Pixel Scroll 12/20/19 Return
of the Judi: The Force And The Furry-est

(1) STAR TREK: PICARD. A third teaser has dropped – but it’s been blocked on some sites, so we’ll find out together if this still works by the time I post today’s Scroll.

(2) UPROAR AFTER ROWLING OPINES ON TRANS IDENTITY. Maya Forstater was an employee of the British think tank Centre for Global Development. She tweeted some trans-exclusionary radical feminist views and got fired.  Rowling supported her.

Vox (the pop culture site) responded “JKR just ruined Harry Potter, Merry Christmas.” — “J.K. Rowling’s latest tweet seems like transphobic BS. Her fans are heartbroken”.

Rowling is customarily outspoken about her politics, which can be generalized as ranging from moderately liberal to progressive — though over time, she’s seemed increasingly less so than her fans. On Thursday morning, many of them woke up to a tweet from Rowling, which might seem at first to be a typical example of Rowling’s broadly liberal feminism.

In context, however, Rowling’s tweet reveals itself as a shocking dismissal of transgender identity: its first three lines seem to directly attack trans identity, while its final line mischaracterizes the facts surrounding a court case that involves significant transphobia.

Many fans have found Rowling’s statement deeply disturbing — so much so that the reaction to it was trending on Twitter on early Thursday morning, ahead of the historic impeachment of Donald Trump….

(3) YEAR’S TOP BOOKS. Cat Eldridge says he counts eight SFF novels on Paste’s list of “The 19 Best Novels of 2019”. This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone clocks in at number 2.

Whether you’re looking for a story about necromancers fighting in space or boys surviving a reform school in Florida, you’ll find something to love on our ranked list of the year’s best novels. These 19 books promise an escape from reality while still tackling real-world issues in creative ways, exploring everything from grief to mother-child relationships to spirituality. We loved these stories, and we believe you will, too.

There are also genre books, but not quite as many in PopMatters’ “The Best Books of 2019: Fiction”. The list begins with –

Ancestral Night, by Elizabeth Bear [Saga Press / Simon & Schuster]

Elizabeth Bear’s Ancestral Night immerses readers in a strange, futuristic universe from the very first pages, and while some of the concepts and language may be difficult at first for readers who want simple, unchallenging texts or are not used to the more speculative side of the genre, those who persevere will quickly be hooked. The book’s sweeping sense of mystery and discovery is what initially hooks, but it’s the speculative and complex world Bear has constructed which is most rewarding in the end.

Ancestral Night is a wise, intelligent book for modern-minded, thinking readers. Bear has dabbled in the steampunk and fantasy vein in the past, and while elements of that are recognizable here, for the most part this is hard sci-fi combined with brilliantly imagined speculative fiction. Bear has constructed a fascinating, absorbing universe populated with compelling and intelligent characters who conform to neither clichés nor stereotypes. It’s sci-fi of the top order, and here’s hoping we see more of it. – Hans Rollmann

Read more about this book here on PopMatters.

(4) CHANNELING GENRE. WIRED thinks “The 5 Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy TV Shows of 2019” were pretty much the top television shows, period.

We don’t only watch nerd TV here at WIRED. Fleabag’s fabulous. More Pose now. Ship a box of Emmys to Big Little Lies.

It’s just that, this year, when it came to new shows, genre kind of kicked all the butts. In fact, we could’ve left off the sci-fi/fantasy qualifier and called this list “The 5 Best TV Shows of 2019,” period. (We didn’t, because we thought you’d appreciate a bit of what’s known in the biz as framing.) Sure, there was some commodity crapola. The Boys wasn’t half as edgy as it thought. Baby Yoda swallowed The Mandalorian whole. His Dark Materials verged, at times, on the soulless (ironic, for a show about souls). (But Ruth Wilson as Mrs. Coulter—that slightly flared, froglike upper lip!—gives the best performance of 2019.)

(5) ANCIENT ADVICE. “Throw your testicles” at the London Review of Books is a review by Tom Shippey of the Getty Museum’s book about its exhibition of bestiaries. SJWs will not like what medieval people thought about cats! (Fortunately, the title does not come from the section about them.)

Sometimes ordinary life intrudes. A text from Bodley 764 (c.1225-50) neatly describes the cat: ‘This creature is called mouser because he kills mice. The common word is cat because he captures [captat] them … Catus is the Greek word for cunning.’ The mice the cat catches are ‘greedy men who seek earthly goods’, but, as Susan Crane comments, the accompanying pictures show an artist ‘speculat[ing] imaginatively on the hidden life of cats at night’. There are three cats: one curled up in front of a fire (apparently cleaning his behind), another with a mouse in his paws, and a third on his hind legs, trying to reach into a birdcage – almost a Breughel before its time.

