July 24, 2009

Eh? And again I say, EH!?

Sometimes it cracks me up to read old science fiction.

After reading Justine Larbalestier's The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction, which was her PhD dissertation (or, thesis, as they'd call it in the British/Commonwealth educational system), I've been rounding up a bunch of the first women writers in the business, reading Connie Willis and Ursula K. LeGuin again, and now, Anne McCaffrey. Like old school science fiction written by men, the gender roles are... like, brittle antique, and some of what is said is hilarious and completely misogynistic. In McCaffrey's case, it's... weirdly backwards of what you'd expect, but still utterly wrong. Check this (and be warned, you might be slightly squicked, and/or think this is inappropriate -- if you're sensitive like that, stop now):

She quickly suppressed a flare of desire. This was not the time to intrude sex on his personal anguish. And she knew that her intense sexual hunger for him stemmed from a yearning for the child of his seed. A daughter, tall and fair, with Lajos's dimples in her cheek. A son, strongbacked and arrogant, with thick black straight hair.

This hunger for his child was so primal, it paralyzed the sophistication overlaid by education and social reflexes. Nowadays a woman was expected to assume more than the ancient duties required of her.

- To Ride Pegasus, by Anne McCaffrey

Whoa. Just... WHOA. And Oh. My. Word.

We've come a long way... in some direction, baby.

You can find Pegasus in Space and the rest of the Psionic Talents series (which, despite this icky paragraph, are good fun), as well as The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction at an independent bookstore near you!


Sarah Stevenson said...

Ooh, will have to look for Battle of the Sexes.

I told you the story about how my father-in-law hitched a ride from Anne McCaffrey sometime in the late 60s in Berkeley, right?

Anonymous said...

Haha...wow... I haven't read Anne McCaffrey for a while, I don't remember how her writing style is like!


tanita✿davis said...

Granted, I have to admit that these books were written AFTER her dragon books, and they weren't intended for YA... though most of them are shelved there. These are a collection of short stories published in SF magazines.

But still: hilariously wrong.

David T. Macknet said...

"Daffyd op Owen groaned. If only such a Talent had been moved to come to the Center where she could be trained and used." - McCaffrey, To Ride Pegasus.


"One renegade can discredit a hundred honest injuns." - McCaffrey, To Ride Pegasus.


"She had not been pretty by ordinary standards but.... The narrow face, the brilliant eyes, slightly slanted above sharp cheekbones, the thin, small mouth and the pointed chin were unusual even in an area of ethnic variety." - McCaffrey, To Ride Pegasus.

So ... concepts of beauty are different in areas of "ethnic variety," got it. But ... she wasn't pretty by ordinary standards. Just by ethnic ones.

PV Lundqvist said...

I had a similar reaction when I read, "Mote in God's Eye."

There was a damsel needing to be married to the handsome ship captain, and the problem with the aliens? They mate too much.

tanita✿davis said...

...eh. Mate. Too. Much.


*goes off, shaking head in dismay*

Saints and Spinners said...

Oh my! I didn't know whether to laugh or clutch my stomach. I think I did both.