segunda-feira, maio 28, 2018

Femalessness SF: "Needle" by Hal Clement




Clement’s later novels included females because people had pointed out to him that his novels had no females in them. To be fair, his work is not ardently sexist; it was just often focused on a group of scientists going to an alien planet to study the aliens ... and at the time Clement was writing, "group of scientists" largely meant "group of male scientists". There are female characters in “Iceworld”, and also in “Needle”, but those are set on Earth (with the aliens visiting us), where a complete absence of female characters would be a bit glaring. I think 'Needle' would be an interesting book to make a film from ... and (spoiler alert) given that the aliens are just amorphous blobs that live inside the body of a human host, it wouldn't be that expensive to make. If it had been the point of the book, a space-mission with fewer than 40% female crew would have been a different story and, concomitantly, much longer if added to the voyage to Mesklin. The humans are there as a backdrop for the Mesklinites and have to be as schematic as they are to fit the word-count. A space-mission with a few women would have been a good premise for a story (see the cover-story for that first issue of 'Universe' I mentioned in a post a while back) but akin to something like a woman accompanying Shackleton to the Pole. Who knows how many stories like that were spiked because of John W. Campbell's notoriously prissy secretary?

On the other hand, "Through the Eye of the Needle" is, if anything, more filmic than the first book. Well, the hero of “Needle” had a mother, though she only got a bit part.

But this wasn't unique to Clement. Eric Frank Russell was much the same, though in racial matters he was quite advanced. In Arthur C. Clarke's “Earthlight” the hero's wife is mentioned a few times, but never appears on stage. It was much the same with Verne and Wells, where Weena in “The Time Machine” is the only female character I can think of.

NB: I always enjoyed the SF of Hal Clement. Then someone pointed out to me - after I had read a few of his novels without noticing it - that his novels contained no female characters at all. Untrue. 'Noise' and 'Still River' off the top of my head. And the male pronouns applied to Barlennon and 'his' crew by Lackland/the narrator might not apply. I wonder why “Mission of Gravity” hasn't been optioned by Pixar. Admittedly Barlennon's a bit like Mr. Krabs from 'Spongebob' but maybe a character who communicates with farts is a bit advanced for Disney's shareholders.



SF = Speculative Fiction.

5 comentários:

Book Stooge disse...

I read Iceworld and vowed to never read another book Clement. Not because I found him in anyway sexist, but because he was boring as hell!

I've had more fun watching an ant nest than I did reading Iceworld. Mainly because I could poke the ant nest, but that is besides the point. Well, ok not really. If I could have poked Clement with a sword every time I got bored, I might have been entertained a bit more. It would also spur him on to not write such atrociously boring books!

Sword Poking is definitely going to be a main plank in my platform for World Book Czar...

Manuel Antão disse...

"Sword poking"... that's what I should have used last night...I see servers asking for larger and larger tips (despite rising base prices raising the tip naturally) and expecting it even when the service is slow or otherwise below-par. But the last time I only gave a 10% tip, for what really was almost non-existent service, the server came into the car park to argue with me and verbally abuse me. I explained to her that this was an example of her bad attitude, but she told me I was banned for life! I went back to the restaurant to make a formal complaint to the manager. I even went to Zomato to report the event. Hilarious!!! I always like a good scuffle... SORRY FOR THE RANT! I had a bad experience last night...

Manuel Antão disse...

And yes, Clement can be very boring. I was in danger of turning into a zombie while reading the book...

Book Stooge disse...

Rant away :-)

I hate the whole tipping thing because the expectation is that anything over zero service, ie, them actually doing their job, is a bonus and we should be happy at whatever we get.

I had to laugh at that waitress coming out to your car. If she could just put that much effort into her work...
And why did she feel she had the authority to say you were banned? Are restaurants different in Portugal than here in the US? Any place that serves the public has to serve the public.
And a waitress of all things. I could see the owner or manager of a restaurant asking a really nasty piece of work to never come back, but a waitress? That would be like me telling a client out in the field that the whole of our company would no longer do business with them because he wasn't giving me free diet mt dew on hot days ;-)
Sounds like that waitress needed an attitude adjustment!

Manuel Antão disse...

I think she just wanted to pocket the tip money to herself...they don't accept cards for no reason...