Science Fiction Studies

#101 = Volume 34, Part 1 = March 2007


Katharine Kittredge

Wingless Women Living Backwards on the Moon: Melesina Trench’s The Moonlanders

Abstract. -- In 1816 Melesina Trench published Laura’s Dream; or, The Moonlanders, a poem that employs the conventions of the male-authored seventeenth-century lunar voyage genre to introduce a society that represents an early nineteenth century woman’s critique of the world. Trench introduces an alien race that represents a radical re-imagining of human reproduction, aging, and romantic interactions, while also reflecting the author’s traditional views about gender, sexuality, and man’s dominion over nature. This neglected work has significance for those studying the history of science fiction, pastoral narratives, feminist science fiction, and utopias by women.

Christopher Lockett

Domesticity as Redemption in The Puppet Masters: Robert A. Heinlein’s Model for Consensus

Abstract. -- In his 1951 novel The Puppet Masters, Robert A. Heinlein attempts to resolve a cultural paradox central to the Cold War consensus in the US—namely, the contradiction between the paranoia about Communist collectivism and the overpowering middle-class pressure toward suburban conformity. Making use of the conventions of noir narratives, Heinlein depicts a “secret agent” protagonist whose efficacy in fighting an alien invasion—a thinly-veiled allegory of communism—derives from his slow evolution from hard-boiled lone wolf to community-oriented family man

Lewis Call

“This Wondrous Death”: Erotic Power in the Science Fiction of James Tiptree, Jr.

Abstract. -- Feminist critics have correctly identified a radical critique of patriarchy in the science fiction of James Tiptree, Jr. According to the “sex-war” hypothesis developed by Joanna Russ and others, Tiptree’s work is important because it explores the frequently violent, sometimes fatal, possibly inevitable power struggle between men and women. But the sex-war hypothesis accounts for only half of Tiptree’s theory of power. For Tiptree, power and violence are neither entirely masculine nor entirely negative. Tiptree carefully distinguishes the ethical and erotic forms of power/violence from those that reject both ethics and Eros, insisting that we must embrace the former while rejecting the latter. Tiptree’s texts certainly do develop a provocative critique of patriarchy and heteronormativity, but they do much more than that. These texts also deploy a remarkable “power-conscious feminism” which acknowledges the elements of power present in all erotic relations. This feminism presents consensual erotic power as a vibrant, viable ethical alternative to the non-consensual forms of patriarchal power which Tiptree so soundly rejects. By creating and preserving a space for the articulation of power’s erotic aspect, Tiptree enables a strategy by which men and women may accept the inevitability of power and still lead ethical lives.

Melissa Colleen Stevenson

Trying to Plug In: Posthuman Cyborgs and the Search for Connection

Abstract. -- C.L. Moore’s “No Woman Born” and James Tiptree Jr.’s “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” both present images of women who are technologically reincarnated, but the transcendence of the limitations of gendered human existence that is associated with the figure of the cyborg in Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” is flawed in these stories by the abiding loneliness of their cyborg protagonists and the inability of these characters to achieve interpersonal connection. Previous readings of the stories have focused on the degrees of agency assigned to the figure of the female cyborg. In contrast, this essay examines the figure of the cyborg in terms of her ability or inability to form alliances and relationships with others.

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