Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Door Into Ocean, by Joan Slonczewski

Today's entry comes from Christy. Thanks Christy!

A Door Into Ocean
by Joan Slonczewski

Slonczewski is a science fiction writer and a biologist. This book is not only a great example of a science fiction novel (excellent worldbuilding and fascinating biological details) but, more to the point here, it deals explicitly with gender roles and the idea that gender differences are biologically based, countering that idea with the ability of characters of both genders to change their behaviors (often in ways that are perceived as gendered).

Furthermore, this is the best fictional exploration I have ever read of nonviolent practices. The women of Shora have built a peaceful culture and, when faced with the violence of a neighboring planet, continue to maintain their peaceful behaviors. Slonczewski illustrates several major techniques of nonviolent resistance and their possible consequences.

I have taught this book in my intro-level American literature class. Some students are put off by it (whether by the SF elements, the pace of the opening, or the feminist and nonviolent messages), but many loved it, finding it eye-opening and liberating to envision a world in which gender is not necessarily the primary defining characteristic of a human being and in which violence is not the only answer.
50 Books for Problematic Times is still accepting submissions!


  1. This is one of my favourite books. I liked it so much I phoned Joan and got all her other out of print books.

    We talked for quite awhile--science to science.

    Thanks for posting this.

  2. I like science fiction but I really don't see what's the big deal with this novel. It was interesting, but I felt like it was just waiting to horrify with the big scary gay sex/rape reveal the entire time even though, to me at least, it was pretty obvious. I expected a lot more out of it given the way people respond to it. Maybe this one just isn't my bag.

  3. DARN IT! That last comment is what I meant to leave on the page about Sparrow. THIS book was incredible and I absolutely love it and think everyone should read it.


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