Flipping the scrip: Can we? Should we?

So since last week’s debacle, a lot of people have asked me whether it’s even possible to write a discrimination reversal that isn’t chock full o’ bigotry. Not really sure why they’re asking me; it’s not like I’m some kind of expert on the matter. But they are, so what the hell, I’ll share what I think.

I think a workable discrimiflip is possible. Hell, I may have done one, depending on how you look at it — in the Dreamblood books, Gujaareh and Kisua are societies whose darkest-skinned denizens hold the greatest power and prestige, while people who are more visibly multiracial or white are viewed with varying degrees of tolerance (which is not the same thing as acceptance, note). But while that’s a flip from the society in which I was raised, and certainly a flip on what’s usually seen in English-language epic fantasy, it probably doesn’t count as a true flip since the book’s societies were modeled on places in our world where, probably, that’s how it really is/was. I’ll leave that for the reviewers to decide.

Among other writers’ work, I’ve read and heard of a few discrimination reversals that succeeded. Many people have recommended to me Steven Barnes’ Lions’ Blood and Zulu Heart, as well as Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses… but I haven’t read these books yet, so I can’t assess for myself how well they work. I’ve read a number of feminist reversals, including Sherri Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country and more recently Rachel Swirsky’s Nebula-winning novellette “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window”; the former is another problematic example that worked in one way (gender) and failed mightily in others (eugenics, race, homophobia), while the latter was probably the most successful reversal I’ve so far read. But I’ve read other discrimination reversals that were not just unsuccessful, but whopping insults to vast swaths of humanity — to the degree that I kind of have to agree with this slush reader: discrimiflips are a dime a dozen, but rare is the one that actually succeeds. In fact, the flips that get held up as examples for the rest of us to follow are the most colossal failures I’ve seen — Heinlein’s Farnham’s Freehold, for example. I can’t tell you how pissed I was when several people recommended that one to me as an example of SFF that successfully tackles the issue of racism. (Here’s a clue, if you haven’t read it: it’s not.)*

Which brings up a question people haven’t asked me: should discrimination reversals be written? The easy answer is yes, because I believe nothing can be off-limits if art is to serve its purpose. Art can be a way to say things that society won’t hear in any other context; a way to shift the status quo, fight the power, etc. But here’s the thing: discrimination reversals are nothing new. This is an election year in the US; I’ve heard lots of discrimiflip language and ideas being tossed around lately, some of it in “dogwhistle” code and some of it dangerously overt. Historically, we see these kinds of narratives appear wherever a dominant group starts to fear the loss of its dominance, especially if the perceived threat comes from whichever group(s) they’ve been treating most like crap. In this context, reversals usually stand as none-too-subtle messages of warning from dominant-group members to other members of their own group: do everything you can to keep oppressing these people, or we’ll be the ones getting screwed next.

So here’s the hard answer to the question of whether discrimiflips should ever be written: when a discrimination reversal serves to reinforce rather than fight oppression, it shouldn’t be done. That’s when the reversal isn’t daring or challenging or unique; that’s when it becomes just another tool of white supremacy (or homophobia, or Christian dominionism, or whatever), harming real people in the real world. I’ve had to struggle for acceptance as an SFF writer for my entire professional life, as have most other writers of color within this genre — and one reason for that struggle is that narratives in which people like me are depicted as drugged-out rapist cannibals are a much-lauded part of SFF’s literary canon. But I’ve gotten off easy; fear of a brown planet has been used to justify campaigns of terror and murder all over the world. Given all this it’s hard for me to see that kind of discrimination reversal as merely artistic expression. It’s propaganda. It’s a weapon. It kills.

So. Let’s go back to how it can be done, assuming the goal is to not cause harm in the real world. I tried to think about the flips I’ve read that have worked, or the workable parts of problematic flips, and I came up with a few suggestions for a hypothetical how-to guide:

