I made a terrible mistake earlier tonight, and I'm currently living with the consequences -- I accidentally took my morning pills before bed, which includes 400 mg of caffeine. So, I'm still awake. I figured it was a good time to start writing about John Varley's The Ophiuchi Hotline.[1. Varley, John. The Ophiuchi Hotline. New York: Ace. 1977.] Note: This post, like most of the posts in this series, is going to contain spoilers.
The book itself is in the other room, so I don't have any text to quote. [Later, same day, I have the book and am inserting the quotes.] As it happens, mostly gender doesn't enter into the book much. There are only two, very solid, quotes, that cover the two major concepts in gender in the book. (I'm only about halfway through -- for all I know, the next chapter is all about gender.)
In the first quote, the first person narrator
whose name I've forgotten [Lilo; 2014.02.24] explains that, though she identifies as a woman, and the man she's talking to identifies as a man, most people are indifferent to gender, and it's normal for people to have many sex changes during their lives.
[Inserted 2014.02.24] Jasmine was talking about having a sex change, which further alienated Cathay since he was a confirmed male with no interest in other men. Lilo, on the other hand, liked them both. She was a female-stable personality -- though not to the degree that Cathay was male-stable -- and had spent only three of her fifty-seven years as a male. Jasmine was a member of the no-preference majority.
In the second, and this is where the significant spoilers start, the protagonist [Lilo; 2014.02.24] is stranded on Earth, which has been reverted to stone-age technology, and meets a man who saves her from a cougar. When he's protecting her, she speculates on the existence of gender roles in his society and whether the man might feel entitled to
some kind of [sexual] dominance over her. She narrates that the majority of meaningful aspects of gender roles have disintegrated as a consequence of widespread, easy, cheap radical surgeries.
[Inserted 2014.02.24] Lilo was wondering what to expect of the man. Her knowledge of the lives and customs of barbarous peoples was near zero. She did, however, recall some stories of how women had occupied a social position distinctly different from men, back in the days before routine sex changing had obviated the whole question. She wondered if he would want to cop, then, with a shock, wondered if he felt it might be his right to do so. He would get a big surprise in that case, she promised herself.
Again, I've got no idea what's coming for the rest of the book. Maybe the protagonist's [Lilo's; 2014.02.24] time on Earth becomes all about gender. But so far I'm kind of disappointed that the radical changes in the conception of gender are mainly window-dressing rather than central to the point of the book.
But still, it's significant that Varley conceived of a future in which, when anyone can change their bodies to whatever form they like, almost everyone does.
If Varley doesn't loop back around to gender, I can still dig into it with Glasshouse,[2. Stross, 2006.] which is basically Eight Worlds fanfic, and in which Stross "[takes] the Stanford Prison Study protocol and [applies] it to gender roles among a bunch of posthumans who'd be at home in an Eight Worlds type environment—one in which physiology and gender and biology are mutable[.]"[3. Stross, 2013.]