domingo, abril 29, 2018

SF-with-an-Agenda: "The Stars Are Legion" by Kameron Hurley




The lack of recognition for female SF writers appears to be particularly acute for what's known as 'hard science fiction', i.e. science fiction that pays fairly close attention to scientific plausibility, and that seeks to break as few physical laws as possible (in an ideal universe, perhaps, none). Other subdomains of SF have a better acceptance of female authorship -- for example, Lois McMaster Bujold has made wonderful inroads into space opera with her Vorkosigan series, and it's hard to think about time-travel fiction without bringing to mind Connie Willis' books exploring the London Blitz through time travel. And yet there's still the idea around that women don't, or can't, or shouldn't write hard SF, which is nonsense. I've started actively seeking out hard SF by female writers, and there's some tremendously good stuff there.

For a literature of the future, SF still has some fairly reactionary attitudes at times.

The problem I have with stories like "Stars are legion" is the use of superhuman powers to achieve goals. Although they may help to highlight problems in society they don't actually indicate any solution, as the likelihood of getting these powers is nil.

Although SF is ostensibly outward looking in its imagination of alternative societies, it is blinkered in seeing these new worlds only in terms of western society, taking their cue from either our capitalist or feudal experience. There are or have been many other societies around the world that are completely different. Although many are now 'corrupted' by contact with the all-conquering western society, anthropologists have recorded societies with more or less complete sexual equality (if not matriarchal) and strongly egalitarian. Yet nobody wants to explore a future where humanity re-orders society to bring these basic human drives back into play.

However, dystopian novels win prizes, utopian novels are remaindered.

Narrative-wise, the book felt like an uphill climb. All those crooked mother, pregnancy metaphors... I didn't care about the plot, about the so-called metaphors and while there were bits of Zan's Journey "From the Centre of the Earth" that were mildly interesting, I just didn't care. I hate it when writers have an agenda. I don't want an agenda rammed in my face. I want Story. At heart it's just a somewhat traditional journey where Zan picks up various party members who are at varying levels of sanity, knowledgeability, and trustworthiness, and who agree to help her reach the surface of the planet so she can complete her mission. In a nutshell, that's what you'll get. All crap and sundry, imaginably run by the idea that every experience has some amazing extant point which by juxtaposition to metaphor would add more than a thousand yet unknown words to common vocabulary adding in new contexts to the more extraordinary of imagining past historic events more glorified and opportune than near say scribes whose pen they love but paper they mourn.

What is “Science Fiction” anyway? One of the genre’s greatest (IMHO) authors, Harlan Ellison, could not abide the term. He proposed “Speculative Fiction” instead (and Heinlein before him). And it’s the term I prefer myself. Of course; you may feel that all fiction is, by its very nature, “speculative”, in that it did not really happen. Or, did it? Harlan is utterly mad. He's also right. Speculative fiction is the term we should be using to describe all books that ask "What if?" For example, what if Vikings had actually settled North America permanently instead of giving up after a few years? You'd now have the world's largest socialist democracy and Prime Minister Olafsson of Vinland. And Swedish would be one of the world's dominant languages. Maybe I can get Kim Stanley Robinson interested in this idea. I shall expect only 50% of the book royalties and income from film rights in return for giving him an idea he could have easily thought of on his own.

Anyway! I’m a quasi-bald-headed white male, who has forgotten whatever point he was trying to make. Ta ta.

NB: I just wish this book had been written by Tiptree or Le Guin. And because I don’t want you to say I’m only fond of deceased female SF writers, how about Maureen F. McHugh? “After the Apocalypse” and “China Mountain Zhang”. Does this ring a bell for anyone? I’m sure it doesn’t. No one reads worthwhile SF writers anymore, male or female…


SF = Speculative Fiction.


1 comentário:

Book Stooge disse...

If I want message, I'll go read my Bible or a some theology book.

But I guess when someone is a godless heathen, what else do they have to turn to? Hehehehee.