(6) MARKET LIGHTLY KILLED. Sorry, you can’t resell pixels in Europe… Publishers Lunch has the story —

The European Court of Justice agreed with the non-binding opinion from their Advocate General that reselling “used” ebooks is a violation of copyright. The ruling was made in a case brought by Dutch publisher associations against the website Tom Kabinet, which has tried to establish a marketplace for individuals to resell their ebooks.


  • December 20, 1961 Mysterious Island premiered. Based on the novel by Jules Verne, the film was produced by Charles H. Schneer and directed by Cy Endfield, it was a visual feast of Ray Harryhausen special effects with music as often was in his films by Bernard Herrmann. Critics loved it, the box office was more than successful and the current Rotten Tomatoes rating among reviewers is an excellent 63%. 
  • December 20, 1985 Enemy Mine premiered. It was directed by Wolfgang Petersen as  the script by Edward Khmara off of Barry B. Longyear’s novella which won a Hugo Award for Best Novella and a Nebula Award for the same as well. The film stars Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett, Jr. as you well know.  It wasn’t well received at the time, one critic called it “This season’s Dune”,  but it has a 68% rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 20, 2002 — The Firefly series premiered on FOX. The Browncoats among us  know more about it than we could say about it, so tell us what you think about it. 


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge]

  • Born December 20, 1925 Nicole Maure. She appeared in The Day of the Triffids as Christine Durrant, and was  Elena Antonescu in Secret of the Incas, a film its Wiki page claims was the inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Died 2016.)
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. She’s best known as the villain Servalan on Blake’s 7. She appeared in “The Two Doctors”, a Second and Sixth Doctor story  as Chessene, and she’d voice Admiral Mettna in “Death Comes to Time”, a Seventh Doctor story. I’d be remiss not to note her one-offs in Danger Man, The Avengers, The Chronicles of Young Indiana Jones and The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 67. Her first SF role was Jessica 6, the female lead in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (fantastic film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not  a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all time fav films which is Darkman and finally Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and The Winter Soldier.  
  • Born December 20, 1952 Kate Atkinson, 67. A strong case can be made that her Jackson Brodie detective novels are at least genre adjacent with their level of Universe assisting metanarrative. The Life After Life douology is definitely SF and pretty good reading. She’s well stocked on all of the digital book vendors. 
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 59. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like most of  her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out  Mojo: Conjure Stories and  Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out out out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction.  She was a Guest of Honor at Wiscon thrice. Is that unusual?


Two from The Argyle Sweater:

(10) TAKE-HOME TEST. Camestros Felapton studies all the angles science fiction has come up with to get stories out of the idea of identical human copies in “How to duplicate people”.

So while the term ‘clone’ is what is used, actual cloning does not get at the concept which is more about duplication or near duplication. Creating another copy of a person is the essence of the science-fiction concept. Duplication of genes is just a handy hook on to which the idea can be hung. Practically we have always known that monozygotic twins are not literally identical even at a superficial level and certainly not at the level of character or personality.

So plot wise how do people get duplicated? …

(11) RUMP ROAST. “‘A Christmas Carol’: TV Review”The Hollywood Reporter’s critic is not a fan.

…There have certainly been attempts at gritty and dark interpretations of the Dickens text, but few as random and gratuitous as Steven Knight brings to the table in his new take for FX and BBC. Finally, we have a Christmas Carol in which Ebenezer Scrooge can bellow “Fuck!!!” several times for limited reason and where viewers can be exposed to one fleeting — not prurient, mind you — bare rump, as FX endeavors finally to put the “ass” in “Christmass.”

The result is that FX has made a Christmas Carol that very much isn’t for children — seriously, the wee ones will be either bored or scandalized — and probably isn’t really for adults either. At its very best, it’s an attempted in-depth character study of Scrooge, one that meshes very poorly with the inspiring structure of the story, while at its worst it’s an ill-paced, ill-focused version of A Christmas Carol that doesn’t even get up to the arrival of Jacob Marley until over an hour into its three-hour running time. At least FX is airing A Christmas Carol all at once. On BBC One, it’s airing over three nights, and I’m betting the lack of incident in the first hour will lead to ample tune-out.

