Abject creatures in all the worlds of men
Polk, Liam Milton Oliver
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This paper examines the treatment of non-binary, intersex, and otherwise gender non-conforming people within science fiction, using a sampling of four narratives: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy, Melissa Scott’s Shadow Man, and Ian McDonald’s River of Gods. Through careful consideration of the similarities and differences between portrayals and treatments of such characters within these narratives, this paper seeks to illuminate a troubling trend within the genre of science fiction: the inability of the genre to conceive of cultures in which non-binary, intersex, and otherwise gender non-conforming individuals can be allowed recognition and basic humanity. By analyzing these narratives in succession according to publication date, the paper further contemplates an apparent increase in pessimism regarding societal acceptance of gender non-conformance that parallels increased Western consciousness of transgender issues and real-world discrimination against transgender individuals.