19 May 2011

An Outtake

My latest Strange Horizons column was posted at the beginning of the week; the subject this time is Joanna Russ.

One thing I thought about including, but couldn't figure out how to fit in, was that Russ's marvelous story "The Clichés from Outer Space" predicted one of the elements of Bryan Vaughn's comic Y: The Last Man (a series that I must admit I only read the first 3 collections of, its virtues utterly lost on me). In the comic, the Daughters of the Amazon are a bunch of evil, man-hating lesbians who cut off one of their breasts to be able to shoot arrows better or something, which is what some folks have  said the actual Amazons did back in the day (the myths are contradictory). It's possible that this noxious stereotype is ironized and deconstructed later in the series; I didn't stick with it long enough to find out.

The relevant passage from Russ's story is one I quoted only a sentence of in the column. It's from the section called "The Turnabout Story, or, I Always Knew What They Wanted to Do to Me Because I've Been Doing It to Them for Years, Especially in the Movies":
Four ravaging, man-hating, vicious, hulking, Lesbian, sadistic, fetishistic Women's Libbers motorcycled down the highway to where George was hiding behind a bush. Each was dressed in black leather, spike-heeled boots and carried both a tommygun and a whip, as well as knives between their teeth. Some had cut off their breasts. Their names were Dirty Sandra, Hairy Harriet, Vicious Vivian, and Positively Ruthless Ruth. They dragged George (a little sandy-haired fellow with spectacles but with a keen mind and an iron will) from behind the bush he was hiding in. Then they beat him. Then they reduced him to flinders. Then they squashed the flinders to slime. Then they jumped up and down on the slime.

"Women are better than men!" cried Dirty Sandra.

"Lick my boots!" cried Hairy Harriet.

"Drop your pants; I'm going to rape you!" cried Vicious Vivian in her gravelly bass voice.
Etc. It's great stuff. A first version of the story was published in the April Fool's Day issue of The Witch and the Chameleon in 1975; an expanded version appeared in Women's Studies International Forum in 1984, and then was collected in The Hidden Side of the Moon in 1987. Y: The Last Man began publication in 2002.

3 comments:

  1. I dunno if I'd say the Amazon stuff gets deconstructed later in the series -- they're just one of the many flavors of crazy people in that book, ultimately -- but there's a "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?" joke at one point in Y: The Last Man, which suggests the author wasn't unaware of the tradition of feminist SF related to his premise, at least.

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  2. The Strange Horizons piece captures my own feelings about Russ's death. Thanks for it.

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  3. Thanks, Tim, for the info on the later Y.

    And Josh, thanks for the kind words (and the link from the Aqueduct blog. Great round-up there.)

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