Postings to the Feminist Science Fiction Mailing List, 3 November 1998 to 25 November 1998

BDG: The Snow Queen | BDG: The Snow Queen | Re-reading Childhood Favorites | Introduction to Adult SF | World's End | BDG: The Snow Queen | Re-reading Childhood Favorites | The Snow Queen and Incest | The Snow Queen and Incest | Re-reading Childhood Favorites | Nature / Nurture | Re-reading Childhood Favorites | Democracies in SF & Fantasy | BDG: The Snow Queen | Book of the New Sun Reference | Man = Chimp? | Man = Chimp? | Man = Chimp? | Statistics | Man = Chimp? | "Evil" Philosophers and Feminist SF | "Evil" Philosophers and Feminist SF | Dark Water's Embrace | Dark Water's Embrace | Dark Water's Embrace | Dark Water's Embrace | Dark Water's Embrace




Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] BDG: Snow Queen (Long)
Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 14:19:12 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

Well, this was my third go-round with *The Snow Queen*. I'm interested in what other people have to say because I can't figure out quite why this book has stuck with me. When I first read it back in college I found the characters unconvincing (except for BZ Gundhalinu, who was and remains my favorite), but having read it a couple more times, and having grown older in the intervening years :), I find that I am able to fill in the gaps with my own observations of people. This time I also found myself visualizing some scenes as if I were watching a movie, which is pretty unusual for me.

In feminist terms it's a mixed bag (but stronger than I had thought). There are women aplenty and they are a varied lot: Moon, the Innocent, Good Woman; Arienrhod, the Cold, Ambitious Evil Woman; Jerusha, the Conflicted Career Woman; Fate, the Mystical, Wise Woman; Tor, the Everyday Shmoe Woman (hey, I'm amusing myself here!); Blodwed, the Selfish, Feral Girlchild with a Hidden Heart o'Gold; Elsevier, The Good Samaritan Woman (Mother Wannabe).

They aren't this cut and dried, obviously. I enjoyed the nuances of the characters. Moon, for example, turns out to be more similar to her clone-mother than one would expect of a good vs. evil story. Even at the beginning we see that she is very serious about pursuing her own fate when she presses on through the sibyl choosing place, leaving Sparks behind. And this is not presented as a bad thing. In fact, it seems at the end of the book (and more so in the sequel, *The Summer Queen*) that Arienrhod's plan worked (except for some details, like the union of summer and winter clans and no more water of life...)

I quite enjoyed the character of Jerusha. Her POV often has a sarcastic quality I can identify with. I actually laughed out loud at one scene where she receives a mysterious package and idly thinks to herself, "I hope it's a bomb." And I LOVED the scene where she easily disarms Starbuck and says, "An energy weapon should never be aimed at anything unless you're willing to see it blown apart." While pointing it at him. Heh heh. The whole subplot of her difficulties dealing with insubordination and resentment among her policemen really reminded me of the *Prime Suspect* series starring Helen Mirren. It was made very clear that she had to do twice as well as the men to even be tolerated by them. I could taste the frustration.

Some things I didn't like: the Moon/Sparks romance. I imagine it's just me, but the thought of two children who have been best friends since birth having a sexual relationship makes me feel oogy. Too much like incest. And though it gives her the chance to go adventuring, I didn't like the fact that Moon's main goal throughout the novel is tracking down her lover.

Something that struck me after our recent discussion is that this and all the works of Joan Vinge that I have read can be described as "hurt/comfort fiction" par excellence! (Mostly hurting and not much comforting, actually.) Is this complicated by the fact that the person being comforted is sometimes the main, POV character, as in the *Psion* series?

Jennifer Krauel asked:
> Could it have been shorter without compromising the story or the
> characters?

Yes, I think so, but I'm not sure what could be cut. *The Summer Queen* could DEFINITELY have been shorter.

> For those of you who've finished the book, does it close the story or
> are we left with the need to read the sequels? If you have read the
> sequels, how do they compare with this book?

I think the first book is pretty self-contained. The second book, *World's End*, is strangely disconnected from the other two and is very different in tone. It's told from Gundhalinu's point of view (I recall it as being in the first person, though I no longer have a copy to confirm it) and struck me as being a rewrite of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" in a science fictional setting. (Vinge even quotes from "Heart of Darkness" at the beginning of the book.) There was something I liked about it, but I don't think it went over well with critics or with most readers, which may explain why the third book, *The Summer Queen* encompasses much of its material and can be read as a straight sequel to the first book. *The Summer Queen* makes a quantum leap in length (to 950 pages) and in breadth (lots more characters and a much longer time frame). To me it seems bloated, but still somewhat interesting.

In case anyone is interested, here are some links to versions of the fairy tale:

Complete Hans Christian Andersen version in 7 parts:
http://www.math.technion.ac.il/~rl/Andersen/snow_que.html

A couple others:
http://www.teelfamily.com/activities/snow/snowqueen.html

--
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Dave Matthews Band - Two Step
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] BDG: Snow Queen (Long)
Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 22:24:26 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

At 01:43 PM 11/3/98 -0800, Stephanie Jackson wrote:
>The /second/ book? I've never heard of this before. Is it still in
> print? It seems like the Summer Queen is the sequel... flow from one
> to the other is pretty equal.

It's available at Amazon.com for $3.99. You might also be able to order it from Maryelizabeth at Mysterious Galaxy (http://www.mystgalaxy.com). Or even get it at a used book store.

You can see the gap in *The Summer Queen*, actually. When Gundhalinu gives Kullervo a brief explanation of how he came to World's End to look for his brothers, the journey across the desert with Ang and Spadrin, and his experiences with Song at Fire Lake... that is a summary of the second book. I think it's a little hard to understand his state of mind at this point in the novel (page 260 or thereabouts) without having read the second book, but it's not crucial.

