Tuesday, April 19, 2016

An Anglo-American Alliance

An Anglo-American Alliance:
A Serio-Comic Romance and Forecast of the Future
Gregory Casparian
Completed 4/9/2016, reviewed 4/11/2016
2 stars

I decided to read this book because io9.com, the SF blog, hailed it as possibly the first lesbian SF novel, being published in 1906.  It’s been reprinted by a company called Forgotten Books.  It’s about two women in their senior year at a seminary college in 1960 who are devoted to each other.  The plot sets a scenario for the author to espouse his predictions for the future in the form of a lecture highlighting the major events of the period from 1906 to 1960.  It’s an interesting book with lots of progressive ideas, but unfortunately has several scenes that from today’s point of view are offensive. 

The lesbian romance is interesting.  The two women, Margaret, an American, and Aurora, a Brit, are dorm roommates and become quite fond of each other.  As the senior year is coming to an end, they realize that they will be separated and make a vow to remain unmarried in deference to their devotion to each other.  Senior year ends and they must part, and it is heartbreaking. 

Warning:  spoilers follow.

Margaret happens upon a doctor from India who has found a way to transform a woman into a man.  She goes through the procedure and makes her way to England where she and Aurora live happily ever after. 

The review on io9 pointed out that it was too bad that Margaret had to become a man for the couple to end up happy, that it couldn’t be left as a lesbian relationship.  On the other hand, this could also be seen as a transgender relationship.  It’s rather confusing because I can’t tell for sure if Margaret becoming a man is a cop-out by the author and if this is the supposed to be the comic aspect as described in the subtitle, “A Serio-Comic Romance”, or if Casparian was unknowingly progressive in that Margaret was really a trans man and gets to live her life as she felt inside.  This being 1906 and Casparian being a straight male (presumably), it’s hard to tell if I’m reading more into the story than there is. 

The other half of the subtitle is “Forecast of the Future”.  This takes the form of a lecture by one of the professors at the seminary under the guise of being a history of the past sixty years.  A lot of it is wishful thinking: peace, harmony, and everybody making compromises.  This basically comes in the form of an alliance between Great Britain and the U.S.  There’s a couple of racially offensive statements, which the io9 reviewer conveniently left out.  He never uses the n-word, but does use “dago”, shows an offensive caricature of an all-black singing group, and decides that a woman’s place is best in the home.  I don’t know if it would have been offensive back in 1906, but it is today.

I have to wonder if this book needed to be published today.  If nothing else, it is a document of the sort of thinking from the turn of the last century about the issues of the day without the filter of today’s political correctness.  If there wasn’t the offensive nature to the book, I would have given it three stars instead of two.  It’s not great literature, but it isn’t horribly written.  Would I recommend it?  Only if you were interested in early LGBT content in SF.    

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