Thursday, 30 July 2015

"The Mating of the Moons" by Kenneth O'Hara

Hey guys! Did you realize that the Gutenberg Project has old science fiction? It does! (I don't know why this surprised me, but it did.) So, hey, why not read some of them and review them? Not to poke fun at the old science fiction, although there might be a little of that. No, I'm more interested in looking at what this old science fiction tells us about the worlds that were being imagined at the time. What did they think about science? Gender? Race? The eventual fate of the world?

From: Orbit, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1953

First off, why is this story called "The Mating of the Moons?" All the action takes place on Mars. It's about Mars. And Martians. Deimos and Phobos don't really make an appearance. (Okay, I guess maybe they appear in conjunction that the internet tells me is totally impossible once.)

Secondly, is it wrong that I spent the entire story wanting to throttle the main character?

Madeleine is rich. Very, very rich. And practically a spinster. Of course, as a rich person, she has rich person problems. Like that the world is very boring. And that she is the only special snowflake with the perception to recognize the world's phoniness, and so therefore she is a cut above everyone else because she cannot tolerate anything at all that does not come up to her high standards for authenticity - which means that she can't tolerate anything.

She is "tortured by the insight that both enables and compels me to see through the sham and pretense." 

"The invisible edges of living had cut her soul to pieces."

Everyone else in the solar system is in "hopeless peonage to the radios and teevee and radar and thundering jets that drown out the song of real life." 

This does not give me sympathy. This makes me want to slap her up the side of the head and tell her to stop being so goddamned in love with her self-image as so much more real than anyone around her. She doesn't even know what she means by real life. Or authenticity. Just that nothing she encounters can ever be it.

Ugh.

So, of course, she's upset at the tourist trap on Mars, that she thought would, just once, satisfy her soul. Or whatever. My eyes were permanently rolled at this point. Luckily it was a short story. On Mars, she bitches about the ruins. Insults the locals. Sees through the commercial sham of the hotel. Almost has sex with the tour guide, but realizes it's not real enough.

And then runs out onto the surface, where she meets a real Martian, a disembodied spirit who appears as an old man, while also realizing that the tour guide is another, younger disembodied Martian, who tries to discourage tourists who are just too good for this tourism shit from going out and getting themselves killed.

Becoming all disembodied, see, would be real. But humans just can't do it. So she dies, halfway between the material world and becoming one of them. She's too old. She can't make the transition as a child could.

But at least she shrivels up and dies on the surface of Mars, in a real death. Almost having found authenticity. Feeling satisfied at last.

Blech.

Hey, it's a female main character, if an utterly useless one. It's funny, I associate this particular kind of being too authentic for the world with men, although that may just be that the specimens I've run into have been male. Plus, I've read Catcher in the Rye.

In the end, there's no sign the author thinks this character is being as ridiculous as I think she's being. Wow.

If you want an old science fiction story that made me want to slap every character in it, you could pick this one. I'm not sure why you would, though.

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