(12) NOW THAT’S TALENT. “Miss America 2020: Biochemist wins crown after on-stage experiment” — includes video of experiment and narration.

A Virginian biochemist has been named winner of Miss America 2020 after performing a live science experiment that defied stereotypes of the contest.

Camille Schrier defeated 50 women to take the crown at Thursday’s final in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Wearing a lab coat, the 24-year-old impressed judges with a chemistry demonstration in the talent show.

(13) GOOD QUESTION. Jon Del Arroz has made seven consecutive blog posts about one Star Wars subject or another, including the piece de resistance — “Why Are So Many People Unhealthily Obsessed With Star Wars?”

(14) THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. “Review: Star Wars Memories by Craig Miller” — Charon Dunn enjoyed the book.

…If you were there back in the ’70s, anticipating the Empire Strikes Back the way kids long for Santa, you’re going to enjoy this book immensely. It’s like time traveling back to your glorious misspent youth, back in the days of feathered hair and innocence.

Star Wars unlocked science fiction for me. I still run into folks who aren’t shy about letting me know they don’t consider it as *real* a franchise as some of the others. The science is wonky (explosions in space???) and the dialogue is nuts (nerfherder!!!) and some of the storytelling details remain as nebulous as Schroedinger’s cat (Han shot first dang it)….

(15) JUJU. Kwei Quartey analyzes “The Role of the Spiritual in African Crime Fiction” at CrimeReads.

… While supernatural phenomena in Ghana’s daily life serve as a unique background for much of the crime fiction I set in that West African country, it can also be a challenge. For logistic reasons too complex to go into now, my novels are not distributed to a significant degree in Africa in general and Ghana in particular. Western readers, primarily those in the United States, are and will remain my main market for the foreseeable future. So how do I introduce these unfamiliar beliefs and concepts like juju to my readers? Very carefully. It should appear seamless, which is not as simple as it may sound. Whenever I describe or highlight a supernatural phenomenon in my novel, I follow some general rules.

  • It should play an important part in the plot and not be tangential to the story.
  • I avoid making it seem gratuitous.
  • I avoid making it seem didactic.
  • I leave criticisms or praise of the custom to characters in the novel, not the narrator.

(16) MISSION NOT ACCOMPLISHED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA Press Release: “NASA Statement on Boeing Orbital Flight Test”.

BLUF: Things were, as they say in the space biz, “off nominal.” At least nothing exploded. The entire press release is reproduced below.

FYI: BLUF means Bottom Line Up Front—one preferred method of briefing high-ranking personnel in case their attention wanders or they cut the briefing off short.

“Early this morning, NASA and Boeing successfully launched Starliner on the first human-rated United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida.

“The plan was for Starliner to rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station and return home safely to Earth. While a lot of things went right, the uncrewed spacecraft did not reach the planned orbit and will not dock to the International Space Station.

“This is in fact why we test. Teams worked quickly to ensure the spacecraft was in a stable orbit and preserved enough fuel to ensure a landing opportunity.

“Boeing, in coordination with NASA, is working to return Starliner to White Sands, New Mexico, Sunday.

“At NASA we do really difficult things, and we do them all the time. I spoke to Vice President Pence, Chairman of the National Space Council, and he remains very optimistic in our ability to safely launch American astronauts from American soil. We remain positive even though we did face challenges today. We’ll be getting a lot more data in the coming days….


(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Peace on Earth” on Vimeo is a 1939 cartoon by Hugh Harman about how the world is wiped out by a global apocalypse and humanity is replaced by cuddly carol-loving animals.

[Thanks to Joel Zakem, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcok, JJ, N., Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Deuteronomy Dern.]

59 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/20/19 Return
of the Judi: The Force And The Furry-est

  1. Thanks for the link!

    (13) I was thinking the same thing. There’s a point where pointedly writing about why people shouldn’t be writing about Star Wars is very much a self-referential example of the problem he’s writing about.

    (17) Still determined to see it. The more I see of the reviews the more I suspect the whole thing is secretly brilliant.

  2. StephenfromOttawa: Yipes! I should have spotted that. (Somehow they managed to spell it wrong twice and right twice. That would make you suspect their copyeditor is related to me…)

  3. (1) That trailer is really weird. It’s labeled “Amazon Original”? What happened to CBS All Access? Or is there some secret deal between CBS and Amazon I hadn’t heard of?

  4. “Jellicle Porgs come out tonight, Jellicle Porgs for the Jellicle Scroll.”