  • First check your own privilege. If you’re a member of a privileged group, and you’re writing a fictional reversal in which your group ends up oppressed by people who are marginalized in real life, ask yourself some serious questions. Like: Am I really doing anything different from what the worst fearmongers in my own group usually do? Why does this possible world seem so frightening to me? and Am I depicting all the people in this society in a realistic way? Or are any of them stereotypes — even “good” ones? And, of course, Should I write this?
  • Decide who your real villain is. Here’s the biggest problem with Victoria Foyt’s “Save the Pearls” mess: it purports to be anti-racist, but in the actual book it’s pretty clear the enemy is not racism, but people of color. That’s the dys in her topia: black people in charge. None of the characters in this story are presented in a well-rounded or nuanced fashion, but Foyt fleshes them out with a textbook’s worth of racial stereotypes: Fragile Flower of White Womanhood, Mandingo, Jezebel, Kung Fu Master, Noble Savage, White People Are Smart/Brown People Are Stupid, you name it, Foyt’s got it. But what if Foyt had made all of her characters complex? People, instead of caricatures. Say she’d written them all as good people in some ways, ignoble in others, all with goals that might be in conflict, all just trying to get by in a system that depends upon the exploitation of some for the comfort of others. Then it might have been clear that the racist system — not any particular race — was the dystopian element of the story.
  • Decenter it. So you want to write a world that’s all about (say) the gay, with straight people struggling on the margins. But consider one of the most insidious, yet powerful, ways in which our society centers the experiences of one group and marginalizes others: most stories are told from the PoV of the powerful. So! Increase your readers’ sense of disjunct! Center your narrative on a lesbian — since in our world, lesbians rarely get to stand in the spotlight. And since she’s one of the people in power, be sure to have her display all the little privileges that (say) straight men show, in our world. Because if you flip your worldbuilding but then just center your narrative on yet another straight person, you haven’t really done anything different from what your readers see every day.
  • Decenter the flip itself. Think about our society. What’s the driving impetus for our way of life? Is everything we do intended solely to oppress people of color, marginalize the disabled, villify the poor, etc.? All those things are an effect of the way we live — and possibly an unavoidable effect, as long as our society remains constructed the way it is — but even on my most cynical days I don’t think the Founding Fathers built the US for the sole purpose of keeping the queer disabled black woman down. Likewise, no fictional society should exist for the sole purpose of tormenting and enslaving its most downtrodden. Most real-world societies are fixated on trying to one-up their neighbors, make the majority of their people happy, etc. Your society should be too.
  • Use subtlety. Everyone recognizes oppression in forms as blatant as slavery, or a caste system a la Jim Crow or apartheid. But blatant stuff is only a small part of how oppression really works — and writing a flip in which oppression takes only overt forms will automatically peg you as somebody who doesn’t understand the complexities of discrimination and privilege. If you don’t get this, you shouldn’t be writing a discrimination reversal.

OK, that’s all I can come up with. What other suggestions would you have for someone who wants to write a discrimination reversal that doesn’t fail? What are your thoughts on whether it can be, or should be, done?

* And I don’t recommend reading it. If you do attempt it, trigger warning for some of the most nausea- and rage-inducing racism I’ve seen in this whole genre. It so offended me that I will never touch Heinlein again even if my life depends on it, and I now give the big hairy side-eye to anyone who tries to hold up Heinlein as proof of SFF’s progressivism. (The salient bit starts on p. 55 and rambles on for quite awhile.) And if anyone in the comments suggests that I read Heinlein’s Sixth Column, I will banhammer you into another dimension where people with good sense and literary taste RULE THE WORLD.

34 Responses »

  1. This may be implicit in your point about decentering, but I think it’s important to look at the emotional resonance in a discrimiflip story – if the hook (for the writer or presumed reader) is that the white/straight/etc. character they identify with gets to experience a lot of angst and/or justified rage without having to field accusations of self-indulgence or triviality, it’s probably not going to end well.

  2. Just wanted to stop by and thank you for this. This puts into much better words things I’ve been trying to explain ever since the Weird Tales debacle.

  3. I always thought I was alone in this thinking. Difficult when you read as much as I do to not be offended by a gross lot of it. As a young Black male, few writers ‘spoke’ to me. I often feel like I’m in the back of a theater while everyone else enjoys a better view up front. (Make sense? *shrug* this is why i dont write for $ lol) Sci-fi wise I loved/discovered Octavia Butler at a very young age. I love her tales but later felt this very cosmopolitan future she oft imagined was not my world in any way shape, form or fashion. I appreciate her efforts and understand how chronologically events from her day may have colored her pen- I just felt incomplete. NK Jemisin is the first Black author I’ve read that doesnt shy away from the differences in people’s perspectives and cultures. I really appreciate that. I dont know how she manages her pen (in my mind) such an objective fashion. I never feel as if her males dont speak like males for instance, I heart she. I thought One Hundred Thousand Kingdoms speaks perfectly to what this piece is about. I wanna say alot more but am interested in the discussion her words will bring here. Glad I have eyes and a brain so I can see and appreciate her words. Thats it. Sermon over….

