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Performing the technologies of gender: representations of television in science fiction by women.

ICFA Guest Scholar Address 2007

In her essay, "technologies of gender," teresa de lauretis theorized that gender, "both as representation and as self-representation," is not only a "product ... of institutionalized discourses" but also "of various social technologies, such as cinema" (2). In this essay, I argue that in the pulp magazines and succeeding science fiction, women writers have literalized this connection through the depiction of television as a technology of gender. I examine short stories by Clare Winger Harris, C. L. Moore, and James Tiptree, Jr. (a pseudonym for Alice Sheldon), as well as the later feminist sf film, Making Mr. Right, directed by Susan Seidelman, and Melissa Scott's novel, The Kindly Ones, placing them in the dual contexts of the historical development of television and the history of women's science fiction and its representation of gender. (1) In these science fictions by women, ideologies of gender are literalized in descriptions of television as an apparatus that constructs gender through representing it. (2)

The first science fiction story by a woman in the pulp science fiction magazines, Clare Winger Harris's "The Fate of the Poseidonia," published in 1927, featured the new device. Television, "the electrical transmission and reception of transient visual images" (Abramson, "Invention" 13), dependent on the brain's fooling itself with "persistence of vision" (Burns 63), was the result of a nineteenth-century hope for a communication device such as the telegraph or telephone extended to visual representation--like today's cell phone rather than today's television. The information about this new invention may have come to Harris through the editor, Hugo Gernsback, who sponsored the contest that her story won: "In December 1923, [Charles Francis] Jenkins demonstrated his television apparatus separately to Hugo Gernsback, editor of Radio News, and Watson Davis, editor of Popular Radio" (Abramson, "Invention" 19). Newspapers across the United States reported Charles Jenkins's further success in June 1925, in transmitting an image of a windmill from Anacostia, Maryland, five miles, to Washington, DC (Abramson, "Invention" 22), and American Telephone and Telegraph Company's public demonstration on April 7, 1927, transmitting a program from Washington, DC to New York City (Abramson, "Invention" 23). Harris's story was published two months later.

While Gernsback may have been influenced in choosing the story as a contest winner because of its use of television, Harris herself deploys television not to celebrate the progress of science, but rather to frame her tale and to represent the technologies of gender as her generation constructed them. Harris's prize-winning science fiction recounts a tale of a discarded boyfriend, George Gregory, who is suspicious of his ex-girlfriend's new male escort, Martell, so that eventually Gregory eavesdrops on Martell only to find that he is using a device to communicate with other aliens in a plot to steal water from Earth for Mars.

The whole story is obsessed with the visual technologies of the twentieth century: it opens with a lantern-slide show of views of Mars (a parlor entertainment popularized during the 1890s). This program frames Mars as a culture inferior to Gregory's Earth: "the telescopic eye, when turned on Mars, sees a waning world" (246). Martell strikes George as utterly alien, and to us readers, the name indicates again Harris's anxiety about new communication devices: Mar-tell, a charactonym, suggests the alien's duplicitous character and his possession of dangerous communication technology. When George peers into Martell's apartment through a keyhole, he sees the alien using a weird instrument, perhaps "a newfangled radio that communicated with the spirit world" (247).

The story is set in a future where television has been "in use for a generation, but," George reflects, "as yet no instrument had been invented which delivered messages from the 'unknown bourne'!" (247). After seeing the Martian using the new device, George calls Margaret by telephone to warn her (again, a relatively new communication device in the 1920s), but she refuses to heed his warning. George's premonition that the Martian is up to no good proves true. Several months later, "Radios buzzed with alarm ... news that just over night the ocean had receded several feet" (248). The 1920s had seen the rise of radio broadcasting (Marc and Thompson 37), and George's association of radio with bad news again indicates Harris's anxiety about the developing technologies of communication. What George views as radio, though, is not the mechanism of the 1920s, but instead, a device that beams "brief news bulletins and ... scenic flashes of worldly affairs" (248), a device like early television, which broadcast a series of still pictures with voice overlay.

Still suspicious of his alien neighbor, George takes advantage of Martell's absence to sneak into his apartment and test the foreign apparatus, seeing other aliens in Germany, Turkey, and two other countries. On the last station, George views red cliffs, a small sun, and two moons--enough to convince himself that Martell's mechanism truly is an "infernal television" (250); he also witnesses the landing on Mars of the first fleet carrying water stolen from Earth. Within the story, the alien others, associated with countries that United States white populations feared immigration from, are framed by the television screen, distancing them from the surrounding white culture. The Martians' red skin, crests of feathers, and intense eyes recall historic depictions of Native Americans as noble aliens. (3)

At the climax of the story, George learns that an ocean liner that carried Margaret and her parents was captured by alien airships and transported to Mars, killing all aboard. George, meanwhile, has been incarcerated in a mental asylum for his paranoia, but the alien television is sent to him there by Martell. In his cell he sees that water flows again on Mars, and Margaret--the only human saved by Martell--comes on the screen to tell George, "Do not mourn for me ..., for I shall take up the thread of life anew among these strange but beautiful surroundings" (267). The technology again distances the speaker from the listener--this time in terms of gender rather than race. A fairly conservative writer, Harris depicts the construction of femininity as a technology, but does not question it: framed by the alien landscape and the alien machine, Margaret enacts the victimized femininity of many nineteenth-century novels, the woman sacrificed to an alien masculinity.

Like the "women in frames" that Pat Simon discusses in Renaissance portraiture, the television that Harris imagines correlates with a "display culture," one where "others" are separated from dominant white male culture and women are "confined" in domestic situations and marriage (Simon 9). George regrets Margaret's loss not as friend, but as possession: he is angry that the Martian wins "victory," that Martell has "borne away trophies of our [Terran] civilization" (Harris 267)--including Margaret. Ironically, then, Margaret Landon, framed by the television screen at the end of the story, finally achieves agency by losing it. She has her adventure, flies to Mars, but ends in the same position she would have inhabited had she stayed at home and married the jealous George Gregory: she is on display. Harris's deployment of television thus signals the construction of femininity as display and sacrifice.

During the 1920s, the "visual wireless" (Wyver 56-59) took a leap forward. But inventors and entrepreneurs were able to imagine a different role for television in entertainment partially because of the success of radio: the 1920s developed public broadcast radio, from 60,000 households in 1922 to 14 million in 1930 (Marc and Thompson 37). In Schenectady, New York, in May 1930, a movie theater received a large-screen television broadcast, and two years later, John Logie Baird in England "transmitted the 1932 Derby live to the Metropole Cinema" and "theatre television" was born (Wyver 55).

C. L. Moore's story, "No Woman Born," published in 1944, is staged in the context of this new use of visual technology. In 1936, the first English and German television services were instituted (Abramson, "Invention" 30). By 1939, RCA offered entertainment television transmission at the World's Fair in New York (Wyver 63; Burns 559) with performances in vaudeville, drama, opera, and "how-to demonstrations" (Wyver 63), and in 1941, commercial television services began in the United States (Abramson, "Invention" 31). Even earlier, by 1932, there were several experimental stations with limited range that broadcast moving pictures--including one at Purdue University in Indiana (Burns 296). Perhaps Moore, who grew up in Indiana, had seen or read about this experiment. (4)

In one of the first cultural studies of television, Raymond Williams examines "the relationship between television as a technology and television as a cultural form" (xiv). In "No Woman Born," Moore explores what happens to humans who inhabit those new cultural forms.

