22 July 2004

"Old Tingo's Penis" by Geoffrey A. Landis

With a title like that, how could I resist?

Geoffrey A. Landis is best known as one of the better writers of "hard science fiction", but in this case ... well, you can fill in your own play on those words for this story, because I intend to write seriously for a serious audience, and I will not let myself become bogged down in puerile attempts at humor.

It's a little "just so" story that explains how men happened to come--

[Cough, sputter.] By writing this story, Landis may be throwing his credentials as a writer of scientifically credible work away, instead setting out on a quixotic, Lamarckian journey. Die-hard fans are likely to be disappointed, and I expect to hear accusations that Landis has sold out, and that his speculative abilities have become limp, his scientific imagination flaccid--

[Sputter, cough.] Despite all the amusement the story provides, there is an annoying assumption embodied in lines such as the following:
...back then men didn't have any penises yet. Nothing, just a flat spot between their legs. The women had to make their fun with each other, but since they didn't have anything to compare to, that was okay.
This is a remarkably heterosexist attitude, one that suggests this society had no lesbians and that once the penis was invented, women discovered pleasures they'd never known before (a common male fantasy). On the other hand, perhaps Landis has become a radical feminist, his text showing that the only thing women really value from men is their penises, and that men had to invent The Penis so that women would value their company. Such an interpretation may prick--

[Mutter, sigh.] Geoffrey Landis has written a story that is a kind of anthropological take on King Missile's classic song "Detachable Penis". I refuse to say anything more than that.

Update:I got so excited that I forgot to link to the story, but I've got it up now.