  4. And if anyone in the comments suggests that I read Heinlein’s Sixth Column,

    I’m trying to imagine someone who tries to paint Heinlein in a better light after someone else reads Heinlein’s most racist book by directing the reader to RAH’s second most racist book [0] where “malice directed towards the reader” doesn’t figure into it somewhere. Particularly since the second most racist one came first, which does not imply positive character growth in this matter.

    Uh, try Door Into Summer! It totally doesn’t have dodgy race issues because he had to leave room for the middle-aged-engineer perving on a grade school girl.

    0: Or is the one where the billionaire commandeers his attractive African American [1] employee’s body for his own use the second most and the Yellow Peril one only third? It’s a puzzler.

    Until just now, I never noticed Bug Jack Baron and I Will Fear No Evil have sort of similar plots except in the Spinrad commandeering body parts from the poor is bad and in the Heinlein it’s good.

    1: The text is ambiguous but RAH’s correspondence apparently is not.

  5. As I was reading your post, I remembered that Joe Haldeman’s novel The Forever War has (as one of the future societies in which its time-traveling soldier ends up) a culture in which homosexuality is the norm and the protagonist is no longer really trusted by his soldiers because of his heterosexuality (although everyone tries to treat him well). It’s been a long time since I read it, so I can’t remember how well and/or effectively the turnabout is handled.

  6. Hmm. Methinks this is a good primer not just for how to approach a “discrimiflip” (as you term it) but for how to approach discrimination in fiction generally – whether flipped or not. I suspect I’ll be referring to this in the future as I continue to write about different (imaginary) cultures and how they interact.

  7. Thank you for this post and valuable suggestions. I mentioned on twitter that there is one about mental illness (though it’s not a flip per se in that they are still feared) and a book about Perpendiculars (LGBT) the dominant group that keeps the Parallels (straight ppl) down.

    it seems thanks to self/vanity-pubbed stuff, more of these books that should’ve landed on the slush pile are getting into print and therefore talked about, and I don’t know how valuable that is, aside from kicking off posts like the two you’ve written on it lately.

  8. One lesson we can take from Foyt: If you’re trying to put messages in the book, make sure you know the good ones from the bad, and make sure you understand which one you actually have.

    Most strikingly underlined by her personal protest that ‘coal is powerful and full of energy and more valuable than a useless pearl’, when it’s clear in the book that it’s a slur when Eden says it.

    So yeah.

  9. I’m beginning to suspect that, when done badly, a discrimiflip (useful term) is a sort of comfort reading for the dominant culture: because what it says ultimately is, “See! If you were in power, you would act at least as badly as me!” Which means the reader has an excuse to not feel so badly about the fact that, in their own real place and time, they themselves are acting badly, because they can believe that after all the people they’re oppressing are people who deep down just want to oppress them, too.

  10. There was a novel I read a while back where Africa had become the world’s leading superpower. I really wish I could remember the name of the book or the author, it was published in San Francisco and was by a black author. It did an amazing job of flipping.

  11. What Carrie said.

  12. This was a wonderful essay on a hard topic, and I think you nailed it. The whole discussion just reinforces for me the danger of starting a story in order to convey a theme or lesson. I’ve always believed that theme should arise out of the story, not the other way around. It seems like many people who write the types of stories you’re describing start with the lesson they want the readers to take away, and the entire thing is too heavy handed, which can make it miss entirely.

    Thanks for the great post!

  13. Another suggestion (which might be more of a general world-building issue than a specific discrimiflip issue): consider how your culture’s dominant group maintains its own cohesion and tries to neutralize/co-opt/punish anyone who might try to buck the system.

    This comes to my mind because at the end of “The Gate to Women’s Country”, the reader discovers that the whole social structure is a massive conspiracy, set up by the leadership class among the women, in order to advance their eugenics program. It seemed to me, when I read the book, that this was a very fragile setup, because anyone who knew the truth could foment a revolution simply by spilling the beans.

    Of course, the flip side to maintaining cohesion among the elite is encouraging division among the oppressed.

