On One Particularly Well-Reasoned Reader Reaction to Our Gay Obituary of Arthur C. Clarke


In which The Gay Recluse posts an incisive reader comment.

This was left in the comments but we thought it merited a full post because it brings to light several important and interesting issues that are not unrelated to our obituary of Arthur C. Clarke, which — ahem — did not please everyone.

Vikram — a gay man in India — writes:

I thought your reworked edit was unfair, sure, but also funny and not without some points. One of them you’ve defended above. The other is the certain level of discomfort one feels about a closeted Western gay man parachuting into a developing country like Sri lanka and using the status he gains by being there to lead a life he wasn’t able to lead in the West, at least when he went there, and which most gay Sri Lankans still can’t.

As a gay man living in India I don’t want to make assumptions about the intentions of all foreigners who live in countries like this, but it does rather creep me out to encounter rich (over here) foreigners who use their status to have sexy local men at their beck and call. Maybe some level of envy here, I agree, and often these guys do take care of their local guys. Nonetheless there’s an element of exploitation that cannot be overlooked easily.

I’d even be willing to do that if these guys would make some effort to use their considerable influence to change attitudes and government policy towards homosexuals, but that rarely happens. You point out how much it would have helped a young gay sci fi fan to discover that someone like Clarke was gay – imagine how much it would have helped a young gay Sri Lankan man to have learned that Clarke was an out, proud gay man,rather than someone around whom lots of salacious (and probably incorrect, but that’s not really the point) rumours always swirled in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka isn’t the worst place to be gay in, but its not great. Some bad stuff has happened, like the extension of anti gay laws to cover lesbians. Clarke did do a lot for Sri Lanka, but he could have done a lot for gay Sri Lankans. Perhaps he tried – I’ll mail Sri Lankan activists I know to check – but the chances are he was happy to benefit from the special status he had there, but not willing to help others who didn’t have it.

Thanks for this comment, Vikram. These are important issues that extend far beyond the legacy of Arthur C. Clarke, and we look forward to exploring them more outside of that context (which is already getting a bit tedious, now that he’s been dead for so long.)

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5 Responses to “On One Particularly Well-Reasoned Reader Reaction to Our Gay Obituary of Arthur C. Clarke”

  1. 1 crispy

    Wow. Just wow. You follow-up your completely unnecessary and wholly uninformed trashing of a literary icon with utter speculation from someone who doesn’t even live in the same fucking country! Here’s a news flash for you and your Indian commenter: Arthur C. Clarke had debilitating polio for much of his life, which made sex difficult if not impossible. In multiple interviews, he said sex was something that didn’t interest him. So all those “sexy local men at his beck and call” were there for what, to mop floors?

    Look, I get that the whole point of this was to satirize mainstream media who refuse to acknowledge Clarke’s homosexuality. Today’s AP report about Clarke’s burial plans, which mentions his “friend,” feels like a throwback to the era of “longtime companions.” Fire away. But sadly and unfairly, your target has consistently been Clarke himself. I can’t tell if you’re that shitty a writer or just that big of an asshole.

  2. The real question is whether Arthur C. Clarke would agree that these statues in L.A. are smokin’ hot. (We suspect he would.)


  3. 3 apple

    I hate to split hairs here, but he didn’t have polio per se for that long; people usually don’t. He recovered pretty well, from what I read, and did get post-polio syndrome eventually, as people typically do. But I have to tell ya, I had a friend who was left *devastatingly* more disabled than Clarke after his childhood polio, was in an iron lung for 43 years, and he had as much sex as he could manage, which wasn’t a lot, but he sure did try to manage it. He couldn’t move much but he was happy to be done to, and the same after he got post-polio (which is primarily a profound fatigue syndrome, and possibly one of viral reactivation, tho that’s poorly researched). Post-polio didn’t affect his libido any.

    I did read that Clarke said he’d had little interest in sex since prostate cancer treatment. *That* I believe, given what radiation and surgery and hormone treatments for that cancer can do. But let’s just get our facts straight. He’d had the cancer treatment much later in life than his bout with polio.

  4. Thanks for the comment, apple. I was also struck by the fact that ACClarke was a ping-pong champion until pretty late in his life, and while that doesn’t exactly equal libido, it kind of implies a certain mobility and physicality that I think Crispy’s response doesn’t really address. As for the “not interested in sex” comment, totally agree that it makes sense following a cancer treatment, but it’s also a pretty standard closet-case response, whether it’s used earnestly or coyly (Johnny Weir, for example, or even Morrissey in the 1980s.)

  5. 5 Simon

    The Sunday Telegraph colour supplement published a profile and interview with Arthur C. Clarke in 1979, on the occasion of the publication of The Fountains of Paradise. In it, the journalist reported that Clarke told him in a private aside (I think it was meant to be off the record) that he had been impotent since his illness in 1962.

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