-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Dave Matthews Band -- Two Step
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas



Subject: [*FSFFU*] Re-reading Childhood Favorites
Date: Wed, 4 Nov 1998 14:05:39 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

Debra Euler wrote:
> Has anyone gone back and re-read stuff they loved when they
> were young and been disappointed?

Yup. Some of Madeleine L'Engle's books are painful to me now. Can't stand Anne McCaffrey any more. There are others but I can't recall them at the moment (blocking out the agony?).

Some books I read as a child and DIDN'T like, but enjoy as an adult. Le Guin's Earthsea books, for example. I also recently reread a couple of H.M. Hoover's novels and found them very pleasing, whereas as a child I thought they were merely OK.

--
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Dave Matthews Band - Two Step
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin



Subject: [*FSFFU*] Introduction to "Adult SF"
Date: Wed, 4 Nov 1998 14:09:38 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

Jane Franklin wrote:
> Anyway, to add a science fictional angle, I was interested that
> someone was reading Delaney in fifth grade...how were people's early
> experiences with "adult" science fiction? [...] what was the allure
> of the book you chose, or maybe ended up with? And how did you end
> up with it? I remember reading a lot of Anne McCaffrey when I was
> nine, especially the ones with the gifted female musician who was
> unappreciated by her boring parents.

Coincidentally enough, Anne McCaffrey's Pern books were my entry point into "adult science fiction." I started with the "young adult" Harper Hall books (*Dragonsong*, *Dragonsinger* and *Dragondrums*) when I was 11 or so and it was a natural leap to the Dragonrider books, which as Sandy mentioned, were a lot more concerned with power struggles and politics. They were also sexually explicit to a degree I found uncomfortable, partly because I really didn't want to think about it at that age, but also because the sex was linked to violence in a disturbing way. (Perversely, the romance/sex aspects of the books came to fascinate me later.)

The dragons were what I liked about the books to start with. I was the kind of kid who read lots of "animal books", fiction and nonfiction (Black Stallion, anyone?). Dragons were even better than horses. :) But I gradually became interested in decoding the "real" underpinnings of this fantastical world (for example, I was tickled to discover that "agenothree" was HNO3, or nitric acid). This puzzle-solving impulse is still a major motivator for me to read SF. I really am not fond of Anne McCaffrey any more, but I'm glad I read the books then.

--
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Dave Matthews Band - Two Step
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] BDG: Snow Queen sequels--World's End
Date: Wed, 4 Nov 1998 14:24:53 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

Sharon Clark wrote:
> Is it worth reading [World's End]?

[S P O I L E R S}











Depends on what you like, I guess. If you think you'd enjoy getting inside BZ's head as he is humiliated and abused, infected by the sibyl virus and driven close to insane, all in a hellishly hot nightmare setting... go for it! Personally, I dug it. ;)

> How much of it is encompassed in "The Summer Queen"?

The events themselves are not present in *The Summer Queen*, except for his sibyl link with Moon, which we see from her side on pp. 102-105. BZ does recount them briefly to Kullervo, though. Plotwise, you're not missing anything.

--
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Dave Matthews Band - Two Step
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] BDG Snow Queen
Date: Wed, 4 Nov 1998 23:29:17 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

At 04:20 AM 11/4/98 -0800, you wrote:
>Speaking of honor. Did anyone think of the Kharemough as representing the
>Japanese with their emphasis on honor, ancestry and technology?

With its caste system and naming conventions (initials as first names) Kharemough seemed modeled more on India. The physical appearance of the Kharemoughi fit with this too. But obviously there was other source material too.

And Marina wrote:
>Honestly, I did not like Kharemough that much.

It sure would drive me crazy!

Joyce Jones wrote:
> A concern Janice had with the Moon/Sparks romance was that since they had
> been best friends since birth, it seemed too much like incest.

And Marina added:
> What about Ea and Annabel in the Black Wine? They did not just grow up
> together, they were actually half-sisters. The only difference is that
> Moon and Sparks are heterosexual.

Yes, that relationship bothered me a little too. But not as much since they were not "pledged" like Moon and Sparks were. For whatever reason an *exclusive* incestuous relationship bothers me more than a casual one. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was pulling for the BZ-Moon connection and Sparks the self-involved brat was in the way. Monogamy. Ugh.

-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: R.E.M. -- Up
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] Re-reading Childhood Favorites
Date: Thu, 5 Nov 1998 11:11:17 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

Bertina Miller wrote:
> Why are L'Engle's books painful to you?

Not all of them are painful. Back in 1991 I reread two L'Engle books, *The Moon By Night* and *A House Like a Lotus*. Both are "coming of age" stories, dealing with issues of sexuality and friendship. I was struck by the contrast between Vicky Austin and Polly O'Keefe, the respective protagonists of the two books. I found Vicky unbearably passive when it came to physical intimacy -- boys always had to kiss her, she never could kiss them. Polly was quite venturesome in comparison. No doubt this has something to do with when the books were written (1963 and 1985). I do wonder what I would make of the lesbian character in *A House Like A Lotus* if I were to reread it now.

I also have a problem with the occasional moral smugness and very obvious Christian content of her books. *Many Waters* was just too much for me. (I have the same problem with the Narnia books -- though it's true I haven't even tried to reread them in many years.) That said, I still think she's an interesting author and I really liked some of her more realistic novels, like *The Small Rain*.