Moore uses the new technology of television to frame her story, the first sentence reading, "She had been the loveliest creature whose image ever moved along the airways" (200). At the opening of the story, Deirdre--singer, dancer, and diva--has been destroyed by fire, and the only remnant of this beauty is the occasional "maudlin memorial program [that] flashed her image unexpectedly across the television screen" (200). The television that Deirdre inhabits, though, is an extrapolation into the future for Moore, living in the US of 1944, where television had been discontinued to concentrate on the war effort and development of radar. Moreover, Moore's future imagines television in terms of the radio broadcast industry, as a global phenomenon: "other actresses had been lovely and adulated, but never before Deirdre had the entire world been able to take one woman so wholly to its heart" (200). That global adulation is made possible by technology: "Deirdre's image had once moved glowingly across the television screens of every home in the civilized world"--even beyond those homes into jungle huts and desert tents, so that "The whole world knew every smooth motion of her body and every cadence of her voice" (200). In these descriptions that open her story, Moore thus intertwines the erotics of female gender and the cultural forms enabled by the new technology.

In another age, Deirdre would have perished in the fire, but in this future her brain is saved, and she becomes the first human to be salvaged through an entirely prosthetic body: the technology is a result of "the secret collaboration of artists, sculptors, designers, scientists, and the genius of Maltzer governing them all as an orchestra conductor governs his players" (202). We enter the story at the point where Deirdre has painfully gone through physical therapy to learn to use her new body and her insistence on returning to her former career has precipitated a crisis of faith for the men in her life, the scientist Maltzer (linked to Deirdre in an "unimaginable marriage" [203]), and her agent, Harris, from whose point of view the story is recounted.

The story asks whether Deirdre, reconstructed by science, is a Frankenstein monster, inhuman because unfeminine. The story also asks whether television, constructed by science as an illusion of human movement and artistry, is monstrous, inhuman because a copy, no longer immediate and immanent. When Harris asks "What metal shape could possibly do more than house ungraciously the mind and brain that had once enchanted the whole world?" (205), the question might be applied to the move from live theater to televised performance, as well as the move from live woman to cyborg.

Though never explicitly naming it, Moore's story also plays with the conception of "persistence of vision" required for moving picture and television technology. (5) When Harris first sees Deirdre, he sees her as a collection of "metal coils" (205); but "Then the machinery moved" and "Illusion steadied and became factual" (205)--Deirdre is constructed through her movement, just as televisual pictures are for the human eye. Loss of her mobile features meant that she could not "be" the former Deirdre through normal visual means; but "motion is the basis of recognition, after physical likeness" (209), Deirdre explains, and so she could be recreated through self-parody, through learning how to move the robot body as she had moved her human body. (6) To do so, ironically, Maltzer "had studied many film records of her ... but this thing he had made was a copy only" (244). (7)

The crisis that Deirdre presents for the men, though, is characterized in terms both of television and gender: "she's going back on the air-screen," Maltzer moans (204). Maltzer fears that she will fail because she's lost three of her five senses, retaining only sight and sound, and so will be unable to connect to the live audience (219). But television, too, has this relationship to theater--the screen in the home also supplies only sight and sound. Maltzer is wrong in his prediction. Despite her incongruous performance of an inhuman dance (223) and womanly laughter (224), the audience responds--as always in performance--to the illusion: "The television screen trembled and blurred a little to the volume of the transmitted applause" (225).

However, Maltzer is also afraid of Deirdre because, to him, she is no longer a woman: "She's still Deirdre. In a way she's still beautiful" (204), he says, but "She hasn't any sex. She isn't female any more" (218). Performing her sexuality through her metal body, on the television screen, Deirdre seems to Maltzer to be merely "grotesque" (203). From the story's point of view, however, Deirdre's performance rather suggests, as Judith Butler argues, that all sexuality is performance. Indeed, Deirdre is aware she is performing: she demonstrates her humanity by smoking a cigarette, a robot who no longer even has a mouth, then laughs at the men who are taken in by the illusion by her acting (236).

