THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES IN SCIENCE FICTION

Justine Larbalestier, Author . Wesleyan Univ. $50 (424p) ISBN 978-0-8195-6526-6 ISBN 978-0-8195-6527-3

In Australian academic Larbalestier's first book, a critical study of American SF's formative years, 1926 to 1973, some gobbets of original and entertaining insight glitter through the viscous prose, but glimpsing them requires slogging through thickets of abstractions bristling with parenthetical documentation, feminist jargon and such unhappily strident images as "white heterosexual male insecurity" in the face of women "as walking sex organs." Inspired by a Joanna Russ article on this theme, the author buttresses her thesis, that male SF writers saw keeping women subservient as the only solution to eternal male-female conflict, by examining many more texts than Russ did, from out-of-print magazines and fanzines to correspondence. Larbalestier also explores semiotics, American studies and histories of sexuality, especially trying to connect battle-of-the-sexes texts with later, overtly feminist SF texts. She sees the James Tiptree Jr. (aka Alice Raccoona Sheldon) Award, which celebrates feminism, as a continuing battleground where sexual warfare is "reworked and transformed." Despite amusing jacket art, some period illustrations and a formidable scholarly apparatus, including a 26-page bibliography, this dense study needs far more than its sporadic dashes of the playfulness with which the Tiptree Award—occasionally given in the form of a typewriter cast in milk chocolate—attempts to leaven a sometimes sententious genre. (June)

FYI:This title is part of Wesleyan's recently launched Early Classics of Science Fiction series.

Reviewed on: 05/20/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
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