Demian is a coming of age story about a privileged young white man, Sinclair, who often feels at odds with society and his parents' religion. Rather t...moreDemian is a coming of age story about a privileged young white man, Sinclair, who often feels at odds with society and his parents' religion. Rather than working through these things on his own, he finds a guru in one of his classmates, Demian. Demian offers our hero access to his darkest desires and transcendental thinking, encouraging him along a path of amorality shrouded in a "we're chosen and special" sort of egoistic mysticism.
I've now read this and Hesse's Siddhartha, and my big takeaway is: These are homoerotic love stories about young spiritual men looking for guidance and fetishizing their gurus. I think their main point is supposed to be the spirituality, but for me, as a queer semi-Buddhist, I can't see much more than sublimated love here. It's sweet but it's also a little funny - I'm left with the impression that Hesse didn't know himself very well. But these are uninformed opinions - I'll have to learn more about him to find out how self-conscious he was and how closely his personality informed his protagonists.
I'm not discounting these books' usefulness to humanity's spiritual evolution; I know these ideas felt very new and exciting and liberatory once, to many people, and that some of them are still in play today. But looking back from the vantage point of 2014, I see a lot of unexamined and sometimes-racist hocus pocus and Ayn Rand-like selfishness and amorality that are the mark of so many 1960s novels. Which wouldn't be a problem, except the protagonist and his guru are portrayed in a wholly positive light, and I think their narrative is meant to inspire and/or reinforce similar feelings in other spiritual seekers. Which is dangerous. So.(less)
I picked this up at a second-hand shop for a dollar, and wowee am I glad I did. It's not every day you stumble on well-written feminist sci fi like th...moreI picked this up at a second-hand shop for a dollar, and wowee am I glad I did. It's not every day you stumble on well-written feminist sci fi like that - I should know, I scour the sci fi section at my local library and don't have luck like this. Anyway, it was a lot of fun to discover this one.
Some of the stories are quite intense; they all focus on reproduction, and some tales are decidedly dystopian. Most of them, actually. But they're imaginative and creative, and of great social value. deFord was writing in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, a sexist era wherein scientists and governments dabbled in eugenics. deFord did not approve. Her witty, clever, critical eye takes it all in and spits it all out, reflecting our own cultural frailties and inanities back at us.
I like to think that if she were alive today, deFord would be glad to see women rising up and taking control of their reproduction, but I have a feeling she'd be writing dystopic visions of the Republicans and their war on women. I hope more folks will read this book and learn from it - she had a lot to say that's of great value to feminist activists, even ones living in 2012, like me.(less)
This is a great book if you're into in long time scales, longterm sustainability, the rise and fall of civilizations, evolution, and other extremely b...moreThis is a great book if you're into in long time scales, longterm sustainability, the rise and fall of civilizations, evolution, and other extremely big picture stuff. It's also got a little mystery and suspense going, though you can anticipate more or less what's happening fairly early on in the book and the cluelessness of the protagonists gets a little tiresome.
I feel like this book is trying to make some big statements about judgement and morality and "goodness," but for me that aspect fell a little flat, and I was left feeling unsure as to just how moral and progressive Niven is, as an author. Nonetheless, he was a product of his time, and he certainly crafted a very novel thought experiment here.
Animal rights folks may find this book's treatment of speciesism and evolution to be worth reading. Note Niven's seeming blind spot when it comes to the inner lives of certain species who aren't given power or voice in his narrative.
My fellow feminists may find themselves as annoyed as I was with the single one-dimensional and lackluster human female character, but the gender and sex issues that come up with the humans' rival species are very interesting, particularly the treatment of pregnancy.(less)
**spoiler alert** This is a fun little speculative fiction short story written in 1905, relating a conversation between two women. One has found herse...more**spoiler alert** This is a fun little speculative fiction short story written in 1905, relating a conversation between two women. One has found herself transported to a sort of different dimension where women who were formerly in purdah have turned the tables and are now in control; the country is now a peaceful, happy, utopic place.
She meets a woman who explains that they accomplished this nonviolently and (more or less...) with consent. Dudes aren't given a lot of credit - Hossain asserts that when they controlled the economy, they wasted more hours each day smoking than they did working, for example).
Hossain uses often-witty dialogue to get her own ideas out to other women: At one point it's agreed between our heroine and her guide that "...it is not safe so long as there are men about the streets, nor is it so when a wild animal enters a marketplace." The solution, they disagree upon. The woman from our own world is shocked to see women in this other dimension walking about freely and uncovered, though she has to agree that they're perfectly safe since the men are now locked up, instead.
This may be an extremely dated and simplistic story, but it's very quick and entertaining, and may be of interest to others who dig feminist speculative fiction.