Wait…Gendercide Is a Thing?

I like to consider myself a fan of all things speculative–horror and supernatural and sci-fi books, movies, TV shows, etc., and I believe I know a ton about these genres.

Apparently I don’t. The other day I was rabbit holing into the latest of a long line of literary controversies (I won’t go into it here) and I read this article asking whether it’s time do do away with the gendercide trope, a trope I’ve never heard of before.

What is gendercide? It sounds nasty, because it is. Gendercide is where either the men or the women in any given story are killed or die off from some nefarious or mysterious or viral reason. The book that inspired the article introducing me to gendercide is The Men by Sandra Newman. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s about a world where all males suddenly vanish. The remaining women adjust to this disappearance, while videos online depict the men living in a hellish landscape.

There are others, too, such as Y: The Last Man, a comic turned TV show where (almost) all men die of a virus. One of my favorite books, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, is a variant of the gendercide trope; the novel opens in an all-male society where the women have mysteriously died off.

According to TVtropes.org, gendercide isn’t super popular, and most of the time only a variant is used (only some or most of either men or women die or disappear). Stories where the men disappear are more in line with the theme of feminist utopia, and stories where the women vanish are considered dystopic.

In reading about Newman’s book, I found it disturbing that all the men were sent to a hellscape ruled by demons. Oddly, the writer of the article critical of gendercide (and Newman’s book), didn’t write about that disturbing aspect of it. From me, though, disturbing is not a criticism. I want to learn more about this trope, and see how different writers explore it.

Classic Lit Challenge: Heart of Darkness

Here’s one of the rarely discussed facts of fiction. Whether we’re writing an alien-filled sci-fi adventure, a sprawling fantasy saga, or a historical epic, all these stories are ultimately a reflection of the specific writer’s society, worldview, ethics, and morals. If you want a true representation of the past, don’t turn to historical fiction.

Turn to fiction actually written in the past.

Warning, though. Often their ethics and sensibilities are vastly different from ours. Sometimes disturbingly so.

If you want to be disturbed and unsettled, then read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. In it he depicts a world that is cruel and brutal and blatantly racist. And, yes, heartless and dark.

This is a controversial book, because of its unvarnished description of 19th century European colonialism. But if it’s going to be an accurate portrayal of that time period, how could it not be?

Heart of Darkness book cover

Heart of Darkness is a short book that recounts the story of a less than reliable, and possibly slightly insane, sailor named Marlow, the narrator in Conrad’s sprawling and ambitious Lord Jim, as he tells of his journey into the Belgian Congo to retrieve the mysterious Kurtz for his trading company.

Along the way Marlow travels deeper and deeper into the mysterious heart of so-called wild Africa. The writing has a dreamlike quality throughout that’s a testament to Conrad’s skill. It moves at a fast clip and doesn’t let up. Sometimes it moves too fast for me–especially in the scenes where he finally arrives at Kurtz’s renegade compound I wanted Marlow to slow down and tell us more. But we get what we get.

Heart of Darkness is a compelling read, and I highly recommend it. It was the inspiration for the movie Aopcalypse Now (which I have to rewatch now), so much so that Marlon Brando’s character is also named Kurtz, and he utters the famous line from Conrad’s book.

“The horror, the horror.”

I read commentary on Heart of Darkness captured from writers throughout the 20th Century, and they all dissected it based on where they sat in time and place. I am too. For me, Heart of Darkness was an indictment of the 19th century European colonial enterprise into Africa. The people in London who run the company are presented as cold. The European men in Africa come across as casually cruel. The Africans in their employ are first seen as brutally treated. Conrad does not spare these details. He doesn’t present the Africans as fully human. He does the Europeans, which does them little favor.

Heart of Darkness shows how, rather than “civilizing” Africa (the thin sheen of respectability placed on an enterprise that was really about plunder), European colonialism corrupted those involved.

It made their own hearts dark.

Watch This Movie: The Girl With All The Gifts

Melanie-The-girl-with-all-the-giftsYou think every zombie story has been told?

Well then you haven’t seen The Girl With All The Gifts.

First off, HUGE DISCLAIMER, this started out as an acclaimed book by M. R. Carey, one that I haven’t read. Instead I took the lazy way out and saw the movie. No excuse, but there it is.

So back to the story.

Imagine a tale told from the point of view of one of the monsters, only this monster isn’t all monstrous, and she doesn’t see herself as a monster. That would be Melanie, a young self-aware and cunning (not crazed) creature.

But, alas, Melanie is a monster. One of the Hungries, as their called here, victim of a plague caused by a fungal infection. (Note: the secret of Melanie’s origin is one of the more disturbing in the realm of horror.)

The Girl With All The Gifts opens with her trapped in a military camp among other similar kids. Soon that camp is overrun, and Melanie is among a core group of humans who escape. Together they romp through a ravaged landscape in a desperate attempt to survive, and hopefully defeat the infection before it destroys humanity.

Throughout the movie Melanie is both hero (because of her humanity) and villain (because of her nature), which makes for a thrilling and unexpected ride. For those zombie lovers out there, the zombies are wickedly fast and creepy as hell.

The Girl With All The Gifts is about a child, but this is not a children’s movie. It’s scary and unsettling and well worth your time.