Science Fiction Aficionados discussion

Dreamsnake
This topic is about Dreamsnake
65 views

Comments Showing 1-50 of 54 (54 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

message 1: by Maggie, space cruisin' for a bruisin' (new) - rated it 3 stars

Maggie K | 1280 comments Mod
Welcome to November! I have been wanting to read this book forever, so here we finally go!

What did you think of it???


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 302 comments I read this a long time ago and really enjoyed it. I'm hoping the reread lives up to my memories!


message 3: by Dee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dee (hatcherdee) | 1 comments I also read this book years ago and loved it. I even gave a copy to my youngest daughter but I don't think she ever read it.


message 4: by Maggie, space cruisin' for a bruisin' (new) - rated it 3 stars

Maggie K | 1280 comments Mod
Is it just me or is Snake a little too perfect? Although I am enjoying it overall....


message 5: by Dan (last edited Nov 07, 2014 02:23PM) (new)

Dan | 344 comments I was going to get this book through my county library system. Takes one business day typically. But they don't have this one. They have four of McIntyre's books, two of which are Star Trek books I have not yet read, one of which looks extremely interesting (Enterprise: The First Adventure, a flying horse on the Enterprise! really?), but not this book. That means I will need to actually buy a used copy! I'll try to read it over Thanksgiving holidays. The book won awards, so it's worth it. Right?


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 260 comments This was a very quick read - about 24 hours from start to finish and I did sleep 10 hours and walk for 2.

It's worth the price I paid for the used paperback. Lots of action, strong woman as the main character. I enjoyed it. But, it was not great.

What I found hard to believe was bond between Snake and Arevan that developed in the short time they spent together wrestling a cobra. Just didn't buy it.

Now the relationship between Snake and Melissa made a lot of sense and that was well developed.

I would also have liked to know more about North - what was he all about? How did he come to be where he was and what he was? He was almost a pawn put in to provide some great action scenes.

And, as Maggie says in #4, she was pretty much a Pollyanna. But, at least one that could take care of herself in a fight!


message 7: by Maggie, space cruisin' for a bruisin' (new) - rated it 3 stars

Maggie K | 1280 comments Mod
I agree Linda...I liked it enough, but felt she made connections too fast.
I also would have liked to have learned more about North, and also about her gene -splicing...that seemed interesting how she made dreamsnakes and a tiger-pony!


Megan Baxter | 277 comments Mod
Copy and pasting a comment for this book from another thread:


message 1: by June (new)
14 hours, 6 min ago

June (CanyonGnome) I enjoyed reading this book. It was not a "can't put it down" book, but it was enjoyable. I liked the main character. The visuals of the snakes were good and memorable. Snakes do evoke a horrid fascination in me. I recently killed--by accident--a rattlesnake that attacked a lame cat I put outside in a cage to enjoy the sunshine. (After I let the cat out, I dropped the cage on the snake.)


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 302 comments Maggie wrote: "Is it just me or is Snake a little too perfect? Although I am enjoying it overall...."

It surprises me that people see her that way; she makes so many mistakes! She knew those people were terrified of snakes, and yet she left Grass with them. And then there are lots more after that.

I think one of the things I love most about this is the way McIntyre is so sparse with the exposition. In the beginning we've just got a woman with some unusual snakes in the desert, but then slowly, slowly, the world begins to open up around her. But it's all clearly ancient history to Snake, and we get no more explanation of it than a novel set now would give us about the ancient Romans. I think it's all very artfully done!


message 10: by Alex (new) - rated it 3 stars

Alex Hammel (ahammel) Alexa wrote:"It surprises me that people see her that way; she makes so many mistakes!"

It's not that she doesn't make mistakes, it's that she doesn't have any flaws of personality. I guess maybe pride was supposed to be her flaw, but that doesn't really count if it's completely justified pride.

It was a fun story, but it didn't really grip me just because I didn't like the protagonist.

And the cover was just terrible:



Alexa (AlexaNC) | 302 comments I guess I would have said her flaw was arrogance, which is what caused many of her mistakes. She was so frequently sure she was right, only to find that in her assumption she had screwed up.

I actually like that cover much better than the one I've got, which shows Snake wearing a ridiculous gold dress; I think my favorite is the one with the tiger pony.

What is this book saying about gender roles? I'm used to thinking of polygamous marriages as having all the power residing in the male partner. Do those same power relationships appear to play out here?


message 12: by Alex (last edited Nov 22, 2014 08:02AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Alex Hammel (ahammel) "Alexa wrote:"What is this book saying about gender roles? I'm used to thinking of polygamous marriages as having all the power residing in the male partner. Do those same power relationships appear to play out here?"