--
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: R.E.M. -- Up
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] BDG Snow Queen & incest
Date: Thu, 5 Nov 1998 14:47:08 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

Anthea Hartley Stanton wrote:
> Incest, certainly in our and other Western cultures, requires blood
> relationship (see Freud's _Totem and taboo_). I don't see how
> *unrelated* lifelong friends becoming lovers can possibly incestuous -
> however they're brought up.

I didn't say it *was* incest technically (though in fact Moon and Sparks are first cousins, which may or may not be incest depending on who you talk to); I said it *felt* like incest to me. Some anthropologists have theorized that there is a mechanism at work in the human mind that tends to discourage sexual relations between people who are raised together during a crucial age range, up to age 6, I think (Westermarck). There was some corroborative evidence gathered from children, unrelated by blood, who were raised in kibbutzim. I don't know what the current thinking about this is. I took an entire anthro course on the incest taboo but that was about ten years ago. Certainly incest does occur sometimes even when the conditions Westermarck outlined are met.

--
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: R.E.M. -- Up
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] BDG Snow Queen & incest
Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 09:22:56 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

I wrote:
> Moon and Sparks are first cousins, which may or may not be incest
> depending on who you talk to

Obviously, this is wrong. I should have written, "As far as they know, Moon and Sparks are first cousins."

--
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: R.E.M. -- Up
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] Re-reading Childhood Favorites
Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 22:11:01 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

Jane Franklin wrote re: Tolkien
> Now has anybody noticed how classist he is?

And in reply, Caroline Heske wrote:
>Yes, actually. In fact, an incredible number of fantasy/scifi books are
>- where peasants are chiefly used in fodder for these great battles
>between good and evil that won't make a damn difference in their lives,
>anyway. A feudal structure is usually set up as glorious, and the
>problems with it are less than glossed over.

Recently I reread the Westmark trilogy by Lloyd Alexander (more commonly remembered for his Prydain Chronicles) and was enormously impressed by his critique of monarchy. Has anyone else read these books? I remember them making quite an impression on me when I was 12-13 years old, chiefly due to the grim depictions of wartime violence. Upon rereading I was quite taken with the representation of Mickle, the Beggar Queen. She's obviously competent -- and particularly engaging while playing street punk. :) I would recommend them to anyone. The titles are *Westmark*, *The Kestrel* and *The Beggar Queen*.

-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: R.E.M. -- Up
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas



Subject: [*FSFFU*] Nature / Nurture (was Democracies in sf/f)
Date: Sun, 8 Nov 1998 00:30:03 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

>On 7 Nov 98, at 10:27, John Bertland wrote:
>> Interesting thought, but I disagree. [snip] Some sf deals with
>> the question more subtlety and more directly with very satisfying
>> results such as C.J. Cherryh's Cyteen.

In reply, Anthea Hartley Stanton wrote:
>You cite only one book - _Cyteen_ and that book, of course, is strongly
>"Family" oriented. If anyone who hasn't read it disagrees, I would suggest
>checking the excepts on the author's webpage.
>
>So it's very difficult to respond to your generalised comments because your
>statements are too vague. May I suggest that you examine the books cited on
>this list in the last few months and do a simple weighted calculation (if
>necessary on a random sampling)? A different approach would be to consider
>the work of the best-selling feminist sf authors - Bujold, McCaffrey, Tepper,
>Hambly, Moon, MZB and so on. Perhaps then you will arrive at the same
>_statistical_ conclusion that I did otherwise we can re-examine your points.

Anthea, you make it sound as if John has made an obvious factual error. But the way in which your original statement was worded was far from "exact" compared to his "vagueness." How about both of you come up with some particulars? I haven't read any Elizabeth Moon or Bujold and very little Tepper, Bradley or Cherryh, so I would love to read an overview of political structures and the underpinnings of heroic virtues in their works...

As for McCaffrey, she obviously has a thing for royal-blooded characters (Lessa is a great example) and barely critiques the feudal structure of Pernese society in the Dragon books. Though interestingly the Harper Hall trilogy focuses more on low-born, non-royal types who succeed through the persistence of their own efforts. Menolly is the daughter of a Holder but her virtues have nothing to do with her parentage (rather, she must cast off her connection with them to reach fulfillment). Sebell and Piemur appear to have come from humble beginnings. Robinton, however, seems to owe his noble character at least somewhat to his parentage (though I haven't read the new book *Masterharper of Pern* and don't know the details). Of course, family is often the seat of nurture as well as nature, so the mere presence of familial influence is not an indicator of which aspect is important.

An interesting spin on this nature/nurture debate is presented in, coincidentally, *The Snow Queen*. Moon and Arienrhod are alike in crucial ways because they share the same genes, but they are also very different because of the way in which each was raised. The sibyl mind chooses Moon over Arienrhod because of her crucial differences from Arienrhod. I think it's an interesting middle ground on the issue.

I think John is right that the idea that "royalty will out" is a lot more common in fantasy than it is in science fiction. Certainly I can think of a lot more examples off the top of my head (*The Once and Future King* and a host of Arthurian retellings lead the pack). Of course there is the legacy of that filmic family saga, *Star Wars*, to deal with -- shudder -- but it is hardly representative of the genre as a whole.

-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: R.E.M. -- Up
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] Re-reading Childhood Favorites
Date: Sun, 8 Nov 1998 01:47:55 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

At 10:31 PM 11/6/98 -0800, Jessie Stickgold-Sarah wrote:
>Speaking of Christianity in F&SF--when I read the Narnia books, I had
>zero exposure to Christian theology, but I'd read up on all the "old
>pagan traditions", and been in a couple of theatrical performances
>that drew heavily on the idea of "sacrificing" the personified harvest
>in the fall, only to have it rise again in the spring. It seemed
>obvious to me that that was what was happening with Aslan. Doesn't
>make the intent any less Christian, but it didn't do much to me when I
>was ten or eight or whatever.

