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Thranduil Oropherion Redux

Yes, I don't think you see much feminism in SF until Ursula K. LeGuin started writing.

Well, there was C.L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, and Andre Norton too, who were slightly better at including women. But it was still a primarily male action/adventure genre, and they had to get published, y'know? Guys just aren't interested in the finer points of a romance courtship or watching the hero play with his kids. These aren't 'novels'.

As for the question, where are the women, Foundation was written at a time when women were ignored. According to Wikipedia, Foundation was originally a series of eight short stories published in Astounding Magazine between May 1942 and January 1950. So consider the times and the target readership. I was going to ask, how many women scientists were on the Manhattan Project? Well, it turns out there were -- they just weren't given any credit or publicity:

" Herzenberg said many women scientists in the 1940s were married to scientists and worked for them in their labs for free, devoid of any recognition."

1/21/2011 #871
Morthoron

...worked for them in their labs for free, devoid of any recognition.

Scab lab labor? Well, Mme. Curie actually pwned her old man.

1/21/2011 #872
Thranduil Oropherion Redux

Here you go, Virtuella, you're not the only one:

Others have criticized him for a lack of strong female characters in his early work. In his autobiographical writings he acknowledges this, and responds by pointing to inexperience. His later novels, written with more female characters but in essentially the same prose style as his early SF stories, brought this matter to a wider audience. For example, the August 25, 1985 Washington Post's "Book World" section reports ofRobots and Empire as follows:

In 1940, Asimov's humans were stripped-down masculine portraits of Americans from 1940, and they still are. His robots were tin cans with speedlines like an old Studebaker, and still are; the Robot tales depended on an increasingly unworkable distinction between movable and unmovable artificial intelligences, and still do. In the Asimov universe, because it was conceived a long time ago, and because its author abhors confusion, there are no computers whose impact is worth noting, no social complexities, no genetic engineering, aliens, arcologies, multiverses, clones, sin or sex; his heroes (in this case R. Daneel Olivaw, whom we first met as the robot protagonist of The Caves of Steel and its sequels) feel no pressure of information, raw or cooked, as the simplest of us do today; they suffer no deformation from the winds of the Asimov future, because it is so deeply and strikingly orderly.

Of course, Foundation was written in the 1940s-1951, so it's not surprising that the book mirrors American masculinity and society of that time.

1/21/2011 #873
Hamfast Gamgee

I hate to contradict you all here, but a woman had the most important role in the Foundations series almost!

1/21/2011 . Edited 1/21/2011 #874
Thranduil Oropherion Redux

Which one? Bayta Darrell and the Mule? It's been a very long time since I read those books.

1/21/2011 #875
Hamfast Gamgee

I think that's the one yes! As someone said one example of a simple human action which did change the fate of the Galaxy despite all of the Seldon calculations that only billions of humans together could count for anything. Though I had fogotten her name.

1/21/2011 #876
Virtuella

Finlay said there were women in the later books. However, if they're all basically written in the same manner as your quote implies, then I don't think I'll bother reading any further of his books, because by now (80-85% through the book) I am BORED. It was interesting to begin with, but it's just the same thing all over: There is a crisis - two blokes talk about the crisis - one of the blokes outwits the opponents - redo from start. I think this cycle has repeated itself five times now - and there has been nothing else to the book.

1/21/2011 #877
Virtuella

Of course, Foundation was written in the 1940s-1951, so it's not surprising that the book mirrors American masculinity and society of that time.

One might call that unsurprising, or one might call that lack of vision.

1/21/2011 #878
Hamfast Gamgee

Yes, there are women in the later books but some of them were written much later, and one was a leader of the Foundation that bore an uncanny resemblence to Mrs. Thatcher it seemed to me! But they were done by Asimov almost against his better judgement after many requested him to continue his series and I don't know, but I guess that some of his original fans were a bit split by these ones in the same way that Tolkien purists don't like the films.

1/21/2011 #879
Hamfast Gamgee

If you don't mind my asking, Virtuella, were abouts are you in the Foundation series?

1/21/2011 . Edited 1/21/2011 #880
Thranduil Oropherion Redux

There is a crisis - two blokes talk about the crisis - one of the blokes outwits the opponents - redo from start. I think this cycle has repeated itself five times now - and there has been nothing else to the book.

It turns out this book was written as a series of five shorter stories in Astounding Magazine from 1942-1951, so they would have that structure of crises within crisis. Asimov was 22 -- not that much older than the average writer here at FFN -- when he conceived of the series and began writing the stories, and in those days, just the fact that it was taking place in space (!!!) was excitement enough. Hard SF is no longer my preferred genre either -- mostly because it's about hardware rather than humanities. I'm not really blown away by most of Clarke, Anderson and Heinlein either.

1/21/2011 #881
Virtuella

Guys just aren't interested in the finer points of a romance courtship

And that is the only context in which you can imagine female characters in a work of fiction?

I'm almost through with the first book, Ham.

It turns out this book was written as a series of five shorter stories in Astounding Magazine from 1942-1951, so they would have that structure of crises within crisis. Asimov was 22 -- not that much older than the average writer here at FFN -- when he conceived of the series and began writing the stories, and in those days, just the fact that it was taking place in space (!!!) was excitement enough.

Another book then that's on the famous 1000 Must Reads list mainly for historic reasons rather than for its intrinsic value?

1/21/2011 #882
Hamfast Gamgee

Well, the first books aren't very long. In fact all 3 make up about half a Jane Austen tale. If you could stick at it, in the last book there is quite an interesting guessing game that Asimov plays. I must admit that I did get the answer wrong myself or it was a surprise to me at least. But then I was only around 15 at the time. I wonder if you would get the answer right!

