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Mar 06 2007

Tuesday T&B

horsehead_nebula.jpg
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.

160 comments

1 ping

  1. Sylvanite

    I still hope that Ammonite might be the one.

    The Female Man was certainly fierce.

  2. Puffin

    “Scramble” their brains. The patriarchal tentacles scramble their brains.

  3. SusanM

    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.

    Excellent. Heinlein is an adored icon in some of the polyamorous communities I hang out with sometimes, and I never got that. If the idea is to free ourselves from the patriarchal controls of monogamy, he’s no improvement. So many of them claim he “opened their eyes” and that’s nice, but I revere those who saw the truth clearly themselves, despite the blather of their “times.”

    As for SciFi, as always, I recommend starting with only women authors, and culling from there. Your chances of finding something worthwhile are much better.

  4. BubbasNightmare

    “charismatic pervs”

    [coke | nose > sticky mess on my desktop]

  5. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    And is it Truth *and* Beauty or Truth *Or* Beauty? It might seem retarded, but it’s always bugged me.

  6. elm

    How ’bout tentacles that “sap and impurify all of [their] precious bodily fluids.”

  7. gdr

    As it says in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction: “the history of sf reveals few heroic, realistic, or even original images of women … When women do appear they are usually defined by their relationship to the male characters, as objects to be desired or feared, rescued or destroyed; often, especially in recent, more sexually explicit times, women characters exist only to validate the male protagonist as acceptably masculine”

  8. gdr

    Encyclopedia of Science Fiction continued: “It would be hard for even the most ardent fan to list a dozen sf novels written before 1970 which feature female protagonists … Not allowed the variety or complexity real people, women in sf have been represented by a very few stereotypes: the Timorous Virgin … the Amazon Queen … the Frustrated Spinster Scientist … the Good Wife … and the Tomboy Kid Sister”

  9. Sylvanite

    I love The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. In a box, alas.

  10. Mandolin

    I still don’t think science fiction is any *more* resistant to feminism than any other genre. I see plenty of sexism in literary circles, too.

  11. sylvie

    “Anyone, at any time, has been free to make the observation that women are human.”

    *furious clapping.

    Bravo. The same goes for philosophers, by the way. An unexpected comment from an older and distinguished professor of mine, that at least since Mill wrote On the Subjection of Women, no philosopher has even had an excuse for ignoring the subject, because its hard to get more mainstream philosophy than Mill. The topic is out there – the stunning silence with which it was/is greeted reflects hideously on professional philosophy as a field.

  12. Hawise

    I would make this caveat and place Jerry Pournelle as ‘top-o-the-deck royalty among pop fiction’s charismatic pervs’. This is biased because Jerry Pournelle is the seediest guy to be stuck in an elevator with and not just because of the inevitable Great White Hunter suit that he wore in public. I have never met Heinlein but head to head readings would, I believe, still support Pournelle as King of SF’s charismatic pervs. This is not to free Heinlein from his due but to acknowledge that Pournelle is just REALLY ICKY.

  13. gdr

    One last quote: “Despite the reputation sf has as a mind-expanding, possibly subversive, always questioning form, these strengths were seldom brought to bear on the subject of male/female relationships, sexual roles, or the idea of “woman’s place” … the men who tried to imagine alternatives to patriarchy did so only to “prove” how nasty and impossible life would be without the “natural” dominance of woman by man.” [All these quotes from entries by Lisa Tuttle.]

  14. RobW

    I judge the metaphor to be sound as it is. In the context of sf, I don’t see any reason why tentacles can’t eat brains.

  15. Arianna

    You know what really bothers me? All my friends keep trying to recommend Wheel of Time to me… “you’d like it!” they say, “all the magic users are women!” “magic is controlled by this total matriarchy!”.

    Bullshit. Every single case I’ve seen of books my friends keep recommending to me (because I’m the scary martial arts-studying, weight lifting feminazi, of course) are either male pantswetting about how horrid it would be if women controlled things, or give female characters just enough power to show how much they’d fuck it up and have some man come rescue them (I’m looking at you, Terry Goodkind. Poor Kahlan sure needed big strong Richard to come save her from running the world, didn’t she?)

  16. Andy

    Unbelievable!!!

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,256980,00.html

  17. Mandolin

    With due respect, I don’t think these are valid criticisms of the SF genre _as it exists today._

    There is a long tradition of terrible anti-matriarchy stories, where women are compared to bugs and other such obnoxiousness. There is plenty of sexism in modern novels also.

    But to judge SF by The Wheel of Time or Terry Goodkind is like judging literature by the most obnoxious trash on the grocery store shelves.

    There is a large community of feminists working in science fiction. We have an annual convention in Madison, Wisconsin. There are lots of attitudes that need changing! But the work is getting done, and one of the problems is that the women who are doing that work get ignored. They get ignored by the men who run science fiction ebcause they “aren’t important”; they get ignored by many readers because they “aren’t important.” It’s rough to see them dismissed as non-existent or “a hairball” by people outside the community.

  18. Pinko Punko

    TWISTY SMASH!*

    *In the 3Bulls lingo, the highest possible accolade, usually reserved for “PLOVER SMASH!”

  19. Arianna

    Mandolin:

    I should have been more clear. I wasn’t complaining about the genre, I was complaining about people who think that Goodkind/Jordan are actually writing books I’d like . Some people (my stupid friends included) thing that these writers are actually writing good female characters.

    *shudders*.

  20. Mandolin

    “I should have been more clear. I wasn’t complaining about the genre, I was complaining about people who think that Goodkind/Jordan are actually writing books I’d like . Some people (my stupid friends included) thing that these writers are actually writing good female characters.”

    Ugh, fair enough. Sorry you’ve been subjected to that!

  21. Calabama

    Thanks, Twisty, for the T&B in your last three paragraphs — gave me goosebumps.

    But as a fellow post-punkrocker, c’mon, admit it: virtuosic wanking can be fun! Unless, as occurs all too often, it’s the dudes who do all the wanking. For that, IBTP.

  22. Mandos

    So, I’m not sure that I agree about Truth and Beauty. I agree that we have a sense of beauty, but that sense of beauty is necessarily informed by our environment, particularly by Social Standards, that admittedly have a tendency to favour certain things over time. I think that there is an ideal of Beauty, but it’s so abstract that it doesn’t have any real-world extension in itself, and cannot.

    More directly, can you think of any interesting fiction that does not involve conflict? And what is conflict but the use of some form of force to secure some form of domination? And what is domination but eau de patriarchy? Consequently, no fiction can be art. Actually, your definition of art excludes everything but photographs of inanimate objects, at best.

  23. Mandos

    Goodkind is far worse than Jordan. At least Jordan avoids having a rape scene every few pages or something. Well, I couldn’t get through even a single Goodkind book. Horrible, horrible writer. Jordan is mostly just tedious after book 8 or so.

  24. LAS

    I agree in general with the point that SF/F is not any more (or less) immune to patriarchal contamination and co-option than any other art form.

    However, it looks to me like many of the commentators in that other thread are merely woefully underread in SF/F, especially the feminist-flavored type.

    This is no doubt in part because, as Mandolin mentions, the SF/F works that are most feminist are also often the most marginalized, hard to find, “forgotten,” ignored, labeled as problematic and “not really SF/F,” and so on and so forth. Funny, that. In fact, I think Joanna Russ, SF/F feminist extraoridinaire, wrote a whole book on the subject of how this happens to women writers in every and any genre.

    P.S. full disclosure: Mandolin and I appear to be part of the same Madison-based conspiracy.

    Off to read at an Octavia Butler tribute tonight.

  25. BubbasNightmare

    I wish I knew/understood more about the philosophy of aesthetics (as Mandos parenthetically touched upon above), or as Persig would put it, “quality”.

    The only decent text I’ve run across that deals with aesthetics somewhere below the stratosphere of the Ivory Tower [read: has something to do with the real world] is Rand’s The Romantic Manifesto, which is a good read but not very rigorous in its treatment of the subject.

    (Rand could be a brilliant person at times, but her aesthetic judgements could be…odd. She thought Beethoven had a “malevolent sense of life” which put his music firmly into the dust bin.)

  26. josquin

    I’m still proposing Terry Pratchet. All around solid in so many areas of social concern.

  27. Jokerine

    “Jordan is mostly just tedious after book 8 or so.”

    Yes, but with plump lips that are perfect for kissing.

    *hurl*

  28. Christopher Bradley

    Arianna,

    Yeah, don’t get The Wheel of Time. As I’ve said elsewhere, having female character support the patriarchal forms that exist in the novel isn’t a refutation of patriarchy. Indeed, having female characters support patriarchy is a very old device. You are wise to avoid it.

