Once I asked my father
what he’d do if he found out I was a changeling.
Without hesitating, he said
“Kill you. Find my real daughter”
This paper consists of a series of semi-autobiographical anecdotes, like the one above, interspersed with more direct analyses of the queerness and transhumanity of entities deemed non- or sub-human in sci-fi and fantasy literature.
The experience of being trans in a non-speculative, ‘real’ world can result in a rupture – a dislocation which generates planes of parallel existence out of splintered desires, necessities and modes of survival; above ground, Under the Hill, and out into the endless alien recesses of space. Being trans means inhabiting a body which is possible in some worlds, and impermissible in others. Side-stepping any debate about whether transness is ‘real’, I would say, I don’t want to be real. I don’t even want to be human.
In this instance, the implication of real is natural, and the meaning of “natural” is “of this world”.
As a trans person, I have a supernatural experience of my body. Along these lines, this paper includes stories about aliens, changelings, and AI’s, and describes how these speculative states – the grotesque, bizarre, undesirable or misleading bodies of science fiction and fantasy – can also be states in which queer bodies can thrive.
I will draw from Octavia Butler’s alien Oankali in Lilith’s Brood, Ann Leckie’s exploration of the relationships between Artificial Intelligence, non-human bodies and personhood in Ancillary Justice, and Jeff VanderMeer’s writing of genetic mutation and changelings in the Southern Reach trilogy, focusing on:
- How queer and aberrant bodies have been marked with tropes of ugliness, trickery, fear and transgression, and how these traits manifest as ‘creatures’ in speculative fiction.
- The ways in which “grossness” and duality is interrogated by the listed examples.
- And, how this sense of bodily transgression, which feeds on revulsion, otherworldliness and the trans/sub-human, can be re-appropriated and harnessed by queer and trans entities to speculate about other ways of existing in this world.
About the speaker
Felix Kawitzky is a non-binary trans artist, writer and lecturer. They are a PhD candidate at the University of York, researching in the fields of queer science fiction, fantasy, collective storytelling, and tabletop roleplaying games. They have an undergraduate in Fine Art, and a Master’s degree in Theatre Making from the University of Cape Town (UCT).