Yeah, I missed most of it when I originally read it, around age 10, I think. Except for the final book, *The Last Battle*, which really disturbed me. I felt betrayed to learn that the Narnia I had read about in the other six books was somehow a cheap imitation of the real, perfect, Narnia. And I really did not enjoy watching it become corrupt and fall to pieces in what I dimly understood to be Judgment Day. I decided even then that it was a worldview I wanted no part of.

-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: R.E.M. -- Up
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] Democracies in sf/f
Date: Sun, 8 Nov 1998 17:00:17 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

At 05:29 AM 11/7/98 MET, Anthea Hartley Stanton wrote:
>I have been very hard put to think of
>more than a very few books in which the "revolution" or whatever resulted or
>was planned to end in a democratic government. The best that seems to happen
>is that a "mad tyrant" is replaced by a benevolent despot, or an aristocratic
>/ mercantile oligarchy.

It's true, I can't really think of ANY science fiction books that even mention voting as a political process (except for Heinlein's *Starship Troopers* which presents a very weird vision of democracy). However, there are quite a number of SF books that attempt to flesh out political systems that do not and have not existed in reality. Ursula Le Guin's *The Dispossessed* is one of the more famous examples. Slonczewski's *A Door Into Ocean*, Gloss's *The Dazzle of Day* and Piercy's *Woman on the Edge of Time* all foreground consensus models of decision-making -- an alternative that seems a lot more workable to female writers than male, I think.

And there are a large number of science fiction books that are limited in scope enough that politics or other forms of world-building don't come into play. Many seem to briefly sketch out decaying military-industrial complexes for background -- not surprising given our current reality. :)

-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: R.E.M. -- Up
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] BDG: SNOW QUEEN questions?
Date: Sun, 8 Nov 1998 19:02:03 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

At 08:40 AM 11/8/98 -0800, Maryelizabeth Hart wrote:
>For anyone interested, I'm in touch with Joan Vinge, and if anyone had
>specific questions they would like her to address from SNOW QUEEN, I can
>forward them to her. At present she is hard at work on a new novel called
>TANGLED UP IN BLUE. It's set on Tiamat, in Carbuncle, during part of the
>time of THE SNOW QUEEN.

Ooh, ooh! I'm really interested in her approach to characterization in her novels. How much does she map out her plots ahead of time and how much does she allow herself to be "led" by her developing characters? I ask because for most of *The Snow Queen* there is no hint of the major role Gundhalinu will play towards the end, and none at all of how his own story will come to overshadow Moon's in the following two books. It seemed that she became more intrigued by him as she continued writing and decided to try him out in different environments.

Since we started discussing the books I've been pondering why I like his character so much. I think it has to do with his dual role as object/subject. As a heterosexual woman with a very butch manner I've always felt a combination of identification with and desire for men (I once thought of it as being a homosexual man in a woman's body, but was ultimately unsatisfied with that idea as it denies the importance of my co-existing identication as a woman). So I've found that I enjoy depictions of men that allow me to feel this dual attraction/identification. Gundhalinu is one of those characters for me. Another was, believe it or not, Keanu Reeves in the movie *Speed*.

It must be indicative of the power differential in modern society that it's a lot more common for women to write these kinds of roles than it is for men. Very few men I have met have had any interest in fully understanding what it means to be trapped in the female gender role, to see things from the other side. And some attempts (as in the novels of Tom Robbins) come across to me as being very WRONG. Of course, it could be that Gundhalinu is completely unconvincing to male readers. I once exchanged email with Lawrence Watt-Evans (a fantasy author) about M.J. Engh's *Arslan* and he maintained that the character of Hunt Morgan was obviously written by a woman because his sexuality was *all wrong*. (I think this says more about how narrow Watt-Evans's idea of male sexuality is than about Engh's biases, especially since Samuel Delany and Orson Scott Card loved the novel.) Thoughts, anyone?

-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: R.E.M. -- Up
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas



Subject: [*FSFFU*] *Book of the New Sun* Reference
Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1998 19:17:58 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

I was just rereading some messages from the last few weeks and came across this sentence:

On 28 Oct 1998, Daniel Krashin wrote:
> I wish someone would spend five years or so writing a BotNS
> concordance, BTW, explaining all the cross-references and hidden
> easter eggs that Wolfe packed into those books.

Your wish is granted! Michael Andre-Driussi (aka "Mantis") has written a book titled *Lexicon Urthus* that is described as "a brief Lexicon for Gene Wolfe's *The Book of the New Sun*, *The Urth of the New Sun*, and *Empires of Foliage and Flower* as well as Shorter Stories, including glosses on Biblical Allusions, Ships of Sail and Oar, Kabbalistic Notions, Archaic English Words, Diverse Arms and Armor, Extinct and Exotic Animals, Latin Terms military and civic, in addition to Myths and Legends from China, Greece, Arabia, Oceania, Rome, India, Persia, and South America."

For anyone who is interested, there is also a mailing list devoted to these works. There are online archives at http://moonmilk.volcano.org/urth/archives/. If you have any questions about Wolfe, ask these folks!

-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: R.E.M. -- Up
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] "the question of what guys are" (was: Bujold)
Date: Tue, 10 Nov 1998 15:30:53 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

S.M. Stirling wrote:
> It's my own private theory that men are less behaviorally flexible
> than women, for what it's worth.
>
> (In fact, if you list the physical characteristics that separate
> humans from our close chimp and bonobo relatives, or from earlier
> hominids -- neoteny, reduced body hair, gracile build, smaller brow
> ridges, etc. -- you find an interesting parallel to the differences
> between the sexes.)