    However, you might want to read the first few pages of the first book. They’re pretty funny, to me, because of this reason: Jordan will elaborately talk about the physiques of male characters. They’ll be long-legged, broad-shouldered with burly, muscular arms. The female characters? They don’t exist from the neck down. They have pretty faces, beautiful eyes, long and lustrous hair — but they have no bodies. Almost no one sees how homoerotic this comes off as, hehe, and like Samwise Gamgee fondling Frodo’s thigh in LOTR I’m sure that the homoeroticism is equally unintentional. But it’s definitely there.

  29. Mandos

    Oh, don’t worry BubbasNighmare. I have hardly any “real” philosophy background myself. I am the Platonic ideal of a dilettante.

  30. afm

    Heinlein messed me up royal as a teen age girl, one who literally believed in how he portrayed the ideal of male and female.

    But my submission for feminist author of sci fi is Octavia Butler, her Xenogensis cycles especially.

  31. Christopher Bradley

    Twisty,

    I have just discovered your journal. I have so far adored it not only for your generally just critiques of patriarchy but threads about science fiction and fantasy! You score high on my geek-o-meter in all the good ways.

    Gushing aside, yeah, I agree that it’s absurd to propose Heinlein as representative of a socially enlightened person — not even by the standards of his day was it fair to call him that, so even the “he was a person of his times” argument if flat-out bullshit. To me, Heinlein has come off as a trifle . . . well, fascist. Not Nazi Party fascist or even Mussolini fascism, but more like Franco’s fascism — a “softer” more sustainable fascism but nevertheless an orgy state violence worship combined with women keeping to largely traditional social roles (in the same way all those bright yet deluded women conservatives and liberals are allowed to prosper in the system so long as they do not challenge the system that is loathsome because it co-opts women vicariously into the very systems that oppress them).

  32. Mandos

    If we’re going to import the other thread here, another author who manages to write without too many noticeable sexist tropes is C. J. Cherryh, who is curiously rarely mentioned in these kinds of discussions.

    However, there is conflict and there is domination. It’s just that Cherryh doesn’t bother to sexually discriminate between dominator and dominatee.

  33. cycles

    The same goes for philosophers, by the way. An unexpected comment from an older and distinguished professor of mine, that at least since Mill wrote On the Subjection of Women, no philosopher has even had an excuse for ignoring the subject, because its hard to get more mainstream philosophy than Mill. The topic is out there – the stunning silence with which it was/is greeted reflects hideously on professional philosophy as a field.

    Or could it be that there are plenty of philosophers who tackle the subject, but once they do so, they’re shuffled off to the feminist ghetto because their subject matter ceases to be legitimate in the eyes of the good ole boys who define Real Philosophy vs. “Women’s Studies”?

  34. Mandos

    Yeahso, I do think that people are products of their times, and even if J.S. Mill wrote a work that isn’t all that old even on human historical scale, it doesn’t actually tell us much that it didn’t have any revolutionary effects, because the reason why they didn’t read it was…they were parts of their times! That one person has a flash of insight tells us nothing except that that person had a flash of insight. I’m sure that lots of flashes of insight fall by the wayside.

    Consequently, Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Taming of the Shrew, Othello, etc, etc are all but products of Shakespeare’s time, and even if they weren’t, they would be Art. I do think that even a lie can be Art, for that matter. There are some truly beautiful lies.

  35. Jokerine

    What about Jordans Plump pretty women?
    They all are.

  36. Sandblaster

    How can we have missed Louis McMaster Bujould? Mer Vorkosigam series deal with a number of real issues. I’ll never forget one character describing how she fell into a relationship with a man and lost everything trying to please him- self, soul, and sense- and then grew the fuck up.

  37. sylvie

    cycles – plenty would be putting it too strongly. there are some, and they certainly get shoved as far into a corner as possible as soon as other catch a whiff of feminism. but that’s what I meant by the “stunning silence.”

  38. MzNicky

    I don’t see why tentacles can’t “eat” brains. It’s science fiction, after all; just make up whatever shit you want. Brain-eating tentacles? Why not.

  39. Christopher Bradley

    In Dungeons and Dragons, mind flayers eat brains with their tentacles.

    Just sayin’.

    DON’T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT! :)

  40. Twisty

    Stop it! Stop listing the books! That’s what the other thread is for!

    Oh, hell. The system is breaking down. I’ve totally lost control. I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m a… fraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of January 1992 –

  41. The Stranger

    Hah, I came in here to make the D&D reference, but Christopher Bradley beat me to it. ;-)

  42. Mandos

    I bet Hal was built on an Amiga platform.

  43. cycles

    Good afternoon … gentlemen?

    IBTP.

  44. Sam

    Memory recalls every other scene from Japanime pornography having monsters with penis-tipped tentacles who suck out the brains of blue-haired girlwomen via their mouths.

    cycles said, Or could it be that there are plenty of philosophers who tackle the subject, but once they do so, they’re shuffled off to the feminist ghetto because their subject matter ceases to be legitimate in the eyes of the good ole boys who define Real Philosophy vs. “Women’s Studies”?

    amen

    I read this quote a few minutes ago and thought of you:

    “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman on a wheel. It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.” -Susan B. Anthony

  45. J

    I like the point, or rather objection, Twisty raises here about so-called art bowing down to the highly inclusive structuring orders of culture, ideology, patriarchy, or whatever you want to call it. I like it because of the way it echos, for me, Theodor Adorno’s notion of “autonomous art” as contrasted to the co-opted, unoriginal, ideologically-driven crap produced by what Adorno termed the “Culture Industry.”

    Art in this sense is creative activity and/or its products that wholly resist being made sense of in any of the terms handed to us by culture, ideology, patriarchy or whatever you call it. It’s stuff that people make or do that intentionally or unintentionally resists being bought out, in effect being made by our cultural, ideological, patriarchal assumptions about the world and all the things/people in it.

    At the same time, tying in this idea of autonomous art makes it just as hard to imagine “feminist art,” as much as patriarchal, fascist, capitalistic, communistic, catholic, libertarian, pagan, environmentalist, buddhist, American, African or whatever brand of culturally produced sensibility works for you.

  46. Mandos

    Art in this sense is creative activity and/or its products that wholly resist being made sense of in any of the terms handed to us by culture, ideology, patriarchy or whatever you call it. It’s stuff that people make or do that intentionally or unintentionally resists being bought out, in effect being made by our cultural, ideological, patriarchal assumptions about the world and all the things/people in it.

    This sounds like a lame sort of justification for certain kinds of radically non-representational art that are sometimes touted as great works when they didn’t really require a lot of effort.

  47. SusanM

    Andy: Unbelievable!!!

    Yikes! And how about this one:

    http://www.nypost.com/seven/03062007/news/regionalnews/perv_set_up_ex_to_be_raped_regionalnews_jana_winter__roddy_boyd__kate_sheehy.htm

    They hate us for sure. It’s the truth and it’s not beautiful.

    I have got to stop reading the news.

  48. stacy

    Twisty, isn’t is curious that no one is touching your question about why sci-fi came up in the Firestone thread (suddenly, early on and at all)? I was wondering the same thing. Does her book seem like science fiction? And why is that? Or is everyone just avoiding the subject? Is the sci fi thread a red herring? 129 posts and climbing!!! Has there been another topic recently that caused so much reaction? What is going on here? I am reminded of this: “The degree to which a person over-reacts to a situation is the degree to which it is not about that situation.” or how about this: methinks we doth protest too much! Even this thread is going sci fi fast.

  49. SusanM

    Twisty: The system is breaking down. I’ve totally lost control. I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it.

    In this case, I think I’d Blame the Tentacles.

  50. J

    “This sounds like a lame sort of justification for certain kinds of radically non-representational art that are sometimes touted as great works when they didn’t really require a lot of effort.”

    Well, there’s an ideological assumption right there: great art requires effort. I mean, the point here is that art that is not really a mouthpiece for ideology has no pre-requisites, like being deeply laborious or the fleeting thought you just had, or valorizing men or women or nature or robots or natural robots or Toucan Sam.

    I see from Twisty’s perspective, stuff that we call art that gives credit to patriarchal assumptions about, well, anything, is not really art but patriarchal (or otherwise ideological) propaganda. I agree with her too, but in the spirit of the connection to autonomous art I see, I see a little something more to this. So-called art may really function as autononous art if for as much as the patriarchy tries to co-opt it, it critiques it for this very mis-use of it.

