Wednesday, 6 November 2013


I love science fiction and fantasy and weird, weird porn, in part because these genres tend to toss turpentine across the sharply delineated De Stijl canvas of the world. The boundary between reality and metaphor in these genres is slippery at best, and that's seductive in the extreme.

I think I'm attracted to deconstruction and poststructuralism for the same reason, actually. I'm never totally sure, in reading Haraway, of just how literal she's getting with her cyborgs--how much the realm of science fiction is intruding into reality--or how far someone like Halberstam is prepared to take the complex layers of metaphor and myth that she weaves. If Alan Turing's bite from a cyanide apple isn't literally the inspiration for the Apple logo, and isn't literally a type of Fall, does it really matter for the way we're constructing the universe?

We've been talking a lot lately about attempting to find lines of communication across dramatically different ways of interpreting the world, and it seems like maybe there's some compatibility between this view of the world as a fluid set of signs that construct a narrative beyond the literal and the Byzantine notion of typology and prefigurement. If Hercules can be a type of Samson, or Jonah a type of Christ, Turing can be a type of Adam, and the circumstances of his Fall (without, significantly, an Eve--if the heterosexist godmachine of state Christianity denounces her lack, what does that do for the original myth itself where Eve is the initiator of the fall?) shape the course of cybernetic life just as Adam's banishment affects biological life. It's in the realms of the poetic, in the realms of science fiction and fantasy that these modern myth structures can emerge (and when did Literary Fiction become so god damn boring; when did it all turn into a reflection of a particular kind of middle class Real World?).

I'm including Weird Porn in this because I think that's a realm where, in the best cases, the boundaries between male and female can get extremely--ahahah--slippery. Roles can flip and new dynamics, new genders, new sexual biologies, even, can be developed.

Which isn't to say that in ANY of these fields such flippings and floppings DO occur. There's just as much potential for weird porn or for a fantasy novel to retain the same boundary between metaphor and reality, the boundary between human and monster, man and woman. I'm so bored with dark and gritty fantasy with "realistic" or "historically accurate" gender dynamics. I'm so bored with modes of criticism that don't try to confuse or undermine gender structures. I'm so bored with hentai that reproduces the same stereotypical porn gender dynamics with demihuman subjects.

And I'm not the only one either. Autostraddle just ran a great review of Blue Is The Warmest Color which, fascinatingly, suggested that the straight male gaze within the film was a disappointment in part because it meant that the film failed to arouse or titillate:

It didn’t look like a young woman discovering the body of her partner for the first time. It didn’t look like an experienced partner relearning passion in the arms of her new lover. The voyeuristic angles, the awkward and choreographed movements, and all of them made me feel uneasy, unable to forget the directorial eye, and, quite frankly, bored. I feel sorry for those straight individuals who thought they were about to see something scandalous. Besides Kechiche’s somewhat clunky fetish for women’s asses, there’s little here that would shock your average Crash Pad viewer.

This is so interesting to me because it suggests that the film is weak not because it includes explicit sex scenes, but because those explicit sex scenes fail to capture anything essentially queer (or anything essentially vital at all). It made me think of Ursula "Writing About Queer People Of Color Before You Were Born" LeGuin's scathing critique of the adaptation of her Wizard of Earthsea series and the whitewashing of the cast:
I didn't see why everybody in science fiction had to be a honky named Bob or Joe or Bill. I didn't see why everybody in heroic fantasy had to be white (and why all the leading women had "violet eyes"). It didn't even make sense.
It's frustrating, in a field that has such potential, to be confronted with continuous artistic laziness.

Anyway, for me these readings and their call for a loosened conception of metaphor and gender and sexuality and humanity speak to my own compulsion as an artist to explore these unfamiliar spaces. I need to catch up on my queer sci fi as well--I still haven't read any Butler, much as it shames me, my house, and my cow to admit it. And it seems to me that the boundary-breaking science fiction and fantasy and porn are in need of some serious critical analysis. Maybe I'm the right person to engage these topics a bit more closely? I suspect it's still kinda taboo in academic criticism to be anything other than critical of porn in particular, but maybe it's time for that to change.

Maybe, too, it's time to screw around with the types that we're constructing. Is Turing a type of Adam, after all, or is he a type of Eve? Or Sophia, perhaps? There's so much room here for weird recombinatorials that I think we could keep ourselves artistically amused and aroused for a long time.

This is Cyborg Maria, and I'm ready for my stories to take a walk on the wild side.

No comments:

Post a Comment