No Man's Land
And No Woman's Either....
So, what happened was this: I was fourteen. Which means I pretty much read what other people brought home.
About three years earlier, my much-older brother started bringing out science fiction, because he was in engineering and one of his friends had a vast science fiction library. I started reading it of course. I mean, I read EVERYTHING.
I’m given to understand that my brother started making sure he didn’t bring home shocking stuff. Or at least he thought he did. All I can say is that it was the seventies and Europe and his idea of shocking must have been very odd. Some of the things I read… (Standing up by his bedside table, ready to drop book and run to my room, because I was convinced I was doing this by stealth, of course.)
Anyway, by the time I was fourteen, he’d given up, and books he brought home were gleefully borrowed and disappeared into my room for a day or so, before he got to read them. (All of them. But science fiction too.)
Which is how I came to read Ursula K. LeGuinn’s The Left Hand of Darkness.
And it annoyed me. Look, I was fourteen. One of the things I purloined and dragged to my
cave…. er…. bedroom, was biology books, including those of cousins who were studying stuff like medicine. (Before no genre was safe from me, no book was safe from me. The only thing that defeated me was programing books, and that’s because it’s pretty impossible to learn programing if you’ve never been within shouting distance of a computer.) I’d also read evolutionary biology, and history and paleontology and—
Anyway, the book offended me. From the height of my 14 years I kept shouting “No, no, no. Miles and miles of wrongitude.”
It’s not that I thought I could do better, it’s that it offended me by existing. I remember it was summer and it was hot, and I lay there, staring at the ceiling and thinking of all the ways it was wrong, wrong, wrong.
I finally fell asleep, then woke up. It wasn’t precisely a dream, but in my head, there was a young…. well, young…. person (the point being it was neither a male nor a female, obviously) who was the heir to the throne, and his womb-parent had died. And the throne was in dispute, in this extremely aggressive and individualistic society and—
For the next 14 years I tried to write this, with varying levels of wrongitude, myself. In fact, learning to write it is what opened the door to writing other things. But the way I was trying to write it was too weird and unpublishable to work. So, I gave up and wrote other stuff.
But I’m sixty. And I now know how to write it. Except of course, it’s really weird, and I’m afraid all of you will think I’m making a political statement or something. I’m not. Well except that I don’t think an hermaphrodite human species would be all communitarian and sharing childcare and stuff. (Pfui.)
But other than the politics that come with living in my own head, this is really not political or a reflection on today’s world, or much of anything.
It’s just I have this world. And I don’t want it to die with me.