This reminds me of Monty Python's *Holy Grail* and the witch-burning scene. The Person in Charge asks, "How do you know that she is a witch?" and one of the crowd blurts out, "She looks like one!"

Not to be inflammatory (though I suppose it is inevitable), but others have used this sort of reasoning to claim that Africans are evolutionarily closer to chimps than white people are. A very good critique can be found in Stephen Jay Gould's *The Mismeasure of Man*. (As an aside, Gould knowingly used this title, which some have interpreted as sexist, to show that the study of intelligence, anatomy, etc. has been historically skewed toward the male of the species.)

--
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: R.E.M. -- Up
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] "the question of what guys are" (was: Bujold)
Date: Wed, 11 Nov 1998 15:51:06 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

S.M. Stirling wrote:
> In a message dated 11/10/98 1:34:06 PM Mountain Standard Time,
> jdawley@TOGETHER.NET writes:
>
> << but others have used this sort of reasoning to claim that Africans
> are evolutionarily closer to chimps than white people are.>
>
> -- that's odd, since Africans have far _less_ body hair than chimps
> do. In fact, all humans are Africans, comparatively recent emigrants
> from the mother continent.

My point was that physical similarities have no bearing on whether two things are developmentally or psychologically linked. Often the very decision of what resembles what is fraught with unconscious biases. The people who claimed that Africans were closer to chimps held that their skins were dark, like the chimps, their noses were flatter, like the chimps, obviously they must be related in some way that white people aren't. The physical characteristics you listed seem just as arbitrary -- I could as well say that *women* are more chimp-like because they are shorter, on average, than men are.

I am aware that there are fossil remains documenting human evolution and that there has been a trend toward less body hair, less pronounced brow ridges, etc. Nobody knows *why* these changes have occurred and there is no documented link between these physical characteristics and behavior/psychology, etc. Otherwise, why would the bonobos, who are almost identical physically to the chimpanzees, be so different in their behavior?

--
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: R.E.M. -- Up
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] "the question of what guys are" (was: Bujold)
Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 11:46:00 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

S.M. Stirling wrote:
>
> In a message dated 11/11/98 1:53:49 PM Mountain Standard Time,
> jdawley@TOGETHER.NET writes:
>
> >Nobody knows *why* these changes have occurred and there is no
> >documented link between these physical characteristics and
> >behavior/psychology, etc.
>
> -- it's extremely unlikely that there's no connection.

Extremely unlikely? That's where we disagree. I see no reason to believe that there is a connection. There is a long history in statistics of confusing correlation with causation. To quote Stephen Jay Gould: "[Such correlations] are perfectly "true" in a mathematical sense, but they demonstrate no causal connection. For example, we may calculate a spectacular correlation -- very near the maximum value of 1.0 -- between the rise in world population during the past five years and the increasing separation of Europe and North America by continental drift."

Gould deals in depth with the very argument you are making in Chapter 4 of *The Mismeasure of Man*, "Measuring Bodies". Previous to the "neoteny" argument of human development there was a prevailing theory that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny", meaning that the fetal and childhood development of any creature indicated the evolutionary steps its species took to reach its present state. This theory was employed to "scientifically prove" that non-white races and women were less "advanced" than white men (since they seemed to be arrested at an earlier stage of development). The theory of recapitulation collapsed in the early years of this century, to be replaced by the contradictory theory of neoteny. Amazingly, this new theory was used to "scientifically prove", once again, that non-white races and women were less "advanced" than white men! Naturally, this meant tossing away all the old data and choosing a new set of measurements to emphasize.

What I am trying to say is that biologically determinist ideas have been disastrously wrong and biased in the past and would be much better avoided unless there is a compelling reason to consider them. I find no compelling reason in this case.

--
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: R.E.M. -- Up
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] OT (again!) Statistics
Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 16:43:55 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

Mike Stanton wrote:

> I disagree that "[t]here is a long history in statistics of confusing
> correlation with causation". No statistician confuses "correlation"
> with "causation". Warnings against this are given in almost every
> stats textbook. Problems start when somebody (rarely a statistician)
> uses the results from perfectly valid mathematical calculations to
> attribute "causation" based on debatable physical explanations - which
> is quite a different matter.

It was a mis-statement on my part. I should have pointed out that statisticians are not necessarily responsible for the uses to which their data is put.

> In the same way, it worries me when people reject science itself just
> because some scientists and/or their works are flawed. Would you
> reject all art because some painters are sexist or all music because
> some musicians are racists?

Not sure if you were addressing this question to me or Kathleen. If it was me... no, I certainly do not reject science itself. It's my opinion that sociobiology is a "pseudo-science". My feelings about it are completely separate from my respect for and practice of scientific principles.

--
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: R.E.M. -- Up
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] "the question of what guys are" (was: Bujold)
Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 17:12:24 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

S.M. Stirling wrote:

> In a message dated 11/12/98 10:16:23 AM Mountain Standard Time,
> jdawley@TOGETHER.NET writes:
>
> << Extremely unlikely? That's where we disagree. I see no reason to
> believe that there is a connection. There is a long history in
> statistics of confusing correlation with causation.>
>
> -- post hoc propter ergo hoc, but the Gould quote you mention is
> dishonest (not a first, for him -- he's particularly fond of dragging
> in long-dead 19th-century pseudoscience and falsely claiming his
> opponents are advocating a return to measuring head-bumps).