    “That’s no Jellicle Moon!”

  5. Rowling revealed herself to be a TERF years ago. Yesterday was just a reminder that she’s always been horrible.

  6. Andrew: “That’s no Jellicle Moon!”

    That’s so perfect I should take down today’s title and plug that one in!

  7. Huh. (Googles) I guess there is, if you want to add the channel to your Prime subscription. I’d just never paid any attention to it. (And it’s more expensive anyway–I paid my CBS All Access subscription for a full year, and it’s cheaper that way.)

  8. [8] Ursula LeGuin was our guest at WisCon thrice, and came back once at her own expense (a singular honor). Quite a few have twice been GoH.

  9. Dear Folks,

    A trans activist I know got a fan email that made reference to “Feminism-Appropriating Radical Transphobes.”

    Sooooo much better than TERF, doncha think?

    pax / Ctein

  10. Ctein on December 20, 2019 at 7:37 pm said:

    Dear Folks,

    A trans activist I know got a fan email that made reference to “Feminism-Appropriating Radical Transphobes.”


  11. (13) GOOD QUESTION. Jon Del Arroz has made seven consecutive blog posts about one Star Wars subject or another, including the piece de resistance — “Why Are So Many People Unhealthily Obsessed With Star Wars?”

    Just this morning I was wondering to myself why so many puppy types seem so completely devoid of self-awareness.

  12. @16: the NPR report says that a computer changed the power setting at the wrong time. Maybe Boeing shouldn’t have used whoever supervised the programming of the 737-Max?

    @17: the headline for NPR’s review was unusually short: ‘Cats’: Spay It. I’ve been reading the Globe for several decades and don’t remember any other film they bothered to review getting only half a star (on a scale of 0 to 4), although there may have been something I don’t remember.

    @Ctein: cute — but from the scraps I see, many of the excluders can’t be dismissed as appropriaters.

  13. 13) Shorter JDA: “Star Wars sucks.Why are you all still talking about it? Buy my books.”

    18) This seems eerily prescient, considering it must have come out very shortly after the start of WWII in Europe, even though the Spanish Civil War and the Chinese-Japanese War had both been going on for a couple of years by that point. It’s also notable how much the war visuals are still informed by WWI rather than WWII, except for the airplanes, which look more like WWII.

  14. Dear Chip,

    Who ever said they were? It’s solely an alternative to TERF, for which it applies one-to-one.

    pax / Ctein

  15. (2) All your favorites will turn out to be problematic, eventually, one way or another. Rowling is one of the more upsetting examples because, yes, many then-younger readers absorbed such excellent values and lessons from Harry Potter, yet everything since then has been increasingly disturbing. My position on Rowling is that there is no reason to acknowledge anything but the seven original Harry Potter books, if that works for you. And if it doesn’t work for you, well, I have my former favorites I can’t read anymore, too. You do what you’ve got to do.

    Not awake.

  16. @Lis Carey: I suspect a few of my favorites will continue to be better than me. (On average, if nothing else–there’s a few lessons it took me an embarrassingly long time to learn.) Of course, it also helps that I’m still a strong neophile (when I was young, I was afraid I’d grow out of it), so a lot of my favorites are much younger than I am. By the time they’re revealed as problematic, I’ll be long-dead, and won’t have to worry about it. Bright side, right? 😀

  17. 2) Lot of outrage over nothing. I’ll bet all the pearl-clutchers didn’t even read the tweet.

  18. Harold Osler: Lot of outrage over nothing. I’ll bet all the pearl-clutchers didn’t even read the tweet.

    I read her tweet, and it was disgusting. TERFs are disgusting. People who demand equal human rights, but only for the humans they feel are deserving, are disgusting. 😡

  19. Dear Harold,

    Oh congratulations, you’ve already degraded the conversation to dismissive name-calling. Bravo.

    I read the offending tweets. In full. They’re not just bigoted trash, they’re fuckin’ STUPID. They’re ignorant crap– physically, biologically, sociologically and psychologically wrong, factually and provably wrong.

    They are not entitled to an opinion, any more than they would be entitled to the opinion that the earth is flat. Or… bringing it home… the opinion that homosexuals are nothing but damaged, self-loathing men who were broken by abusive mothers and weak fathers and the failure to find the love of a good woman.

    pax / Ctein

  20. Meredith time: Amazon UK has Neil Gaiman’s American Gods Quartet, comprising American Gods, Anansi Boys, The Monarch of the Glen and Black Dogs, as a Kindle Daily Deal at 99p. Other tributaries may vary.