I got the impression that group marriages aren't necessarily one gent with several wives in this universe, but I don't know if that was every explicitly said.


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 302 comments Well, the only two that she showed us were one woman with two husbands, which no one seemed surprised by, but it wasn't explicitly stated they were the norm.


message 14: by Alex (new) - rated it 3 stars

Alex Hammel (ahammel) Alexa wrote: "Well, the only two that she showed us were one woman with two husbands, which no one seemed surprised by, but it wasn't explicitly stated they were the norm."

Actuall—and I didn't notice this until it was pointed out to me—we never find out Merideth's sex.

Very clever, McIntyre.


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 302 comments Really?! I need to totally go back and check that!


Wastrel | 53 comments ...huh. I always assumed Meredith was female - but then, she's called "Meredith", which seemed to make it clear. Then again, apparently men used to be called Meredith once upon a time, so I guess in the far future that could be the case again.

Well, that's subject for a poll, I suppose. How many readers thought she was female, how many thought he was male, how many didn't know, and does it correlate with the sex of the reader?

Here, I'm male, I thought she was female, and I didn't notice it wasn't specified.


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 302 comments I went back and re-read it, Merideth's gender truly is completely unspecified and it is not the least bit stilted in the writing - I never noticed a missing pronoun. I did notice some more unspecified gender characters: an unimportant one, (view spoiler), and another one where I just jumped to a gender conclusion without reason, (view spoiler); I'm going to keep looking for more. I would love to know what everyone assumes. I'm female, and I simply assumed Merideth was male, and also absolutely never noticed it wasn't specified. And I made this assumption the very second Merideth appears on the horse. I'm appalled at myself. I think this is a by-product of our society's built-in bias that normal/default means male. But maybe I'm wrong and it's much more individual than that!


message 18: by E.J. (last edited Nov 24, 2014 12:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

E.J. Randolph (canyonelf) | 151 comments I agree that McIntyre was artful in her laying out of Snake's world.
I reread the part with Meredith. Because of the name, I assumed the character was female. The character makes far more sense as a male.


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 302 comments Had you previously noticed that Merideth's gender had been unspecified?


Wastrel | 53 comments June wrote: "I agree that McIntyre was artful in her laying out of Snake's world.
I reread the part with Meredith. Because of the name, I assumed the character was female. The character makes far more sense a..."


Why do you think she 'makes more sense' as male? I'll have to find my copy and re-read, but I seem to remember her reading quite naturally as female (given my cultural biases, of course - and I'll admit I'm not the best at the fine nuances of social norms).


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 302 comments I read "him" completely naturally as male. Never saw any disconnect with my unconscious gender biases at all. When I went back and re-read, looking for gender clues, I saw a few words/phrases that could just as comfortably be read as female. Just from memory, hands described as "gentle," the way Merideth stroked both partners' hair. Just little things, and I think there are just as many that would point the unconscious towards male. I think McIntyre did a brilliant job of painting a completely gender unspecified character with just enough gender reinforcements to leave us never questioning our assumptions.


message 22: by E.J. (last edited Nov 26, 2014 11:40AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

E.J. Randolph (canyonelf) | 151 comments When I first read the story, I thought, oh, here goes again. A male character is being transposed into a female. It was not as bad as some I have read where the author is apparently seeking to broaden the appeal of a book by changing what is originally written as a male character into a female. As Alexa noted, Meredith does enough female type things so I never was that bothered. (However men can be gentle as well and nurturing--Does this show my biases?)

Actually, when I encounter some portrayals of women by male authors, I want to yell, women are not men with a few anatomical differences. It is not true equality to make both sexes essentially male in thought and behavior.

So, at first I think I missed McIntyre's far more subtle message. I was kind of getting it when Snake is watching the snakes mating in threes. And, then, I appreciated the fact she was not hitting the reader over the head with it. But, until I read the other comments, I did not notice the Meredith character's gender is never specified. So, a brief, mental apology to McIntyre for missing that.


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 302 comments June wrote: "When I first read the story, I thought, oh, here goes again. A male character is being transposed into a female. It was not as bad as some I have read where the author is apparently seeking to broa..."

Are you referring here to Merideth? Or to Snake? If you're referring to Merideth, does that mean that you assumed she was female, yet a few of her actions made you think she was originally meant to be a male, and then transposed at the last minute? But that would mean you did indeed notice some slight amount of gender "disconnect."

