Saturday, October 3, 2015

Ten ultra-weird science fiction novels that became required reading

At io9 MaryKate Jasper and Charlie Jane Anders tagged ten ultra-weird science fiction novels that became required reading, including:
The Four-Gated City by Doris Lessing

Why It’s Weird: Lessing’s sprawling Children of Violence series starts out as realistic quasi-memoir about growing up in Africa, only to turn weird and experimental in the final couple of volumes. There is voluntary sleep deprivation, weird sexual experiments where nobody touches each other, and more. After spending the entire series building the character of Martha Quest, Lessing kills her off on a contaminated island off the coast of Scotland during World War Three. Lessing’s World War Three takes place during the ‘60s and ‘70s, with most of Britain wiped out via bubonic plague, nerve gases, nuclear explosions, etc. by 1978. The ideas behind the novel, as elucidated on Lessing’s own website: “[It] takes on the medical profession, which she believes is destroying (recently through imprisonment, currently through the use of drugs) that part of humanity which is in fact most sensitive to evolution, those people we label as mentally sick or unbalanced: and, criticising the scientists who have created and perpetuate a climate in which “rationalism” has become a new God, she claims that everyone has “extra-sensory perception”, in varying degrees, but has been brainwashed into suppressing it, and that schizophrenia is the name of our blindest contemporary prejudice.”

Why It’s Required: Lessing won the 2007 Nobel Prize and wrote The Golden Notebook, which frequently appears on college syllabi — but the Children of Violence trilogy is the series on which she spent arguably the most time, and in many ways the cornerstone of her work. Earlier parts of the Children of Violence series appear on college syllabi pretty often.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue