Alternative Masculinities in Feminist Speculative Fiction: A New Man traces efforts within American feminist utopias to imagine healthier conceptions of manhood. As this analysis illuminates, feminist works envisioning the improved society and its attending masculinities constitute an overlooked site for mining new masculinities. During the years in which such utopias gained popularity —the early 1970s to the mid-2010s—these novels grew more complex, challenging essentialist conceptions of masculinity and female experience. These texts vary in their focus but share an interest in replacing patriarchal masculinities with an alternative informed by second wave and intersectional feminism. This book analyzes the centrality of alternative masculinities to these ideal societies and the ways feminist writers present new conceptions of manhood pivotal to discussions surrounding the ongoing crisis of American masculinity.
Michael Pitts is assistant professor at the University of South Bohemia.
Chapter 1: Recovering Men in Dorothy Bryant’s The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You
Chapter 2: Precarious Masculinities in Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed
Chapter 3: Complicating Manhood in Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time
Chapter 4: Masculinity Crossing Borders in Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood
Chapter 5: “This is the Way a New World Begins”: Revolutionary Masculinities in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy
About the Author
Michael Pitts’s Alternative Masculinities in Feminist Speculative Fiction is a book that needed to be written. It sheds light on a body of work underappreciated for its critique of hegemonic masculinity and its effects on society. Pitts traces the development of this critique over several decades as it evolves along with feminist discourse, becoming more intersectional and historically situated…. Alternative Masculinities in Feminist Speculative Fiction provides a much-needed exposition of the important work that these writers produced about types of masculinity. It traces the evolution of a critique that reimagines masculinities, estranging the performance of manhood as only sf allows. It also maps the ways in which feminist discourse has become more inclusive and intersectional since the publication of Bryant’s novel in 1971. It is a valuable addition to masculinity studies that presents alternatives for the future of gender performance and the effects of masculinity on women.
Returning to the feminist classics—stories by Octavia E. Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, Marge Piercy, and Dorothy Bryant—Michael Pitts finds a whole new dimension of meaning in their exploration of masculinity. Together with the recent work of N. K. Jemisin, these are the laboratories in which alternatives to toxic masculinity are proposed and tested in the social science thought-experiments of science fiction. Pitts’s work is thoughtful, theoretically sophisticated, and a pleasure to read.
This book is an original and compelling analysis of how major women science fiction writers critique traditional masculinities and posit alternatives. Alternative Masculinities in Feminist Speculative Fiction: A New Man is an important contribution to science fiction scholarship and gender studies that is also fun to read.
In this important and timely work, Pitts elegantly expands the narrative of feminist utopias to include a critical discussion of masculinities. This book not only offers rich new readings of Marge Piercy, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Octavia Butler, stalwarts of the genre, but also critically engages with the works of Dorothy Bryant, typically overlooked by scholarship, and N. K. Jemisin, arguably the most exciting new voice in the field. In his journey through these novels, Pitts traces a literary thread that imagines redemptive alternatives to patriarchy through an array of masculinities. Indeed, by de-marginalizing alternative performances of manhood, Alternative Masculinities in Feminist Speculative Fiction allows for a cautious but distinct and very welcome optimism.