Moore's story is thus a contemplation of the effects of the new technology and its cultural forms on the audience, and especially on gender. Harris's ambivalent judgment of Deirdre's performance as on the line between human and technological asks the audience to consider whether televised performance broadcasts the original to the world; reformulates the original as a bad copy, "a withdrawal to metal-hood" (232), missing three of the senses and gendered identity; or is a new art form, freeing humans from rigid identities to perform their genders--or not. When Harris calls the apartment the day after Deirdre's performance, "She blanked out almost before he had time to nod" (229). Harris's response--"He sat there staring at the screen" (229)--suggests he is overcome by anxiety at this mediation of gender through technology. Thus Moore's story also asks her audience whether gender is inherently part of identity or humanity, or, instead, a performance, a simulation: "the Deirdre he had always known.... He did not wonder, now, if it were real. Later he would think again that it might be only a disguise, something like a garment she had put off with her lost body, to wear again only when she chose" (236). Television in Moore's short story, then, is a technology that reproduces gender by broadcasting its performance, thus highlighting the technologies of performance that are in fact always necessary for the social construction of gender. Given this early story, it is especially ironic that C. L. Moore eventually worked regularly as a writer of television scripts (Stableford and Edwards 827).

In James Tiptree, Jr.'s "The Girl Who Was Plugged In," published in 1973 in Silverberg's New Dimensions, Alice Sheldon, who used the Tiptree pseudonym for much of her writing, satirizes what Raymond Williams calls "the global commercialisation of television" (38) by exposing how gender is technologically constructed to promote consumer capitalism. By the early 1950s, middle and low-income households in the United States were buying TVs on credit-three million were sold in the first six months of 1950 (Boddy in Smith 43). By 1960, only 13% of the United States population did not have access to television (Marc and Thompson 54). When commercial broadcasting in radio and TV won out over national control during the 1930s, Joe Spring points out, "the victory of private interests meant that advertising would have a major influence on national culture"; indeed, "Commercial broadcasting made the selling of products into an entertainment" (Spring 109). (8) According to Raymond Williams, television is commercial in several ways: "as the making of programmes for profit in a known market; as a channel for advertising; and as a cultural and political form directly shaped by and dependent on the norms of a capitalist society, selling both consumer goods and a 'way of life' based on them" (36-37).

Tiptree, like the other authors we have examined, frames her story with the technology of television: "one rotten girl" is watching "Her gods ... coming out of a store called Body East" (41), "A holocam bob[bing] above" (41-42). In this future, "holovision technology" has put "TV and radio in museums" and "the worldwide carrier field bounc[es] down from satellites, controlling communication and transport systems all over the globe" (42).

Depressed by her wretched life, P. Burke is talked into becoming a "waldo," to use her brain to operate, long-distance from a closet in an underground laboratory, by remote control through electrode connections, a body grown from fetal cells but lacking intelligence (46-47). In this way, Philadelphia Burke, one of "the ugly of the world" (42), becomes holo-star Delphi (47). As Delphi, Burke lives the life of a publicized consumer. In this near-future dystopia, Tiptree cynically imagines, after advertising was made illegal world-wide, companies do an end-run by paying beautiful people to shop and vacation around the globe, then featuring them on televised magazines that follow their lives, thus implicitly advertising the products and places they frequent. Through this means, Tiptree satirizes gender constructs as tied to consumer capitalism: P. Burke's job, as Delphi, "is just to do as they say. They'll show you what outfits to wear to parties, what suncars and viewers to buy" (50). Thus the traditional obedience of the ideal woman's gender role is exposed as tied in modern times to susceptibility to consumer coercion.

As the executives of GTX explain to her, the law against advertising prohibits any "display other than the legitimate use of the product, intended to promote its sale" (48), but these "Huckster Laws" actually are an "attempt to stamp out an essential social process" (49). Thus, P. Burke is convinced that she is rendering an important social service, trying out products, recommending only useful items to those who follow Delphi, and getting people to buy in order to support the economy: and so, "Delphi starts on a Euromarket shopping stave off social collapse" (53). Delphi consequently lives in "a world where advertising is banned and fifteen billion consumers are glued to their holocam shows" (53). Tiptree's future satirizes the commercialization of television: the programming that is marketed, the sponsorship of products even when the advertising is interwoven seamlessly with the entertainment, and the global influence of American capitalism through television.

