3 Following

Inspired by Science

I blog on katerauner.wordpress.com/ about the science that inspires my novels and poems. I read a lot of non-fiction, too.

Herland - Novel from the turn of the last century

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


This book caught my eye in my library's electronic collection. As I started to read, I thought "this author really has mastered that old-fashioned style of writing." No wonder! The book was first published in 1915.

Herland is a utopia, where a nation of women-only is visited by three American men. It contains many of the unlikely anachronisms you'd expect: a large agricultural nation exists in secret in South America, on their journey there the men encounter "savages", and the women are Caucasian (!)

The book is heavy on descriptions and the history of the women's utopia, with occasional action instigated by the visiting men. As the author writes, "if the people who read it are not interested in these amazing women and their history, they will not be interested at all... there were no adventures because there was nothing to fight." It is fun to see some of the things the author feels are needed for a perfect society: cats that only catch mice and never birds, wonderful orchards, and practical clothes with lots of pockets, perhaps a reaction against the "Oriental opulence" fashion of her time. (I have a male friend who claims female authors always spend way too much time describing clothes.) The women are "not, in the girl sense, beautiful... [they are] calm, grave, wise, wholly unafraid, evidently assured and determined." You may be curious to see how the author manages to provide children for her utopia without men.

This might get tedious in a long book, but Herland is only 139 pages. As Wikipedia says, "science fiction developed and boomed in the 20th century." This may not be your favorite book of the year, but it is an interesting alternative to the pulp sensationalism I usually associate with early science fiction.