Gould may be nasty from time to time, but I don't see how he's dishonest. He is critiquing a thought-process, not a specific set of data.

> We're not correlating continental drift with demographics in this
> case; we're correlating changes in physiology with other changes in
> physiology. Organisms are coordinated wholes, not collections of
> randomly assembled parts.

Correct me if I am wrong, but in your original message you were correlating physiology and behavior.

> Science, particularly the descriptive ones like evolutionary biology,
> is a matter of looking for patterns of correlation and then testing
> hypotheses about structural interconnections.

Well, I did not mean to imply that correlation *never* indicates causation. Combined with solid empirical testing, it is indispensable.

> If you think the neoteny argument is flawed, I'm always ready to hear
> why, but a blanket dismissal based on spurious associations with
> phrenology looks suspiciously like ideological censorship.

I thought I had already explained my problem with the neoteny argument, but apparently not. As far as I know there is no credible evidence that the physiological changes that you mentioned are related to changes in behavior. The evidence you mentioned seems like it could easily be a series of meaningless coincidences. And I think you are failing to see the logical extensions of your own argument. If men are somehow evolutionarily closer to chimps because they are less neotenous than women are... wouldn't it follow that Chinese people, more neotenous than Europeans, are farther away from chimps evolutionarily? Why is none of this borne out by DNA testing? And how exactly would these vague predispositions make any difference at all when faced with the powerful effects of conditioning? As a student of anthropology, I've read a lot more than Stephen Jay Gould on this topic and I have yet to see any satisfactory answers to these questions.

--
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: R.E.M. -- Up
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin



Subject: [*FSFFU*] "Evil" Philosophers and Feminist SF
Date: Sat, 21 Nov 1998 19:12:13 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

It occurs to me that S.M. Stirling's sweeping pronouncements on morality are examples of the very "totalizing master narratives" that Foucault was pointing out. Of course they are in disagreement! :) Not that I am an expert on Foucault. I haven't read a single one of his books. I have read part of one of Nietzsche's books, however ("On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life"). He did not strike me as even remotely evil. BTW, I would like to point out that philosophy in general is *not* "the study of how we should live." There is a branch of philosophy called "ethics" that concerns morality. Much of philosophy is actually an inquiry into the nature of Truth, Knowledge and the ways people think, conceived as distinct from morality.

I've never understood the belief that moral relativism leads to evil. (Moral absolutism and fanaticism have a much better record for that.) Moral relativism seems simple pragmatic recognition of the fact that it is impossible to agree or even argue productively, about morality or anything else, if there is no underlying set of assumptions that is shared. Sociology and anthropology, "mock-sciences" or not, are attempts to map out the ways in which culture, technology and thought processes differ from group to group. These are also central preoccupations of science fiction.

It has struck me that this contentious thread actually has a lot to do with feminist SF. There has been a long history in feminist SF of identifying with "the other" and recognizing the power of group thinking in shaping ideas of reality. Springing immediately to mind are a number of Le Guin's works ("Vaster than Empires and More Slow", *The Word for World is Forest*, "Dancing to Ganam", "The Shobies' Story"), many of James Tiptree's works, and our recent BDG selection *Alien Influences*. With the growing popular awareness of quantum physics we're also seeing more treatments of the theme of the act of observation *creating* reality (as in Greg Egan's *Quarantine*). Many of these treatments get the physics terribly wrong in my view, but if I read SF for scientific accuracy I wouldn't have much of a reading list!

What other feminist SF works am I missing? (I'm sure they are legion.)

-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: R.E.M. -- Up
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] "Evil" Philosophers and Feminist SF
Date: Sat, 21 Nov 1998 19:49:56 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

At 07:19 PM 11/21/98 EST, you wrote:
>-- if morals are arbitrary matters of preference, then there is no
>alternative to settling all disputes by power -- ie., force and terror.

I disagree. Even if people's basic assumptions are in conflict they can talk about those assumptions. No culture is homogeneous, either. Recently I read Chinua Achebe's *Things Fall Apart* which does a good job of portraying the profound alteration of the traditional Obi culture in Nigeria when white colonists appeared. The whites build a church in the main character's village and win quite a few converts because there *is* variation in the local population and some, including Okonkwo's son, feel more in tune with the missionaries' message than with their own cultural heritage. Neither culture comes across as being "good guys", BTW. Though there are a few violent episodes in the novel, the most important tactic of the whites seems to be simple verbal persuasion.

>Is female genital mutliation just another local custom, immune from judgement
>by outsiders, for example?

I personally find genital mutilation repugnant. But I have never visited Africa and have no in depth understanding of the cultures in which it is practiced. This is not a simple issue. And I am not interested in discussing it on this list. I was trying to guide this discussion back towards the list topic: feminist science fiction. Can we head that way, please?

-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Tori Amos -- From the Choirgirl Hotel
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas



Subject: [*FSFFU*] *Dark Water's Embrace*
Date: Sat, 21 Nov 1998 20:07:09 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

I recently finished Stephen Leigh's novel *Dark Water's Embrace* and was wondering if anyone else has read it and what they thought of it? I recall that Carolyn Ives Gilman nominated it for the BDG -- are you still around, Carolyn?

For those who haven't read it, the novel is about a group of colonists who are stranded on another world when their spaceship is disabled catastrophically while in orbit. The nine people on the surface struggle to survive by breeding continuously (except for one important character) and by the present day of the novel there are a total of 100 colonists. There is an alarming frequency of birth defects and child mortality and those who survive into adulthood are often deformed. Women are expected to get pregnant as often as possible. And homosexuality is strictly forbidden. As in reality, this doesn't mean it never happens... And maybe it will mean the survival of the colony.

