Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Weyrs, Wars and Sexual Conformity

I just read a book I probably should have read many years ago - Joe Haldeman's classic Forever War. If you haven't read it...it's possibly one of the best war novels of all time that pretty much just happens to be science fiction. His protagonist is a soldier fighting an interplanetary war...without the benefit of faster than light travel.

At one point he returns on leave to find that society has flipped. It is now normal to be homosexual, deviant (and in the recent past criminal) to be heterosexual. The point being to control genetics and reproduction.

Could such a society be built? Yes. People will follow their culture. However, closeted homosexuals who force themselves into heterosexual relationships are uniformly miserable. A society which forced the heterosexual majority to subsume their true orientation would be a miserable and unstable society and it would not last for long. (I have similar problems with Lois McMaster Bujold's otherwise excellent Ethan of Athos).

Which is where 'Weyrs' come in. Anne McCaffrey insists that all greenriders and most blueriders at the time of the Ninth Pass are homosexual males. Green dragons, if women are not available, only Impress to 'feminine' gay man.

Green dragons make up fifty percent of the Weyr's fighting force and thus their riders are probably a third of the adult male population of a Weyr...and in the ninth pass all dragonriders are born at the Weyr.

The normal percentage of constitutional homosexuals in humans is about eight percent. After this is pointed out to her, McCaffrey eventually implied that flight sex (when the dragons mate their riders almost always follow suit) would make a greenrider gay even if he wasn't to start with.

Both of these books have an excuse... Forever War was published in 1972. Weyr Search, the first Pern story, was even earlier: 1967. Very little research was done on human sexuality until much more recent than that, and it was generally believed homosexuality was a 'choice'. The fact that homosexuality will occur in same sex environments such as ships and boarding schools (and probably convents, but girls aren't as loud about it) was 'proof' of this. (In reality, heterosexuals of both sexes will engage in homoeroticism if there is no member of the opposite sex available, behavior that has been observed in livestock...lesbian activity is very common amongst cows kept away from bulls).

Here's the thing, though. If greenriders aren't gay, then how do they tolerate sexual activity with other men? Because there is one other thing that will make heterosexuals engage in homosexual behavior: The pressure of culture. Pern's blue and greenriders are more like Greek soldiers, who were encouraged to make out before battle so as to increase their loyalty to one another.

As for the one hundred percent homosexual society in Forever War? Sorry, Joe. I don't buy it.