Monday, September 01, 2014

Gender (and Race) in Lock In

So, I just had it pointed out to me in a discussion thread at Making Light (not to me personally, but I realized I had been doing it): the narrator of Scalzi's Lock In is not identified by gender. Since it's first-person, there's never any reference to "he said/she said", it's just "I said", and no one ever actually uses a noun that would nail it down. Chris is "a rich kid" and exercises "my rich-person privilege". When people remember Chris's childhood, it's "a child-sized threep offering an Easter Lily to the Bishop of Rome" and "a child's first steps". There's also no hint of Chris's sexuality to help (or hinder). Like the attorney Hilary Tamar in Sarah Caudwell's excellent novels, Chris could be either gender.


I have to admit I didn't even notice. I read the book with a preconceived idea of Chris's gender, and now I'm realizing that I brought that, and others brought something else. Now I'm looking at it with the notion that one of the many fascinating things going on here was the idea that it doesn't even matter.

I'll note here that the gender of other hadens is perfectly clear. Pronouns, etc., are deployed as usual, and when we see the digital self-images of Tony and Cassandra, they're idealized versions of themselves, male and female.

Also, race wasn't hidden - but we don't find out about Chris's parents' races until 72% of the way through the book, in Chapter 19 (spoiler: highlight to read: Chris's father is black, his mother white). And again, I noticed that - when it happened.

So. Well done, John Scalzi. You've not only told me a wonderful, ingenious story, but you've shown me something about myself, and brought me questions to think about - even more questions than I actually realized the day I finished the book the first time.

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