I find the tropes about Gethen to be the most interesting. Thinking back to our last discussion on gender in class, the author tries so hard to remove gender from this planet. However, gender identification will always be present.
“Gender Neutral Writing: Much pain to anyone not a Gethenian. Sooner or later they all decide to use “he” or “she” for convenience, though it leads to traps.
Why is it so comforting to put a he/she identification to this species? We are forcing expectations and roles of a specific gender on beings that are gender neutral themselves. However, thinking about why Le Guin would eliminate gender but keep gender identification, it seems to mock the use of gender roles. In this world, beings that are seen as female are truly male by nature and vice versa. “Genly’s feminine “landlady”, whom he couldn’t resist to think of as a woman, was a father several times and a mother not once.” With supposed women acting like men and supposed men acting like women, gender roles are no longer of use. Even today we encourage the use of gender neutral terms like firefighter instead of fireman all in the effort to eliminate these roles.
“‘I never made any trip. It’s a false memory chain improperly planted in me by McClane’s technicians.’ But then he thought of the box in his desk drawer, containing the Martian life forms. And the trouble and hardship he had gathering them. The memory seemed real. And the box of live forms; that certainly was real” (Dick 397).
“Bridgman picked up a handful of the dark Martian sand beside the instrument panel, felt the soft glowing crystals warm his palm. In his mind he could still see the silver-sheated gantries of the launching site across the bay, by a curious illusion almost identical with the Martian city he had designed years earlier” (Ballard 357).
Ballard and Dick both share a sense of false reality in their stories with both situations being related to Mars. In Ballard’s The Cage of Sand, Martian sand is transported to Earth along with an undetectable virus that kills the surrounding plants. This area becomes isolated to stop the spread of the virus, however, it also becomes “a corner of Earth that is forever Mars” (Ballard 349). Ballard creates the illusion that the characters are on Mars, which gives the story a sense of inner space. In We Can Remember it For you Wholesale, Dick creates a false reality for the protagonist that had been forcibly altered by the other characters. The main character, Quail, wishes to change his memories so he believes he accomplished his dream of traveling to Mars. However, he finds out that he did truly visit Mars but that memory was removed. This story also has a sense of false reality because the character is unaware of what is reality and what is a false implanted memory. With protagonist characters presenting such unreliable perspectives, the readers are unable to conclude what is reality as well. Overall, adding to the fictiveness of the stories.
When it comes to the insiders in science fiction, it seems as if they can read texts differently than the ones who are not so invested in the genre. Insiders have the ability to enter the multiple worlds of science fiction easily without much research or understanding. The writers of The Space Merchants go on to tell their story with little explanation and with the idea that the reader will completely understand what is occurring. Terms like “consies” and events occurring on Venus are mentioned in the text but in a way where it does not seem out of the ordinary. It is as if Pohl and Kornbluth expect their readers to be insiders and be a part of the science fiction community.
When reviewing Asimov’s letter to the editor compared to the critiques in the New York Times, there is a major difference in language. The “outsiders” are looking at the text from an “out of the box” perspective which requires research on the subject. Asimov, however, had his own opinions based on his experience and knowledge of the genre. So I think science fiction thrives on these insiders to know and understand the genre and are capable of putting themselves into that state of mind that science fiction requires.
While printing a magazine on cheap paper is not ideal for any editor, I believe it has a purpose regarding distribution. Printing Amazing Stories on this type of medium would make the magazine cheap to purchase. While it doesn’t seem as important as a novel would be with a hard cover, it was much more affordable to the younger readers. And with the title Amazing Stories, it attracts the curiosity the leads a person to buy it. If it had been printed as a hard cover book with a higher price, it would have likely obtained less buyers. So while it wasn’t the most sophisticated magazine, it would be the most distributed. Publishers today have utilized a new way for distribution by making books and magazines available to read on smart phones and tablets. While some still prefer reading from an actual book instead of the more modern method, the use of digitized copies make books and magazines more accessible and convenient to read, especially when traveling. So while the hard covers and glossy paper may seem more sophisticated and dignified, cheap paper made pulp magazines more affordable to distribute and purchase in order to gain more readers.
“You need not be afraid of coming across a man here. This is Ladyland, free from sin and harm. Virtue herself reigns here” (Hossain 8).
I chose this passage from Sultana’s Dream because of how much this one line suggests about the male population. The sentence is stating that this society is a female utopia and is “free from sin and harm” which strongly suggests that men are responsible for violence, fear, crime and sins. According to this feminist ideology, as long as men continue to place themselves as the dominant gender, the world can never be peaceful and problem-free.
Hossain, Rokeya Sakhawat. Sultana’s Dream: A Feminist Utopia and Selections from The Secluded Ones. Ed. Roushan Jahan. Comp. Hanna Papanek. New York: The Feminist Press at The City University of New York, 1988. Print.