Narrative archaeology ~ Halving by gender
Whenever I think of Thanos’s idea of halving the inhabitants of the universe to fight starving and poverty, I am reminded of the objection that he could double its resources instead.
And yet the idea of a world with half of the people has something obscure but fascinating, perhaps because it recalls the image of an ancient world in which we were less and happier (although I don’t think it was so happier and easier).
And what if the missing half of a population is not selected by lot? What if by gender?
In World’s End Harem (Kotaro Shōno, Shuumatsu no Harem, 終末のハーレム, manga, 2016-today): five men survived the MK virus which eradicate men from Earth: this narrative device allows the author to tell stories about love (and sex, of course), about travels, about the struggle for power and new orders of the world (and sex, of course).
One of the most interesting consequences of one gender scarcity (well narrated from the point of view of the overabundant gender by Ian McDonald in the short story A good party — but I’m not sure of the original title: I’ve only read it in Italian ^___^ ) is that redefine the power dynamics.
It’s exactly what happens in Y: Last Man (Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, comic book series, 2002–2008) in which all living mammals with a Y chromosome simultaneously die, with the exception of a young amateur escape artist named Yorick Brown and his monkey Ampersand. In both this comics the protagonist wants only to reach his fiancée throught a self restoring and struggling world.
Maybe I’m wrong, but male narrators, even when they take out all the males from their fictional world, tend to preserve at least one of them: this changes when the narrator is a woman, especially an exceptional woman like Joanna Russ.
Who read the rich and complex and fascinating and provocative The Female Man (Joanna Russ, novel, 1975), knows that one of the four protagonists, Janet, come from Whileaway, an utopian society where all the men died from a gender-specific plague (no survivors among the penis-bearers). Not so much people knows that When it Changed (Joanna Russ, short story, 1972) is set on a different version of Whileaway, and more fully describes a world flourishing in the absence of men.
“No men’s a better world” is not only a seventies feminist idea, we can find it in a book of nineteenth century (Mary E. Bradley Lane, Mizora, novel, 1880–1881): the story of a Russian princess who discovers a hollow world where men decimated themselves during and after a terrible civil war, and disappeared entirely after women discover the secret of parthenogenesis. Guess if they live better or worse without man ;) I just noticed that in that society without gender injustice the religions disappear…
This is the most ancient archaeological find about this narrative idea, but I wanna show you a curious book I found during my imaginative excavations. Apart from the McDonald short story, every narrative product I could cite was about the disappearance of men. Well, in the 1936 (during fascist regime: nothing better for satirical product than a dictatorship) Virgilio Letrusco (pseudonym of Virgilio Martini) wrote “The world without woman” (Il mondo senza donne, when it was published in English, in 1945, the author was tried for blasphemy), a book banned by Mussolini in which a homosexual plot to free the world of women almost succeeds: the story is narrated from the point of view of the last living woman on Earth.