The Asimov’s Double Issue Oct./Nov is a thick digest of science fiction goodness, so the fact that I’m focusing on three stories that are telling the same story — the destructive, betraying nature of women and the stalwart male who must resist this betrayal — is, I admit, a bit ungracious.
But still, really? We’re still telling this same story? I just expect better of science fiction writers.
Jack Dann’s Waiting for Medusa is notated Homage a Harlan, and it shows. The male dog-creature sentient intelligent main character is betrayed by the soft female woman who has been sent to make the dog fall under her telepathic empathic spell to bring him in to vivisect him for his ability to regenerate.
Paul Di Filippo’s story, Adventures in Cognitive Homogamy: A Love Story, is about a man who is betrayed by the babymaking desires of his fiancee and the raw sexuality of a woman who tricks him into being a fall guy for a scheme. The setup — highly intelligent woman who is all celebral calculation vs. the sexy Latina of the underclass — is eye-rolling. However, the story is working on so many levels — this is a Di Filippo story, after all — that it almost makes up for this characterization. However however, Di Filippo is so good, that this is all the lazier for it. Would it have killed you to take a step and dig a little deeper?
No Others are Genuine by Gregory Frost is more fantasy than science fiction. A ten year old boy is betrayed by his widowed mother’s interest in a nefarious stranger who has already caused the disappearance of the young woman the boy has a crush on. There are a couple of insulting portrayals here. One, is that women need ten-year-olds to protect them. Two, that as always, a woman who acts on her sexual interest must be punished (the good mother, still young, is punished because she is attracted to the bad guy). The boy acts because of the death of his crush, so this story is a form of fridging.
So why are we still telling these stories? There were several others in this double issue that didn’t fall into these caricatures, these tired, tiresome views of women. Why in the service of story teling — classical in the case of Frost, more avant garde in the Di Filippo and Dann — does the stereotypical portrayal of women continue to be perpetrated?