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What it's like Reading SF from the 50's

trancejeremy

Villager
Eh, try reading back issues of Galaxy magazine, which was the premiere Sci-Fi mag of the 1950s (available from the Internet Archive), which featured authors like Asimov, Vance, Heinlein, Pohl, Simak, Sheckley, Silverberg, Blish, Sturgeon, etc. I won't say it was immune to that sort of thing, but it was often surprisingly sophisticated
 

Hussar

Legend
I'm not sure I'd include Heinlein as being "sophisticated". At least as far as gender issues go. Funny thing is, if you click the link, there's a big red button for an additional thought to the comic:



Kinda funny.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I have a big collection of early sci-fi, much passed down from my Dad. IME, there’s a decent grain of truth in the comic, enough that I find the barb amusing. But there WERE also many authors who were clearly more progressive than the era in which the lived.
 

Dioltach

Adventurer
Early Heinlein is more sophisticated in this respect than some of his later stuff. Tunnel in the Sky for example. A lot of his later stuff feels like "a man's fantasy of emancipated women".

(Or maybe just "a man's fantasy".)
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
In all seriousness, I was just reading a story last night that refered to a female-presenting android as a gynoid. And it looks like that's a thing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gynoid
Yep. Seen it many times, but it never seemed to stick. Just like “man” became a synonym for humanity, the male-rooted “Android” became the term for human-stimulant artificial life. Nobody seemed to care for a female-rooted version of the term.
 

Richards

Adventurer
...except on episodes of "The Bionic Woman," where she was occasionally having to fight the "fembots."

Johnathan
 

MarkB

Hero
Yep. Seen it many times, but it never seemed to stick. Just like “man” became a synonym for humanity, the male-rooted “Android” became the term for human-stimulant artificial life. Nobody seemed to care for a female-rooted version of the term.
And I've yet to see an example of the non-binary androgynoid.
 

Hussar

Legend
And I've yet to see an example of the non-binary androgynoid.
To be totally fair, what would be the point? Why would you make a very realistic humanoid robot where you have to give it gender based features, only to then blur those features to remove any gender markers? That seems a lot of expense for very little gain.

I suppose the Japanese robot Pepper might qualify.

 

MarkB

Hero
To be totally fair, what would be the point? Why would you make a very realistic humanoid robot where you have to give it gender based features, only to then blur those features to remove any gender markers? That seems a lot of expense for very little gain.
I could definitely see some people being more comfortable with a robot that is both recognisably human-like and also not specifically male or female. As an addition to a household or workplace, it could better integrate into social groups without any gender-based expectations or concerns.
 

Hussar

Legend
I could definitely see some people being more comfortable with a robot that is both recognisably human-like and also not specifically male or female. As an addition to a household or workplace, it could better integrate into social groups without any gender-based expectations or concerns.
I suppose it depends on how humanlike you want to get. Are we talking something like what I posted above or something that would fit into Blade Runner?

Then again Legion had the Vermillion androids. Definitely androgynous.
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
There were plenty of female science fiction writers in the 1950s, and they were quite successful despite not getting as much attention as their male counterparts. Personally, I found Ursula LeGuin a much more entertaining writer and they were contemporaries of one another. Recenty, I've also have been reading CJ Cherryh's Morgaine Cycle and found it equal to Poul Anderson's action-packed works. The women writers did not get the respect due to them from publishers, but I recommend reading the "Women of Wonder" collections put together by Pamela Sargent for a good idea of what you might have missed through the decades.

Also, I love Heinlein and am tired of the bad rap that he gets today. His views on women might not make him popular in today's culture, but he was downright progressive when compared to similar authors of the time. Heinlein's women were often portrayed taking action and notable for their intelligence, bravery, and coolness under fire. Then you read something like E.E. Smith's Lensmen series and the portrayal of women is cringe-worthy. Aasimov has a few embarrassing moments himself in his writings.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
To be totally fair, what would be the point? Why would you make a very realistic humanoid robot where you have to give it gender based features, only to then blur those features to remove any gender markers? That seems a lot of expense for very little gain.
Well, I personally see the Heavenly Host from Doctor Who as a missed opportunity in that regard. While they are made to look like angels, their faces are mostly fairly masculine, while angels are supposed to be androgynous.

So in this case, “the point” would be making them more closely resemble what they are emulating.

I could also see androgynous androids as being perceived as less threatening to both men and women. (Some, anyway...)

Hell...an androgynous (possibly even childlike) robot could be a good espionage agent.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
I could definitely see some people being more comfortable with a robot that is both recognisably human-like and also not specifically male or female. As an addition to a household or workplace, it could better integrate into social groups without any gender-based expectations or concerns.
People assign genders to all sorts of objects based on perceived qualities. I think that with a human-like robot people would do that even more-so. That human-looking androids will be culturally assigned genders by how it interacts with us (both content and how it does so - tone, body language, forcefulness, etc.)

Not that the idea is bad, just probably easier to do in soemthing that looks more android and less human.
 

MarkB

Hero
People assign genders to all sorts of objects based on perceived qualities. I think that with a human-like robot people would do that even more-so. That human-looking androids will be culturally assigned genders by how it interacts with us (both content and how it does so - tone, body language, forcefulness, etc.)
That doesn't seem like a downside. With an androgynous robot, people can assign whichever gender to it they feel most comfortable with.
 

Ed Laprade

Villager
Being more progressive than E E Smith is like being Valedictorian at summer school.
Well, he did get better right at the end. And even before that there was Children of the Lens, which was always supposed to be the ultimate book in the series. (In fact, it was supposed to be THE book. All the rest were just background material!) In it, he made it clear that the five kids were going to enter into an incestuous relationship to create the next race of galactic guardians, a pretty much taboo subject at the time.
 

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