Saturday, January 21, 2017
Short Fiction Month: If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister? - Theodore Sturgeon
The story is set in a future were the sun went supernova. Fortunately, there was plenty of warning, and everybody who wanted to leave Earth could do so with time to spare. Many planets have been colonized and a record is created to keep in touch with each of these worlds. The main character of the story, find one that isn't listed. When the reason for this becomes apparent he has a difficult choice to make.
If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister? was originally published in Harlan Ellison's anthology Dangerous Visions (1967). To stick with the theme of the anthology, Sturgeon tackled one of the most widely spread of all human taboos: incest. There is a lot of progressive ideas in the novella. The society of the planet the main character visits is utopia. Its inhabitants are wealthy, healthy and happy. They are free to do pretty much anything they please and as a result are able to satisfy all their natural (read: sexual) needs. In the afterword Sturgeon says he aimed to take a logical argument and a conviction based on it, one step further and see if it encourages people to reconsider their conviction. Which would have been fine if Sturgeon's reasoning was not so obviously flawed.
Is it at least a well written story then? Not really. I like the prose well enough, but I came away with the feeling it was a bit padded. It takes the main character quite a long time to get to the point. Most of the first half of the story serves to show us how upset he really is, without actually moving the plot forward much. If I compare this to the way in which Samuel R. Delany deals with sexual taboos in Aye, and Gomorrah . . ., published in the same anthology, and the way that story triggers people to think about things like exclusion of people with sexual preferences outside the norm, I can only conclude Delany is vastly more effective. This story did not work for me at all.
Title: If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?
Author: Theodore Sturgeon
Originally published: Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison (1967)
Read in: Dangerous Visions, Gollancz SF Masterworks edition (2011)
Story length: Novella
Awards: Nebula Award nominated
Available online: Not that I'm aware of