Redefining sexy with dwarves, demons and aliens

This post originally appeared May 16, 2014, on the Contact – Infinite Futures SF blog.

I’ve loved science fiction and fantasy my whole life. I saw the first STAR WARS in the 70s, played with the original Battlestar Galactica toys, wrote a fan letter to “Buck Rogers” Gil Gerard, and never missed a TWILIGHT ZONE or STAR TREK rerun. Some of my favorite movies were THE TIME MACHINE (1960), TIME AFTER TIME (1979), THE LAST UNICORN, THE HOBBIT cartoon by Rankin & Bass, and all the Disney fairy tales. I can’t say I “loved” ALIEN but my dad let me watch it at age 9. He made me cover my eyes during the stomach part, but I saw all the rest!

There are a million reasons to love SF/F — robots, unicorns, social commentary, lasers, magic, good triumphing over evil, just to name a few — but a huge reason to love it is what the genres taught me about love. Short, tall, fat, thin, human, alien, pointy-eared, green, blue or hairy, anyone can be a sexual creature and everyone wants romance.

Our society has a very insidious and destructive way of constantly telling us that we can’t be loved unless we’re attractive enough. And by “attractive” they mean light-skinned, tall, young, thin and hairless — or at least hairless in all the “correct” places, but heaven forbid on the head.

This ideal of beauty is not MY ideal.

Thorin Oakenshield and Tyrion Lannister have proven that you don’t have to be tall to be hot. Brainy beauty falls in love with the big, hairy Beast in Disney’s version of the tale. Speckle-skinned G’kar flies off into the universe with telepath Lita, promising to push the limits of her “pleasure threshold” in BABYLON 5. Bald, blue Zhaan of FARSCAPE is a radiant spiritual and sensual being. STAR TREK? One word: Klingons. Strong, bold warrior women like Xena and FIREFLY’s Zoe aren’t “scaring off” men. Zula of CONAN THE DESTROYER isn’t bothered by slut shaming — if she wants a man she will “grab him and take him.” Hellboy might be a giant snarky red demon dude with a tail, horns and red skin, but I still cry when … (SPOILERS)

Could SF/F go further in representing a variety of races, genders, relationships and body types? YES. But at least it serves up a much greater range of romance than mainstream Hollywood culture. Especially if you do more than scratch the surface or watch the popular movies, but dig deeper into lesser-known authors, small press, independent studios, etc.

A couple more of my favorite stories are Desert Blade by Ella Drake and the Tales of the Underlight series by Jax Garren, wherein disfigured — or differently figured — characters find true love. What are some of your favorites?

~ J.L. Hilton

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