    (PS: in the early 1970s, a number of cheesy SF novels appeared whose themes were along the lines of “if Teh Feminist Movement succeeds, then Women Will Rule Men [or Women Will Eliminate Men], leading to the End Of Civilization As We Know It”.)

  14. Lee Killough’s not-a-discrimiflip novel A Voice Out of Rama has a set-up where human colonists discover soon after landing on a new world that there’s a local disease that is death on wheels for most men. Enough men survive that humans do not die out but few enough that they get treated as pampered treasures too important to do anything but run stuff; women are the only one allowed to do active, potentially dangerous things. Centuries later, a star ship shows up to discover the disease (1) is still around. The surviving member of the ground team gets to find the answer to “if the only men who survive to father children are the ones who have a proven immunity to the disease, how is it most of the boys are still dying at puberty?” And while there could be several answers to that, the one that happens to be true is [tor13 for big spoilers] Gur zra ner nyy vzzhar gb gur qvfrnfr. Gur cevrfgf enaqbzyl cbvfba 90% bs gur oblf ng choregl gb znvagnva gur fbpvny fgehpgher.

    1: Which might have been a weapon a now-extinct previous civilization came up with to put the boots to their enemies. It’s been a long time since I read the book

    Nora edit: I think James meant to say rot13, which is this.

  15. Forgot to add: the reason the secret gets kept is that only a handful of people know it and their social position is dependent on it not getting out. Plus, you know, clergy are always lawful evil.

  16. James, yeah, I’ve read a lot of gender flips that posited a mankiller disease; I went through a femSF phase when I was younger. Still reading Ooku, by my favorite mangaka YOSHINAGA Fumi, set in Tokugawa Japan several decades after such a disease has altered its society entirely, and focusing on men in the (female) shogun’s harem. Ooku’s one of the better examples of a flip, now that I think of it.

  17. This may be a little far-reaching, but Cherryh’s Chanur series deals with a gender-flip rather well, by using a non-human race rather than positing some kind of human disaster.

    In her universe, the Chanur (a feline species) send their females out to explore space, trade, and otherwise support the household or pride; the male’s job (and there’s only one adult male per household) is to basically look good, hunt, father children and occasionally fight with other males. In one of the novels, the former head of the protagonist’s household (who lost his place to a younger rival) is allowed to travel with the otherwise female crew of the spaceship; this is considered a huge problem, because everyone knows males are too temperamental and skittish to handle space travel, not to mention do any kind of meaningful work.

    I remember liking the novels because Cherryh showed how almost everyone, including the males, buys into the gender assumptions of the culture until it becomes slowly apparent that it is just an assumption.

  18. I am embarrassed to admit I have yet to see the Ooku.

    Chanur are basically lions as imagined circa 1985, right? So the men are pretty and lazy (the odd moment of brutal violence aside) and the women do all the work. If you like that, you may want to check Ore’s Human series.

    There’s an early Joan Vinge story where it turns out space handwavium prevents men from being star ship crews; they only travel as cargo. As I recall, men react to this by embracing exaggerated masculine activities (killing each other, basically) but I have to wonder if, given the examples of other occupations dominated by women, what would have actually happened is the men collectively would have decided space travel is girl stuff and beneath their dignity.

  19. Have you read LeGuin’s Four Ways to Forgiveness? It’s part of her Hainish cycle and it’s a collection of long short stories/novellas about a slave rebellion and its aftermath. The slave-owners were black. But that was sort of background to the stories – it would have worked if the colors were as they were in the US, or if the racial differences were nonexistent or subtle. The stories were more a discussion of what freedom is and how people respond to oppression and the end of oppression, be they the oppressed, the oppressors, or outside observers. It’s very well done, but not always comfortable reading. Of course, given the subject matter, it *shouldn’t* be.

  20. My favorite discrimiflip comes from fanfiction (can I talk about fanfic here?) – in the Stargate:Atlantis fandom there were a lot of stories exploring how if one of the main characters were gay, that would interact with his (canonical) military career – maybe he’d be closeted, maybe he’d be able to come out if DADT were repealed, stuff like that. Siegeofangels inverted this beautifully in a story, “If You Want To Kiss The Sky”, where the military practices “fraternitas”, compulsory homosexual activity for social bonding – and our main character is straight.