  51. norbizness

    Because you’re all hopeless nerds? (ducking)

  52. Shiloruh

    I so love IBTP!
    I read TDofS in order to participate and I fell on in with the Sci-Fi thread and now my mind is expanding too rapidly.
    I want to make my remarks appropriately but I couldn’t figure out which thread was best, Yet now, Twisty, you have provided a 3rd choice which I think fits quite well.
    I too, drifted into a Sci-Fi mode while reading Firestone and why not? Its pretty futuristic stuff (even accounting for the “times”). But my drift had a different direction.
    A friend keeps recommending Battle Star Galactica to me and I just can’t watch it. Its too Militaristic for me and that’s too easy a plot line for any story. Its a lazy way to make conflict to make the story interesting and I think it is boring. (Though BSG does have some fine characters.)
    At any rate I was musing on this as I read the end of TDofS and I thought: now that would make an interesting story. Put Firestones proposed society as a backdrop for a Sci-fi TV series. But as I explored this idea I stumbled. If War is not the conflict to make the story interesting what would be? It wouldn’t be, couldn’t be: Love, Romance, Money, Ambition, Coming of Age, Cultural Understanding or Finding Oneself and Struggling for Personal Values, because all of these conflicts would be eradicated in this future world. I am stumped. What would be the driving force behind this story? All these satisfied folks fulfilling themselves in contractual communes. Interesting way to live but not a great story line. If everyone is able to express themselves fully and truly is there a need for any stories or art at all?
    I don’t have an answer, but wow, is my mind working on the thought.

  53. Mandos

    Well, there’s an ideological assumption right there: great art requires effort. I mean, the point here is that art that is not really a mouthpiece for ideology has no pre-requisites, like being deeply laborious or the fleeting thought you just had, or valorizing men or women or nature or robots or natural robots or Toucan Sam.

    Yeah, the ideological assumption was conscious and intentional. Why shouldn’t art be a mouthpiece for ideology? What makes it non-art?

  54. Scratchy888

    Maybe this is good? http://brutalwomen.blogspot.com/

  55. Mandos

    Shiloruh touched on something I had mentioned before. If there is no conflict—particularly ideological conflict—how can anything really be interesting? We would just be surviving. An endless feast of meaningful, loving looks?

  56. J

    “If everyone is able to express themselves fully and truly is there a need for any stories or art at all?”

    Therein lies the false utopia of so-called art. If our existence as individuals or as a society/species was without holes, contradictions and inconsistencies, then art would be impossible, but so too life itself. Art that tries to cover-up or fill-in the perpetual lack or gap that constitutes our experience is not art, but fantasy. This tendency, however, might very well be due to our desire to fantasize that things can really be “all right” more than the very thing about which we’re talking.

  57. Mandos

    Why is fantasy not art?

  58. J

    “If there is no conflict—particularly ideological conflict—how can anything really be interesting?”

    Ideology is always already in conflict with itself. We might even say that there is no actual conflict among ideologies, but purely with ideology as such, and because of this the appearance of inter-ideological conflict is really the gross manifestation of perpetual, inevitable intra-ideological conflict. Ideology is in conflict with the fact that it never fully orders the way things are; there is always something beyond its grasp, or worse yet impossibly within it such that it exists as a gaping hole. Twisty’s notion of an over-arching, global ideology of domination comes to mind after writing this.

    To what you said though, in this sense, art is propaganda, and therefore non-art, when it works for ideology, culture, patriarchy or whatever you want to call it, to cover up or fill in its incompleteness, its inconsistency, its illusoriness.

  59. Mandos

    To what you said though, in this sense, art is propaganda, and therefore non-art, when it works for ideology, culture, patriarchy or whatever you want to call it, to cover up or fill in its incompleteness, its inconsistency, its illusoriness.

    This kind of encapsulates the part I’m not getting. Why does it matter that something should work for ideology, to cover up incompleteness, inconsistency, or illusoriness? I mean, I’m getting the impression that you think that art is…more desirable in some way than the non-art, you describe, but I can’t justify why.

  60. Twisty

    If everyone is able to express themselves fully and truly is there a need for any stories or art at all?

    Here’s your plot: Someone from 2007 time-travels into the utopia and starts fucking shit up.

  61. Mandos

    Here’s your plot: Someone from 2007 time-travels into the utopia and starts fucking shit up.

    There’s a subsubgenre of feminist SF that deals with this sort of scenario. Tiptree wrote “Houston Houston Do You Read” about something like that (haven’t read it myself, only reviews). Also an Outer Limits episode comes to mind, but that comes with the subtext that the utopia wasn’t really utopia and that some women had just usurped patriarchal roles by using Earth Mother flimflammery.

    But no one in the utopia could actually write this plot, anyway. We’re the only ones who could write it. I suspect this means that the utopia can never happen. Hence, utopia.

  62. J

    “Why is fantasy not art?”

    That’s a really intersting question. I’m actually kind of glad you brought it up, because I didn’t quite know how.

    Fantasy is not art to the extent that it is taken not to be fantasy, but reality, what really is. In this sense, though, it’s not really fantasy in the same way. Nietzsche’s observation of the Greeks’ “beautiful illusions,” from The Birth of Tragedy, comes to mind. The fantasy of fantasy is that it is not fantasy. Ideology, or ideological fantasy, works the same way. Fantasy or Ideology is the way we (try) to order and explain, and ultimately own and dominate reality, that is really always in conflict with the fact that it is not what it purports and tries to be.

    Art is then not art when it serves fantasy in this way, to cover up the fact that it is really fantasy; it is merely propaganda.

  63. J

    “Why does it matter that something should work for ideology, to cover up incompleteness, inconsistency, or illusoriness?”

    It matters because the incompleteness of ideology matters. When we try to avoid this fact, cover it up, through not just so-called art but the activity of our everyday lives, we say yes to oppression. When we say yes to porn, which some people violently defend in many cases as a form of art, not necessarily because we know it oppresses women, we oppress women. When we say (or, rather, said) yes to most of the popular movies of the 1950s, we say or said yes to the oppression of women. When we say YES to so-called art, that is really a mouthpiece for whatever ideological assumptions upon which it is predicated, we say yes to the oppression it condones.

  64. Pinko Punko

    I was gonna post a screed, but the “Blame” button told me:

    “Look Pinko, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill and think things over.”

  65. Pinko Punko

    Maybe the FAQ needs that line.

  66. Mandos

    It matters because the incompleteness of ideology matters. When we try to avoid this fact, cover it up, through not just so-called art but the activity of our everyday lives, we say yes to oppression.

    I’m not convinced of this incompleteness-oppression link. No attempt at perceiving the world can ever be complete, except, possibly, for certain cases of autism, but that’s just a wild speculation on my part. And thus any worldview would suffer from the incompleteness of ideology, no?

    And even in the most utopian of utopias, how can you commit its inhabitants to an existence in which perception always matches desire?

  67. luolin

    I just read a story in which creature that eats through its tentacles appears briefly. One of the stories in Poul Anderson’s _Trader to the Stars (definitely not feminist sci-fi).

  68. SolNiger

    I can certainly say that a femininst and a science fiction aficionado can exists within the same body.
    SF has been my favourite genre because it has the most potential for philosophical meanderings. Regarding its mysoginistic nature,whereever patriarchy exists, sexism exists. So lets give blame where blame is due.

    Now then, there is more than a hairball to be coughed up.
    Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a gifted writer and a depressed housewife who wrote in the early 1900s. Her SF novel Herland envisioned a feminist utopia seen throuh the eye of three men who crash land in its vicinity. What follows is classic and exactly what would happen if such a scenario actually occured. Although her utopia* is overly optimistic (as utopias as a rule are) the most impressive thing about the novel is how relevant her issues were to me in this day and age! Its a short read and available through Project Gutenberg. HIghly reccomended.
    I’ve read her non SF feminist fiction. Notably What Diantha Did and her semi autobiographical The Yellow Wallpaper (which, for some odd reason, sits next to Kafka’s Metamorphosis in my mind’s bookshelf).

    If you have read Joanna Russ’ The Female Man, may I ask why?

    I would be a little hesitant to reccomend Atwood’s Oryx and Crake because she is narrating from a man’s perspective and as such the character is not very enlightened. He idolises a woman character, ‘falls in love’ with her, and wishes to be her ‘knight in shining armor’. Atwood does this on purpose, as a warning of sorts to her reader (as is the tone of the entire novel) still its a little annoying.

    Octavia E Butler is excellent. I have only read Parable of the Sower as of yet and I would reccomend that as a good post apocalyptic scenario.

