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literature

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

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

By the time he was writing The Soft Machine (1961), Burroughs had developed the use of "cut-ups," in which narrative passages were cut apart and randomly reassembled. This fragmentation of the narrative line suited the drug-saturated sensibility and anarchic sexuality characteristic of his work.

His earlier books, from Naked Lunch (1959) through Nova Express (1964), are nightmarish visions of a repressive NOVA gang and the efforts of homosexual junkies to evade and impair the gang's control.

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Having developed the cut-up technique in Nova Express to a staccato rhythm of great poetic power but conceptual opacity, he made varying use of it in subsequent volumes, like The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead (1971), Port of Saints (1975), and the series, Cities of the Red Night (1981-1987). In these later works, he further mythologizes the embattled homosexual junkies as an anarchic gang, the wild boys.

Joanna Russ

Joanna Russ has established herself as the most powerful feminist voice in science fiction. With the revival of American feminism in the late 1960s, Russ's work introduced sharply delineated renditions of women's antipathy to a male-dominated world. Even in an early story like "When It Changed" (1972), she cast the alternative to male domination as antiauthoritarian and lesbian.

Within this stance, Russ has included sensitive depictions of lesbians and gay males in many of her works: And Chaos Died (1970), "Corruption" (1976), The Two of Them (1978), and "Bodies" (1984). In "The Cliches from Outer Space" (1985), she provides a devastating commentary on the ways in which science fiction has devalued women.

Russ's masterwork remains The Female Man (1975). In it, Russ deploys multiple points of view to convey the varied, often conflicting responses that women develop in a sexist culture. Its protagonists are four women from alternative realities, ranging from the husband-seeking Jeannine to the murderously anti-male Jael. Each seems to incorporate a significant dimension of Russ's own complex identity as a contemporary woman.

As the four women interact, the book develops an astute, unsparing perspective on the difficulty they have in supporting one another and the potential for lesbian intimacy to overcome their conflicting self-images and objectives.

Thomas M. Disch

Thomas M. Disch established a formidable reputation as a leading American writer in the new wave. A versatile literary craftsman, Disch has pursued his writing beyond the boundaries of science fiction with several volumes of poetry, two plays, nongenre fiction and history, and literary criticism and reviews.

Even in the earlier years of his career, when his work was primarily science fiction, its tone was characterized by a sharp intelligence and a dry wit. To the discomfort of many science fiction readers, he also wrote with an unusually cool indifference regarding the value of humanity.

As his career developed, he moved away from the genre, putting less emphasis on technology and extrapolation and more on the precise and subtle delineation of his characters. At the same time, he began to focus more intently on the figure of the artist and the difficulties for the creative imagination in an unresponsive culture.

In many stories, Disch includes gay and lesbian characters, but in only a few of them does he give them leading roles. In 334 (1974), Disch's most accomplished work, he links a set of stories by giving the characters a common residence, a massive, state-run housing project in a dystopian New York of 2025.

Two of the featured residents are an interracial pair of lesbian lovers. Despite a greater acceptance of homosexuality in their society, they--like most characters in the book--struggle to survive amid repressive police and a failed economy. As characters reappear in each other's stories, the book develops a multiple perspective comparable to that of The Female Man.

In a later book, On Wings of Song (1979), Disch reworks several of 334's concepts with elements of magic realism. His protagonist is a naive bisexual, Daniel Weinreb, whose culture suffers from the repression of a revived, fundamentalist Christianity.

Amid this repression, people have begun to escape their bodies through a form of astral projection that can be triggered by exquisite operatic singing. Daniel aspires to achieve such an escape, but his efforts to develop his singing ability lead him into a humiliating experience in blackface and chastity belt as the flunky of his castrati voice teacher.

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