories about our ancestors that have been passed down through the generations. I love reading about other families that do the same thing. This seems to happen in every corner of the globe. I can only assume families from every culture occasionally disagree on specific details of their stories, too, just like mine does!

7. Wild and Crooked by Leah Thomas

It’s been a long time since I read a small town murder mystery. This sounds like it could be a good read.

8. A Queer History of the United States for Young People by Michael Bronski

Oh, how I wish I’d had a book like this when I was a teenager. I’ve always enjoyed history, but I also couldn’t help but to wonder why none of the history books I read or museums I visited every talked about people like me. They barely discussed women at all. Queer women (or people in general) were basically erased entirely.

9. Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

There’s something a little magical about wandering around in the woods. As much as I love my city life, I’m also irresistibly drawn to books that explore what might be living in the parts of forests where humans rarely venture.

10. Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone

As soon as I heard this was a feminist Guardians of the Galaxy type of story, I was intrigued. I’m not normally into space operas, but this one might change my mind about that.

Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think of them? How big are your TBR lists in general?

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: 10 Unusual Things About Me

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

It’s going to be so interesting to read how you all respond to this week’s prompt. This was one of the topics I was looking forward to the most out of the whole year!

1. I’ve Never Been Hospitalized

My mom had a (planned) home birth with me, so I wasn’t even hospitalized on the day of my birth. Home remedies and the occasional visit with a doctor for minor/temporary problems have been all the care I’ve required so far in life.

This is something that’s surprised more than one health care worker when they were taking my history. I have multiple relatives who lived or are living long, healthy lives while not necessarily following their doctor’s orders about exercising and eating a well-balanced diet, so I suspect some of my good luck with my health is due to genetics even though I try to take care of myself in general.

Photo credit: Peter Salanki from San Francisco, USA.

2. I’m Demisexual and Bisexual

Being demisexual means that I need to bond emotionally with someone before I become interested in escalating our relationship on a physical level. So I’ve been on dates with men and with women, but kissing and other things are reserved for folks I’ve gotten to know well.

3. I Have Unique Spatial Skills and a Not-Super-Accurate Sense of Direction

As much as I want to help, I may accidentally send you to the wrong place if you ask me for directions. You see, I use context clues like a big tree or that pretty, blue house on the corner as reminders of where to go next instead of remembering the name of that street or whether it’s north or south from my current location.

This system works well for me, but since it can be confusing for people who don’t live in my brain I try not to give directions to folks unless I’m sure I’m sending them in the right direction.

4. I’m an Animal Magnet

Animals love me, especially cats. The funny thing is, I’m terribly allergic to cats.  Maybe they’re so interested in me because I give them a lot of personal space instead of rushing over to pick them up and coo over them like a non-allergic person might do? All I want to do is avoid wheezing and sneezing, and all they want to do is be my new best friend. Ha!

5. I Started College Before Finishing High School

My high school had a dual-enrolment agreement with a few local colleges. I absolutely loved spending most of the day at college with adult classmates during my final year of high school. It was refreshing to meet so many other students who genuinely wanted to learn the stuff we were studying there. I’d heartily recommend this option to any high schooler who enjoys learning and has good time management skills.

6. I Was Homeschooled, and I Also Married a Fellow Homeschooler

This definitely wasn’t a requirement for dating me, but it was pretty neat to compare homeschooling experiences with my spouse when we first realized we had this in common. We both spent a lot of time visiting all sorts of museums, art galleries, and historical sites on homeschooling field trips. I still love learning and field trips to this day.

7. I Have a High Tolerance for Pain

Or at least that’s what a dentist told me once. Pain is such a subjective thing that it’s hard to imagine how my occasional experiences with it might be different from how others feel it.

8. I Like the Taste of Bitter and Spicy Vegetables

My grandmother sometimes makes an afternoon snack that consists of the following things:

  • White bread
  • Margarine
  • Thinly-sliced radishes

I believe she is at least partially responsible for the fact that I like eating radishes, spinach, and broccoli as an adult. Not every snack necessarily needs to be sweet.

9. I Keep a Digital Dream Journal

This is a pretty recent habit, but I’m enjoying the process of writing down all of the dreams I can remember. It’s interesting to go back and look for themes in them.

Lately, I’ve been having a ton of dreams about being back in school and studying for a dreaded biology exam on the anatomy of frogs and other various small creatures.  I wonder when people become too old for those sorts of dreams? My fingers are crossed that one of you will tell me it definitely stops at age X for everyone. Ha!

10. I’m the Only Person in Toronto Who Likes Pigeons

Yes, this is a little bit of an exaggeration. It’s based on the fact that pigeons have been nicknamed “sky rats” here and many people truly dislike them. I think they’re interesting creatures, and I enjoy watching them navigate our busy city and figure out where the safe places are to hang out, roost, and find food. Pigeons need to learn these skills quickly to survive city life, and in general they’re thriving here. That’s admirable in my opinion.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question. The image below is the list of upcoming prompts for this blog hop.

Suggestion Saturday: June 30, 2018

Happy Pride! As a member of the LGBT community, it was especially fun for me to put together this week’s list of pie charts, blog posts, and other LGBT-themed links from my favourite corners of the web.

Things You Should Never Have to Do. All of the sections in this pie chart were beautifully true, but I liked the one about never apologizing  for your sexuality the most of them all.

How the 18th-Century Gay Bar Survived and Thrived in a Deadly Environment. Wow, I never would have guessed that gay bars existed  in the 1700s.

Love and Rockets. What a beautiful sentiment.

Do Algorithms Reveal Sexual Orientation or Just Expose Our Stereotypes? This was a long read, but it was worth it.

Pride Around the World via KatyGilroyBlog. I loved this description of Pride Parades around the world. Warsaw’s Pride Parade sounds particularly fun.

What It Means to Be Queer via quirkandfolly‬. This was such a detailed explanation of why this author chose to label herself as queer.

The Story Behind Gay Bob, the World’s First Out-and-Proud Doll. Have you ever heard of this doll before? I hadn’t.

Jeremiah, Opera Singer, Vancouver via TheGayMenProject. Honestly, all of the interviews on this site are interesting, but Jeremiah’s is a good place to start.

I Chose to Be Gay Just Last Week. Yes, this title is tongue-in-cheek. I included this link especially for the heterosexual followers of this site. If you’d like a small taste of what it’s like to be part of the LGBT community, this post is a hilarious and accurate representation of some of the bizarre things people say to us sometimes.

Cornwall Gay Pride via ellen_hawley. This blog post compares what modern-day Pride parades are like to how they were decades ago. I only wish this blogger had turned this into a series. It was so good.

My Favourite LGBT Books

Happy Pride month! Today I thought it would be fun to share some of my favourite LGBT-themed books in honour of all of the Pride festivities that have been and are still going on here in Toronto. Rainbow flags are popping up everywhere, and that’s always a heart-warming thing to see at this time of… Read More

Saturday Seven: Characters Who Need a Date

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, so today I’m thinking about characters who could really have benefited from going on a date. None of the characters I’m about to discuss had romantic storylines. They were far too busy looking after a disabled friend, exploring a… Read More

Life After DOMA: Never Say Never

The only thing constant in life is change.  –  François de la Rochefoucauld Seventeen years ago the Defense of Marriage Act was enacted. I’m sure you’ve all heard by now that the Supreme Court (finally!) ruled it was unconstitutional yesterday. Ten years ago I never thought something like this would happen in my lifetime. Five… Read More