Baby, You Were Great
People Read Old SFF has
reached the 1960s. That means the fraction of stories by women is
about to increase sharply ,
to reflect the increasing number of women in science fiction. And
what better woman to herald that rising tide than the award winning
published in the 1950s, Kate Wilhelm is a science fiction, fantasy,
and mystery writer. With her husband, Damon Knight, she established
both the Clarion and the Milford Writer’s Workshop. Her award
nominations and wins include the Nebula, the Hugo, the Apollo, and
the Locus. In 2016, the Solstice Award, given to individuals who have
had a significant impact on the science fiction or fantasy landscape,
was renamed in her honour.
Wilhelm is still active; her website can be
chose “Baby, You Were Great” for a number of reasons. It was
nominated for a Nebula, it was first published in the historically
significant Orbit series ,
and its themes seemed to me to still be relevant. And we all know how
great a track record I have when it comes to judging the universality
You Were Great” can be found in Kate
Wilhelm in Orbit, Volume One.
Do not fear men will vanish entirely! A spot has been reserved for
the ineluctably masculine James Tiptree, Jr.
Orbit’s success at garnering nominations so angried up the blood of
SF’s grognards that they mass voted “No Award” to
put Orbit in its place.
noticed reading through the previous month's that I'm usually the one
who gives the most generous reviews. Not this time. This story was
gross. I metaphorically threw the pages down several times and had to
go back because I agreed to do this review series. I even actually
dropped my phone once.
was all the worst stories I've heard about sexism in the
mid-twentieth century rolled into one. I wish I'd never read this
story. They never really got into any interesting applications of the
emotion broadcasting tech, or problems it could present, besides the
truly creepy voyeurism of John. Maybe the author was trying to make a
statement, I was just disgusted. This was more of a horror story,
with Anne, and probably Stuart and the new girl all trapped.
it. Wouldn't recommend it to anyone
couldn’t help being reminded of Black Mirror—that excellent
dystopian series from the UK. In each episode, one aspect of modern
society is developed to an extreme while everything else remains
relatively normal. This story does a similar thing: most people
cannot properly feel emotion, maybe because they all plug in to feel
the emotions of a few.
price per month seems laughably low (a dollar a month) compared to
today’s prices. Otherwise, the rest of the social setup seems
believable. The media executive is (sadly) the same as our world’s
money-grubbing Hollywood men.
the time the story came out, it was likely shocking and extreme. But
now when Big Brother is passé, and virtual reality is becoming more
affordable, a device to allow you to feel a program of emotions could
be readily accepted today.
auditions section of the story reads a lot like ‘what people expect
rape is like’ vs. ‘what rape can actually be like’. Not
everyone feels the same. Some people disassociate. Some people go
along with it because it’s better than resisting and getting
injured. Some get really angry. And a miniscule amount of people
react in a “normal” way – 1 in every 619 in this story, anyway.
story’s central point (to me) holds up. Who is worse: the person
who acts in terrible ways, or the second person who stands by and
whole story gives me an icky feeling, which I suppose is probably the
point. The media objectifies women, and everyone eats it up – or at
least, no one objects loudly enough to dampen the popularity of
what’s on TV. This seems chillingly relevant to current events.
ending doesn’t really conclude anything. The title suggests Anne
dies soon. Just another starlet turned star turned to dust.
A note on inflation: One dollar in 1966 (when this story was published) would buy about as much as seven dollars today. -jdn-
story is appalling.
was already angry with it by the third paragraph. Not only does it
feature a description of numerous, planned sexual assaults, but it
does so from the perspective of a man watching and critiquing the
victims for not reacting how he wants them to. If I wasn’t
reviewing this story, I would have stopped then and there.
then proceed from there to learn about another complete violation of
boundaries and planned rape of the only named woman in the story. And
again, from the man’s perspective, but he’s able to guess how she
feels because she’s have every bit of privacy stripped away from
her, well beyond what she consented to.
story doesn’t seem to think that it’s even particularly bad,
since it ends with our protagonist deciding to experience Anne’s
also the element of “not like other girls” that is used to
suggest that all the other women are emotionless husks. That they
don’t get to do anything, and can’t feel anything unless they’re
plugged into machines. This is ridiculous and demeaning, and I don’t
even know what to say anymore.
entire story is driven by abuse from start to finish. I suppose it
could have been trying for a critique of reality tv (did reality tv
exist when this story was published?), but that would require the
story to actually confront the abuses going on. Any discomfort the
protagonist feels is momentary and does not actually critique or
challenge what is going on in a meaningful way. This story is very
much centred around how he feels about the situation, rather than how
it impacts the victims of the abuse. He perpetuates the abuse for his
own gain, and there is nothing in the narrative to suggest that this
was the wrong choice.
is now my most-hated story of this series of reviews.