Sime~Gen Inc. Presents
"INTIMATE MEDAL OF HONOR
INTIMATE MEDAL OF HONOR: PART TWO OF FOUR PARTS
Last month I ended Part One of this four part essay with the statement that Star Trek in general is presenting us with a thematic statement codified in relationship.
That statement isn't quite as simplistic as "Love Conquers All" nor does it say that life should or even could be painless. The couples in Star Trek: Deep Space 9 series exist in serious, big-league, huge larger than life conflicted relationships. But they hang in there to build relationship despite everything including a galactic invasion or being "lost in space," as on Star Trek: Voyager.
So I had in mind to discuss a feature film titled Enemy Mine that I believe I've mentioned in previous columns. And I was going to point out how it addresses the concept of honor, using an alien species that evolved without sexual differentiation and thus evolved a civilization based on a "religion" that doesn't include sexuality and sexual hangups and how the wisdom of thousands of years of continuous civilization has been codified into a sacred text called The Talman. And how Barry Longyear has taken the bold step of publishing his excerpts from The Talman with these novels.
And I'm still going to point you at that material, now available in a huge book titled The Enemy Papers that seems expensive at $14.99 until you realize how much reading there is inside. Actually, if you bought these three novels as paperbacks, they'd each cost more than $5.00 and with this book you get a number of background works that you can browse through after you get hooked on the universe Longyear has created.
This is an important book in our field, and I think it's just a symptom of the incredible disarray in the on-paper-publishing industry that this work has been published by White Wolf Publishing instead of, oh, say, Bantam Books. Or Avon Eos. Or Pocket Books. It's not in every store. It's not advertised on TV. It's not stacked in piles at the front of Walden Books. But it "should" be. White Wolf isn't big enough to pay for that kind of promotion, and the others don't dare try that right now.
The book contains the author's preferred version of the story depicted in the Hollywood movie, Enemy Mine, which was based on a novella by Barry B. Longyear. That movie was rerun on television recently I think on the Sci Fi channel. It is one of the all-time best movies ever made in Hollywood (though I may be the only one who thinks so) right up there with The Day The Earth Stood Still.
The book also contains a reprint of a novel which is the sequel to the story told in the movie. And then it contains a novel which is the third part of the story begun in Enemy Mine, a never-before-published novel. It contains The Making of Enemy Mine behind the scenes. And it contains the alien religious works upon which the story-premise is based (The Talman). And it contains a glossary of alien words for handy reference. The book is a gold mine. You need this book. It's huge. It's cheap. It's great. You can't put it down. It's wonderful.
A few weeks ago, it wasn't available on amazon.com. It was available at Barnes & Noble online.
Now, what's interesting about The Enemy Papers that relates to what I saw on television this morning? The Enemy Papers has alien sex and procreation in it and it has mud-soldier battles and space-battle and hostility and politics (a form of warfare) but it's not about sex, and it's not about war. The usual sf novel that has a galactic war in it is about winning a war or about what war does to those who fight in it, or about how war changes history, or about how it ruins relationships about bereavement and the price soldiers pay to keep their homes "free." I love to read them. I've written some of those myself.
I've always admired Gordon R. Dickson's Dorsai novels, especially The Tactics of Mistake. The strategy and tactics of warfare are also applicable to most human relationships in the workplace or the private and intimate relationships of home-life (as Evangeline Walton has pointed out in her Verbal Self-Defense books which I've reviewed at length).
I know that warfare is the paradigm our civilization uses to construct relationships but I just don't think the warfare paradigm is the basis of relationship because nothing else could possibly be the basis of relationship. I view the situation of "warfare" as the paradigm for all relationships as a problem to be solved.
Longyear has taken a step toward creating a Literary Genre perhaps as important as Intimate Adventure one that addresses directly the need to create new and viable solutions to the problem of relationships based on the warfare paradigm on the paradigm of "the enemy."
Barry B. Longyear has created here a defining work for something new and he's used the pivotal and popular thematic substance of honor as the core of the material. Perhaps this new genre might be termed "Honorable Intimacy."
He has shown us how civilizations fall into the trap of "endless warfare" and he's offered a mechanism for climbing out of that trap.
The Enemy Papers is actually the story that I expected to find by watching the TV show Babylon Five. It's about a new path to peace.
