@ 3. I think that I agree with you, but Bron's problem in the book is that he basically wants to recreate 1950's gender roles. So in this situation he's the "conformist douchebag." I guess the problem here is that the heterotopia gives Delany the chance to create a socioeconomic climate that's pretty great, but rather than give us the tour via any exciting "non-conformist douchebags" he writes a character as absurdly traditional and essentialist as Bron. Thus in order to take the book seriously at all (which i do) you have to read Bron as a fatal (often hilarious) failure and a throwback. And i think this is the sticking point: you either find this throwback and the dissonance around his inability to find a world where he can just be "average" (average here carrying a very specific socioeconomic valence) interesting, or you don't. I think it is a sign of Delany's great skill that he can write characters that are utterly abhorrent and yet you feel for them (i'm thinking of Hogg here), but for me Bron just isn't one of them.
The Eve girls are so horrifying. I thought I'd finally gotten them out of my head... The party couldn't be complete without "evil" Bart and his twin Hugo. They could bring pigeon-rat pinatas
EliBishop, I'm interested in your assertion that I go too far. I feel, perhaps, I have not gone far enough. It's really the despicable Sabul who shows the dark underside of Anarres. (I think we would both agree here). But what really comes through with Anarres is an enjoyment of the self-congratulatory and knee-jerk ideological assumptions. This is Shevek's position for most of the text as well...if it's not too polemical, let me quote for a second. To set the scene, Shevek is frustrated that his work seems meaningless and is constantly frustrated or appropriated by Sabul, in conversation with his friend Dap something inside him breaks, like a piece of glacier sliding along with a bewildered polar bear somewhere south. "What are you talking about Dap? We have no power structure." "No? What makes Sabul so strong?" "Not a power structure, a government. This isn't Urras after all!" "No. We have no government, no laws, all right. But as far as I can see ideas were never controlled on Urras...you can't crush ideas by suppressing them. You can only crush them by ignoring them...by refusing to think, refusing to change." To all of this Shevek responds "crazy talk." It is ideology that Shevek must fight. And that he puts his body on the line to leave might be even more important to those on Anarres than anything he particularly learns on Urras. It isn't really his experience on the planet, though that helps, it is the moments leading up to boarding the space shuttle that firmly re-entrench him in the anarchist spirit. In the uplifting end, perhaps, he convinces an offworlder to settle on the moon. This, we could imagine, is the moment of "building a better world" but this is because, as Shevek says "things are...a little broken loose on Anarres."
@ Chris Johnstone: Thank you for pointing out Le Guin's reaction to people considering The Dispossessed a utopian novel. Her comments open up an entirely different can of worms where we have to adjudicate between whether what the author intends is more important than what we, as readers, derive from their work. Tricky territory, indeed! You also point out, along with me, that The Dispossessed is hard to pin down. What I hope to get at through this series of posts is that *every* piece of utopian literature is hard to pin down. From Thomas More on, utopia is in the eye of the beholder. (and as a die hard AD&D geek I can say this is never a good thing). The genre itself has a long and interesting history as popular fiction. "Looking Backwards" by Edward Bellamy, for instance, was the second highest selling book after Uncle Tom's Cabin during the 19th century. It lies all but forgotten now. I think more than any other kind of fiction each utopia is particular to its time. Anyway, I hope to continue a conversation where we can explore what it means that our attempts at imagining a better world swerves into ambivalence. @jasonhenninger: I once found myself having drinks with the woman who played the child-like empress. After an untold amount of cajoling she remained tight-lipped about what Bastian yells. As such, I'm going with your youngest sister on this one and declaring Mariah-Hulk as clearly the best possible name for an empress.
Now that i've stoked the fires of the atomic furnace inside all of you to take a peek at these there is a momentary word of caution. THIS MIGHT BE TOO AWESOME! No, but seriously, there are a couple versions of this on DVD, some of them edited together pretty poorly. The first version I ever watched didn't have the Sharkmen episode...which means i never got to see the power of the Octosak! So, if on netflix go with the one from 1936 and the run time should be like 400 minutes. There is also a box set of the three serials together, I would check carefully as to what episodes are contained on each. You don't want to miss out on another five minutes of iguanas fighting each other in slow motions. Unless, of course, you do! @JennaJon The levitating city that uses rays that are just spotlights is really one of the best set pieces! @nomadUK I learned the difference in an unfortunate moment of stage banter with the Vaselines. @johntheirishmongol Queen's soundtrack in undeniable, but my problem with the movie, and my problem with calling it camp is that it knows it's a joke. What is so amazing about the original series is the totally demented idea of gravitas. For something to truly hit the sublimity of camp the piece cannot have the sort of self-reflexivity shown in the 80's film. (Having said this, the last time i was in a tattoo shop we all delightedly watched the movie because my friend had no idea who Ming the Merciless was).