I think the whole question of Merideth's gender causes us to be aware of and question our biases! Of course, everything Merideth does could be done by a man or a woman, and frequently are done by both, but our unconscious biases cause us to think "female" when certain words like "gentle" are used and "male" with words like "strong." Personally I am just appalled that my unconscious biases apparently lead me to assume "male" unless "female" is specified!


message 24: by E.J. (new) - rated it 4 stars

E.J. Randolph (canyonelf) | 151 comments Alexa wrote: "June wrote: "When I first read the story, I thought, oh, here goes again. A male character is being transposed into a female. It was not as bad as some I have read where the author is apparently se..."
Yes, you are right. I was referring to Meredith. I will think about why I thought the character was originally written as a man and later transposed.


Robert | 45 comments I have been thinking of what McIntyre is doing, vs what Leckie is doing in Ancillary Justice. In Dreamsnake Merideth is cleverly left ambiguous, leaving the reader to presume a gender (I had certainly assumed male). Leckie in contrast is presenting a society/language where gender is not part of what the language; causing whole different (and for me much more overt and conscious) thinking about gender and its role - in the story as well as the society.
So very different affects on a reader - interest to contrast how it affects us, and what the author is achieving; plus I think there is an aspect related being written 30 years apart.


message 26: by E.J. (new) - rated it 4 stars

E.J. Randolph (canyonelf) | 151 comments Here is what I noted that convinced me the character Meredith was male and later given a female name. I did not know Meredith was ever a man's name.

Meredith:

Physical aspects: P52 tall and gaunt and haggard, P48 looming over her like a tall demon waiting to fight beasts and shadows. P 53 Meredith knelt beside her and brushed her hair back from her bruised face, gathered her up and held her.

Bracelet: simple geometric style

Orders Alex around. Hush Alex. Be quiet, Alex, would you rather the fall had killed her?
At the beginning of Snake and Meredith's intereaction, short and brusque. There is no time. Those desert nags are no good for speed. My mare will carry us both.

Behavior: P27 Meredith bent to kiss the sleeping woman lightly whereas Meredith gives Alex a (manly) embrace.
P 29 Clenched fist. Meredith scowled and turned away. One strong hand over Alex's back P 29 Meredith leaned over, kissed her lips, held her hand, whispered her name. P 30 Meredith bent down, embracing her, Jesse Jesse love. . .Clearly, Meredith treats Jesse and Alex differently.

But, I think the author does want some ambiguity. Jesse is normally a man's name and the pronouns make it clear she is female. Avoiding pronouns for Meredith is obviously a deliberate attempt to make his gender ambiguous. Also, he is the artist, Jesse the prospector and horse trainer. Meredith's voice is clear, musical, midrange and Alex's deep and rumbling.


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 302 comments Robert wrote: "I have been thinking of what McIntyre is doing, vs what Leckie is doing in Ancillary Justice. In Dreamsnake Merideth is cleverly left ambiguous, leaving the reader to presume a gen..."

Yes, what McIntyre is doing is so subtle that most of us (if not all of us!) never noticed until it was pointed out. Leckie, on the other hand, is quite explicitly causing us to have this exact same inner conversation about EVERY SINGLE character we meet! Not at all subtle, but very thought provoking (and fun)!


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 302 comments June wrote: "Here is what I noted that convinced me the character Meredith was male and later given a female name. I did not know Meredith was ever a man's name.

Meredith:

Physical aspects: P52 tall and gaunt..."


Interesting! Yet, if it had been a two person marriage, with one sick female partner, would it have made Merideth seem more male? I'm just wondering which are stronger, our assumptions about gender or our assumptions about heterosexuality? Yet we've already spent a long time with Merideth before we meet Jesse, and my assumptions had been long made by that point.

I checked Wikipedia for the history of Merideth (or the more common spelling of Meredith): "Meredith is an uncommon given name, and a surname common in parts of Wales. It is of Welsh origin and, as a personal name, was until recently usually given to boys."


Wastrel | 53 comments June: I'm not sure why those things suggest maleness to you. In terms of behaviour, she acts brusquely to Snake, closely but not intimately to Alex, and intimately and gently with Jesse. But... that's surely how you'd expect her to act regardless of her gender? She's brusque with snake because her lover is dying and needs help. She shows closeness with Alex but not softness, because their lover is dying - not surprising they may want to support each other and be strong for each other. That assumes she even has the same level of relationship with Alex - just because the three of them are an item doesn't mean each pairing is the same. It sort of seemed to me as though both Alex and Merideth were more focused on Jesse, but then that may just have been because she was the one dying.