Fainting because she refuses to take food or rest, Burke is ironically diagnosed as suffering from "self-alienation" (55). Thus the schizophrenic Burke is also a symbol for the modern woman. Her closeted self is controlling the brain while her alienated body devoted to self-adornment and revels is displayed for the holocam (56) in a cycle of consumption and promotion. The executives are ecstatic at her success: "The cold-fire dress sells half a million copies" and Delphi has "mass-pop potential" (57).

As a result, GTX features Delphi more often, moving her into an afternoon soap opera shot in a "Holocam total environment" where "actors can move freely without going off-register, and the whole scene ... will show up in the viewer's home in complete three-di" (57). These environments also have "automated inbuilt viewer feedback" with "real-time response-sensor readouts" of the audience (57), so that they can more effectively program their audiences, pumping "dreams of reality into the world's happy head" (58). But GTX hits a snag because Burke believes she is helping people and becomes a judge of what she consumes, refusing to promote products that do not meet her standards. Paul, the heir to GTX, underground filmmaker and protester of consumer exploitation (62), falls in love with Delphi, the perfect combination of dissenting voice and beautiful body. Safely supported by his father, immersed in the utopian world of his art, Paul can ineffectually voice his own political resistance: "They've got the whole world programmed! Total control of communication. They've got everybody's minds wired in to think what they show them and want what they give them and they give them what they're programmed to want" (64).

Paul kidnaps Delphi, sees she's wired, and tries to cut her controls, thinking the mindless body is the real Delphi. P. Burke escapes from her cabinet and rushes to Paul, but he is repulsed by her ugliness. Both Delphi and P. Burke perish, since once united, the two are a "cybersystem" (69) that cannot exist separated. Delphi is the idealized TV woman, performed by P. Burke, the monstrous real woman, struggling to become the ideal she can never be. With this schizophrenic vision of femininity, Tiptree exposes the ways in which gender is technologically constructed in a global television culture for consumer purposes: P. Burke dies, Delphi is reanimated under better control, and Paul chooses the boardroom where he can "radicalize the system" (74).

As Raymond Williams explains, and as Tiptree satirizes, television has become a social medium "in which needs and satisfactions are mediated, over a very wide range, in terms of commodities" (Williams 68). As a result, especially in game shows and reality shows, television "present[s] human beings and their detachable characteristics as commodities, either for purchase, or, more generally and more discreetly, for window-shopping" (69).

This scenario is made the basis of experimentation with feminist film form in Susan Seidelman's 1987 sf film, Making Mr. Right. In this film Seidelman tells the story of a PR consultant, Frankie Stone (with witty reference to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein), who is hired by ChemTec to promote a robot, Ulysses, so that Congress will make funds available for space exploration via android. Seidelman also frames her story through references to television and mass media, but playfully reverses the "male gaze" (9) of film to comment on the technological construction of gender--both masculine and feminine. (10)

With the move from 80% live TV in 1953 to 36% live TV in 1960, television programming also changed from mainly comedy-variety entertainment to mainly the TV sitcom and soap opera (Marc and Thompson 58, 68-69). Especially through the moon landing of 1969, "Television invited the world to assume a ceremonial attitude towards an ongoing event by framing a technological experiment as a symbolic occasion." (11) Indeed, in Making Mr. Right, the film quotes some of the famous newscasts covering space flight: the launching of the Ulysses android into space, like the initial satellite launches and the moon landing, are "The dawn of a new era," "broadcast live via satellite to over sixty countries."

In Making Mr. Right, the nature of gender is contested between Frankie Stone, the PR expert and a woman, and Dr. Jeff Peters, a man and the ChemTec scientist who developed the robot Ulysses. Stone argues that PR must appeal to the primarily female TV audience, and so the robot must be socialized into a caring, sensitive being; Peters argues that the robot must be left without socialization and human feelings in order to endure the isolation of space travel. At issue, here, of course, are gender roles--not only differing female and male perspectives on what it means to be human, but also differing perspectives on how to make Ulysses into the ideal Mr. Right.

