Lord o’ the Ladies

I’m reading Zelazny’s Lord of Light, which I’m actually enjoying quite a lot so far. However, I plowed to a stop when I came across this:

(For context, Sam has just ascertained that the person reincarnated into an aggressively male body of the god Brahma was originally female. You’d think these distinctions would cease to matter after getting dumped into dozens of bodies over the course of centuries but, hey, what else were the sixties for?)

“Yes, Madeleine,” said Sam, “and did anyone ever tell you how lovely you are when you’re angry?”

Brahma sprang forward off th throne. “How could you? How could you tell?” screamed the god.

“I couldn’t, really,” said Sam. It was just a guess, based upon some of your mannerisms of speech and gesture which I remembered. So you’ve finally achieved your lifelong ambition, eh? I’ll bet you’ve got a harem, too. What’s it feel like, madam, to be a real stud after having been a gal to start out with? Bet every Lizzie in the world would envy you if she knew. Congratulations.”

[Skipping the bit where he’s angry and about to curse Sam for mocking him.]

“Nay, my Lord. I did but jest with you as any one man might with another when discussing these matters. I am sorry if you took it amiss. I’ll warrant you’ve a harem I’d envy and which I’ll doubtless try to sneak into some night. If you’d curse me for being surprised, then curse away.” He drew upon his pipe and wreathed his grin in smoke.

Finally, Brahma chuckled. “I’m a bit quick-tempered, ’tis true,” he explained, “and perhaps too touchy about my past. Of course, I’ve often jested so with other men. You are forgiven. I withdraw my beginning curse.”

This passage features such breathlessly backwards gender politics, that the only thing I can give Zelazny credit for is the courtesy of at least using a masculine pronoun in his reference to Brahma.

So, apparently, you’re only a real man when you can bandy about sexist jokes and compare harems along with penis size. Oh, and such desires are of course the innermost wish of every man-hating “Lizzie.”

I guess that’s golden age fiction for you. I can only hope that Zelazny got out a bit more after he wrote this.

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