    Now getting back to mysoginy, has anyone read Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson? What a pile of sexist bullshit! I couldn’t stand to read more than 50 pages of it. After having read The Diamond Age, such blatant dehumanization of women was totally unexpected and very dissapointing.

  69. Shiloruh

    “Here’s your plot: Someone from 2007 time-travels into the utopia and starts fucking shit up.”

    Thanks Twisty!

    It would have to be that or some other disruption to the community.
    Perhaps one individuals fulfillment depends on an authoritarian role for themselves. The community has to work with the time traveler or whoever to maintain itself. I would hope that militaristic aspect could be avoided.
    Oh!
    Maybe natural disaster could provide the conflict.
    or
    They will have all that fabulous technology, maybe it will demand civil rights.
    I am thinking off my feet now.

    I suppose in a utopia people could still tell stories that began, “Suppose there was this messed up culture…”

  70. Twisty

    In the utopia you wouldn’t need to write anything, or be creative at all. This is because you will have evolved into a sort of gaseous brain-cloud (enveloping hypnotic blinking lights that we perceive as your synapses firing)and you already know everything there is to know. You would just be, floating around the cosmos grokking the fullness or whatever, the gas-brain equivalent of lounging on a hammock in the sun with a margarita. And when Captain Kirk comes warping along and commences emoting about how humans may have inferior intellect but at least they can love, dammit, you can just go on blinking your lights, because he and his vulgar instincts will remind you of a paramecium with a clogged anal pore.

  71. J

    “No attempt at perceiving the world can ever be complete, except, possibly, for certain cases of autism, but that’s just a wild speculation on my part. And thus any worldview would suffer from the incompleteness of ideology, no?”

    That’s precisely my point. The link between the denial of this incompleteness and oppression is that ideology, as an always already incomplete account as to how things are, tries to avoid its incompleteness through the domination of that which exceeds its it.

  72. Mandos

    Then the question is, who desires to live in utopia?

  73. SusanM

    stacy: Twisty, isn’t is curious that no one is touching your question about why sci-fi came up in the Firestone thread

    I, too, found it perfectly natural. Firestone posits an alternative future. I don’t think art would disappear in such a Paradise; people will never be perfectly satisfied, no matter how ideal their society or living situation. They’ll still crave adventure, new territory, new thoughts– science fiction.

  74. Pony

    “you can just go on blinking your lights, because he and his vulgar instincts will remind you of a paramecium with a clogged anal pore.”

    Twisty please write science fiction. Pick your ~topian I don’t care which or both, just do it.

  75. J

    Those who desire to live in utopia are those who really believe it exists, which is to say those who believe in, or, as Zizek argues, at the very least act as if they believe in the wholeness of their ideological understanding of their lives and the lives of others. I think the more interesting question is if there is a way we can come to not only know but also act, in the very activity of our daily lives even, that pays no heed to the fantasy that fantasy is not fantasy.

  76. J

    “Those who desire to live in utopia are those who really believe it exists.”

    I didn’t even notice this until just now, but this is precisely the forumlation of Lacanian subject to the objet petit a, or the object-cause of desire: $a. An equally, if not in some way more appropriate way of putting this is: “Those who believe in Utopia do so because they desire it, and they desire it because they believe in it.”

  77. Christopher Bradley

    Then the question is, who desires to live in utopia?

    I’d like to give it a shot. ;)

  78. Mandos

    That’s not what I’m asking. Twisty’s vision of utopia—the giant gas brain pondering nothing—seems synonymous with nonexistence. I mean, why even float there as a giant gas brain? Why not just dissipate?

    I mean, I get that Twisty is speaking in analogies, but it still reveals the vision of utopia that lies behind it.

  79. Mandolin

    “P.S. full disclosure: Mandolin and I appear to be part of the same Madison-based conspiracy.”

    Excellent. Perhaps I’ll meet you there, if we can figure out a way to shuffle author identities and feminist blog handles, since neither of us has a link in our name.

  80. thebewilderness

    If you remove the unresolved conflict of our current patriarchy soaked existance, we will suddenly have the opportunity to notice all manner of interesting things to art about.

  81. Mandos

    If you remove the unresolved conflict of our current patriarchy soaked existance, we will suddenly have the opportunity to notice all manner of interesting things to art about.

    Yeah but, would the enlightened being actually be interested in it? The enlightened being would not, presumably, be interested in covering up the gaps in its perception. It would just sit back and drink its margarita.

  82. J

    “I mean, why even float there as a giant gas brain? Why not just dissipate?”

    I think the point to take home is that true satisfaction means that one has achieved there aim, and there is no more striving but just, as Twisty says, being. In this sense, floating and dissipating are not intentional acts anymore than and just the same as they are naturally occuring events. Personally, however, I do not think that this sort of fantastic evolution is necessary for this transformation of the mind.

  83. jnthnu

    Marge Piercy?

    Marge Piercy Marge Piercy, Marge Piercy.

    Marge Piercy, Marge Piercy – Marge Piercy; Marge Piercy.

    Marge Piercy – Piercy Marge Marge Piercy Piercy.

    – Marge Piercy

  84. Pinko Punko

    Wouldn’t the giant brain cloud want to keep Captain Kirk as kind of a little pet?

    TWISTY BRAIN CLOUD: No, Giant Brain Cloud would NOT want to keep Captain Kirk as a pet.

    PINKO BRAIN CLOUD: Rats.

    TWISTY BRAIN CLOUD: Pinko Brain Cloud continues to soak in childhood memories of dudely marination. Return ST:TOS DVD to Netflix at once.

    PINKO BRAIN CLOUD: Double rats.

    *Editors note, if Brain Clouds are hypothesized to speak in blog personae, it is possible that real Brain Cloud Society is beyond our simple understanding, and this is but a metaphor of the gaseous emanations. Or somebody’s.

  85. Jenny

    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.

    See, lines like this is what makes me read this blog. The short, well formed sentences that sum up what I’ve been trying to think for years.

    As for Heinlein – I think he’s the first writer to make me realise that it’s entirely possible to have relationships with more than two people in them, back when I was in my teens or twenties or something. It took me quite a few years to figure out that they could also be had without the perv/patriarchal baggage he brought into all his books.

  86. Arianna

    Back on sorta-topic, is it possible that SF/F came up in the Shulamith Firestone thread because her initials are SF and she writes about the future? That sounds like enough to distract those of us with a notoriously short attention span.

  87. Twisty

    Mandos: ” I mean, why even float there as a giant gas brain? Why not just dissipate?”

    But dude, did you miss the part where I said it would be like lounging in a hammock with a margarita?

    You know, there’s this whole “what would life be without conflict?” trope that really bugs me. What is so terrible about the prospect of unceasing contentment? Isn’t that precisely, now that I think about it, what all the godbags and myths and religions promise? Isn’t that what everybody ultimately wants?

  88. Mandos

    You know, there’s this whole “what would life be without conflict?” trope that really bugs me. What is so terrible about the prospect of unceasing contentment? Isn’t that precisely, now that I think about it, what all the godbags and myths and religions promise? Isn’t that what everybody ultimately wants?

    Well, religions are using metaphors directed originally at populations who underwent a lot of *boring* toil and suffering in the hot sun. Perfect *boring* contentment in the afterlife is a major step up. But it’s only a metaphor or a parable. But for us spoiled people who are not used to enduring continuous loss and suffering, a perfectly quiet, contemplative afterlife seems rather sterile and stagnant. As opposed to, say, a physically pleasant but argumentative afterlife.

  89. Twisty

    Mandos, you persist in the notion that enlightenment would be “boring,” which I find extraordinary. I think it would be pretty cool to be relieved of the unrelenting obligation to seek out and react to external stimuli, not to mention losing the dependence on a constantly malfunctioning physique. Not to mention never having to type into the internet the sentence: “Yup, all white people are racist.” What kind of tedium you must experience, I cannot fathom it.

  90. J

    “Well, religions are using metaphors directed originally at populations who underwent a lot of *boring* toil and suffering in the hot sun.”

    I don’t think this is entirely true. In the case of the Buddha, many of his disciples were coming from lives of wealth, glamour, ease and/or war. Suffering as he taught was a vicissitude of happy or pleasent things as much as sad or painful ones. I think you’re deceiving yourself if you think you or any of us aren’t living our lives without continual loss and dis-satisfaction with unsatisfied desires. This gets back to covering up the fundamental lack that constitutes our subjectitivty as language-bearing, ideological beings

  91. Mandos

    Mandos, you persist in the notion that enlightenment would be “boring,” which I find extraordinary. I think it would be pretty cool to be relieved of the unrelenting obligation to seek out and react to external stimuli, not to mention losing the dependence on a constantly malfunctioning physique. Not to mention never having to type into the internet the sentence: “Yup, all white people are racist.” What kind of tedium you must experience, I cannot fathom it.