I have a feeling that this novel will be a strong contender for the Tiptree Award this year. I thought its treatment of sexuality and the pain of being an outsider was very moving -- I found myself on the verge of tears several times! I was very puzzled by some of the plot elements, however. It seemed that some verged on mystical hand-waving or fantasy. A great read, though.

-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Tori Amos -- From the Choirgirl Hotel
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] *Dark Water's Embrace* (SPOILERS)
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 18:35:26 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

At 07:41 AM 11/22/98 -0500, Donna Simone wrote:
>I would not say that it is homosexuality that is the potential salvation.
>The book is very clear about the fact that three participants are need
>to conceive healthy children in that the humans have now mutated into
>something "alien". They now need their own "Sa". This is a new
>paradigm, not homosexuality.

I guess I was trying not to get into too much detail in my original summary. What I meant is that if Anaïs had not been interested in a sexual relationship with another woman then she never would have discovered her capabilities as a "sa". Of course, if she were *only* interested in women it wouldn't have worked either.

>I was ultimately disappointed with the conservative message. That
>alternate sexual behavior should/must be accepted because it is the
>new means of pro-creation. This is not the same advance/growth for
>the community as learning to accept alternative sexual interactions
>because that is what people choose to do.

I don't think that was the intended message, though I guess it's easy to take it that way. There are two main reasons I don't think Leigh meant it that way: Gabriela's story and the character of Dominic. Gabriela was not a "sa" but I certainly felt that the way she was treated was abominable and inexcusable. Though she wryly comments that maybe the rest of the survivors needed to scapegoat and shun someone to pull themselves closer together, I don't think this really holds up under examination. Shig and his son Dominic after him are simply intolerant and very powerful personalities and she and Anaïs pay the price. I think it's also obvious that the taboo against homosexuality serves no useful function -- it is merely hatemongering. (After all, they are perfectly capable of artificially inseminating women.) A question I thought was less well dealt with was, what if a woman doesn't want to have any children? And, by extension, what if a "sa" doesn't want to be a reproductive go-between?

Some more questions I was left with: how exactly did Anaïs become a "sa"? It certainly wasn't through natural selection. It's implied that KaiSa's sacrifice had something to do with it, but aside from the intervention of some deity I can't see how it happened. And what was with the grumblers? Supposedly they were "devolved" descendents of the Miccail, but from the descriptions they seemed to be identical and they even seemed to speak the same language! Why were there no deformed or mutated specimens as there were among the humans? And how did they get to their present state?

-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Tori Amos -- From the Choirgirl Hotel
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] *Dark Water's Embrace* (SPOILERS)
Date: Mon, 23 Nov 1998 10:16:12 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

I wrote:
> What I meant is that if Anaïs had not been interested in a sexual
> relationship with another woman then she never would have discovered
> her capabilities as a "sa". Of course, if she were *only* interested
> in women it wouldn't have worked either.

And donna simone replied:
> Yes, but we are left room to suspect her interest was because she
> was a sa. The desire being a biologically determined thing even if
> the social structure was not there yet.

Then how to explain Leigh's extremely sympathetic portrayals of lesbian women? I think we're talking around one another a little here... I thought it was clear that the way Gabriela was treated was NOT OK, despite the perceived reproductive imperatives of the rest of the group. I took his meaning to be more that some people will never become tolerant of difference unless they are forced to by bitter necessity. And some, like Dominic, will NEVER accept it. In Anaïs's case, she discovers that she holds a power that Dominic cannot challenge effectively, but even if she was not "sa", Dominic's behavior would not be "right," unless we are to assume that "might makes right". I think it's clear that Leigh does not believe that.

As a side issue, didn't it seem odd that there wasn't a single gay man in the book?

I wrote:
> Some more questions I was left with: how exactly did Anaïs become a
> "sa"? It certainly wasn't through natural selection.

And donna simone returned:
> The dark waters embrace.

Yes. But how did it work? I was hoping for some explanation on Leigh's part, but there is none. Is the lake some kind of alien intelligence? Is there some kind of nanotechnology guiding the development of some species? And why only the Miccail and humans and not the other species on the planet? And why not just fix the males so their sperm was not defective? (Seems like that would be a little easier than creating a whole new sex!) I got the strong feeling that Leigh just sketched in these elements to create his "thought experiment" and was more concerned with the characters and the emotional part of the story.

I wrote:
> And what was with the grumblers? [...] And how did they get to
> their present state?>

donna again:
> In my reading (and it has been 4-5 months gone by now) the sacrifice
> of the Sa precipitated the eventual elimination of all Sa. This
> left the Miccail without the key DNA to prevent mutation. The
> Grumblers were mutated or "devolved" Miccail. The mutation due to
> effects of the "dark waters embrace". That is what they ended up as
> without the "healing/preventative" participation of the third
> sex.

What I was trying to say is that the grumblers did not seem different enough from the Miccail to explain their cultural collapse. But I can overlook that, I suppose.

--
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Tori Amos -- From the Choirgirl Hotel
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] Dark Waters Embrace
Date: Mon, 23 Nov 1998 23:48:50 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

At 06:24 PM 11/23/98 -0500, donna simone wrote:
>As a lesbian reading this book I saw the one lesbian character hatefully
>harassed and banished to isolation on a hostile unknown death-dealing
>planet for years and years until her unacknowledged lonely death. This is
>sympathetic?

Yes, I think so, because it is clear that the author identifies with her and not with her persecutors. I can't count how many stories gain their tragic power from the mistreatment of a protagonist. If I care enough about a character to cry over his/her fate, that says to me that the author's treatment was sympathetic. :)

>[Gabriela's] choices made her "useless" to the colony. Her choice to be
>homo-sexual and childless. The narrative let her die there never having
>been seen as valuable in those choices.

