Category Archives: Blog post 1
My research looks for links between Sally Miller Gearhart and the Lesbian Utopian communities in Southern Oregon. The first place this took me to in the University of Oregon Archives was Gearhart’s correspondence. Letters in that collection range from fan mail to personal, to professional, and it was one of these professional letters that caught my eye.
An abortion advocacy group had written her asking for support and her response is both humorous and highly critical. She asks the semi-rhetorical question of why should she support these women who need abortions, since their need for abortions is caused by relations with men, the cause of suffering for her, as a lesbian, and so many other women? She goes on to her only slightly jesting proposition that feminist-minded woman should stop having sex with men.
This was enough to give me pause, as I believe she intended. Gearhart goes on to explain how it would disrupt the gender/power relationship in the current status quo, and, in one statement very true to her identity as a lesbian woman, she makes an offhand comment that the only real reason to have sex with a man is for the purpose of reproduction, making abortion all but unnecessary. Everything else can be fulfilled individually or with another woman.
Her idea and letter draw many parallels in my mind to “The Matter of Seggri” by Ursula Le Guin. It will be interesting to continue to learn how many minds built this idea and community of feminist science fiction.
Sally Miller Gearhart Papers, Coll 305, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.
Although many of the letters between Samuel R. Delany and Joanna Russ range in topic from quotidian events to discussions about queer theory and literature, a few are pure gossip.
Delany goes on at length in one 1971 letter to Russ about a dinner party he was a guest at, detailing the strange personalities of everyone in attendance. These comments (though sometimes factual and enlightening, like the person’s name and occupation) often steer into scathing critiques of manners, eating habits, and conversations. Nothing is ever too biting and Delany never comes off as cruel, but he has a knack for describing personalities with a laser beam-like approach.
In another letter, the pair discuss a recent article about Ursula K. Le Guin. The author of the article explains Le Guin’s extreme liberalism and how it is reflected in her literary work. It also outlines the way that Le Guin has steered Science Fiction writing back towards utopian settings. Russ, Delany, and the article author all seem to agree that utopian fiction is a fad that has passed and Le Guin’s resurrection of a failing genre is an annoying retread of old topics, albeit with new conclusions regarding feminism, lesbianism, and anarchism. Delany, the writer of this letter, seems to admire Le Guin from afar, although it seems he doesn’t know her personally. (Especially because he always seems to have an anecdote about everyone in his letters—No one is simply ‘Joe,’ they’re more like ‘beautiful, blond-haired Joe with the beautiful, blonde-haired wife.’)