Now, I have to admit that I don't think this suggested solution will work, for a lot of reasons. I don't intend to discuss the particulars of the solution offered, because for me (after the two TV shows I saw this morning) the point of The Enemy Papers isn't the content of that particular solution, nor even the particular path by which the solution was arrived at. The point is that here is a new kind of fiction really new. Different in a significant way.
It's sf, and it's focused strongly on the power of relationship. Relationship is the primary plot-driving dynamic force that moves galactic politics. The Enemy Papers takes the genetic foundation of behavior traits that form the "honorable" component of a civilization's values into account. (there's a species whose genetics have driven them to found a whole civilization on the "game" called Let's You And Him Fight.)
Longyear tells a particular story about specific people dealing with a particular problem caused originally by the species that plays Let's You And Him Fight (which is to them the most honorable behavior) noting that the original cause is no longer a clue to the final solution to the problem.
The important thing about this book isn't the solution that Longyear comes up with using the alien sacred text called The Talman and the sacred texts of the alien species that plays Let's You And Him Fight. The important thing is that the fictional premise here regards the situation of being at war as a problem to be solved, not as a challenge to be overcome or as an opportunity to "win."
I want to see more books like this one lots and lots of them. I want to see a worldwide dialogue conducted in the language of fiction discussing this premise that war is an unnatural state of affairs and has no place in civilization at all. That there is, in fact, no such thing as an enemy that the concept "enemy" is a null-set that "enemy" is a figment of imagination, not a real thing at all.
Actually, the most impressive thing about these stories is that they pivot on and grow out of the way a human man found himself responsible for an alien infant, and honorably lived up to that responsibility which made him part of an alien family which resulted in his becoming expert in an alien philosophy which resulted in his behaving like a legendary alien hero and committing an act of honor that changed the political realities of the galaxy.
That's my story and I love to read it when others write it, and I love to write it so others can read it. That is the story I expected from Babylon Five mankind's last great hope for peace, and was bitterly disappointed when B5 turned to "something better than peace. Victory."
I'm beginning to see My Story emerge from ST:DS9 couples coagulating at an apex in history where they just might form the nucleus that would precipitate a new form of peace a form that isn't merely an interlude between wars. A relationship paradigm based on something other than warfare.
Which brings us to the novel, Halfway Human by Carolyn Ives Gilman. This, too, is a great novel $5.99 pb, but thick enough to justify the price, and every word gripping, fascinating, can't-put-it-down-don't-talk-to-me-now!
This one is the story of a human-based interstellar civilization where humanity has colonized many worlds and genetically adjusted itself to fit those worlds. There is a world colonized long ago that is being rediscovered now and brought into the new politics of the galaxy. On this world, humanity has solved the problem of the "warfare as the basis for relationship" paradigm. They decided that this paradigm is legitimate for relationships among beings who are of two different genders. That is, that gender per se is the source of warfare. So they got rid of gender but only in those who were judged incapable of handling the responsibility of being gendered. Thus they created a "neuter" gender of humans and now exist as a three-gendered society.
This is where the premise gets a little too contrived to suit me. The neuter gender is relegated to heavily supervised, menial labor and positions of no responsibility or power or wealth. And they are victimized sexually by the gendered community though that is officially frowned upon.
Now, the story starts with a neuter escaping into the galactic society of another world. And the main character is a scholar who becomes intrigued by the puzzle of who this neuter person is, and investigates. She gets into some things that others don't want her to know, and by the middle of the book her life is threatened. By then she's so involved in the story of this neuter's life that she has formed a relationship and must choose whether to commit herself to defending this helpless person or not. If she does, she will put her family at risk, too.
This is such a page turner it is mystery and sf and social commentary. And there's suspense along each of those lines of development. The story unfolds one step at a time at exactly the right pace for me. It's a great book, and like so much I've read lately turns on the issue of honor. What is the honorable thing to do protect your husband, child and your mother? Or protect a helpless innocent who has thrown itself on your mercy? Well, is this helpless innocent really so very innocent?
Does the "honorable" path depend on whether the person needing help is being truthful with you or not?
Part 3, The Intimate Medal of Honor,
Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg,POB 290, Monsey, N.Y. 10952.
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