    So my point is, utopia is not going to be the same thing for everyone. I certainly wouldn’t mind the release from physical malfunction that being a giant brain cloud in space would offer. But: I also cannot lie still in a hammock for very long. I must Go Somewhere, and perhaps more importantly Disturb Something. If you’re completely contented to do nothing, I can’t distinguish that from non-existence.

  92. Mandos

    I don’t think this is entirely true. In the case of the Buddha, many of his disciples were coming from lives of wealth, glamour, ease and/or war. Suffering as he taught was a vicissitude of happy or pleasent things as much as sad or painful ones. I think you’re deceiving yourself if you think you or any of us aren’t living our lives without continual loss and dis-satisfaction with unsatisfied desires. This gets back to covering up the fundamental lack that constitutes our subjectitivty as language-bearing, ideological beings

    Well, another example of an afterlife that breaks the pattern I described is the Norse afterlife, where if you were a warrior in this life, you’d be a warrior after death.

    I did not, in fact, impose an analysis on anyone else. I said that because I can understand why someone might want an unstimulating afterlife/enlightenment. It’s just that, if that’s enlightenment, I can undersatnd why some people might not want to be enlightened.

  93. JimmyDean'sFuckedUpCousinClyde

    Tentacles LOVE to eat brains. I know this because one of my childhood friends was part squid and we never allowed him to sleep over, the prospect of what might happen was just too fearsome.

    In my experience, the men who write spacey sci-fi shit are not that grounded. Maybe, possibly because they weren’t sufficiently breast fed or nurtured by their mothers. Add in an inability to relate successfully to women as sexual equals and women are always going to be objectified and diminished in their writing.

    I consider “1984″ to be sci-fi as much as political satire: Orwell treats women and men equally as victims in a heartless and spiritually corrupt system, closer to pure reflection of reality.

  94. J

    I understand your point, Mandos. I can understand why people would be perplexed at not wanting anymore, finding an end to desire (and the vicissitudes therein). My point was is that popular conceptions of a heavenly afterlife, be it Heaven or Valhalla, is not an afterlife as much as not letting go of what, in this life, we do with the unsung hopes of being satisfied. We desire and strive after what is, in reality, nothing, because if we didn’t then we’d understand that there isn’t really anything to desired in the first place. That’s troubling for, I think, everyone.

    This gets back to the whole problem with the fantasy of fantasy noting being fantasy. Being deluded that the predicates of your fantasy or ideology, be them patriarchal, feminist, capitalist, socialist, fascists, racist, nationalist, or whatever, actually give you a grasp on things is what leads to suffering for not only those oppressed by ideology, but by the would-be oppressors. This is how we can understand that patriarchy oppresses men as much as, if not in the same material ways as women; all involved are under the yoke of the biggest joke of the human condition, namely that we can with some set and system of ideas make perfect and total sense of what is otherwise chaos.

    I also submit that you did speak for at least yourself, if not for other people like yourself, when you said, “for us spoiled people who are not used to enduring continuous loss and suffering, a perfectly quiet, contemplative afterlife seems rather sterile and stagnant.” To which I called bullshit, respectfully of course, on the grounds that it’s inconceivable, if not simply unarguable that any of us are by way of some natural development free of “continual loss and suffering.”

  95. J

    “So my point is, utopia is not going to be the same thing for everyone. I certainly wouldn’t mind the release from physical malfunction that being a giant brain cloud in space would offer. But: I also cannot lie still in a hammock for very long.”

    This reminds me of a story I heard from somewhere back when, about an encounter the Buddha had with a farmer. The farmer heard that the Buddha was a great teacher, and thought he could help the farmer with his problems.

    The farmer traveled far to meet the Buddha, and when he did he laid it on him. He said, “I like farming, but sometimes the crops fail because we don’t get enough rain or we’re infested with locus. Last season, we almost all starved…” The Buddha sat in attentive silence, listening. The farm brought up how, “I have a wife, and I love her very much. Sometimes she nags me though, and is unsatisfied with my wealth…” The Buddha continued to sit, listening in attentive silence. Then the farmer wailed that he “has children, really great kids, but sometimes they don’t show enough respect; they don’t help around the house.”

    The farmer went on this for quite some time, until he finished and decided to let the Buddha speak. The Buddha said frankly, “I can’t help you with your problems. Everyone has problems. Everyone, in fact, has 83 different kinds of problems. There’s nothing you can do about it though. You can work really hard to solve one problem, spend years on it even, but then another one will pop up in its place, if not well before then. For example, you are going to lose your loved ones eventually, and there is nothing you, nor I, nor anyone else can do about it. That’s just how it is.”

    The farmer was furious, “What do you mean?!? I thought you were a great teacher. What good are your teachings, then?” The Buddha responded lightly but quickly, “well I may be able to help you with the 84th problem in life.” “What’s the 84th problem?” the farmer questioned. The Buddha replied, “you want to not have any problems.”

  96. jnthnu

    /me douses the conversation in gasoline and lights a match:

    Buddhism, for all its perceived virtues (and I have perceived them often) may be appealing in a less-godbaggy sort of way, but I still blame the patriarchy when I finally accept the fact that even Thich Nhat Hahn is a sexist pig-monk.

    Meanwhile,

    Jesus: Hey, have you fucktards considered the notion that maybe if you just treated each other as equals – did unto others as you’d have them do unto you, all this war and oppression and money bullshit would become clear to you as the patently stupid waste of your big mammalian brains that it is? Evolve, already!

    Jesus’ Followers: Jesus died for women’s, I mean dark-skinned people, I mean uh our sins. Let’s kill em! Thall shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, get your own to beat up! Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I’ve helped to create, I will not fear my own evil!

    Some other dude’s followers: No way, man. Our $diety can beat up their $diety, so they’re all wrong. Rape their women! Then let’s kill ‘em!

    Religion is what you get when a bunch of reptiles take a few (many) millions of years to evolve to higher consciousness, but then stubbornly refuse to participate in the process.

    Welcome to the 21st Century. Never mind the lack of flying cars (instead we get a multitude of perSonal assaUlt Vehicles), but Equality would be nice for a change.

    p.s. All praise the High Church of Margaritan Hammockism!
    I mean that completely without irony. Now pass me the lime wedges… PuhLEEZ.

  97. jnthnu

    p.p.s. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is tentacle porn. Discuss.

  98. J

    “Buddhism, for all its perceived virtues (and I have perceived them often) may be appealing in a less-godbaggy sort of way, but I still blame the patriarchy when I finally accept the fact that even Thich Nhat Hahn is a sexist pig-monk.”

    What does this have to do with the teachings of the Buddha? Just don’t read Thich Nhat Hahn. Start out, oh I don’t know, with the Pali Canon, or perhaps Rita Gross’ “Buddhism after Patriarchy.”

  99. Twisty

    Tentacles can’t eat stuff, I’m telling you. A tentacle is defined as an organ of touch, not digestion.

  100. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Speaking of tentacles, this sci-fi stuff is reaching into at least 3 threads already. It’s almost as bad as a BDSM or blowjob argument.

  101. elektrodot

    to take a quote from futurama:

    nice nebula

  102. hedonistic

    I originally ignored this thread because I think of scifi as “geek porn” and want nothing to do with immersing myself in wanky alternative universes where all the women have big boobies, special powers, and “warrior” outfits that inexplicably leave their tender bodies almost completely exposed.

    (I mean, if I had special powers I’d use them to make my boobs smaller, and if I were a warrior woman I sure as hell cover my whole body – and – oh hell I’m preaching to the choir. Suffice it to say I tried science fiction while in college and every single time – with the exception of the Dune series, which I loved – all I could think was WTF????? If this society is so fucking MODERN, than why is this woman screaming with the pain of childbirth? Why are we still at WAR? Why are people still wearing spandex? WTF WTF WTF!!!!!!!!!!)

    Anyhoo, Antoinette: Why this thread has gone crazy (besides the fact that the internet attracts cerebral geeks in the first place) is that sci fi really IS geek porn and deserves a place in the porny pantheon with BDSM, blowjobs, and the various aspects of the flesh trade. These topics are all catnip to the purient mind.

    (I don’t mean this as an insult to the scifi fantasy lovers out there. Au contraire: I rather like my own purient, fantasy-addled mind and would probably like yours if I got to know it!)

  103. Hawise

    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

    Why don’t we simply change ‘eat’ to ‘remove’ or ‘purge’?

