Sunday, 16 July 2017

Ambisexual fiction

Front cover of the first edition, with art by the Dillons. Cover depicts two faces against an abstract background.
Photo: By Source,

The announcement of Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor caused some surprise across social media. Most people will have been warned to the possibility of the next or a future Doctor changing gender by the transformation of The Master into the much loved Missy.

Some people have attacked her appointment as "PC gone mad" and there are the usual crowd who do not like change. The only surprise as far as I am concerned is that Jodie is not an actress I am familiar with not having seen Broadchurch or the new St Trinians films.

However this should not come as a shock to hardcore science fiction fans. One famous novel The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin sees an Earthman serving as an ambassador on a planet of "ambisexuals". Wikipedia explains:

The inhabitants of Gethen are ambisexual humans; for twenty-four days (somer) of each twenty-six-day lunar cycle, they are sexually latent androgynes. They only adopt sexual attributes once a month, during a period of sexual receptiveness and high fertility, called kemmer. During kemmer they become sexually male or female, with no predisposition towards either, although which sex they adopt can depend on context and relationships.

I read this book (originally published in 1969) in the early seventies when I was still at school and think it just might be time to pick up a copy again if it is still in print.

The point is that critics should not see the Doctors sex change as "PC" but as part of a wider tapestry of possibilities within creation that can be explored by science fiction

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