Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

Joanna Russ, And Chaos Died (1970)

18 January 2009

Russ’s second novel, after Picnic on Paradise (1968), and read now as part of my research into homosexuality in 1970s sf. In Jai Vedh we have a character who declares himself a homosexual – a rare usage of the word, and let down by the fact that his sexual partners through the novel are women. Maybe there is no essentialism in sexuality here. It’s possible to ponder about his relationship with Ivat on his return to Earth, but it doesn’t feel quite right.

Existentially flustered Jai is travelling through space when the ship he is in crashes on a planet of telepaths. The aliens teach him to teleport and to influence matter, a skill he takes back to Earth when they are rescued. He plays with the boy Ivat, jumping around Earth, and is reunited with his mentor/lover Evne.

The aliens attack Earth – but only after they have been attacked by humans – and it transpires that they themselves are colonising humans, educated by now-extinct aliens.

Of course, this must have been written in the 1960s, and is odd in the Russ canon for having a male protagonist. Of course, as she went on to write The Female Man next, this is something “fixed” by that book.

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Sally Miller Gearheart, The Wanderground: Stories of the Hill Women (1979)

18 January 2009

I have a sense that I read a review of this with more or less the single word “unreadable” about twenty years ago.  I tried to read the volume without this in mind, but found that difficult, as there was little ongoing plot to hold onto and it is of a flavour of feminism I’m not exactly sympathetic to. I need to go away and read Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will to get a better grasp of the feminism of the period which I suspect lies under the book.

There’s been some kind of disaster and/or revolution, and the women all live in the hills outside of the city, in harmony with nature and in telepathic communication with each other and animals. Men are confined to cities, and their machinery will only work there. A few select women enter the city to try and re-education men, but mostly life is happy (for the women) in a separatist utopia. To the extent that there is a narrative uniting the chapters/vignettes, it the sense that this can’t go on forever, and the men are not to be trusted not to spoil things. 

The temptation here is to fall back into the essentialism that other feminists undercut – women are allied with nature and men with machines, women with the ciuntry and men with the city. I can see how – after several centuries of patriarchy – women may wish to take their lives elsewhere, but it feels in the realm of the lousy solution. Readable, but uncomfortable.