Weeding Womb

The Queen of Erewhon

The Queen of Erewhon by Lucy Sussex. In a post-apocalyptic land, star-crossed lovers leave a dead body in their wake. The main character (and many others) head into the boonies of the southern reaches of the island (Supposedly New Zealand, though I only saw this in the author's bio and not the story! Since the connection to the novel Erewhon - which I haven't read, I admit - seems nominal at best, using that for an information source is folly.) to cover the resulting trial. I'm not going to talk about this story much at first except to say 'What's with all the lesbians?'. Yep, seems Lucy Sussex is raring for the Lambda award (which I think is the award given to homosexually-themed fiction).

Now, homosexuality doesn't bother me. Just because I personally like the whole idea of taking a pretty woman home and doing things for which clothes are a detriment doesn't mean I'm going to force my ideas on anyone else. My only major requirement is that people don't do it in public or tell me about it in the morning. (Which has happened to me - I could tell you about the time a lesbian over twice my age recounted her life's story for me, but if I didn't want to hear it why should you?)

Nor do homosexual characters bother me. Again, if they don't do it in front of me or tell me about it later I don't give half a damn. They're gay, big deal, let's get on with the story.

But this story is pushing it. The idea of a polyandrous society* appearing in a post-apocaylptic land isn't that far-fetched (see footnote). The idea that in that land some homosexuals are going to appear isn't that hard to believe. But the fact that every character in the story - even the foreigners - is either homosexual or bisexual, is taking suspension of disbelief and stomping it to tiny bits.

(*Polyandry: where one wife has many husbands. The opposite is polygamy, which you may have heard of. While polygamy is fairly common, there's apparently only one known polyandrous society on the face of the Earth. And they're not doing so well, since when the men found out that no one else on the planet had to share, they got kind of mad.)

Who do we have who is homosexual or bisexual:

Idye, Iain, and Mors. (All males, in case the odd names didn't give it away.) Idye and Iain are two brothers who 'share' Mors. Despite that all three are, ahem, 'hungering for' Sadry. While a political interest (see below) in Sadry makes sense, they clearly have a sexual interest in her. (Which leads to their undoing - Iain supposedly tries to rape Sadry and dies in the attempt when a fire caused by his drunken stumbling torches the House of Celat and him with it.)

Idris, the teenage sister of Idye and Iain. She has fallen for Sadry. As an aside: Idye, Iain and Idris are the members of the House of Celat, a fairly poor house/family.

Sadry, the 'Queen of Erewhon'. She falls in a river and gets rescued by Idris. She's also a teenager and the last surviving heir to the fairly powerful House of Erewhon.

Bel and the nameless main character. Bel is the local, and the main character is the foreigner. On the last page, they're revealed to be homosexual (until this point the main character's gender isn't even established) and - here's the part that really bugs me - horny for each other.

Fowlds. A journalist from the 'civilized' northern end of the island(s), sent to cover the trial. He has about ten lines and serves as nothing more than a clueless foreigner and sounding board, and yet he's gay.

So we're up to eight homo-/bisexuals. All the other characters are supposedly heterosexual and none have more than two lines. (The three judges at the trial, etc.) There is one semi-major heterosexual character: Nissa of Erewhon, but she's little more than a memory, defendant in a similar trial years ago, and a convenient reason why the family of Erewhon isn't bigger.

So, you're likely asking, what other things didn't you like about this story, or are you just a ranting homophobe? Okay, I'll tell you what else I didn't like. The plot is mixed up, and badly. It jumps back and forth between a transcript of the main character's interview with Idris and Sadry (which only happens at the end of the story) and the story itself. So you hear names like Celat and Erewhon before you even meet the players and know what the words mean. Makes it hard to follow without reading the story twice, which I clearly have no intentions of doing.

Also, for all the bisexuals and homosexuals and polyandrists running around, the story 'feels' sexist. While the story is about how bad it is for star-crossed homosexual women, all the males are paper-thin plotwise and most are weird. Iain is dead and may be a rapist, Iyde wanted to do something similar and only survived because he got too smashed and passed out outside, away from the house. Mors is the best of the bunch and he's a manipulator. Fowlds fills less than a page of plot and even he intentionally tries to get drugged so some guy will have his way with him. Meanwhile, all the females are described as noble and kind and all that. The worst of the bunch is one of the judges, who is still considered 'not bad' even though she's an impediment to the author's idea of progress. Strikes me as being sexist as hell.

My other problems are assumptions of guilt. The trial is about whether or not Idris and Sadry should get in trouble over the death of Iain, who is referred to as 'threatening rape'. But - and here's the stupid thing - there's no proof! Here's what happened, in Sadry and Idris' opinion: Mors was out on business so Iain and Idye got smashed. Idris and Sadry snuck out and ran for it, since Idris felt that her brothers were going to be too horny for their own good once they finished drinking. The next morning, Iain was found dead in the torched house, next to a candleholder and a knife. Idris and Sadry guess he must have come looking for a good time in Sadry's room, and started a fire in the process. Idye was too boozed up to remember any of it. Mors wasn't back from his business yet.

So, we have a corpse, next to two still-identifiable items, in the middle of a torched house, with the two main suspects claiming they were gone when it happened and with no alibi. The only other witness was, by everyone's admission, passed out.

And yet, this story makes sure that Iain is the Bad Man and that these two poor teenage girls are only going to get in trouble because they're lesbians! Gays are fine, bisexual males are apparently common, but lesbians (and supposedly bisexual females) are a problem because of some vague half-matriarch thing, half-sexist thing called The Rule! Doesn't make sense in a society where you'd think there'd be an excessive number of females, since a 50/50 birth rate and 2-8 husbands per wife means a lot of females doing nothing anyway!

And my last problem with this story: There's one completely gratuitous bit of profanity that serves no purpose. The character doesn't swear once the rest of the story, but then suddenly throws out something that jars with the rest of her speech.

In the end, one of those stories that I just don't like. Starts off confusing if somewhat interesting, but then throws it all away in an increasingly unstable plot and excessive use of the 'gimmick of the week'.

The Archon

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