Posts tagged ‘Sexuality’

Here are the answers to last week’s Bible quiz:

Ron Paul

Sodomite?

  1. a and c. As for stoning on a father’s doorstep, that is the fate of non-virgin brides. (Deuteronomy 22:13.)

  2. b. Read the Song of Songs and blush. It also serves as a metaphor for divine relations with Israel or with humans.

  3. a, b and c. We forget that early commentators were very concerned about sex with angels (Genesis 6, interpreted in the Letter of Jude and other places) as an incorrect mixing of two kinds.

  4. c. “Sodomy,” as a term for gay male sex, began to be used only in the 11th century and would have surprised many early religious commentators. They attributed Sodom’s problems with God to many different causes, including idolatry, threats toward strangers and general lack of compassion for the downtrodden. Ezekiel 16:49 suggests that Sodomites had “pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”

How’d you do? If you didn’t get at least one right, go to the nearest bookstore, pick up a copy of Rev. Knust’s book and study, study, study.

And have a thought for all those poor Tea Party legislators, currently holding back on approval of the raise in the federal debt limit unless great cuts are made in programs meant to aid “the poor and needy.” They probably don’t even know that they’re Sodomites.

Unprotected Texts

 

Well, maybe it isn’t exactly your Bible, because we’ve got a multiple ethnic world these days, but probably you know which Bible we’re talking about. Or what Rev. Jennifer Wright Knust is talking about, anyway, because we’ve borrowed some extracts from her new book, Unprotected Texts.

So here are four questions for you, all multiple-guess to make it easy, because by the law of averages you should get at least one right:

  1. The Bible says of homosexuality:

    1. Leviticus describes male sexual pairing as an abomination.
    2. A lesbian should be stoned at her father’s doorstep.
    3. There’s plenty of ambiguity and no indication of physical intimacy, but some readers point to Ruth and Naomi’s love as suspiciously close, or to King David’s declaring to Jonathan: “Your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.” (11 Samuel 1:23-26)
  2. In the Bible, erotic writing is:

    1. Forbidden by Deuteronomy as “adultery of the heart.”
    2. Exemplified by “Song of Songs,” which celebrates sex for its own sake.
    3. Unmentioned.
  3. Among sexual behavior that is forbidden:

    1. Adultery,
    2. Incest.
    3. Sex with angels.
  4. The people of Sodom were condemned principally for:

    1. Homosexuality.
    2. Blasphemy.
    3. Lack of compassion for the poor and needy.

All right, pencils down, but wait for the answers until next week when they will probably appear in this space,

The characteristics of Samuel R. “Chip” Delany’s novel Dhalgren. were that it was long, it was densely written, it was a hard read and it was highly, not to say obsessively, erotic. It appeared to be set in the fairly near future, and it certainly took place in an America that did not seem to be the same country that the rest of us lived in. Was it science fiction? For sure it was not any kind of science fiction that anyone else was writing.

But it didn’t fit in any other category, either, and if, as Bantam Books’ science-fiction editor, I chose to publish it, who was authorized to question my decision?

The answer to that question is, “Nobody.” But that is not to say that that question didn’t cross a few minds.

It was a Bantam custom to Xerox multiple copies of every new accepted manuscript as it was signed, and as those copies began to circulate, I began to have one particular conversation, over and over, every time I chose to come in to the office. One of my colleagues would stop me in a hallway, placatory smile on his or her face, and say something like, “You know, Fred, I certainly would never dream of questioning your editorial decisions, you know that. But I was just wondering — well, why, exactly, did you buy that book?”

I finally figured out an answer that satisfied them. I said, “Because it’s the first book that told me anything I didn’t know about sex since Story of O.”

It was not, by the way, any of the boss editors who asked me that question. If any of them had reservations about my sanity, they kept them to themselves. I suppose that if the book had turned out to be a disastrous flop I would have had to face some unenjoyable conversations.

But it didn’t.

Continue reading ‘Chip Delany, Part 2: The Miracle of Dhalgren’ »

Ashokan Reservoir (Photo by Daniel Case  [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons).

Ashokan Reservoir (Photo by Daniel Case).

Our marriage had been dealt a mortal wound. However we still had that lovable tiny baby Annie to provide a home for. And I wasn’t even hopelessly angry at Judy for dumping this new demand on me, only resentful of the timing. I had agreed that Judy had a right to her sexual freedom if she needed it. I just hadn’t really expected that the problem would get so urgent so fast.

So for a while there we went on as a family, Judy and me and our two kids. Judy quit her job, but I was doing pretty well. Money wasn’t a big problem. True, I recognized that it certainly could turn into a really big one really fast if I quit my job too.

Which I then did.

Why did I do that? I don’t know. I guess to some extent I was following Judy’s example.