  21. I read the tweet, but more importantly I read about the actual case she was supporting. Maya Forstater is an extremist and an absolutist. To support her is to support the right to discriminate, which I cannot condone.

    I loved the Harry Potter books growing up, and they will always be important to me, but I stopped caring about JK Rowling’s personal opinions some time ago and I have not had cause to regret that since. She’ll correct herself, or not, as time goes by. As it is apparently we must deal with TERFism and support for wife-beaters. I’m mainly sorry for the deep hurt experienced by her trans fans.

  22. (2) I think lots of Rowling’s beliefs and attitudes can be described using Martin Luther King’s word: a white moderate.

    For all the progressive and good values espoused in the Harry Potter books, there is also a strong helping of paternalism and belief in aristocracy.

    (6) Sigh.

    (15) Those pieces of advice strike me as useful for writing about any form of subject unknown to or new to the reader.

  23. These trailers for Picard really sell the show for me, particularly with Michael Chabon as showrunner. That Jeri Ryan is in it adds to the show’s value. I haven’t seen her work lately because it’s on cable shows I don’t see, but all the work she’s gotten since Trek shows how talented she is.

  24. 2) No one who’s been paying attention to JKR will be surprised by this, but I think it’s the first time she’s directly and unambiguously supported transphobia. And of course there’s no particular reason most people would have been paying attention so the widespread shock and hurt is understandable.


    I know the alternative acronym but I’m not a big fan of more serious attempts to exclude TERFs from feminism. It’s a natural urge, but it doesn’t address the mistakes of the second wave that created them in the first place.

    @Harold Ostler

    I wonder if you’ve read the judge’s ruling for the Forstater case? It seems to me to be carefully and sensitively argued:


  25. a bit more on @17:
    * the reviewer claimed to see places where the CGI fur wasn’t in sync with the faces but appeared to “float above” them. It’s possible his senses are finer; he’s not the only person I’ve known to claim that electronically-projected movies are perceptibly dimmer than ones on film stock.
    * he reports that Wraal Nalqbgf rngf gur vafrpgf engure guna genvavat gurz, in a way he says will give small children nightmares. (No, I haven’t checked the MPAA rating of the movie.)
    * he also reports that “The Naming of Cats” is broken into ~verses, as it was not on stage — and the audience began laughing when the chant kept ~restarting.

    This Does Not Bode Well — but I’m probably going to see the movie anyway, not because I’m a fan of any of the pop singers but because I liked the stage version and am curious to see what happens when it opens out. (My partner is more doubtful.) It may be, as with some other live shows, that too much of the magic was wrapped up in it being a live show and doesn’t convince when it’s done as a movie in these days of anything-can-be-done-in-a-movie. (For other examples, consider the plays done with everyone playing many parts, or The Play that Goes Wrong, or even the movie version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which IMO needed the almost-bare stage that made any introduced prop interesting.)

  26. @Chip —

    he’s not the only person I’ve known to claim that electronically-projected movies are perceptibly dimmer than ones on film stock.

    Oh, yes! I find that incredibly annoying.

  27. I saw on Twitter this morning that the CATS studio has apparently fixed some of the CGI/SFX problems and is sending a new print (or whatever you call it when it’s electronic) to studios. So nobody else when get to see momentary, floating, disembodied dancing cat suits.

    Also, I’m a millennial, I can’t afford pearls to clutch. I do read Twitter, though, because it’s free, and her tweet (and all the gleeful, even-more-explicitly-hately TERFs feeling validated in the comments) was painful and offensive to anyone who is trans, anyone who knows or loves a trans person, or anyone who wants to be inclusive of trans people. She has over 14 million twitter followers, freakin everyone read the tweet.

  28. Of course as soon as the editing window disappears I notice a typo. “Even-more-explicitly-hateful” is what I meant to say.

  29. Weird – on the main page, #1 is about Samuel L. Jackson being a voice of Alexa. On this page it’s the Picard trailer.

  30. John Hertz responds by carrier pigeon:

    (10) I suggest

    W. Tenn’s novelette “Child’s Play” (1947; see e.g. G. Conklin’s 1948 Treasury), translated into Dutch, French, German (twice), Italian, Japanese

    H. Cantine’s short story “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble” (1960; see R. Mills’ Best from “Fantasy & Science Fiction”, 10th series, J. Merril’s Year’s Best SF, 6th annual, both 1961), translated into Italian.

