Photo by Hubble. Luridity by Twisty.
I’ve just come from the science fiction thread that sprouted incomprehensibly alongside the Shulamith Firestone discussion (I’m still pondering the nature of the mass
hysteria enthusiasm that conceived this conjoined intellective twin situation). I observe that the thread is attempting, with as little success as usual, to cough up a feminist sci-fi reading list. Despite valiant efforts, the product so far has been more or less a hairball.
Aside from the customary reverence accorded to Ursula K LeGuin, few commenters, through no fault of their own, are able to construct convincingly approbative arguments concerning the fabulousness of other novels. Some little fault in the author’s worldview always disqualifies them from a feminist canon: their female characters are maddening, often enpornulated stereotypes for EZ teen jerkoffability (a genre-wide affliction); the settings are unambiguously America-esque; the plot contains one of those execrable “love rapes”; the male characters see all the good action; the aliens just happen to neatly conform to the human patriarchal sex-role duality; the writing is itself objectively sub-par (I mean seriously, has the government had all the good writers shot or sent to prison in Hollywood or something?). It seems incredible, a few remarked, that there should be such slim pickins when authors writing in this genre are so gloriously unencumbered by reality.
Well, no gross injustice perpetrated by our male-dominant culture surprises me anymore. That science fiction should particularly resist the feminist revolution just shows to go you that the grasping tentacles of patriarchy know no bounds; they are able to penetrate even the thickest-skulled speculative fictionists and eat their brains (yes, yes, I know; tentacles can’t eat brains, but I’m pressed for time. Somebody, please, fix this metaphor for me in the comments.).
In fact, the Invisible Blob composed of misogyny, racism, compulsive pregnancy, capitalist excess, theocracy, culture, religion et al — the thing I call patriarchy — is nowhere more transparently conspicuous than in art. And where this is true, the painting or film or science fiction novel cannot really be art at all. The best an artist laboring under the perfidous auspices of patriarchy can hope for is a sort of virtuosic wanking. If one accepts that art is the expression of Truth and Beauty (T&B), one can argue that there’s more art in a Hubble photograph of the Horsehead Nebula (which nebula was discovered, incidentally, by a woman) than in the whole of the Sistine ceiling. Both are depictions of creation, but only one glorifies a lie.
I mention this art crap because a few members of the commentariat have expressed the viewpoint that Robert A Heinlein, an iconic sci-fi writer I consider to be top-o-the-deck royalty among pop fiction’s charismatic pervs, should be cut some slack on accounta ‘the times’ in which he wrote. To which I reply, if I won’t cut Shakespeare any slack for The Taming of the Shrew, fat chance I’ll cut it for some sexist libertarian horndog whose schtick is the ultimate pubescent wetdream of fuckable female spaceships and sexay mombots.
Truth and Beauty exist (insofar as they can be said to exist at all) independently of ‘the times’. Anyone, at any time, has been free to make the observation that women are human.