It wasn’t entirely a suicidal step. We had more or less absentmindedly socked away a few profits from the big-money days, so we wouldn’t starve. Not right away, anyway. We didn’t owe any money. If we had to, we could sell the car. And the four of us, us and our two kids, didn’t need big bucks to live on. We could always find some way to get enough to live on, couldn’t we?

One such way was suggested to us by a lawyer Judy knew. I have no idea who the lawyer was. All I know is he came to see us one evening because he and Judy needed to talk about something, I don’t know what, and while he was in our apartment he got really interested in our needs and plans, and after some thought he came up with the perfect solution to our needs. We should get a joint job with some rich people as house servants. As a cook and butler combination, in fact; Judy making the meals and me doing all the odd jobs around the house.

I actually think he was perfectly serious about it, too. I was torn between laughter and throwing the jerk out of the house. I really don’t know how seriously Judy took his idea. I never thought it worth discussing with her.

 
I’m a little uncertain about timing here. I’ll tell you everything significant that I remember, but I may get which happened before what mixed up I can’t really see why that would matter, anyway.

We kept on living as though we remained prosperous for a while. We kept the car. That summer we rented a big old house, up over the Ashokan Reservoir in beautiful bucolic surroundings a hundred miles north of New York, where Judy and the kids lived for that summer while I came up for weekends. One of the best things about the Ashokan place was that it gave us plenty of space to have friends stay with us. (The one of those guests I remember best was Cyril Kornbluth. That was because I made the mistake of drinking with Cyril one night. The two drunkest times I have been in my whole life were with Cyril, and this was one of them. Did Judy object? Of course not. She thought that the drunker I got, the funnier I got, even when, the next morning, she had to collect my passed-out body from a neighbor’s house.)

Then, I believe that winter, we rented a different house in a quite different part of the area. That one was in Rockaway Beach, and we took it because Judy was really afraid to have our two well-loved children staying in New York during a polio scare. (If you’re too young to know what those were, Google it.) That’s one of the times where I’m a little mixed up. All that winter, out in freezing Rockaway Beach, I was commuting five days a week to an office in New York. I just don’t remember which office. Sorry.

Anyway, what I do remember is that I was commuting to New York in my giant old Cadillac, and my giant old Cadillac was teaching me a lesson for moving there by refusing, every morning, to start until I called the AAA for a jump. (And even that lasted just so long, because before long the AAA gave up and expelled me. I had to start hiking to and from the Long Island Rail Road station.)

By the way, I don’t want you to think that, apart from annoyances like commuting, I was miserable in Rockaway Beach. I wasn’t. When the weather turned fairly decent, at least for a while, I liked walking the beach and sitting on a bench in the sun to see those endless freezing-gray waves, the hundreds and millions of them, as they came endlessly rolling in and to realize that if I had a telescope that could see right across the ocean, the next human construction. I saw would be in Portugal.

Well, enough. We managed to lump along, one way and another, for several years that way. I did not ever think I could go on living forever in Judy’s kind of marriage. But I wasn’t living in forever. I was living in one interesting thing, and then another interesting thing. And they weren’t really all that bad.

I did finally quit my job in order to become a full-time literary agent and that was very interesting for me to run. And Judy, at least temporarily, was about as happy as Judy could ever be, because she had written a successful novel.

To be continued.

 
Related posts:
Judith Merril, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9

After Judy Merril and I realized that the one thing we both most wanted from the life we had been living was to have a baby, we started looking for someone to marry us so the baby would be legitimate. Judy quickly found someone. I’ve forgotten his name, but he was a fairly well-known lefty New York Justice of the Peace.

So we were married in 1948. Then we began the process of knocking Judy up. It didn’t take long. Judy handled pregnancy quite well, so we simply went on with our lives.

Which, at the time, were actually quite nice. We still both had our jobs and were therefore well fixed for money. I had bought a car — secondhand, a giant Cadillac eight-seater that Jack Gillespie said was a gangster car and quite possibly once had been. It was very easy to imagine half a dozen criminals with tommy-guns shooting up an enemy’s hangout out of its windows.

We used it to roam around the countryside, and to transport friends to cons if they wanted to go. We’d driven it up to Toronto for the 1948 Worldcon with a party of half a dozen or so passengers — George O. Smith, I think Chan Davis and his wife, and I don’t remember who else. (The reason I clearly remember George O. is that as we passed through Niagara Falls George got out of the car, ambled over to the railing and fulfilled a lifelong ambition by urinating into the Falls.)

And then, all of a sudden we had come to the time when Judy’s belly was as big as a washtub and we needed to watch for signs of needing to get to French Hospital for the birthing.

I have to confess I was not the most useful Father in Waiting. What I very much feared was that she would start in labor when she was in bed with me, or something of the sort, and I would have to deliver the baby. I’m afraid I chased her off to the hospital too early at least once, when she thought it was barely possible she was beginning to feel labor pains, and they sent her back home. But then the labor did start.

