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Wednesday 14 April 2010

Proclamations of the Red Queen

28th March 2010

C.J. Cherryh: Not The Future We Wanted, But…

Posted by: Craig Young

Recently, I’ve read SF author C.J. Cherryh’s Cyteen and Regenesis, notable for their cloned gay ancillary protagonists, Jordan and Justin Warrick. Their world, Cyteen, raises some interesting questions for LGBT political development.

 Cyteen and Regenesis are set in the early 25th Century, on a corporate dominated human interstellar colony, Cyteen. In this timeline, it seems that sexual orientation and identity have long since been accepted as modes of benign human variation and present no barriers to career advancement, professional responsibility, spousal cohabitation rights or famul formation. Indeed, Jordan and Justin’s sexual identities are only mentioned once in the two works.

Cyteen and its 25th Century are no utopia, otherwise. Despite normalised LGBT sexual and gender equality, humanity has just ended a devastating civil war between Earth and its former interstellar colonies in the late 24th Century, and Reseune, the aforementioned dominant corporate, engages in human genetic adaptation to deal with colonisation of suboptimal alien ecologies. That involves ectogenesis (extra-uterine reproduction), which are as commonplace as human cloning. It’s also a post-patriarchal society, given that the central protagonists of both books are Ariane Emory I and II, a prodogious genetic engineer and businesswoman and her clone.

Here’s one problem. Some genetically engineered humans (azis) are bred through ectogenesis and virtual reality ‘tape’ indoctrination to live as high-functioning autistic people, incapable of ambiguity or deception. Moreover, azis have only default chattel status within Reseune and its operations. They may face no employment or relationship discrimination- Jordan and Justin’s lovers, Paul and Grant, are both azis- but if Reseune’s corporate hierarchy decides to revoke their erstwhile employment status and relationships, they are powerless.

I tend to be sceptical about utopias and this is no exception. However, ancillary complications add to the narrative scope and breadth of the best SF works, and it certainly enhances the narrative believability of Cherryh’s future history universe in this context. It also raises some useful questions about what society LGBT citizens want…and what we might end up getting, if we don’t do anything about what appear to be ‘tangential’ social issues at the time.

Tags: General

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