Nicola Griffith, Slow River (1995)

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In a final, desperate bid for survival, Frances Lorien Van de Oest, heiress to a vast fortune, escapes from her kidnappers and finds herself thrust, naked and bleeding, onto the cold dark streets of an unknown city. There, she is picked up by a charismatic thief named Spanner and reborn as Lore, someone for whom identity has become a fractured, shifting, untrustworthy thing.

Slow River unfolds gradually. The opening narrative, told by Lore in the first person, is set three years after the kidnap, and a few months after her breakup with Spanner. The second narrative tells the story of life with Spanner, beginning immediately after Lore escapes from the kidnappers. The third follows her upbringing, at two year intervals, from the age of five until she is abducted. This triple narrative structure creates a powerful sense of momentum. Lore’s stories move forward in parallel towards a point of convergence, both in terms of time and self.

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“Fury”: Kes & Misogyny in Star Trek Voyager

I enjoy watching all the Star Trek series and spin offs, but a condition of my enjoying them is my having to accept that they were written and produced by people who, in imaginative terms, appear to have been utterly unable to move beyond the historical context of their own adolescence, hence, I have to accept that Star Trek is basically a fantasy about 1950s North Americans set in space.

This means that although it’s set in the 23rd century, the characters’ interests and hobbies look uncannily like what you would except of geeky, middle-class, white male adolescents in the 1950s/60s, e.g. Raymond Chandler novels, Sherlock Holmes, amateur dramatics, chamber music, or jazz if you’re going really wild. Black characters like Commander Sisko might be allowed to enjoy Baseball and cooking.  Of course there are no self-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or gender queer people (except sometimes in evil mirror universes), and gender norms and sexual arrangements seem archaic, even for the 1980s when Star Trek:TNG premiered.  Married monogamy is still the ideal, even though the economic basis that requires married monogamy has long since disappeared.  Although one character is usually allowed to be a bit of a lothario, until he inevitably settles down into married monogamy, almost everyone else is profoundly sexually repressed.  Most of the time I just find all this amusing or irritating, but occasionally the Star Trek writers come up with something so creepy, and yet so culturally revealing, that you just can’t quite believe what you’re seeing.

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