Re: Where are the Women? - horror imagery

Damien Broderick (
Fri, 06 Feb 1998 12:19:00 +0000

At 09:05 AM 2/5/98 -0700, Brent Allsop wrote:

>SF has so much horror in
>it. cryonics is in no way portrayed in a "warm and fuzzy" way
>although it could very easily be done so.

Yep, spot on - but it's not really *sf* that is replete with horror and
ghastly imagery so much as *sci fi*, its idiot younger brother. Alas, the
cretin is the one whom most people meet in the street.

The reason why key sf novels such as Heinlein's STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND
were so wildly popular is exactly their warm & fuzzy quotient, alongside a
subtext of bracing sardonic skepticism concerning many traditional
oppressive values. The most beloved sf from the 1950s bears this out
exactly, I think - Ted Sturgeon's work especially, with its superhuman
gestalts struggling to emerge against the hostility, indifference and
cruelty of `ordinary homo sap, Zenna Henderson's sentimental `People'
stories, with their psi-powered superhumans, Van Vogt's SLAN (which grows
bleaker, it's true, as it turns into a cold-blooded power fantasy), much of
Arthur Clarke's redemptive, aspiring, gloriously poignant visions of the
remote future...

And yet the market ninnies, when they don't simply let such key work slip
out of print, seem to be stuck in the nasty 10-year-old playground
tear-wings-off-flies mentality - or at least they assume most sf readers
are. So the artwork is either insanely malign weaponry jerkoffs, or
twisted mutants and deformed faces that are somehow meant to be symbolic
(metonymic) of `the future'.

Meanwhile, the fantasy genre that hived off sf has gone in the
chocolate-box art direction with billowing clouds and unicorns and
handsome/beautiful wish fulfilment figures... and it way outsells sf,
surprise surprise.

> I was raised in the LDS church. Have you ever been to the LDS
>"Temple Square" in SLC? That is a good example of "warm and fuzzy"
>and that is why they are growing the way they are.

Exactly. On the other hand, we surely don't want to get into corrupt
bullshit like fundamentalist Xian art, with its happy 1950s families rising
into the glowing sunset of the Apocalypse *in their levitating Chevvies*...

> Take, for example, the cover of TFI.
>that cracked and cold face just turns people,
>especially women, right off with a shiver.

Just so. This is the iconography of abjection and fear, and it is an error
of the first water to stick with it. But I gather that it's the guys at
the coalface of distribution whose opinions count most nowadays, and they
know nothing of either the contents or the actual readers, just some blurry
guesstimate of their own ignorance, which then feeds back into numerical
data, and it all goes into a blindingly stupid loop of illogic that drives
out interesting, subtle work that might otherwise modify the cracked, cold
face of the genre - and works of advocacy such as FIRST IMMORTAL.

Damien Broderick