  31. Everyone takes things differently from Twitter, so it’s no surprise that my experience is different from others. I came to this on-line brou-ha-ha through a YouTube video of a trans activist declaring that gay people who won’t sleep with transpeople were transphobic. And basically advocating conversion therapy.
    As a man, I can say that biological sex is a reality and the push-back is mild. For saying that gay men don’t like vaginas and lesbians don’t do dick the worst I’ve been called is a ‘penis-fetishist’ –which I kind of liked and would make a great T-shirt.
    If I’d been a woman, I’d have been reported and harassed and told to “choke on my lady-dick” or that they’d hope I’d be raped to death (all of which sounds like an entitled male reaction to me).
    Women’s concerns about sports, privacy, possible predators have to be addressed and not dealt with hand-waving accusations of transphobia and “it never happens’ if there’s going to be any kind of solution everyone can live with.

    @SophieJane–I slogged through the decision but it seems to me (and I could be wrong) that the judge has conflated gender and sex again. For instance, talking about the Gender Recognition Certificates and it’s importance to transsexuals who actually do transition. And insisting on using ‘assigned at birth’. And I’m not sure what the whole Gregor Murray thing added to it. Sounds like both of them got pissy. And really–if you present like the picture; you’re going to get ‘mis-gendered’ at times. We’ve all been mis-gendered–get over it.
    It’s looking more and more like a philosophical divide greater that the Protestant Revolution with extremes on both sides. How do you find a middle ground? For example, I don’t plan on going along with the concept of ‘female penis’ but consider a post-transsexual woman a woman. She may be ‘biologically male’ but for all intents and purposes is now female.
    Thank god I’m old and no longer navigating the dating/hook-up world.

  32. Dear Sophie Jane,

    You are quite right about that. It’s a long, nuanced and complicated discussion. This ain’t the place for it, but if we cross paths at a convention, I’d be delighted to explore it further in conversation.

    Meanwhile, we mock. Because it is the least we can do (truly, the least).

    pax / Ctein

  33. @Harold Osler
    Maybe this will help: gender is mostly in the brain, but sex is mostly in the genes (and is not straightforward even there: see XXY and other variations on the theme).

  34. @P J Evans

    More accurate to say sex is a set of labels we apply to bodies and gender is a set of labels we apply to cultural roles. Both are socially constructed, but In different ways and with different meanings. (Not to mention that when we assign someone a sex we rarely take time to examine their genes first.)

    And of course intersex people exist, inconvenient though they are for essentialists. In fact, the history of doctors performing “corrective” surgery on intersex children is a particularly literal example of the social construction of sex.


    Sorry – no serious criticism intended, and I’d like to have that conversation someday. I’ve just been getting a bit too much of the “TERFs aren’t feminists” line on social media recently.

    @Harold Osler

    It’s actually quite easy: trans men are men, trans women are women, non-binary people are non-binary, and what’s in people’s pants is entirely their own business. As with smartphones or email, you don’t need to engage with the theory to navigate the modern world.

  35. @Sophie Jane
    Yeah, it’s complicated. And that’s without getting into some of the other dimensions of it. Your version (to Harold) is excellent advice for everyone.

  36. Greg Egan’s “Distress” has (in addition to the main plot about unification theories and a mysterious disease afflicting people across the world) a setting in which there are seven socially acknowledged genders, with both body modifications and brain modifications available to people who need to change one or both to live full lives. Has anyone else read it? It’s been almost 2 decades since I read it – I wonder how problematic it would seem to me now? Egan, being Egan, had characters who were very opposed to any privileging of “natural” – this quote has stuck in my mind since I read it (admittedly, I did have to look it up).

    “Rourke said, “It’s the oldest semantic weapon there is. Think of all the categories of people who’ve been classified as non-human, in various cultures, at various times. People from other tribes. People with other skin colors. Slaves. Women. The mentally ill. The deaf. Homosexuals. Jews. Bosnians, Croats, Serbs, Armenians, Kurds—”

    I said defensively, “Don’t you think there’s a slight difference between putting someone in a gas chamber, and using the phrase rhetorically?”

    “Of course. But suppose you accuse me of ‘lacking humanity.’ What does that actually mean? What am I likely to have done? Murdered someone in cold blood? Drowned a puppy? Eaten meat? Failed to be moved by Beethoven’s Fifth? Or just failed to have—or to seek—an emotional life identical to your own in every respect? Failed to share all your values and aspirations?””

Comments are closed.