I don't think scowling is particularly gendered thing, nor fist-clenching.

Physically, ok, she's not petite and delicate, but lots of women aren't petite and delicate. She's clearly taller than Snake, but iirc Snake wasn't meant to be that tall herself anyway?


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 302 comments Yet, aren't we talking about our unconscious biases - rather than our intellectual understanding of what men and women do? And isn't recognizing these biases really important? Has anyone seen the Implicit Association Test website: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit...
it offers some chilling analysis of just how deeply ingrained our (usually) completely unwanted assumptions are.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 260 comments Fascinating discussion. Never occurred to me that Merideth might be female (I'm old enough to associate the name more with men than women, like Beverly and Francis).


message 32: by Maggie, space cruisin' for a bruisin' (new) - rated it 3 stars

Maggie K | 1280 comments Mod
I guess I just saw merideth as female simply due to the name and didn't think about it otherwise. I am kind of surprised at myassumption and am loving this conversation


message 33: by E.J. (new) - rated it 4 stars

E.J. Randolph (canyonelf) | 151 comments Wastrel wrote: "June: I'm not sure why those things suggest maleness to you. In terms of behaviour, she acts brusquely to Snake, closely but not intimately to Alex, and intimately and gently with Jesse. But... tha..."

I agree that any one characteristic can be argued about. I put the whole thing together as a gestalt, compared the behaviors to common male behaviors and looked for countervailing characteristics. For instance, the way Meredith acts towards Jesse is how I would expect a man who loves a woman to act.--whispering endearments, holding her. No one thing is sufficient, but the totality is pretty persuasive.


Wastrel | 53 comments Really? I'm not sure there's really a difference between the sexes there, but if anything I'd have thought the opposite - that that's how women are thought of as acting. I would if anything see both whispering and hugging/cuddling as more stereotypically 'feminine'.


Robert | 45 comments An interesting question to me is what the author was trying to achieve. Meredith was not a particularly significant character - and all the other people's genders are known (by pronouns, etc).
So I was debating whether she is trying to contrast a (unusual by present society setup) three partner human family, leaving one of the three gender ambiguous; with the dreamsnake's breeding setup - which the healers could not figure out due to their biological biases.


message 36: by E.J. (new) - rated it 4 stars

E.J. Randolph (canyonelf) | 151 comments Robert wrote: "An interesting question to me is what the author was trying to achieve. Meredith was not a particularly significant character - and all the other people's genders are known (by pronouns, etc).
S..."


Good point. That was my impression. And, I suspect the author changed things later to foreshadow or introduce the idea of threes.


message 38: by Wastrel (last edited Dec 07, 2014 05:25AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Wastrel | 53 comments For what it's worth, if anybody's interested, I wrote a review of this on my blog last March.


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 302 comments I enjoyed reading that a lot, thanks! (Although your link doesn't seem to be working.) I really enjoyed the book, and so I didn't want to agree with some of your criticism, unfortunately you make a very convincing case!


Wastrel | 53 comments Link fixed, thanks. And thanks for the compliment.

I do tend to stress the flaws, unfortunately, since they're usually easier to explain than the nebulous virtues of a book. But yeah, I think this one had a lot of great aspects - and I enjoyed reading it - but also a lot of flaws too.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 260 comments Wastrel wrote: "For what it's worth, if anybody's interested, I wrote a review of this on my blog last March."

Interesting review, although why is 1973 so important? I remember 1973 - the year after I graduated from college - but I don't understand the connection between it and the book that you make.


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 302 comments I read that as a humorous way of saying that the book was dated, very much a product of its era, pulling on popular themes of the day, such as free love. However I do disagree with that point, because I would say today we are far more accepting of fluid gender roles than we were then. "Free love" of the 1973 variety was very much a heterosexual male-dominated thing. So McIntyre was being much more radical than I think Wastrel realizes by making gender far more amorphous in her groupings.


message 43: by E.J. (new) - rated it 4 stars

E.J. Randolph (canyonelf) | 151 comments Alexa wrote: "I read that as a humorous way of saying that the book was dated, very much a product of its era, pulling on popular themes of the day, such as free love. However I do disagree with that point, bec..."

I agree.


message 44: by E.J. (new) - rated it 4 stars

E.J. Randolph (canyonelf) | 151 comments Wastrel wrote: "For what it's worth, if anybody's interested, I wrote a review of this on my blog last March."

