Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tamora Pierce Vs. Gor

I've always wondered what would happen if the feminist comics blogosphere ever collided with the decidedly un-PC "Gor" science-fiction series. Now I know.

On Pierce's blog, commenting on Dark Horse's upcoming "Gor" omnibus:

"...swaggering male stereotypes, rape disguised as sex, with women begging for more. Women who dare to try to transcend these highly limited roles are beaten down, enslaved, conveniently killed by the plot for their presumption, or made to crawl to the father phallus hero--or forced to serve as egg farms.

And Dark Horse wants to perpetuate this. Dark Horse wants to make money with this. I have no doubt that they will. Neither do you, I suspect. This of all of those fanboys who have ordered us to cook for them, opted into hive-vagina rhetoric, demanded that we stop whining, called those of us who are men all manner of names, told us to get out of comics. They will love this world, if they don't know it already. They'll be able to live every woman-beating, woman-raping, woman-enslaving moment. Dark Horse means to enable this kind of hatred of non-phallo-stereotype men and women alike. In these books the heroes are muscular studs who prey on all that is Other."

To fill you in, the "Gor" novels, by John Norman, are about another planet where women are systematically enslaved. I mean, there is other stuff in the books -- social commentary, sword play, etc -- but the concept of enslaving women is at the heart of these books. It sort of takes the sort of "women in peril" cheesecake stuff you see in comics twenty steps further.

On one hand, it is a series of "classic" sci-fi novels and there is a market for reprints, comic book adaptations, etc. There is a loyal fanbase.

On the other hand, there is no way in hell I could tell a women concerned about feminist issues to "lighten up" about "Gor." It would be like me trying to tell them to "lighten up" about "The Devil's Rejects." As a horror fan, I think "The Devil's Rejects" is unique & has merit. But the first scene has a dead naked cheerleader being dragged through the dirt. In terms of feminism, it is hideous.


If you want to get a taste of what the "Gor" books are about but would prefer it in a more watered-down form, you could do worse than read this.

I think Pierce is calling for a boycott of the book. At any rate, certainly the company must be aware of the shit they are going to catch for carrying this title.



    *Shouts expletives, profanities, and words that leave Cthulu and other such beings shuddering in terror*

    Let me tell a little story. MST3K made fun of a movie very loosely based on the Gor novels, and hearing that it was a sequel to another movie, I curiously did a google search on the subject. And thus I discovered the Gor books.

    And I discovered about Gorean "philosophy," which real people apply to their own lives and make a lifestyle of it. Both men and women commit themselves to a lifestyle involving total enslavement and dehumanizing people, of believing that, to paraphrase John Norman, "women are the submissive natural helper and figurative slave of the dominant man." Oh, sure, many contend that there are male slaves in the books too and there are female dominants, but the gender roles are there as described.

    I want to make my start in the comics industry and I sent a pitch to Dark Horse a week ago. I know full well that it's almost 99% certain it'll be rejected, but now I'm not sure if I'd want them to accept it anyway if they support this...

  2. Oh, and one more thing pertaining to the subject title for this blog post:

    It may be Tamora Pierce vs. Gor, but I assure you she has allies and friends in such a battle.

  3. The problem I have with the books is not so much the stories themselves, but that "between" the fiction are these commentaries regarding women & submission that blur the line between fiction and reality. There is an overall statement in the Gor books that this is what women secretly want -- ALL women, that it is in their very nature. Social philosophy written into a sci-fi novel. And that blurring of reality and fantasy is what gives me the red flags about "Gor." I'm not saying "censor these books." I don't believe in Dark Horse or anybody else censoring them. But I'm saying, keep it in mind.

    For the record, I've read 2/3rds into one of the books and then had to stop because it was just too much. Of course, I stopped 15 pages into "The DaVinci Code" and two chapters into the second Harry Potter novel.

    But don't let that put you off to working for DH, Lewis

  4. There is an overall statement in the Gor books that this is what women secretly want -- ALL women, that it is in their very nature.

    You mean, it's not? Here, I always thought feminism was just women playing hard-to-get.

  5. Well, I'm not sure if criticism on these grounds is technically calling for a boycott, if Pierce is saying that the novels are so misogynist that people shouldn't read them (which, by all accounts, they are) than she's really just making a critical argument for not reading and therefore not buying the book, its not a boycott to refrain from buying something you don't want. It would be a boycott to call for people not to buy OTHER Dark Horse products in protest, but this wouldn't be demanding censorship. Under a free speech philosophy John Norman has a perfect right to write these books, and Dark Horse has a perfect right to publish them, they don't have a DUTY to publish them, however, and if consumers find them sufficiently immoral that they want to not purchase Dark Horse's other products or take other persuasive action to discourage publication, they're also perfectly within their rights.

  6. I guess I shouldn't, but anyone who's read my webcomic knows how I am about moral absolutes and all, but yeah, I shouldn't condemn the entire company just for this. I mean, the comics and the published books have got to be different departments, right?

    Anyway, it's that between the line stuff with commentary even from the author who expresses his feelings about women in that regard and subsequently the people who BELIEVE in that stuff also that bug me so much. It doesn't help that I think that the books are poorly written. I've read samples from the actual stories that leave me tilting my head.

    However, I do find it twistedly ironic and humorous that in the movie version of "Outlaw of Gor," Tarl Cabot is actually about freeing slaves and outlawing slavery.

  7. "You mean, it's not? Here, I always thought feminism was just women playing hard-to-get."

    Just for that, you're going to have to subscribe to Manstream on your blog feed

    (sticks out tongue)

  8. I read Pierce's post, this seems to be the relevant 'action item.' "Oh, yeah. Before people start whining about censorship--I'm saying don't buy. I'm saying protest, write, scream, review, and don't buy. Make people think about what these books are saying, and make Dark Horse think about publishing any more omnibuses. They need to know the world has damned well changed." So stopping short of calling for a true boycott. I'm skeptical about the effectiveness of this. The sorts of people whom Pierce is extorting to not buy the collection probably wouldn't anyways, and at this point in human affairs I doubt there are many fence-sitters on the Gor books, if anything a rash of protests would probably bring the books attention, both from people who like the misogynistic message (either politically or for reasons of personal gratification) or people buying it to see what the fuss is about. I think this is an example where only a boycott of all Dark Horse's products, subscribed to widely, could make the desired statement. Money, ultimately, talks.

  9. John Norman wrote an instruction book called "Imaginative Sex" that was sold alongside the Gor books, with a cover design created to capitalize on them.

    I actually read quite a few Gor books when I was 12, and I was a pretty naive kid, because I just thought the fighting fantasy action was cool and I barely noticed the stuff with women. I really didn't think much about any of that - or care. When one of those books passed through my hands some years later, I was pretty amazed at what a moron I apparently was.

    But then again, I never noticed the topless girl in Kamandi either.

  10. There's a topless girl in Kamandi?
    (flip flip) Wow, there is! Boobies! Joyous, joyous Boobies! Yippeee!

    Oh.. er.. um.. that's just wrong.