English Language and Literature
Åbo Akademi University
Confrontations between masculine and feminine in C.L. Moore’s speculative fiction
This paper explores encounters between the masculine and the feminine in C.L. Moore’s short fiction, in particular her two early stories Scarlet Dream (1934) and Black God’s Kiss (1933), as well as other key texts as necessary. In the stories discussed here, these encounters are portrayed as journeys into other worlds, or the intrusion of the alien element to the world that we know. The masculine is represented by and rooted in the everyday ‘reality’, in which the feminine is the trespasser or transgressor. If the story entails a journey into an alien world, this world in turn represents the feminine.
C.L. Moore (1911-1987) wrote speculative fiction where the boundary between science fiction and fantasy is often so blurred that the texts cannot be classified as one or the other. Her stories, written from the 1930s through the 1950s, discuss themes related to alterity and gender differences through often complex and overlapping metaphors, of which these alien worlds are one.
The feminine universe is never completely separate from the everyday reality, which in turn is revealed as porous and tenuous at best. The feminine can be reached, or intrude upon the masculine through concrete portals or through encounters with characters from the other side; these characters are usually female and the encounters in question somehow sexual or erotic.
The masculine is orderly, predictable, and subject to rules. The feminine, on the other hand, is portrayed as chaotic, surreal and unpredictable, something fundamentally different from the masculine that within the masculine framework. When the feminine bleeds into the masculine order, it simply cannot appear as other than grotesque or monstrous. However, the feminine is not necessarily malicious. It merely appears so to the majority of the male characters who wish to enter it. To feminine characters it is as often a potential source of empowerment.
The stories examined here are cases in point. They both depict journeys into the feminine, but the outcomes of these tales are very different due to the gender of the protagonist. What is crucial about these texts is that the feminine and the masculine are at almost constant odds, vying for supremacy.But while the masculine appears to prevail and the status quo remains, the feminine is never completely defeated. It remains in the shadows, and for every portal closed another opens. In her stories, Moore creates a fictional universe that spans much of her writing and which contains numerous encounters with the feminine. The feminine is seen as something suppressed, but powerful and vengeful and waiting for an opportunity to strike. This could arguably be interpreted as a reflection of the status of feminist thought during the period between the first and second waves of feminism.
This paper is based on my forthcoming (2013-2014) doctoral dissertation on varieties of alterity and depictions of the Other in the speculative fiction of C.L. Moore.
alternate worlds, alternate dimensions, C.L. Moore, feminism, feminine, masculine, the Other, the sublime
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