It turned out that this improvement involved ensuring that vigorously able European bodies could continue the projects of colonial rule and imperial settlement: for these feminists, the ‘human’ race was ideally a white one. Another such society, discovered by three male explorers, appears in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland (1915). The women of Herland reproduce through parthenogenesis, or ‘virgin birth’. Much like in Mizora, they are all ‘of Aryan stock’, practising ‘negative eugenics’ by disposing of ‘bad types’ at birth: bodies that function differently, and are racialised as dark, black, and brown.
Set in a distant future, Athos is a planet exclusively populated by gay men, named after the peninsula in Greece which women are barred from entering to preserve the sanctity of a compound of Orthodox monasteries
In the century since Herland’s publication, science fiction has built countless worlds where new life is created outside a biological interaction between a man and a woman. Some of these are worlds beyond gender, as in Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time (1976). In Mattapoisett, a village on a future version of our Earth, genetic material is held in communal laboratories and used to create embryos in ‘brooders’, or external artificial wombs. Gene samples are intentionally mixed to eliminate racial difference, and because reproduction takes place through technology, gender distinctions no longer exist, with residents of Mattapoisett defining not as male or female but as ‘pers’. Others feature coupling between humans and aliens, as in Octavia E. Butler’s trilogy Lilith’s Brood (1987-89) where an extraterrestrial race called Oankali is able to mate with humans, and any other species, by means of their own biochemistry. Butler’s suggestion – implicit in her heroine Lilith’s blackness, explicit in the way the Oankali breed humans as humans breed animals, or as white slavers bred black slaves – is that what we call ‘the human’ is not just a biological fact or philosophical ideology, but a fungible concept we use to negotiate the limits of reproduction.
In Joanna Russ’s The Female Man (1975), the planet Whileaway is populated exclusively by lesbians, all men having died in a plague centuries earlier
Since the second-wave feminism of the 1960s, several novels have introduced meticulously described societies consisting only of women. Rather than seeking to transcend gender, these worlds reflect a belief that only female separatism can end patriarchal control over women’s bodies, and over the process of social reproduction those bodies enable. They use microsurgery to splice together two eggs and impregnate willing carriers with the resulting embryos, enabling conception and birth to take place without men. On Shora, in Joan Slonczewski’s https://www.hookupdate.net/es/chatroulette-review// A Door into Ocean (1986), a race of women called Sharers create new life through a ‘fusion of ova’ enabled by ‘lifeshaping’, a form of genetic engineering. The novel is built around a series of gender binaries: Sharers are innately peaceful, while men, or Valans, are innately violent. These planets are fantasies twice over: a fantasy that reproduction can take place without men, and a fantasy about the success of female separatism. Female separatists of the 1970s argued that all forms of heterosexual relationships were inherently oppressive, and that liberation could only be achieved in a society free from men. Or, as the slogan went: ‘Feminism is the theory; lesbianism is the practice.’ Yet these worlds notwithstanding, one kind of planet remains as rare as it was when the inhabitants of Herland asked the Edwardian adventures who found them: ‘Have you any forms of life in which there is birth from a father only?’ ‘I know of none,’ replies our explorer, Terry, ‘and I inquired seriously.’
One such planet is imagined in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Ethan of Athos (1986). Athos was settled centuries ago by a group of Founding Fathers, who came to believe that only a separate planet could protect gay men from persecution in a homophobic universe. The Founding Fathers arrived on Athos with a batch of ovarian tissue and the ability to fertilise the eggs it produced to grow embryos in artificial wombs. Genetic screening is used to ‘filter out the defective X-chromosome-bearing portion’ and ensure that only men are born. The resulting society is a peaceful utopia made up of farmers, scientists, and constant indoctrination that women are the source of the heterosexual desire that makes the rest of the universe too dangerous to explore. The process of reproduction is managed by obstetricians like Ethan Urquhart, raised by two fathers in a family of foster brothers. Unable to face the ‘singles scene’ of Athos – a pre-AIDS ‘Fire Island Disco’ – he dreams of starting a family of his own with his foster brother, who unfortunately happens to be a hard-partying fuck boy. But immigration soon slowed, and at the opening of the novel, it is revealed that the original ovarian tissues are about to stop producing eggs. The only solution is to send Ethan out to buy new tissue on the intergalactic black market. His first batch is mysteriously sabotaged, and he receives useless animal ovaries. And so Ethan must leave Athos for the first time to source a second shipment of human tissue in order to preserve the planet for the future.