If you read this blog from time to time, you know how much I love science fiction. There’s a dirty little secret I’ve been keeping that I’m ready to reveal: I’ve never read perhaps the most famous science fiction novel ever written: Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land.
I’ve owned it for some time, but it wasn’t until I was discussing great works of science fiction with a friend that I was really moved to pick it up and crack the cover.
So now I’ve started the book (the original uncut version depicted at left) and I’m on page 231, and I’m… absolutely appalled!
It’s not the Sci-Fi or suspense elements that upset me. The story elements dealing with a human raised by Martians, the glimpse into the Martian world, the unbelievable powers of young Valentine Michael Smith, and the political intrigue surrounding the foundling, are all fascinating. No, it’s the fact that this is one of the most sexist books I have ever had the displeasure of discovering.
Now, I know this was published in 1961 (you just have to watch Mad Men to discover, or remind yourself in my case, what it was like back then), and I expect a book to be a reflection of its time, but take a look at this quote from the novel:
He knew that such twisting of the tiger’s tail was dangerous, for he understood the psychopathology of great power as thoroughly as Jill Boardman lacked knowledge of it…”
“He” is news reporter Ben Claxton. Jill is his love interest, and she’s a nurse. So… a news reporter knows more about psychopathology blah blah blah than a nurse who probably had a course that covered psychopathology blah blah blah. The reason Ben knows more, and the reason all of the male characters are written as superior to the female characters is because of ONE BIG REASON: Men are better than women. Sorry, but this misogynistic attitude seems to soak every page of this so-called classic.
Surely, there’s a reason for this. Surely, the author must be setting us up for some kind of stunning social commentary. Is there a point to the fact that Martian-born Valentine Smith is the only character who does not look down on women? Will he reveal that men and women are of the same species, shocking the Earthlings? Is there a point to any of this? Have I wasted my time?
HELP! Should Young Bill Young keep reading this book?