The film self-consciously frames itself in terms of the mass media of television and newspapers and immediately exposes the technologies of gender. Making Mr. Right opens with Frankie watching a TV news report on Steve Marcus, her client and boyfriend, and a politician running for Senate who is judging a beauty pageant, busily constructing gender for his viewers by publicly desiring and patting the contestants. Frankie's anger is acted out in terms of the media: she shuts off the television, and throws his life-size cardboard campaign portrait out the window. The second scene follows Frankie driving to work, putting on her femininity--Making Ms. Right. While driving her convertible in downtown Miami, she puts on makeup and shaves her under-arms and legs, finally wiggling her bare feet into impossibly high heels. The juxtaposition of these two scenes suggests the television as a technology of gender: in order to compete with the beauty contestants as model, women must reform their bodies cosmetically.

Television in this movie is also a technology for constructing masculine gender. The beauty contestant's femininity is being constructed on TV, but the male politician's masculinity is also being constructed on TV, as dominant and desiring. The political slogan that Frankie has designed for Marcus is "It takes a man this sensitive to meet your needs"--an apt parody of the changing standards of masculinity for the New Man of the 1980s. (12) Masculinity is also constructed, though, through the use of television for science: ChemTec records the experiments with Ulysses; they make an advertizing film to show to Congressmen about the robot; and Ulysses and Dr. Peters use a TV simulator to practice space navigation. (13) These two uses of television to construct masculinity--public broadcasting and scientific experiment--merge at the end of the movie. As in the historic moon landing, in the movie television invites the public to assume a ceremonial attitude toward science--and a similar celebratory attitude toward triumphant masculinity in the obligatory phallic rocket shot.

But as Frankie lies in bed with a pint of ice cream, we watch the news on TV through her eyes: "Ulysses android launched into deep space." Over the communications line, a male TV journalist asks the supposed android, actually Dr. Peters, is it "difficult functioning out there all alone?" and Dr. Peters, technologically engineered as masculine, and therefore logical, fearful of emotions, replies, "No, you see, I'm not very good with people." While the TV constructs masculinity, the film by this sequence calls it into question.

Seidelman experiments with filmic form in order to satirize the construction of gender by the media as one of their consumer products: while the movie opens with the male gaze on the beauty contestants, it almost immediately wrenches power away from the traditional masculine camera point of view, reversing to a female gaze.

In her presentation to ChemTec executives, Frankie explains that women control much of the mass media, including the magazines that enter the household and the TV that is being watched. In an early scene where Frankie is helping to socialize Ulysses, she instructs him to watch the Phil Donahue talk show on which an audience of women is discussing how to find "Mr. Right." Moreover, Frankie tracks the success of her public relations campaign to make Ulysses popular with American women through newspapers and newscasts.

Frankie and Trish, her cousin, watch Trish's ex-boyfriend Donald on the soap New Jersey: instead of the usual male gaze (alluded to by the French maid costume of one of the soap opera characters), the camera gaze is female, tracking Donald's movements, zooming in on his chest hair. The slogan for the soap opera reinforces the message of gender construction, New Jersey is "not just a state, it's a state of mind." Indeed, the use of "space-off"--"the space not visible in the frame but inferable from what the frame makes visible" (de Lauretis 26)--reminds us that the scenes from New Jersey are merely fictions, for the benefit of the female audience who comment lewdly off-camera.

Seidelman not only references the female gaze in depictions of television, but also employs it herself. While the tradition of the male gaze generally dictates naked women but not naked men, in this film we get a naked back shot of John Malkovich as Ulysses in a clothing store that reverses the gaze in the beauty pageant. But none of the women undresses for the camera. In a sly detail of setting that reinforces the female gaze, holding up the covered entrance of the hotel where the wedding reception is held are Atlases--statues not of lithe women but of shirtless men with body-builder muscles.

Obsessively, the camera shoots from behind Frankie in order to establish the camera viewpoint as female: we watch Steve the philandering politician through Frankie's eyes, and so judge him; we watch Dr. Peters, the cold and socially inept scientist through Frankie's eyes, and so judge him; we see Ulysses as broken and vulnerable and so attractive through Frankie's eyes, looking down at him as he lies headless on the lab floor, shirtless on the kitchen floor, wet and short-circuited on the dance floor. The final scene, then, reverses the final scenes of countless movies in which we finish with headshots of taller males kissing down on females: it depicts Ulysses slumped against the doorframe, Frankie higher and so in the dominant position, kissing down, controlling the gaze.

