Essay2 ENG2071

Submitted By asiskos
Words: 2484
Pages: 10

Anthony Siskos
Dr. Mark Stephenson
English 2071F - Science Fiction
December 1, 2014
Ambiguous Sexuality in Science Fiction Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, Frank Herbert –these are just a few names of those considered to be the most influential writers in science fiction. They also have another thing in common: they are all men. Other than Ursula Le Guinn and Margaret Atwood, in fact, most people would be hard-pressed to name a prominent female science fiction writer. Thus, as it is behind the pen, women also tend to be underrepresented on the page. That is, for every Katniss Everdeen, there seem to have been a hundred Ender Wiggins before her. However, the fact that Katniss and Tris are now household names means that women are gaining more and more visibility in the genre, or at least in the young adult section of the bookstore. Before this, however, it seemed that writers had to tread somewhat carefully when dealing with gender in the mostly male-dominated genre. Take, for example, two classic science fiction novels which themselves have been hailed as some of the most influential ever written: Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and William Gibson’s Neuromancer. While women cannot be said to be completely unrepresented in these stories, femininity itself can be said to be presented with a degree of ambiguity. Through characterization and world creation, Gibson and Le Guin give a representation of women that somehow both bends and supports gender stereotypes, within the context of strange new worlds. The strangeness of the worlds created by Gibson and Le Guin are essential factors in their representation of women and, in fact, of genders themselves. This is, of course, most apparent in Le Guin’s work. After all, one of the major premises of the novel is the fact of gender neutrality in Gethen. It is, in a way, an ironic approach to gender: exploring the role of gender in regular real-world society by completely taking away gender in an imagined society. Moreover, it is even more ironic that Le Guin’s method of removing gender from a society is by giving its people both genders. That is, the Gethenians cannot be said to be completely devoid of sexuality; it is just that sexuality, or at least the physical manifestation of it, is not a factor in their lives until kemmer, which is just about 2 days out of their monthly cycle. Compared to the daily factor that is sexuality in humans, this is a very small fraction of a person’s life indeed. This also suggests the separation of physical and psychological manifestations of gender. Thus, although the story consistently refers to the Gethenians as “he,” the reader, along with Genly Ai, has to become accustomed to the idea that all the other characters are wholly androgynous. In fact, it is a telling fact that Genly is himself considered a “pervert” and the rest of humanity considered “a society of perverts” among the Gethenians, a perspective on how a normal human society might perceive hermaphrodites and other gender-benders (21). Genly’s fish-out-of-water experience with the Gethenians allows the reader to adjust to the idea as he does, the learning curve allowing the reader to reflect on the differences between Gethenian society and Earth society, and how much of a role gender plays in those differences. On the other hand, in Neuromancer, the world Gibson creates still retails the male-female duality. However, like in The Left Hand of Darkness, the creation of the world itself also has some significant effect on the definition and representation of gender. Take, for example, one of the most important elements of Gibson’s world, what has made the book as culturally influential as it was at the time: the seemingly infinite possibilities for high-tech body modifications. Chiba, Japan, the setting of the novel, is even described as “synonymous with implants, nerve-splicing, and micro bionics” (3). A theory holds that self-definition is closely