I Was Raised By A Lensman
I’ve told this story before. many times in fact. And while this story does not start or end where I expected it to, every word is true.
I have never understood why anyone is upset by the idea of same-sex romance, child-rearing, or marriage. The arguments all sound ridiculous, and it both confuses and saddens me when people I love and respect come down on the wrong side of these issues. Given that I am fairly conservative myself, and was raised in an extremely conservative household in the buckle of the bible belt, I sometimes wonder how I cam to be so moderate on this particular social issue. Ultimately, I think it’s because I was raised by Lensmen.
Obviously at this point, more than 30 years later, I can’t be sure – but my memory is that the first time I ever ran into the idea of homosexuality was in the space opera novel The Galaxy Primes, by E.E. “Doc” Smith. I was (and am!) a huge fan of Doc’s writing – the Lensman material in particular, but I love all of his fiction (and a lot of things with his name on them which are only based on his ideas). I tore through most of it before I turned 12, and my reading of The Galaxy Primes was fairly early in that list. (I read novels not so much in the order they were written or published, but in the order I found them while walking down the bookcase-lined hallway to my bedroom in my parent’s house.)
I haven’t read The Galaxy Primes in decades, but my memory is that early on several characters are competing to be chosen for a crucial, long-term space mission. Two of them happen to be homosexual men. This is mentioned, and even talked about briefly in context of a single homosexual man on a long-term mission, but it’s not central to the plot. As a child somewhere between the age of 7 and 12, my recollection is that this was the first time I’d ever run into the concept of two men being romantically involved with each other. As I often did when reading material confused me (not that uncommon for a pre-teen reading material aimed at mature readers), I asked my mother for clarification.
What happens next in the story is important, but I need to provide some set-up first. My parents didn’t divorce until long after I was out of the house and myself married, but they also didn’t do equal duty raising me. My father was a sad, largely broken man who had allowed a brilliant career as an economist to be destroyed by his addiction to alcohol and a tendency to bemoan his fate as a common man when he wanted to be a high raj or rail baron. I loved my father very much, and I credit him with always being kind and never violent, but he didn’t raise me. My mother was the person I went to as a parental authority in all matters, and I know I was a trial to her.
My mother had long realized I was forming a moral code based, in part, on the books found in that hallway. My ideas on what right and wrong were, and how a person should react to them, began with the heroes of E.E. “Doc” Smith, J. R. R. Tolkien, Andre Norton, Robert A. Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov. Many, many more authors would influence me later in life, but in those years after I was reading on my own but before I was buying my own books, I was fascinated by the vast collection of those author’s works I could just grab on my way to my room. My mother was so aware of this she wrote a song about it, claiming that my father was John Carter of Mars and my mother Clarissa Kinnison.
My mother is both a very conservative Christian Republican and a very smart lady. I have called her the Empress of the Geeks, as she ran D&D sessions for my friends and I, until I was 13, just to give other parents the Sunday afternoon off, has been an organizer of the International Space Development Conference, and took a 0-G flight for her birthday in 2011 despite her advancing age. I know for a fact she tried very hard not to let the family’s more questionable novels, from the works of Jack L. Chalker to the first few Gor books, out of the hallway library where I had easy access. I’m sure having me ask about two men being in love and wanting to get married in an E.E. Smith novel was quiet a shock. But here is how she handled it.
She shrugged, smiled, and said “Yeas, dear. Some men love other men the same way most men love women. If you like, we can talk about this more.”
That’s it. No judgment, no long speech about right and wrong or sin or Babylon. A quick answer that let me get back to my book, and a promise for more information if I needed it. I think my mother gets full credit for letting me grow up knowing I could make my own judgments, while also giving me the support and safety children need. So even though she’s on the wrong side of some moral arguments, I know she’s willing to love and accept people who disagree with her.
So yes, my most influential father may have been a Lensman. But my mother is Empress of the Geeks, and she did right by me.