    This allows the ongoing tentacle worship to continue apace while allowing them to function in a linguistically appropriate manner.

  104. MzNicky

    So what we’re talking about here is nirvana, not utopia. Nirvana is the state of non-being, the getting off the big wheel of neverending rebirth already. Utopia is the realization of social/political ideals in human existence while we’re still slogging along in earthly form.

  105. ew_nc

    I’m so happy to see that someone acknowledged Marge Piercy. A few of her novels touch on the subject of a world without gender. There is also a wondeful novel called “Demeter” or “Demeter Flower” that is about an all-female society. Anyone heard of it?

  106. thebewilderness

    I suggest that just as we may occasionally eat with our hands, so may the grasping tentacles of patriarchy be said to eat brains.

  107. TrespassersW

    Jnthnu, may I add: “Jesus paid for our sins. So let’s get our money’s worth.”

  108. Incorrigible

    http://alcor.org/conferences/2006/index.html

    If everything goes according to plan the future will be familiar.

  109. finnsmotel

    TF sez: “What is so terrible about the prospect of unceasing contentment?”

    What’s so terrible about it is that we don’t possess the equipment to make it happen. It’s flat-out torture to expect that we could even get close.

    Disappointment is expectations unmet. How could we ever expect unceasing contentment, all the while knowing our lives will terminate? What we are wishing for is unceasing contentment, but, what we seem destined for is unceasing disappointment.

    Personally, I am trying to find a mixture of contentment and suffering to be preferable to non-existence. I don’t succeed with this goal every day. But, I am still here.

    jnthnu, playing the role of JC sez: “Hey, have you fucktards considered the notion that maybe if you just treated each other as equals – did unto others as you’d have them do unto you, all this war and oppression and money bullshit would become clear to you as the patently stupid waste of your big mammalian brains that it is?”

    First of all, I don’t equate treating each other as equals with the whole ‘do unto others’ thing. Hey, I’m very much into the idea of treating each other as equals. I just figure humans to be inherently incapable.

    But, back to the real goat-getter. “Do Unto Others, blah”

    The first part of this phrase implies that you have a right to do things to people. Boo.

    “as you would have them do unto you”

    The second part justifies applying your judgment to others, based on your own desires.

    So, if I am against abortion, this supposedly golden rule gives me the authority to prevent abortion for others. Hey, this is what I would want, therefore others will want it, too. I’m doing unto you as I would have done to me. No abortions. Boo.

    If I desire to abstain from sex until I’m married, I now have the authority to suppose that others should behave this way, too.

    I know I’m stilting it a bit (understatement). But, I think there’s merit to the point. “Do Unto Others” is a bunch of bullshit reverse justification for imposing your own worldview on other people. It just sounds peaceful. It’s not.

    It’s wrong all the way around. Odds are, you’d probably make people the happiest by leaving them the hell alone unless they ask for something.

    -finn

  110. Liz

    I don’t know whose quote it is, but I believe that someone or other said that ‘one person’s utopia is someone else’s dystopia,’ or words to that effect.

    Quite frankly, I find it hard to conceive of a world without oppression of one kind or another. We humans seem to be unpleasantly attached to hierarchical structures and patterns, and some of us – though whether the behaviour is learned or innate or some combination thereof I dare not speculate – appear to thrive on conflict and competition.

    Anyone, at any time, has been free to make the observation that women are human.

    Thank you for stating this so clearly. The failure to make such an observation is precisely why so much ‘art’ and ‘philosophy’ seriously puts my back up.

  111. darkymac

    How apposite, Twisty’s young onions, a chat about future and fantasy fiction running at the time that Jean Baudrillard dies.

    He, of all post modern blamers, is the one whose Twisty’s work is most reminiscent of. A parenthitical pause here to shut down any cries from the cheerleaders; Twisty is an original, and Baudrillard was capable of as fierce criticism of The System as any IBTP fellatio essay. *

    I’ve never met a fantasy or science fiction book I liked; as Baudrillard argued, the present is so much more monstrous and lurid than anything even such precious genius as La Lessing or La LeGuin could come up with.

    Me and the dogs made a special trip here to the library this morning, prompted by Baudrillard’s – or his simulacrum’s – passing to make sure that my long-held comparison between him and Twisty got into the archive.
    And voila! Merci pour the perfect thread to post it in.

    In memory of Baudrillard’s Gulf War, I declare that there is no way that the internet will accumulate all knowledge, neither does it make what little has already been digitised in any meaningful way accessable, that the world wacky web is as fictive a reality as The Matrix, but that it has already been as internalised by its participants as any mob of Abu Graib torturers had absorbed the neocon electrocuting fist.

    Au revoir les enfants.

    * No, I’m not implying any feminist credentials on Baudrillard’s side. The comparison is between vision and method with respect to blaming effect, not between class analysis wellsprings.

  112. J

    “In memory of Baudrillard’s Gulf War, I declare that there is no way that the internet will accumulate all knowledge, neither does it make what little has already been digitised in any meaningful way accessable, that the world wacky web is as fictive a reality as The Matrix, but that it has already been as internalised by its participants as any mob of Abu Graib torturers had absorbed the neocon electrocuting fist.”

    Absolutely, and for this reason you should read Zizek’s essay concerning this simulated effect as a potentially liberating quality unto itself, but precisely because it shows itself for what it is. The essay is called “Is it Possible to Traverse the Fantasy in Cyberspace.” It’s in the Blackwell reader on Zizek. This essay here is very much concerned with seeing through the fantasy of the internet as a template of other breakthroughs. I apologize if I botched my HTML, btw.

  113. Pony

    The sublime darkymac gifts us with another of her gorgeous posts. Where do I move to, darkymac, in order to be so lucky as your dogs?

  114. Mandos

    So I am increasingly think that the difference is but one of personality and temperament. Whenever I see a brochure for, say, a vacation resort, I usually see images of people lounging around on the beach or beside a pool or on a pool with a drink in one hand and contentedly dazed look on their faces.

    I can think of nothing more tedious. I like lying around as much as the next ethereal fantasy-novel character in the body of a Canadian of South Asian extraction, but not for much more than 15 minutes. Need cortical stimulation by something completely new and different.

  115. Mandos

    all involved are under the yoke of the biggest joke of the human condition, namely that we can with some set and system of ideas make perfect and total sense of what is otherwise chaos.

    This I firmly disagree with and suspect that this is a difference that is the most irreconcilable. I do not consider it either a joke or a yoke. Even if it is futile, it is worth trying to do. I submit that to deny this is to fall prey to an even greater and more cosmic oppression.

    I also submit that you did speak for at least yourself, if not for other people like yourself, when you said, “for us spoiled people who are not used to enduring continuous loss and suffering, a perfectly quiet, contemplative afterlife seems rather sterile and stagnant.” To which I called bullshit, respectfully of course, on the grounds that it’s inconceivable, if not simply unarguable that any of us are by way of some natural development free of “continual loss and suffering.”

    So I do think that there are definitely different degrees and qualities of loss and suffering. The ancient Egyptian bricklayer would have lived maybe until 30 years of age and his wife even less, after delivering baby after stillborn baby since she was maybe 13 or 14. Interestingly, the afterlife of the Egyptian ruling class was a rather complicated and involved affair as any quick perusal of The Book of the Dead will tell you. We don’t really know what the Egyptian peasantry might have believed, I don’t think, but I suspect it was not that different from that of the religions of Abraham, and if it had an afterlife, it’s more likely than not that it was one of sipping drinks in lawn chairs and that sort of thing.

    And compared to me, well, there is no comparison. Because a much larger number of my own desires, whatever their provenance, will be satisfied. Whereas the Egyptian peasant may have been taught not to desire anything more than what he or she saw.

  116. Violet

    I’ve seen the future and it’s men in spandex pajamas. Waiting for more terrestrial-based blaming to commence.

  117. Mar Iguana

    “I can think of nothing more tedious.” Mandos

    I can.

  118. Mandos

    Oh?

  119. thebewilderness

    Liz said:
    Quite frankly, I find it hard to conceive of a world without oppression of one kind or another. We humans seem to be unpleasantly attached to hierarchical structures and patterns, and some of us – though whether the behaviour is learned or innate or some combination thereof I dare not speculate – appear to thrive on conflict and competition.

    The discussion going on at Firestone Theatre touches on this question. Children struggle against oppression. They struggle long and hard, until they learn to submit to the oppressor and find themselves someone to oppress. I take their struggle against oppression as a sign that we humans do not like it one little bit when it happens to us.
    A world without oppression is so foreign to our experience I, too find it hard to conceive of, but I would like to. I would like to do whatever I can to move in that direction, and then we will see if the act of removing oppression from human interaction really does change everything.