If I had room, I would discuss Melissa Scott's novel, The Kindly Ones (1987). Popular culture studies suggest that television provides "instant history" (Dayan and Katz 169), that it is "integrative," forging "national identity" (170). The 1970s saw significant improvements in portable cameras and so photojournalism (Abramson, History 140-72). (14) In this historical context, The Kindly Ones tackles the problem of female defined in relation to male, and so "unrepresentable" as woman (de Lauretis 20): the "I" narrator of The Kindly Ones is neither male nor female. The character represents not just a riddle or a secret, but rather the ability to stand outside that gender system and see it as a construction. Throughout the novel, the victims of a legalized civil war watch the results of the destruction on television; the newscaster is never revealed as either female or male, but rather represented as neutral. This absence of gender information in the novel suggests a pun on the film technique of the dissolve. Just as the disembodied voice of the news to some extent dissolves gender, so Scott's use of the first-person narrator whose gender is never revealed suggests what de Lauretis calls the "oppositional discourse" made possible through technology (de Lauretis 17).

While television in our culture communicates and instantiates performances of gender, in Scott's novel, as in these other science fictions by women, television is used to frame the narrative and so to display and expose the technologies of gender.

Works Cited

Abramson, Albert. The History of Television, 1942 to 2000. Jefferson: McFarland, 2003.

--. "The Invention of Television." Smith 13-34.

Attebery, Brian. Decoding Gender in Science Fiction. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Barr, Marleen. Alien to Femininity: Speculative Fiction and Feminist Theory. Westport: Greenwood, 1987.

--. Feminist Fabulation: Space/Postmodern Fiction. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 1992. --. Lost in Space: Probing Feminist Science Fiction and Beyond. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1993.

Boddy, William. "The Beginnings of American Television." Smith 35-61.

Burns, R. W. Television: An International History of the Formative Years. London: The Institution of Electrical Engineers, 1998.

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1990.

Dayan, Daniel, and Elihu Katz. "Political Ceremony and Instant History." Smith 169-88.

De Lauretis, Teresa. Technologies of Gender: Essays on Theory, Film and Fiction. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987.

Donawerth, Jane. Frankenstein's Daughters: Women Writing Science Fiction. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1997.

--. "Illicit Reproduction: Clare Winger Harris's 'The Fate of the Poseidonia.'" Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century. Ed. Justine Larbalestier. Middleton: Wesleyan UP, 2006. 20-35.

Gordon, Joan. "Yin and Yang Duke It Out." Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Fiction. Ed. Larry McCaffery. Durham: Duke UP 1991. 196-201.

Harris, Clare Winger. "The Fate of the Poseidonia." Amazing Stories 2.3 (June 1927): 245-52, 267.

Hollinger, Veronica. "Cybernetic Deconstructions: Cyberpunk and Postmodernism." Mosaic 23.2 (Spring 1990): 29-44.

--. Personal communication. March 2007.

Jameson, Fredric. The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983-1998. London: Verso, 1998.

Lefanu, Sara. In the Chinks of the World Machine. Published in the United States as Feminism and Science Fiction. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1988.

Larbalestier, Justine. The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction. Middleton: Wesleyan UP, 2002.

Marc, David, and Robert J. Thompson. Television in the Antenna Age: A Concise History. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.

Moore, C[atherine] L. "No Woman Born." 1944. Rpt. in The Best of C. L. Moore. Ed. Lester del Rey. Garden City: Doubleday, 1975. 200-242.

Mulvey, Laura. "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." In Visual and Other Pleasures. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989. 14-26.

Paterson, Richard. "Drama and Entertainment." Smith 95-117.

Roberts, Robin. A New Species: Gender and Science Fiction. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1993.

