Monday, June 17, 2013

Part 11: SciFi is Not for Sissies; Westercon 66: A Skeptic Comes Home

Francesca Woodman self-portrait 1975

He had water, and some moist pads in foil packets, courtesy of his suit.  He got them out and shifted her legs around and cleaned her up.  Even with his eyes averted he could not help see in the tangle of her pubic hair a small penis and testicles: a gynandromorph; it did not surprise him.” 2312

“No physiological habit is established, and the mother of several children may be the father of several more...The Gethenians do not see one another as men or women. This is almost impossible for our imaginations to accept. After all, what is the first question we ask about a newborn baby…There is no division of humanity into strong and weak halves, protected/protective.  One is respected and judged only as a human being. You cannot cast a Gethenian in the role of Man or Woman, while adopting towards 'him' a corresponding role dependant on your expectations of the interactions between persons of the same or opposite sex. It is an appalling experience for a Terran.”  The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K LeGuin (1969)

Back in 1972, the folks at the ballroom entrance to this “beauty pageant” (or whatever it was) treated HJ and I cordially, and gave validity to our Reality News press “credentials” (created, of course, by HJ himself, the owner and CEO of Reality News), waving us in.  We entered the huge room and were struck speechless: tables filled with extravagantly dressed women and distinguished, movie-star-looking men, seemingly everyone with a drink in one hand, someone else’s hand in their other, and a sophisticated bon mot flying out of their mouth, which was greeted by a knowing, wry chuckle, and sometimes an outright guffaw.  Toward the front of the stage area, the “contestants” were gathering, one gorgeous beauty outshining the next, women of all races and sizes with one common attribute: looks and charisma to spare.  HJ and I tried to make our way to this gathering ground, transfixed by the spectacle, but it was extremely crowded.  As we made our way through the tightly packed crowd, receiving what I thought was a rather odd number of “suggestive” glances, a realization came upon both of us at almost the same moment.

We weren’t about to hob-knob with the cream of some kind of Los Angeles women’s avant garde beauty parade, we were in fact smack dab in the middle of a ballroom full of dudes!  There was not a “real” woman in sight!  HJ and I made eye-contact and a non-verbal decision: it was time to get out of there.  We looked for the nearest exit; it was across the room and we immediately headed in that direction.  More glances/stares came our way and various people tried to stop us and talk, but we were determined to leave, NOT THAT ANYTHING WAS WRONG WITH THIS, but it wasn’t exactly our cup of tea.  I remember starting to sweat profusely and felt the beginnings of a head throb.  We finally made it out the door, where there was a sign announcing what was inside: a gala Transvestite Ball!  How HJ and I missed this at the beginning is anyone’s guess.  We made our way across the hotel to the Worldcon’s Masquerade Ball, and almost hugged The Turd.  Not that there was anything WRONG with a transvestite ball, but I guess at that point we preferred a man covered in peanut butter instead of a dress. 

What can I add about 2312?  Nothing that isn’t repetitive to what I’ve said before or spoilery.  I continue to be enthralled. 

To Be Continued     

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