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literature

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Science Fiction and Fantasy  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  

Cloning in Science Fiction

As a device for exploring these identities, a number of other writers have found cloning more apt than sex changes. Cloning does not involve the temporal paradoxes that claim the reader's attention in "All You Zombies" and The Man Who Folded Himself, and clones allow for a greater range of interpersonal relationships than the reader finds in Triton. When such interpersonal relationships occur among the clones themselves, the interactions are highly narcissistic.

In "Nine Lives" (1969), for example, Ursula K. Le Guin traces the grief that overwhelms the survivor of a ten-clone team when the other nine members are killed. Bisexual relations among the clones intensify the sense of loss.

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In "Flowering Narcissus" (1973), Thomas Scortia resolves the problem that Bron faces in Triton by providing a rough-and-tumble female clone for a rough-and-tumble male biker. In contrast, the protagonist Lilo in John Varley's The Ophiuchi Hotline (1977), pursues her bisexual interests outside her clone sisters.

Writers interested in all-female or all-male societies have used cloning for reproduction, focusing more attention on its contribution to social than to personal identity.

In "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?" James Tiptree, Jr. [Alice Sheldon] makes cloning a reproductive strategy for the world once men have died out. The natural affinity of clone-sisters provides a genetic foundation for the communal spirit that permeates this world's demasculinized culture.

In Hatching Stones (1991), Anna Wilson suggests that men might find cloning a form of reproduction preferable to heterosexual relations.

Through a variety of technologies that reconfigure sex or reproduction, then, science fiction writers have been able to tell stories with a greater tolerance and sensitivity for alternative sexuality and gender.

Fantasy and the Use of Iconographic Characters

Fantasy writers, who would find such technologies inappropriate in their stories, have turned to iconographic characters more suited to the magic that informs their worlds. Such characters include mythological deities, fairy-tale characters, and a few revisionist historical personages.

Often, the stories work best for promoting tolerance when the more grandly scaled deities from mythology are refracted through a prism of humor.

Thus, in An Asian Minor: The True Story of Ganymede (1981), Felice Picano works up a rollicking rendition of the relationship between Zeus and his cup-bearer, one of the classical prototypes for love.

In another humorous rendition of a divine liaison, Meredith More in October Obsession (1988) tells how Aunt Josie ran off with the moon goddess, Selene. In a similar spirit, Wendy Hays makes up her own fairy-tale about a very, very big lesbian and her enchanted dog in "The Giant Person and Her Hell-Hound" (1974).

Sexually Revisionist History

For fantasy writers working with more historical figures, sexually revisionist accounts provide a refracting prism less humorous in tone but no less useful in effect.

In Gloriana: Or the Unfulfilled Queen: Being a Romance (1979), for instance, Michael Moorcock recasts Elizabeth I as an erotically unsatisfied bisexual.

In Armor of Light (1988), Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett send the homosexual poet-dramatist Christopher Marlowe on an unhistorical mission to rescue the homosexual King James VI of Scotland, the heir to Elizabeth I, from sorcerous treachery.

And in Strange Devices of the Sun and Moon (1993), Lisa Scott recasts Marlowe's desire for men and the reports of his mysteriously violent death as details in another sorcerous plot to unsettle Elizabeth's throne as well as the throne of faerie.

Four Serious Artists

Since the new wave, writers using features like cloning or mythological deities have addressed more fully questions of gender and sexual identity. Furthermore, many of these writers have depicted sympathetic lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, or characters in much greater numbers than anyone might have anticipated in the late 1960s.

Nevertheless, only a few writers have developed skills of narrative and style that earn them serious consideration as artists as well as social commentators. On the short list of writers whose technical skills are as great as their concern with alternative sexuality and gender, we can include William S. Burroughs, Joanna Russ, Thomas M. Disch, and Samuel R. Delany.

William S. Burroughs

Of the four, Burroughs is the least likely to be regarded as a genre writer. His work is not marketed as science fiction or fantasy, and his concerns with narrative innovation precede the new wave.

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