I don’t remember where I was or what I was doing when the baby came. I hope I was at least considerate enough to have been in the hospital while Judy was giving birth. But I don’t remember whether I did.

Anyway, our baby daughter Ann — I insisted on naming her after my mother and Judy was willing to let is be so — was born in 1950. Both Judy and I were then exactly as happy and contented with parenthood has we had thought we would be.

For a while.

But then it all came crashing down on us, when Judy came to me and said she was sorry but she just couldn’t help it. She couldn’t go on without the sexual freedoms that had meant so much to her. She didn’t want to get a divorce. Our marriage, she said, was working quite well and she didn’t want to change a thing. Well, one thing, that was … she wanted to change the rules a little. How would I feel about making it an open marriage?

Continue reading ‘Judith Merril, Part 3: Life with Judy’ »

Judith Merril

   Judith Merril

For the first couple of years after World War II, I was living in Greenwich Village, as a civilian, along with my second wife, Dorothy Louise LesTina (about whom see The Way the Future Was.). We had a pretty busy life, the two of us, and although I had heard that there was a whole new science-fiction fandom in the city I was overfull of self-affairs (as the Bard put it) and myself did lose it.

Anyway, then Tina, visiting her parents in California filed for divorce. (There, too, check my writing about Tina for details.) In any case, I suddenly wasn’t married any more, and so I had time to get around to seeing if I and this new NYC fan community had any reason to get together.

It turned out that we did. I began making friends with young Robert Silverberg and young Charles Brown (yes, the Locus man, although all that was still very far away) and a bunch of other people who became close, long-time friends. And there was one really interesting thing, unprecedented in pre-war fannish history, and that was that quite a few of these new New York fans were female.

That was an unexpected but very, very welcome development. I soon became friendly with some of this new breed of femmefans, as they were (briefly) termed, and with one in particular. That one’s name was Judy Zissman. She was divorced and with an enchanting little girl whom she had named Merril. Judy wanted to be a writer and the two of us got along just fine.

Before I tell you some of the things that happened next, there is one thing you need to know about Judy right now, and that is the nature of her beliefs about sexual conduct. One of them was that females had as much right to sleep around as males do, and that that right was considerable..

That was one of the things I didn’t really want to discuss when I was writing The Way the Future Was. The good news is that now I don’t have to discuss it at all. In the last years of her life, Judy was writing her own memoir, and in it she was quite open about her views and her experiences.

Judy died before she could finish the memoir, but the two of us had begun having some of our children’s children growing up and taking over some things. One of them was our well-beloved granddaughter Emily Pohl-Weary, who, having herself become a writer, finished the book for her. (It was published as Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril. And listen, our kids and grandkids don’t fool around. It won a Hugo Award.)

So by all means, read all you like about Judy’s private business. Only read about it from her.

 
Before long, Judy and I had settled down to cohabitating in her gigantic New York apartment on East 4th Street.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression. The place certainly was gigantic, at least four big bedrooms, but it was also on the basement level of the apartment building To get to it, you took the elevator down one flight. It had been designed, and built, with the expectation that it would be occupied by the building’s janitor and his family. In America’s postwar boom, though, your average janitor didn’t care to be treated like an inferior. The present incumbent and family lived in modest prosperity, rent-free, in a perfectly rentable apartment above-ground. Judy had discovered the situation and grabbed the underground space for a pitiful rent, which I think may have been less than $25 a month.

For us it was perfect. Plenty of room for us each to have space to live and write, and space for little Merril and for the child’s pet dog, Taxi Driver, and even for Judy to rent out one of the extra rooms to the occasional single woman who needed a cheap place to stay. One was Gerry Schuster, rehearsal pianist for the New York Ballet. Another, at a different time, described herself as “the white New York girlfriend” of a famous musician — and proved it by getting us all comped seats to his Carnegie Hall appearance, and a visit to his dressing room after.

And, in particular, the one thing that the place was perfect for was parties. We had a lot of them.

We were quite prosperous at that time, you see. I was book editor and advertising copywriter for the rich Popular Science Publishing Company at a steadily increasing salary. While Judy had got herself an editorial job with Bantam Books, working for Ian Ballantine, who at that time ran it.. Between us we earned quite a lot, we didn’t really spend all that much, and God was good. Not only that. Bantam gave Judy the chance to edit her first very own science-fiction anthology (but entitled Shot in the Dark to disguise the fact that it was sf as much as possible).

And even that wasn’t the very best of it. There was the fact that Judy had, without warning and all by herself, had unexpectedly written a story of her own that just knocked the socks off everyone who read it.

Continue reading ‘Judith Merril, Part 1: ‘That Only a Mother’’ »