Pastwatch, Walk to the End of the World, Motherlines

I’ve read a few politically correct sci-fi books lately - one because I know the author and the other two because I’d never read that author before. Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card manages to blame Columbus for everything from smallpox to World War III, yet gets him off the hook in the end. A post-war PC future uses time-travel TV’s to watch Columbus and other horrors of the past, making for two intertwined plots. Eventually the future TV technology improves, revealing an unexpected connection between the future and the past, and allowing Columbus to choose another path.

I suppose I should explain what I mean by a PC future. There are all sorts of sci-fi future - the paramilitary space opera future (LMB, David Weber, Gordon R. Dickson), the cyberpunk future (Gibson, Stephenson), the free love future (Niven, Allen Steele), the transhuman future (Egan, Vernor Vinge), the hell-in-a-handbasket future (Ayn Rand, Walter M. Miller, Jr.), the same-as-today near future (Connie Willis, Paul Levinson), the tech turned into fantasy future (Walter Jon Williams does it a lot), and so forth. The politically correct future is an extrapolation of multiculturalism, environmentalism, holism, and other PC trends - for example, Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre, anything by Octavia Butler, and possibly some late Ursula LeGuin. Despite being politically incorrect myself, I don’t object to the PC future - in fact, I think it’s relatively difficult to pull off, so when you find one it’s likely to be well done.

So I wanted to read some Suzy McKee Charnas and I found a two-in-one edition of Walk to the End of the World and its sequel, Motherlines. These are fairly old works of feminist sci-fi so the 70’s Armageddon backstory (down to the folk etymology of “bra-burning”) is cheesy and distracting, but the post-apocalyptic societies are interesting in their own right. The society of the first novel has enslaved women (an anti-PC future), and the second one has eliminated men for maximal PC-ness. Of the two, I found the first more interesting - slavery and oppression are always good for the plot. In a way it’s more reprehensible in its misandry (ascribing ludicrous levels of misogyny to your neighbors is misandry in my book) than The Handmaid’s Tale, but the post-nuclear setting makes it easier to set aside the fact that the author blames her own male contemporaries for this state of affairs. (I know they’re handicapped by the broken chromosome, but really, they’re not all that bad.)

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