    For me, it worked because the worldbuilding was interesting to me, all the little details about how the system works and why, and because the main point of the story wasn’t really about the system, it was the shipping (that even in this weird backwards universe, main character would still form a special relationship with other-main-character, just, in this case, the special thing might be that they *didn’t* have sex instead of that they did). It’s possible that if I had read a profic story with a similar premise in a pro SF magazine, say, I would have worried that the author thought that icky mandatory homosexuality was really the gay secret agenda or something; in the context of slash fandom, it seemed obvious to me that it was playing with the gay-in-the-military tropes out of creativity, not homophobia.

  21. I could not get past the first 5 pages of Farnam’s Freehold, what with the father perving on the son’s girlfriend with (IIRC) his sick wife right there! My previous experience with Time enough for love indicated that he might end up with her and flipping to the middle, yes he did! I could not touch Heinlein after that despite liking his juveniles, especially Podkyne of Mars.

    I read a couple of discrim flips by Edmund Cooper, I find him puzzling for despite women being strong and capable characters in his other books he is reputedly very very sexist in real life. Who Needs Men? and Five to Twelve. One of them featured a scene with male and female roles switched at a bar and i remember thinking at the time that if this were filmed maybe men would get why this behaviour is scary. I read them a while ago and i remember liking them up until the end.

  22. Octavia Butler seemed to be doing some *very* interesting things with this in her final novel, which looks (to me, anyway) like it was intended to be the 1st in a potentially promising series.

    That LeGuin story: I don’t think she pulled it off; a lot of her more recent writing has a polemical aspect to it that just does *not* work and seems very artificial. (Thinking of her most recent story collections, though I can’t recall the titles…)

    As for Heinlein: yikes!!! I tried reading one of his books when I was in my early teens and have never touched another … that was several decades ago.

  23. I read Farnham’s Freehold when I was a young teenager in the 1960s, and it creeped me out then. If people are recommending it now, yikes.

    Heinlein was popular because he was a good story-teller. But as a thinker, he was a crank, a crackpot, and a flat-out fool.

  24. […] what with the father perving on the son’s girlfriend with (IIRC) his sick wife right there!

    An ex-wife who sure seems to be based on Heinlein’s second ex-wife, Leslyn.

  25. That said, writing people with whom one has a disagreement into one’s fiction as an antagonist is a time-honoured tradition. As I recall, the first victim in the Kinsey Milhone books was based on the author’s ex-husband and of course David Drake has featured many, many unpleasant people named Charles Platt in his books over the years.

  26. I recently tried to read Foyt’s kerfuffle. I’ve tried to be really objective about it. The more I read the more difficult that has become. When I downloaded the sample from Amazon (before I was given a complete copy) I came upon a couple of other books that were deemed “similar”. One of them was Noughts and Crosses the other was Tankborn by Sandler. I downloaded a sample of Tankborn. My intention was to check it out as a book for my youngest daughter to read. I ended up purchasing the book. It’s pretty good and confronts issues more subtle and far reaching than even race such as class. Besides the obvious, Foyt’s book isn’t well written. The prose is mediocre at best in addition to the juvenile manner in which she chose to handle the issues of race and racism in this book.
    I agree that the flip can be done but I think that this is quite difficult to do with finesse and sensitivity. Apparently Foyt doesn’t have the chops for this. I’m still hesitant to call her a racist because I think that comes with a certain degree of intent. I’ll be the first to admit that it is difficult for me, despite the experiences I’ve had as a woman of color and a Muslim to come to the seemingly inevitable conclusion that Foyt is racist. Is this denial on my part? It very well could be. It’s just too annoying and too painful to look the truth in the face…or the blackface videos. BLACKFACE??? What did she intend?
    That said, you laid this out, the solution to writing this type of literature and whether it is a wise thing to do in a manner far more eloquent than I ever could have. Kudos and thanks for this post.
    I suppose my question is this: Now that the horse is out of the stall, what should Foyt do now? Let the beast run free or put it in the corral with a heavy duty lock on the door?

  27. This post is very relevant to my interests right now, because I’ve been doing a bit of world creation for a game, and country upon which the game is centered is matriarchal. I’m a woman, so privilege isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a problem, but one thing I’ve noticed is how much praise I’ve been showered with by male players for giving said country flaws and issues. What did they expect, Herland? That kind of writing had its place in its time – back when it was common “knowledge” that women couldn’t succeed outside the domestic sphere and needed men’s help for basically everything – but I don’t think it’s terribly relevant now. All human beings are flawed, and they all take advantage of people over whom they have power (women might be disadvantaged through gender, but this can be readily seen through white women, able-bodied women, straight women, etc.) A feminist by definition seeks equality, so a matriarchy is just as dystopic as a patriarchy… right?

