Posted by: gisspar | April 26, 2009

The scifi of Modesitt

I read The Octagonal Raven by L.E. Modesitt (a little behind the times on that one) last week. I’ve read the Ecolitan books, a good chunk of the Recluce novels, the Time Gods trilogy, the Ghost trilogy and most of the random scifi. I’ve noticed a certain trend in his writing that didn’t used to bother me, and one that I overlook when thinking about the Ecolitan novels, but it’s really starting to bug me. The narrator is always a guy and there’s always a woman in an important , but secondary, role. They fall in love, or had fallen in love but didn’t actually get together for some reason. Either way, the guy is generally clueless about how he feels about her, how she feels about him and usually exactly why everything is happening around him (or why it’s on him to fix it). Fine, we have the whole “men are from Mars, blah blah blah” situation. Shocking. No, what bugs me is that the woman knows that he’s the guy, knows that he hasn’t a clue about their situation, often knows pretty much what the whole other “end of the world as we know it” situation is all about and is willing to wait for him for years. Or decades. Now the lady in question is portrayed as smart, independent, physically capable and, if not exactly the guy’s equal, pretty darn close. So they dance around each other for a bit, she puts some files together for him and the next thing you know, the book’s over and they’re getting hitched. Seriously, if the guy is that clueless and she is that strong, why does she just wait around? Why can’t we have a female protagonist here? 

At the end of the day, this particular bit of fluff didn’t really do much for me. It’s nice that Modesitt wants to explore ethical questions in complex, technical societies, but, man, fiction isn’t supposed to spell it out for you in every line of dialogue. I should have to work for it, think about it. Even if it is fluff. 

I think I’ll go back to the Culture series (I.M. Banks) for a while — even the spaceships are nutters.

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