Scott, Melissa. The Kindly Ones. New York: Baen, 1987.

Seidelman, Susan, dir. Making Mr. Right. MGM, 1987.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. 1818. Ed. J. Paul Hunter. New York: Norton, 1996.

Simon, Patricia. "Women in Frames: The Gaze, the Eye, the Profile in Renaissance Portraiture." History Workshop Journal 25 (1988): 4-30.

Smith, Anthony, ed. Television: An International History. New York: Oxford UP 1995.

Spring, Joel. Images of American Life: A History of Ideological Management in Schools, Movies, Radio, and Television. Albany: State U of New York P, 1992.

Stableford, Brian and Malcolm J. Edwards. "Moore, C(atherine) L(ucille)." The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Ed. John Clute and Peter Nicholls. Rev. ed. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1995. 826-8.

Stevenson, Melissa Colleen. "Trying to Plug In: Posthuman Cyborgs and the Search for Connection." Science Fiction Studies 34.1 (March 2007): 87-105.

Tiptree, James, Jr. [Alice Sheldon]. "The Girl Who Was Plugged In." Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. New York: Science Fiction Book Collection Publications, 2005. 41-74.

Williams, Raymond. Television: Technology and Cultural Form. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 1990.

Wyver, John. The Moving Image: An International History of Film, Television and Video. New York: Blackwell, 1989.


(1) This essay depends on the many previous examinations of science fiction and its exploration of the ways that gender is constructed and maintained, especially those by Brian Attebery, Marleen Barr, Joan Gordon, Justine Larbalestier, Sarah Lefanu, Robin Roberts, and Veronica Hollinger.

(2) See de Lauretis 13.

(3) For further discussion of the construction of race in Harris's short story, see my essay on "Illicit Reproduction" in Daughters of Earth 20-35.

(4) Indeed, Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in 1939, and bought a nearby factory in Marion (Burns 557-58). The importance of vaudeville-type entertainment in early television resulted from economics: the new form of mass media emphasized variety entertainment because it is cheaper than drama to produce for TV (Paterson 95).

(5) On persistence of vision, see Williams 9: "our capacity to hold the 'memory' of an image through an interval to the next image, thus allowing the possibility of a sequence built from rapidly succeeding units" to be perceived as a moving picture.

(6) On gender as parody, see Butler, esp. 31.

(7) In contrast, when Deirdre's superhuman powers are revealed and she rescues Maltzer from suicide, she moves so fast that Harris's human eye perceives her as "a sort of tesseract of human motion" (238), as a geometrical still of motion rather than motion itself.

(8) See also Marc and Thompson 44: during the mid-twentieth century, TV enabled for the first time "an American national culture"; Spring 109: "Broadcasting helped create a shared national culture by establishing a common knowledge of consumer items and a shared experience of sponsored radio and television entertainment"; and Williams 34: the history of global broadcasting is a history of the US penetration of "the broadcasting systems of all other available states." To adopt Jameson's dictum about postmodernism in general, advertising aids in "the transformation of reality into images, the fragmentation of time into a series of perpetual presents" (20). On both C. L. Moore's story and James Tiptree, Jr.'s, see also Melissa Stevenson, "Trying to Plug In."

(9) On the "male gaze" of American film, see Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema."

(10) On the nature of television comedy of this era, see Richard Paterson: since TV is commercialized and promotes consumer capitalism, TV comedy generally reflected "institutionalized humour which contrasts social norms and values in a public forum" (113).

(11) See Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz (176). See also Abramson (History 128-29) on Apollo 11.

(12) In a personal communication (March 2007), Veronica Hollinger has suggested that Marcus's campaign slogan is a parody of a tampon ad of the 1980s, but so far I have been unable to verify that.

(13) The scene with the rocket simulator also playfully exposes one of the filmic techniques as illusory--simulation is also the means for putting the actor in space at the end.

(14) But according to Raymond Williams, no true public discussion actually exists through mass media because television "exhausts" public discussion through mediators before such actual public discussion is held (49).
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Author:Donawerth, Jane
Publication:Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2008
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