Alien Cryptographies: The View from Queer
Science Fiction Studies
This article aims both to code and to decode, through the lens of queer theory, some of the "alien cryptographies" of science fiction. The figure of the alien, not surprisingly, is at the center of this (re)reading, which includes detailed analyses of two very different treatments of the alien/queer as the figure who moves invisibly through the territories of heteronormativity: John W. Campbell's "Who Goes There?" (1938) and Tom Reamy's "Under the Hollywood Sign" (1975). The purpose of this essay is to delineate some of the complexities of queer as both political positioning and intellectual perspective; it suggests the wide variety of ways in which both readers and texts may be queered and it is committed to the notion of a postmodern and anti-essentialist engagement with identity politics. Science fiction's propensity for rewriting the "common sense" narrative worlds of realism, its location on the margins of mainstream literature, and its techniques of cognitive estrangement are attributes which make of it a potentially powerful method of exploration in our ongoing attempts to envision worlds in which queer and alien no longer function as synonymous terms.