Pretty fancy dancy review. Reads well, but I confess it was a little too high brow for a hairy-handed cave woman such as myself with a degree in history and not English or something similarly arty. Perhaps you would agree with me that the author wants the world to be a better place, and in her imagination, it is. I agree she is rather simplistic in her characterizations: specifically, good is good and bad is bad and that's all there is to it. But, there is a haze of good feelings overarching the book--the author's dreams and desires. I think that is why I enjoyed the book, but was not compelled by it.


Wastrel | 53 comments Both free love and gender fluidity were widespread tropes in the early '70s, even in wider culture - cf the popularity of gender-ambiguity in pop music at the time. [Bowie was flouncing around with beautiful shoulder-length locks wearing a dress].

In SF, it was an era of books like The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), The Female Man (published 1975 but written earlier), Woman on the Edge of Time (1976), Trouble on Triton (1976) and so on.

[Not to say that these tropes were mainstream in mainstream culture, of course. But mainstream in SF novel culture, at least]


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 302 comments Hmmm, I hate to admit it, but I may have to concede the point.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 260 comments Alexa wrote: "Hmmm, I hate to admit it, but I may have to concede the point."

I'm not ready to! I think you were correct in #42 - the "free love" of the early 70's was very much heteralsexual and male-dominated. David Bowie is not an example of mainstream acceptance of gender-ambiguity and I would not consider Bowie a "pop music" singer. I did not read a lot of sci-fi in the 70's, other than Vonnegut (who I did not even consider sci-fi!) and Heinlein, so cannot speak to whether gender fluidity was a mainstream Sci-Fi trope, but it was certainly behavior that did not have mainstream acceptance.


message 48: by Wastrel (last edited Dec 08, 2014 10:40AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Wastrel | 53 comments SF didn't have mainstream acceptance either.

To me, Bowie is pop music - he's not a classical composer, nor a jazz composer. But the question of terminology isn't important here, I don't think.
[But why woudn't you call him pop music? 24 top-5 albums in the UK, including 8 #1s; 16 top-5 singles, including 5 #1s. 140 million copies sold in total; big enough profile to launch a film career (with tie-in albums); collaborations with Bing Crosby, Tina Turner and Queen. He's one of the 30-or-so top-selling music artists of all time. Marketers may label him as 'alternative' or whatever, but when you're the top-selling act you're not really the alternative anymore...]

Anyway, the idea that androgeneity, transvestitism etc were a thing in seventies music is hardly just mine.

In any case, I wouldn't agree that gender fluidity is a major theme in Dreamsnake anyway.


message 49: by E.J. (last edited Dec 08, 2014 11:35AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

E.J. Randolph (canyonelf) | 151 comments Wastrel wrote: "SF didn't have mainstream acceptance either.

To me, Bowie is pop music - he's not a classical composer, nor a jazz composer. But the question of terminology isn't important here, I don't think.
[..."


Right about Bowie.

Gender fluidity is not the point in Dreamsnake; threesomes are without the exact ratio specified.

A note regarding one of your points in your blog: Must never forget the influence of politics in the granting of awards (just as it has continued to be a major factor in hiring at least in some circles.)


message 50: by E.J. (last edited Dec 09, 2014 09:38AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

E.J. Randolph (canyonelf) | 151 comments The message in Dreamsnake was politically palatable in the early seventies and is nearly sancrosanct now. The book is an argument against fear and intolerance.

1. The main character is a healer. From this we know the author wants to make the world a better place.

2. The choice of snakes which are universally feared and for generally good reason although many are harmless. They slink sneakily in the grass and glide soundlessly to their prey or rattle in a scary way. Can we change the way we understand snakes? Or, at least see a use for them? Maybe a way to say we should examine our most primitive fears.

3. The first healing with the tribe. Their fear leads to bad conseqences. Interestingly, they kill the nice, harmless snake, the one that leads to good feelings.

4. First major town seems so nice but soon we see intolerance of the disfigured girl and the young man without reproductive control. (Hmmm. I wonder if there are other interpretations of this.)

5. Big city is closed off from the surrounding countryside because they fear it and believe it is all harmful. (Jesse's words as well as the main character's description) McIntyre portrays their unwillingness to help as very negative. The inhabitants are inbred, perhaps indicating a resistance to new ideas. They certainly are fearful and intolerant.

6. The author portrays those that get stoned on the bites of the dreamsnake in the end of the book in a very negative way. They do nothing to improve the world.


« previous 1
back to top