I’ve been reading a bit of classic science-fiction recently, and I just finished Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. Which is a very good book. It’s about a representative of an interplanetary culture making contact with an isolated planet of humans which are all hermaphrodites. (There are no sex scenes).
I thought I’d read it before when I was about nineteen, and I remember loftily dismissing it as ‘feminist science-fiction’. What’s odd is that I read The Handmaid’s Tale’ at about the same age, loved it and went around recommending it to people. Anyway, I didn’t remember anything about The Left Hand of Darkness. Maybe I didn’t even read it? The back cover of the edition I bought last week describes it as a feminist classic, maybe that riled my nineteen year old blood? (Or maybe I just skimmed through looking for sex scenes?)
Although I don’t think the book is a feminist text. It’s about gender, sure – but that’s because the book is about identity, and gender is a huge component of that. It’s about relationships, nationalism and patriotism as much as gender, if not more. According to Wikipedia the book will be made into a film (eh) and a video-game, which makes me smile every time I think about it. (‘You are in estrus. Find a compatible mate in ninety seconds, or restart the level.’)