Trilogy: Quotes & Comments

(Copied with permission from Suzette’s SFWA website to preserve for posterity’s sake.)

The Native Tongue Trilogy
by Suzette Haden Elgin

Quotes & Comments

“In the third book…Elgin moves within a holistic Native American reference frame from the notion of mental liberation to physical subversion, the evolutionary elimination of hunger and thus violence as the deeper source of oppression and the (male) colonizing drive. Elgin’s stance is not one which aligns differences with gender but rather with the distribution of power. Characters of both sexes use and abuse their (language) power to master those marked as others either by class, race, or gender. Hence her Native Tongue trilogy aims at abolishing (male) power hierarchies between men and between women, replacing these with an ethics of (female) sharing and communal cooperation.”

— From “Re-Writing the Colonization of Space and Gender: Suzette Haden Elgin’s Trilogy Native Tongue, The Judas Rose and Earthsong,” by Dunja M. Mohr, to appear in Douglas Ivison (ed.): Postcolonial Readings of Science Fiction.

Comment: I may well have had in my mind a dichotomy of male hierarchical power versus human sharing and communal cooperation when I wrote Native Tongue. In interviews I did at the time (in the 1980s), I certainly gave that impression.

However — for the record, in 2002 — I no longer believe that hierarchical power arrangements are somehow “innate” in human males or that sharing and cooperation are somehow “innate” in human females. By the time I wrote Earthsong I had seen far too much evidence against that idea to have any respect left for it. As Mohr says in the quotation, I believe the differences correlate with power, not with biological gender.

— Suzette Haden Elgin

“The Native Tongue books are about linguistics and linguists. Faced with a problem, linguists try one thing; if it doesn’t work, they try something else. They know they may have to try fifty things before anything works. They just keep plugging away at it (or they have to give up linguistics, because that’s how linguistics is done). A linguist may spend a lifetime struggling with one verb, and die still struggling. … I’m a linguist, and so when I write novels about linguists I show them behaving that way.”

— From “The Profession of Science Fiction, 53: Towards a Society of Non-Violence,” interview with Suzette Haden Elgin by Dunja M. Mohr, pages 15-34, Foundation for Summer 2000; on page 31.

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