  120. thebewilderness

    Mandos, Mandos, Mandos,
    Lounge with a book, for criminilly sakes!

  121. Mandos

    If the book is exciting, I get up and pace around. If it’s not exciting, I get up and pace around.

  122. Sasha

    josquin I’ll second Pratchet. Not stellar but, as you say, solid.

    Here I was scouring the dark recesses of my aging brain for old relevant aged SF and I hit upon She by H. Ryder Haggar from back in 1885. (That is a link to it. It’s in the public domain.) It is certainly odd in its powerful scary woman character.

  123. jnthnu

    Finn, I don’t find myself in disagreement with you at all, but I think you took that literally from the source (christianity).

    That whole “do unto others” business is a dogmatic concept, and what mainly irks me about religion is its imposition of dogmatic concepts.

    If I was to define “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” for myself, I would certainly say that the very first and foremost thing I would like to do unto others as I would have them do unto me is to leave me the fuck alone: with their dogmas, perceived morality, laws, justifications, imaginary kings, GENDER ROLES, porn, rabid consumerism, and bad food.

    However, I do not apply the same principles to politics. I’m waaaay more socialist than libertarian. Not that I really want to get into it. Shit, don’t tell me I just did.

    . o O “spandex pyjamas” ?? now I *definitely* refuse to be a man.

  124. LMYC

    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.

    Simple. Most of the good shit vanishes from the shelves the minute said brilliant feminist author kicks off. You can find every turdlike excrescence ever written by Piers fucking Anthony on the shelves, but try finding shit by Joanna Russ or James Tiptree anywhere. Can’t be done — and Russ ain’t even dead yet.

    It’s like they keep them on the shelves until the body gets cold, then they can’t fucking WAIT to get rid of them. Sure sure, we all lurve Ursula leGuin, and Sherri Tepper, and whoever else. Give them a YEAR after LeGuin bites it, and it will be as if she never fucking existed. It’s a matter of time until Octavia Butler is gone — remember all those OTT eulogies after she died? I hope yall didn’t think that meant her shit wouldn’t vanish the minute she wasn’t around.

    That’s why you can’t find good feminist novels — they might as well be written on slabs of ice. The MINUTE the author drops dead, the fucking publishers lose not one single split second wiping them from existence.

  125. Mandos

    To be fair, I can find Gilman in almost any public library I’ve been to. Maybe I’m just lucky. Piers Anthony is still alive—it’ll be interesting to see what happens after the inevitable happens.

  126. SusanM

    finnsmotel: How could we ever expect unceasing contentment, all the while knowing our lives will terminate?

    Yes. Until we can escape death, there will always be that conflict. Or, as one songwriter put it, God/Heaven/Paradise is the invention of an animal who knows he’s going to die.

  127. niki

    In regards to sci-fi/fantasy in film, my favorite is Westworld. Aside from the tactics used to get straight males into the theater (i.e. whorebots and a brief allusion to rape) the movie was basically just a lot of tension between handsome renegade robot Yul Brynner and the main character, who looked like one of the Village People.

  128. hedonistic

    Mandos gets a hamster wheel in heaven.

  129. Silence

    Hey, if Mandos’s idea of heaven is pacing around, book in hand, wind her up and let her rip, I say. Part of this whole ‘blaming the patriarchy’ idea stems from the fact that societal conventions prevent us from doing what we really want to do. Worse, they prevent us from even realizing that were censoring ourselves. She’ll settle into a hammock when her legs give out.

    On that note, a detect a slight sense of shame among some blamers as they admit their love for sci-fi/fantasy. There’s also a few others dropping words like ‘nerds’ and ‘geeks’ Could we cut that out, please? Seriously, I’m tired of being weighted down with all these labels, most of which seem to exist for the sheer purpose of making us feel bad about ourselves. Bad enough that we have to worry about being called a slut, a bitch, a skank, a hag, or what-have you just because we’re female. We don’t need other people knocking our little pleasures in life.

    Read sci-fi and be unashemed about it, dammit. I read manga and watch anime. I also read dense history books, the kind with at least a hundred pages of endnotes at the back. And I love the Horatio Hornblower novels, which are certainly very man-centric. Go ahead; throw the mental tomatoes. They won’t hit me nor stop me from reading what I like.

    As for The Taming of the Shrew, well, the worst part of that is that it’s an improvement on the original story, the one Shakespeare stole from, where the husband beats the wife and then sews her into a salted donkey skin after she faints and doesn’t let her out until she promises to behave.

  130. B. Dagger Lee

    Octopus tentacles have nerve cells that are the equivalent of taste buds. When and where they touch, they taste. How cool is that?

    I suggest that the Patriarchal tentacle has the ability to plunge through the feminist’s ear, wiggle like a corkscrew, perform a transorbital lobotomy, take a little taste—Yum, salty feminist brain!—and withdraw with a little tentacle-clasped morsel to savor more fully in the Patriarchal maw. And as it goes back for more, it can slap a decal on her forehead and plunge back in with a Sharpie and an exacto knife.

    yrs, BDL

  131. LMYC

    Libraries? Hell, I can find lots of obscure shit in libraries. I’m talking about bookstores, where SF fans and most of the rest of the world go to get paperback novels. Do not shift the goalposts.

  132. hedonistic

    Oh come on Silence, embrace your inner geek! Reclaim the term! It really means brainy, interested in science and technically savvy. What’s not to love?

    I’m also a total dork, and proud of it.

  133. Mar Iguana

    Silence, I am a hag and proud of it.

  134. thebewilderness

    Silence,
    Just in case you care, Mandos is of the male persuasion.

  135. Mandos

    Though it didn’t take a lot to persuade me.

  136. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Say it loud, I’m a hag (geek, dork) and I’m proud!

  137. LMYC

    Both are depictions of creation, but only one glorifies a lie.

    I think this one phrase encapsulates everything about why I cannot stomach fiction of any kind anymore. I don’t want the world poured through the filter of someone else’s perception, especially when the only people who get to create the most ubiquitous images have won their position by consciously buying INTO and promising the propagate the lie.

    I remember one person trying to convince me to watch a TV show by telling me it was a brilliant commentary on a post-911 world. I’m like, “Uh, just read the fucing 911 commission report if that’s what you want.”

    It was my reaction to all that horseshit about “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan” as well. Watch a MOVIE? Hey, here’s an idea — why not go watch “Shoah” instead and hear what ACTUAL FUCKING HUMAN BEINGS said and not dead ones reanimated and recreated by people who are paid to tell lies for a living?

  138. J

    “And compared to me, well, there is no comparison. Because a much larger number of my own desires, whatever their provenance, will be satisfied. Whereas the Egyptian peasant may have been taught not to desire anything more than what he or she saw.”

    Well, and my point is, too, that there is no comparison, but because there is no difference in the principle underlying inevitable unsatisfaction of desires in the way we go about satisfying them. Suffering, in this sense, is not merely overt pain, but the fact that happiness in desire is impermanent.

  139. J

    “How could we ever expect unceasing contentment, all the while knowing our lives will terminate?”

    That would be a tricky one, but it’s also assuming a consistency and essence to what we call “life.” What really dies when we die, and what if whatever that is is always dying (and being reborn) in this very moment? To me, also, the very notion of contentment implies “unceasing.” In the same sense that I criticized in another thread the notion of a Utopia that admits some element that negates it, contentment that has an end is no contentment.

  140. LMYC

    Whereas the Egyptian peasant may have been taught
    not to desire anything more than what he or she saw.

    Yeah, and teaching the lower classes (including women, natch) not to desire more than what they see always work in terms of keeping them down!

    Um, except for that Spartacus guy. And the black slaves in the south who dreamed of freedom and knew damned well what they were missing. And Mary Shelley and Susan B. Anthony and Victoria Woodhull, and …

    Oh, shit. Looks like locking a person in chains doesn’t always cause their mind and hopes to grow into the same shape.

    When you’re stomach’s rumbling, it doesn’t take a genius to envision a full plate, even if yours is always conspicuously empty.

  141. finnsmotel

    jnthnu,

    Didn’t mean to seem like I was taking issue with you, personally. I was going after the Christianity.

    “If I was to define “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” for myself, I would certainly say that the very first and foremost thing I would like to do unto others as I would have them do unto me is to leave me the fuck alone”

    I agree. I don’t think it’s just the dogmatic aspect of “do unto others” that sticks in my craw, though. It’s the embedded implication that one person has the right to do anything to anyone else. Maybe I’m being too arithmetic about it, but, I object to the one-to-one ratio it implies. Because if the implied “you” is defined as the collective or totality of the population, it seems to make somewhat more sense.