But we as readers saw her value.

>>As a side issue, didn't it seem odd that there wasn't a single gay man
>>in the book?
>
>This absence made me even less able to view Gabriella as a sincerely
>sympathetic portrayal. If homosex was okay????? Then where was
>the interaction between Anais and the male partner with him being
>penetrated. If I may be so crude.

That's a good point. It just adds to my feeling that the author didn't think it through completely. That for some reason he found it more interesting or natural to imagine women together than men together. So the "male" part of Anaïs's sexuality was not expressed with Elio, though her "female" sexuality / physiology was fully expressed with Máire (along with the "male").

>But then that would have been sex for just pleasure.

As for this... I don't see any indication that the author disapproves of sex for pleasure. The fact that the majority of the colonists don't approve of it just makes them look more prudish and repressed.

>Again that is why I see the egg coming before the chicken.
>Anais was interested in the woman _because_ Anais was a Sa. Anais is
>not a woman at all. We read her as one, but it is revealed to us that she
>is to be back-read as a Sa. Like in the flashback passages. And the
>female partner at the instinctive level knew that Anais was Sa so to my
>reading there was only one lesbian character Gabriella.

Well, there was also Adari, the woman who fell in love with Gabriela after her first shunning. We don't hear much about her, though. Why do you think that Máire was attracted to Anaïs because she was "sa"? If the author thinks that attraction is based merely upon parts matching up why would he include any lesbian characters at all? I thought there was a somewhat bitter commentary on human nature underlying the story, actually -- that genuine, life-affirming emotion is extremely rare and should be grasped whenever possible, despite the risks. Anaïs, Máire and Elio succeed and Gabriela tragically did not. I don't think Leigh was implying that she deserved happiness any less than they did.

>personal aside:
>I hope you are not perceiving my commentary as antagonistic. This in
>fact is one of the more fruitful and mind expanding discussions
>I have had on the list about any book. I thank you for it.

No, I didn't take your comments as antagonistic at all! Just fruitful disagreement. I have been enjoying the discussion also.

-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Tori Amos -- From the Choirgirl Hotel
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas



Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] Dark Water's Embrace
Date: Wed, 25 Nov 1998 00:21:35 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU

At 07:43 AM 11/24/98 -0500, donna simone wrote:
>At some point author's reveal what is their internal world view. The one
>perhaps that is not thought out because it part of their essential being. I
>am suggesting that at this level. The "unconscious" if you will. Leigh is
>presenting a world that, despite existing in what is a technologically and
>socially advanced future, still does not recognize the value of peoples
>partnering or sexual choices unless they "have a value" to the community.
>I would submit that Leigh is content at some level with seeing the world
>as a place where us "animals" are here to make more animals.

Perhaps Leigh does not believe in onward marching progress in the social sense? I'm not sure that I do. When a small population is faced with an environment that makes individual survival and procreation extremely difficult a fair number may panic, become superstitious and repressive, etc. regardless of when they were born. Even the Miccail, who *had* a "sa" sex and seemed to be flourishing, were not tolerant and good (viz. the enslavement of the JaJe and the ravages of DekTe). I felt that his message was more that all that we can hope for is a certain percentage of decent folk at any given time, perhaps a "golden age" here and there in between cultural collapses... Am I depressing you?

Speaking of depression... it occurs to me that this book is similar in some ways to Joanna Russ' *We Who Are About To...* Sadly I haven't read it yet so I can't make the impressive parallels and/or contrasts I would like to. :)

>The deck is stacked to make the reader favor [Gabriela] _despite_
>her sexuality.

Hm... do you really think that he made her such a likeable person just to overcome homophobia on the part of his readers? In this case it seems like it's hard to distinguish possible deck-stacking from simple not-quite-convincing characterization that could be due to any number of factors.

>For a comparison point on "rendering lesbian characters" I would point
>to the characters of "Claire" and "Fanny May" in K. J. Fowler's 'Sweetheart
>Season'. Fabulous book by the way.

I've been meaning to read some of Fowler's stuff. Perhaps this is where I will start.

>j. dawley;
>>As for this... I don't see any indication that the author disapproves of
>>sex for pleasure. The fact that the majority of the colonists don't approve
>>of it just makes them look more prudish and repressed.>
>
>Well if you would stand with me over here :). No other humans in the
>book are portrayed having sex for "pleasure" except these three
>characters. Yet, the Miccail are portrayed as having very amorous and
>pleasurable relations in their triads. Can we not "read" this to mean that
>to humans the sex is not "pleasurable" because they were not mating the
>"right" way? I am recalling the scene with Elio where Anais "bursts" out.

Why do you mention that scene? True, they both achieved orgasm, but presumably the same happens all the time. And Anaïs came away traumatized at her sudden transformation. As far as pleasurable sex goes, there is once again the example of Gabriela. And Anaïs' earlier relationship with Ochiba.

One of the passages in the book that made the biggest impression on me (and which I think supports my point) is Anaïs' recollection of erotic moments in her life, when she says, "I suppose the wet piston mechanics of sex never aroused me as much as other things. Smaller things. More intimate things." Maybe because I identified with what she said so strongly, it had a ring of authenticity that said to me "the author really understands and sympathizes with this point of view." That eroticism can be completely separate from acts traditionally associated with babymaking; that in fact it is often destroyed by focusing on such acts.

Whew! I am up way past my bedtime. So off goes the latest volley...

-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Tori Amos -- From the Choirgirl Hotel
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas



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