I picked up a sci-fi novel the other day at a used bookstore. The jacket said it was set after a nuclear war and written by someone who’d rubbed shoulders with a lot of military people. Well, I figured it’d be interesting to see what they imagined life’d be like after a nuclear war. (The pages weren’t blank.)
What can I say, it was slow reading. For example, the author said, “A man who’s been shaken by a bomb knows what it feels like.” So I had to stop and wonder why a woman wouldn’t know. Is he saying women never get shaken by bombs because they’re never in bombed areas? Or they are, but for some reason, they don’t get shaken by them? Or they do, but they nevertheless don’t know what it feels like?
And that was just the preface. Chapter one introduced Florence. Who gossiped. She didn’t design state of the art mp3 players. And she certainly wasn’t looking for the cure to cancer. She gossiped. However, “If your sister was in trouble and wired for money, the secret was safe with Florence. But if your sister bore a legitimate baby, its sex and weight would be known all over town.”
Only if my sister was in trouble? What about me? I realized then that this guy hadn’t even imagined the possibility that women might read his book. And, well, we might. After all, we can read.
And apparently it didn’t occur to him that someone’s sister, a woman, might have money of her own. Or that she might ask another woman – not a man, not her brother – for a loan.
Then of course we have the phrase “in trouble”. Being pregnant, having a life begin to grow inside your body – that’s not being “in trouble”. It’s either amazingly wonderful or incredibly devastating. But it’s not being “in trouble”.
Then there’s that word “legitimate”. First I had to back up and figure out that being in trouble meant, to him, not only being pregnant, but also being unmarried. Which would make the baby ‘illegitimate’. (And that’s why she decides to abort?) Right. As if men alone confer legitimacy to life. My, my, aren’t we a little full of ourselves. (‘Course that might explain why they feel they have the right to take it so often, so capriciously. Coupled with the gross underestimation of its value indicated by the phrase “in trouble” to describe its creation…)
And what precious information would Florence, otherwise, spread far and wide? Whether his sister survived the birth? No, apparently that’s not important. What’s important is the sex and weight of the baby. And presumably it’s important that it be male and that it be big. Okay, and why is that important? Well, the best I could come up with was that the guy has in mind a world in which food and shelter is gained by one-on-one physical combat (not our world), and the combat is such that brute force is an advantage (what, no weapons?), and he’s assumed positive correlations between maleness and size and capacity for said brute force (not a valid assumption).
Okay, onto the next couple sentences…