Monday, February 20, 2012

Stories for Men, by John Kessel

Just finished Stories for Men by John Kessel, which got a Nebula nomination in 2003.  It's part of his The Baum Plan for Financial Independence And Other Stories collection.  I've taken to pigeon-holing these stories, which is more useful than its reputation sounds--there are only so many story themes, and it can be good to know what you will get.  This one falls into the Morality Plan pigeon-hole, and it's a really good one.  The Men's Movement was a big deal in the '90s and I studied it then.  This story takes feminist utopia/dystopias, the Men's Movement and ordinary humans and stirs it into a very challenging mix.  Our protagonist, Endo, is a man in a matriarchal moon colony.  Men are the petted creatures without rights, and most that have stayed are happy with it.  A few, now represented by "comedian" Tyler Durden, are not.  They hark back to the warrior code, defending the weak, etc.  Endo is fully torn between what he sees as the rightness of men's grievances vs. the evils the matriarchal society was set up to overcome.  The story is gripping all the way through.  And threaded through it is a 1936 issue of Stories for Men, defining the warrior ethic as it was seen in pre-war America. 

We have come further since then.  In the past 20 years I believe we have all become more comfortable with difference, and with the notion that we need both male and female energies to survive.  This story is a powerful reminder to protesters, that they not let the means of expression make the accusations of oppressors true.  4 stars.

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