    Still, their keen interest in those flaws and palpable relief when said country possessed them really brought home how cathartic discrimflips can be for members of a privileged class. The notion that “you’d be just as bad as we are; ergo, it’s totally okay for us to be horrible” must be comforting. Hence we get shit like the drow from Dungeons and Dragons (matriarchal, dark skinned elves who are evil to the core).

  28. I think AoL was thinking of George Schuyler, who wrote at least two interesting books, one of which, “Black No More”, I remember as being a brilliant examination of the economic background of racism and the connection between racist and economic oppression, and the other of which, “Black Empire”, is a very strange, very problematic (well the other one has a lot of issues too) speculative novel about a pan-african state. I sadly don’t remember either book very well.

  29. Just now came across this. I’ve been wracking my brains to come up with something similar but you did it far, far better. Thanks for putting it together!

  30. I ran screaming from most of Heinlein and still do. Some of 1970s ‘women running things – it’ll be great and oh by the way we’ll have ponies’ were probably necessary at the time but are more than somewhat cringeworthy now. The matriarchies I’ve personally generated, which aren’t always particularly pleasant, are based on experience in working in all-women organisations and are hopefully mixed in terms of reasonable behaviour/appalling behaviour within a cultural context which is not our own. I’d prefer to reflect complexity if possible and may not always succeed. Also, anyone expecting me to reflect a particular ideology is probably doomed to disappointment.

  31. Oh ugh, Heinlein is AWFUL. He gives me a stomach ache. Feelin’ for you, and I haven’t even read that one.

  32. This is interesting to me for quite a different reason than most of the commenters so far (good comments, incidentally). I’m a straight middle-aged middle-class white guy, so to have any more hegemony I’d have to be dead, but I have just enough sense to try to at least examine my own privelege and switch things up a bit in my fiction. (While also trying not to fall into a position which boils down to guilt for every bad action of everyone who ever resembled me demographically.)
    So the humans – all the humans – in my fantasy setting are dark-haired, dark-eyed, more-or-less dark-skinned people, in part because most humans actually are and it’s the pigmentless ones who are the oddity. Their situation is kind of post-colonial, because the elves (you know, those funny-looking pale people) kidnapped them centuries ago from another world to be their slaves, and now that the Elvish Empire has folded the humans are in charge and figuring out what that means exactly.
    One thing the elves had right, though, is that they practiced complete equal opportunity as far as gender is concerned, so a ruler, for example, is equally likely to be male or female. At the same time, the dwarves, who are industrialist oppressors of the gnome working class, have very strongly defined gender roles, and while they’re informally matriarchal they express this in part by overprotecting women and forbidding them to go outside. Some of the younger women aren’t happy about that and are doing something about it.
    And so forth. Because I do come from a position of privelege, I’m probably not getting much of it right, whatever that means, but hopefully the attempt will mean something to someone.
    And, of course, all of these people are people. There’s no Dark Lord, there are no “evil races”, just people and other kinds of people, all of whom are capable of both good and bad actions and attitudes.

  33. I thought Noughts and Crosses was very good, although for me it moved a bit quickly towards trying to tear down the society it created (I think this is much more about my reading preferences than her book!). I certainly don’t think the concept should be off the table but, as you say, authors need to think about why they’re doing it and what is the actual message the reader will end up with.

    (On a slight tangent – about three years ago I picked up a book in a bookstore in another country. IIRC, it was a flip of those books in which comfortable but somehow not happy white Westeners discover their true selves and inner contentment by travelling to poorer, less privileged countries; it was about a black African man (I think from a rural village) taking his family to one of the industrial towns in Britain in an attempt to work out what was missing from his life. I think his wife starts fat acceptance classes for the locals, which are a huge hit. The whole thing was very much satire. Despite random Google searches I have been unable to track it down again, so I will optimistically leave this here in case one of your other readers knows it)

  34. You might enjoy reading Gerd Brantenberg’s novel “Egalia’s Daughters”, which is a satire of sex and gender roles. A lot of the appeal of the book is from Brantenberg’s thoroughness and attention to detail; she really succeeds in inverting almost everything.

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