Sci-Fi and Fantasy Can Be Refuges from Homophobic Parents

This week on The Sewers of Paris, a podcast about the entertainment that changed the life of gay men, I'm joined by Richard. He grew up in a household where Catholicism dominated every aspect of his life, and homosexuality was an abomination. And so he created a sanctuary for himself in books, escaping into them whenever possible so that he have a break from the pain of the real world.

There's a balance to be stuck between chaos and order, between freedom and control. In Richard's home, every move was rigidly controlled by religion, where he had virtually no freedom at all. So it's no wonder he created an escape in the form of libraries and books. He might not have had much freedom in his own life, but at least he could control a sanctuary in his mind.

If you're looking for an escape, take a look at the book Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia, by Samuel R. Delaney. It's a sci-fi novel set on a moon of Neptune where the freedom is near absolute. The government wields virtually no control, and people have the power to change anything they want, down to their bodies and their minds. That might sound like an appealing degree of freedom, but it turns out that uncontrolled power to shape your world might not be as satisfying as you might think.

After all, sometimes your fantasies can get away from you. My second recommendation is The Neverending Story -- and if you've already seen the movie, consider reading the book, which is wildly different. Bastian, fleeing the turmoil of real life, escapes into a book where he can examine his pain and anxiety in a magical realm, where his fears manifest as monsters and destructive energy. Creating an imaginary world, it turns out, can be a helpful way to attack your real-life problems -- and hopefully defeat them. All that's required is a little mixing of magic with reality, chaos with order, freedom with control. The two forces may clash, but striking the right balance is what gives you the freedom to be in control of your life.