    -finn

  142. Twisty

    Mandos: “Though it didn’t take a lot to persuade me.”

    Mandos is one of the few who was that way before setting eyes on a hideously ugly woman.

  143. LMYC

    Back to Dem Egyptian Peasants — consider it this way. For all the narrowness and stupidity of most historians, who make solemn pronouncements on how the oppressed Roman housewife never dreamed of a life better than that under the paterfamilias, for all the intoning about how reverent and worshipful the Egyptian peasant was towards their god-king, someone hadda raid all those royal tombs.

    Reverent my ass. Someone — a hell of a lot of someones, given that every single tomb we’ve ever found was broken into at one point or another — had to bust into the chambers thinking, “God-king my working-class asshole. I can use that gold cup better than his dried-out salt-pork ass can.” So all Egyptians were reverent? All Roman housewives were submissive? (Despite the fact that since the legal system gave them no recourse against marital beatings, they became artistes at the fine art of untraceable poisoning?)

    Sounds to me more like white males — honky dudes, to use a Twistyism — study history because they pine wistfully for the good ol’ days, when the untermenschen knew their place and didn’t talk back besides.

    They have their heads up their asses, though. The lower classes have never sat happily and stupidly with cow-like docility in their chains. And they — WE — never will. So them fuckers better sleep with one eye open, and they know it.

  144. Silence

    Oops, sorry Mandos! Damn, this is one of those times when I wish there was a convenient, non-gendered pronoun. ‘It’ simply sounds too rude. I know it’s the patriarchy’s fault.

    And no, I refuse to be called a nerd or a geek. I repeat, I’m fed up to the gills with all these bloody labels society tries to slap on everybody. If I wrote all the ones that pertain to me specifically on seperate pieces of paper, I’d have enough to cover the walls of my room. No, I am a person, thank you very much, and that’s all I’ll submit to without kicking and screaming.

    As for history, you may be glad to know that there’s a move afoot to consider it more thoroughly from the so-called ‘lower order’ of society, or at least there was when I received my MA a year ago. Rather than the view that the elites called the shots, some historians are beginning to beleive that in most societies, power came from below and the elites were pressured into making rules that were in line with what the lower orders desired. It’s just hard to get the data because the people in higher economic classes were more likely to have been literate and left records of their lives. Still, it’s a promising sign if historians don’t veer off on some new trend yet again.

  145. The Constructivist

    Just a few links for ya; helps to actually see what feminist scholars working on sf have to say.

    Kathleen Fowler (although her best pages are down, as is Trudy Mercer’s entire site)
    Laura Quilter
    my own sf course

    But probably more fun to make broad generalizations!

  146. Mandos

    Yeah, and teaching the lower classes (including women, natch) not to desire more than what they see always work in terms of keeping them down!

    Um, except for that Spartacus guy. And the black slaves in the south who dreamed of freedom and knew damned well what they were missing. And Mary Shelley and Susan B. Anthony and Victoria Woodhull, and …

    Do you know how LONG Egypt stayed the same? It deviated briefly in the time of Akhenaten. On occasion, someone or some group of people has a catastrophic new idea—I mean “catastrophe” in the dry, neutral sense of a sudden natural displacement—and if they’re lucky, things are never the same again. If this was the rule rather than the exception, the world would be a better place.

    Back to Dem Egyptian Peasants — consider it this way. For all the narrowness and stupidity of most historians, who make solemn pronouncements on how the oppressed Roman housewife never dreamed of a life better than that under the paterfamilias, for all the intoning about how reverent and worshipful the Egyptian peasant was towards their god-king, someone hadda raid all those royal tombs.

    Oh, this is not all that different from what I was saying. I seriously doubt that the ordinary Egyptian had the same mythology and belief system than what we find in The Book of the Dead, the religion of the Egyptian ruling class. I would be too surprised if what they believed were closer to whatever it was that Akhenaten briefly tried to install as the new religion only to end in failure. I suspect they had an afterlife in which they were wealthy contented people. The rich, on the other hand, we *know* had baroque and exciting concept of the afterlife.

    The point is same as above: some people are predisposed to opt for a passive, contented enlightenment, and others not.

  147. Mandos

    D’oh, wrong blockquote closing.

    Mandos is one of the few who was that way before setting eyes on a hideously ugly woman.

    Platonic ideals ‘r’ us.

  148. Maureen

    To be fair, I can find Gilman in almost any public library I’ve been to.

    Herland‘s published in a Dover Thrift Edition (my copy), and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s sprung up on Gutenberg. The sequel Ourland‘s a bit more obscure, though; I haven’t stumbled upon it yet.

    The larger point, though–that the Patriarchy tries to erase any and all feminist work, and any and all women which don’t fit into its image of womanhood–is still pretty damn valid. It was only last year that I learned that occupation choice in England* was far less dependent on gender in the seventeenth century than in the nineteenth century. When the Victorian idea of “separate spheres” arose, time to shove the eighteenth century female dentists under the rug.

    *As much as someone inheriting Dad’s business or apprenticed at nine has a choice.

  149. Christopher Bradley

    I think this one phrase encapsulates everything about why I cannot stomach fiction of any kind anymore. I don’t want the world poured through the filter of someone else’s perception, especially when the only people who get to create the most ubiquitous images have won their position by consciously buying INTO and promising the propagate the lie.

    Because, uh, historians are so much better than artists? Or journalists? Or . . . bloggers? I find this to be a shockingly bizarre, and actually pretty funny, statement. You come to a blog where you pour through reality filtered through someone else’s perceptions, crudely transcribed and then you filter that crude transcription of some else’s reality and that’s OK, but you can’t stand fiction?

  150. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    “Reality” is a funny thing, Christopher. Ours is the only one that counts. Did you check out the Komedy Corner thread?

  151. LMYC

    Christopher, do you get that NO ONE manages to make a movie or TV show without fellating the patriarchy repeatedly, but that blogs can be put up by anyone unchecked?

    I don’t care about learning what people have to say. But I will be GOD FUCKING DAMNED OT HELL before I consume osmething poured through the acceptability filter of Proctor and Gamble.

  152. LMYC

    I should have said “I don’t care about biases when learning what people have to say.”

  153. Twisty

    Christopher Bradley: “You come to a blog where you pour through reality filtered through someone else’s perceptions, crudely transcribed [...]“

    I’m not sure, but I think I’ve been insulted.

  154. thebewilderness

    I think the description of Twisty prose as “crudely transcribed” is deserving of a three hundred comment flame war.
    Christopher Bradley, how dare you use the “crudely transcribed” insult. You sir, are the crudely transcribed one.

  155. clew

    Distinguishing between taste and touch is mere eukaryotism. We will never reach the diffuse consciousness of enlightenment until we return to our prokaryote roots.

    (It is only the cells which can incorporate external DNA which are called ‘competent’. On the other hand, we make them so by shocking them. I don’t know what this is a metaphor for.)

    I don’t think contentment is necessarily static–one can be content and immensely curious at the same time. Also, there might be utopias in which it was ‘merely’ possible for everyone to reach their full individual content potential; there would still be plenty of stories about the different ways people did so, or failed to do so.

  156. Mar Iguana

    “I’m not sure, but I think I’ve been insulted.”

    I think so. Yep.

  157. Roo

    Art, Truth, and Beauty.

    I’m really surprised that in a discussion of Art, no images have been bandied about yet.

  158. Roo

    Hmm, the image didn’t come through. Here’s the link.

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v48/werdnus/DavidandGoliath.jpg

  159. Christopher

    Me, I’m too contrarian for Buddhism.

    I dunno, whenever I hear Buddhists talk about their religion there’s as much nonsense about getting off the wheel of life as there is about getting into heaven from the Christians.

    It’s all about how the world is filled with incorrect thinking that causes suffering.

    Feh.

    Wait, what was this post about again?

    Oh.

    Here’s a questiom: If, as you have often stated, Ms. Faster, has its hands on everybody, and if, when they make stuff that’s tainted with the patriarchy, it’s not art, aren’t you more or less asserting that art doesn’t exist?

    What’s the point of defining art as “something that doesn’t exist yet”?

  160. lalalu

    i imagine tentacles slurping and smushing brains.

  1. God is for Suckers! - Commentary, news, and rants on the evils and stupidity of belief in the big invisible daddy in the sky. Illuminating and watchdogging the widespread attempts to institutionalize the theocratic rule of the US. Making fun of believers

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