1/21/2011 . Edited 1/21/2011 #883
Thranduil Oropherion Redux

And that is the only context in which you can imagine female characters in a work of fiction?

Of course not. And Asimov's other works do feature women in various roles. I would also ask Dr.Asimov where all the people of color were. His books are about White People in space, even though we're supposed to be seeing the descendants of everyone on earth.

1/21/2011 #884
Virtuella

Life is too short to stick with boring books for any length of time. I'll finish this one, but that'll be it.

See, the thing is, initially I found the whole set-up rather interesting, the stagnation of the empire, the socio-political implactions of psychohistory, the problem of a planet like Trantor, the problems of establishing a colony in the periphery of the galaxy. But all these things are just hinted at, not explored, and we never get any details about the culture, geography, climate, fauna, flora etc of all those worlds. Terminus has a lack of metal. That's all we ever hear about the planet that is supposed to become the seed of a new empire! There is hardly any description, hardly any action, no character development, just blokes talking endlessly, and after a while they all seem to be the same two blokes all over again.

1/21/2011 #885
Virtuella

I would also ask Dr.Asimov where all the people of color were. His books are about White People in space, even though we're supposed to be seeing the descendants of everyone on earth.

But most of his characters have no physical description. You can imagine them as black or Asian if you wish. But you can't imagine them as women. Besides, you do get places in the world where there are no or very few people of colour, for example there are very few black people living in Scotland. But you get around 50% women in any population, anywhere, unless there's something seriously wrong.

1/21/2011 #886
Thranduil Oropherion Redux

If I were going to recommend a book by Asimov, I think it would be The Caves of Steel --one of the early books of his Robot series.

1/21/2011 #887
Virtuella

If I were going to recommend a book by Asimov, I think it would be The Caves of Steel --one of the early books of his Robot series.

I'll keep that in mind.

1/21/2011 #888
Hamfast Gamgee

Changing the subject a little, do you know that I've never actually read anything by Dickens. I've seen so many adaptations of tales of his on TV, film or stage, but I have never read through any of the original tales of his.

1/21/2011 #889
Virtuella

I've only read about a handful of Dickens novels. Of those I would say A Tale of Two Cities has the most literary merit, though David Copperfield is much easier to read.

1/21/2011 #890
Morthoron

The remarkable thing about Dickens is that many of his greatest books were serializations. Imagine churning out such extraordinary work as A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and Hard Times in weekly episodes (Dickens got to luxuriate with David Copperfield and Olver Twist, as those were mere monthly serializations!). To maintain such quality work under such adverse time constraints is mind-boggling.

And Dickens is perhaps the greatest character creator in all literature: Fagin, Brutal Bill Sikes, The Artful Dodger, Mr. & Mrs. Bumble, Scrooge, Marley, Micawber, Uriah Heep, Peggotty, Sydney Carton, Madame DeFarge, Miss Havisham, Samuel Pickwick, Gradgrind, Pecksniff -- the list is astounding, and even moreso as Virginia Wolf observed, we don't necessarily get an accurate or detailed physical description of each of these amazing characters, "but abundantly in a cluster of wild yet extraordinarily revealing remarks." And that is very true: the distinct and indelible nature of Dickens' characters are molded in our minds by the manner of their speech and not in their physical description. That is greatness.

1/21/2011 #891
Olorime

Charles Dickens bored me to tears with Great Expectations.

He suffered from word diarrhea

1/21/2011 #892
Virtuella

Well, finally, on page 188 of Foundation I have encountered a named woman. Her name is Licia and what is she? A doctor, a pilot, a university lecturer? No. A nurse, a poet, a priestess? No. A dancer, a painter, a politician? A courtesan, a trader, a librarian? A loyal sister, a devoted mother, a trusted friend? No, no, no. What is she then? A nagging wife. A nagging wife who, while she has, in my opinion, legitimate complaints about her husband, is easily shut up by the gift of a garish necklace. That's after he threatened to have her tongue cut out. By page 190, she has disappeared from the story again.

1/22/2011 #893
Gogol

One might call that unsurprising, or one might call that lack of vision.

A lack of vision is unsurprising, surely? But yeah I didn't particularly enjoy Foundation. POSSIBLY I AM TOO MUCH OF A GIRL. :'( 1/22/2011 #894
Virtuella

Possibly you have too much common sense?

And I had always thought that vision was what science fiction was all about.

1/22/2011 #895
Gogol

Oh, that seems unlikely. I have no common sense. I'm known for it. No, must be the ovaries.

In the same way that fantasy is all about imagination, sure. As I remarked to Terry Brooks before hurling his narrative package at the wall.

1/22/2011 #896
Morthoron

Oh, that seems unlikely. I have no common sense. I'm known for it. No, must be the ovaries.

See, that's the problem. You don't think with your ovaries. We men, on the other hand, have the innate ability to think with our reproductive parts. Certainly, the thought process is very muddled. One might even call it counterintuitive. Ummm...what were we talking about again?

1/22/2011 #897
Gogol

We were talking about my incredible wit and charm, and you grew a little dazed. What else is new?

1/22/2011 #898
AltearazCreator

In the same way that fantasy is all about imagination, sure. As I remarked to Terry Brooks before hurling his narrative package at the wall.

Terry Brooks' later books are actually quite imaginative. It's the first one that really causes the problems for people. While the first one you can see was never really meant to be published, as it was some sort of LOTR fanfiction, the later books give much more original stories and overall more interesting characters. And female protagonists almost in equal measure with male protagonists, whereas the first book was a sausage fest.

1/22/2011 #899
Morthoron

We were talking about my incredible wit and charm, and you grew a little dazed. What else is new?

*dons his tortoise shell Ray-Bans*

Ah, that's better. Your aura was too dazzling to be viewed with the naked eye.

1/22/2011 #900
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