The Wanderground

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Gearhart, Sally Miller. The Wanderground: Stories of the Hill Women. Boston: Alyson Publications, 1979.

Discussed in Susan Stratton's "Psi and Technology in Science Fiction," The Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts No. 36 = 9.4 (1998): 331-333, our major source for this entry; but see also Wikipedia entry,[1] the review by Ian Sales,[2] and Gearhart's own brief summary.[3]

Collection of linked stories: anti-technological, associating technology explicitly with a "masculine urge to dominate" (Stratton 331).

See for a "masculinist-technological city" of concentrated misogyny and more general petty cruelties. One of the collected stories "refers to the risk of deafness from long work shifts in a loud and ugly 'Loom Room' (81). Another mentions that a central computer monitors pedestrians" and punishes anyone found to be "irregular." More ominously, "In a survey of relics of life in the city, Gearhart lingers on an ugly description" of devices "used in experimentation on small animals (144). At its worst, technology is shown in men's service to hunt and destroy women who do not fit the subservient heterosexual norm. Machine guns target women at a 'libber' meeting, and helicopters with searchlights and machine guns hunt women who flee the city to take refuge in the hills." In a climax Stratton finds a bit odd, "The turning point" in the movement between the fictional past and present in the stories is "the Revolt of the Mother": "Outside the cities the revolt of Mother Earth against male violence manifests in refusal of both animals and machines to respond to men" and obey, right down to a great refusal not only by horses and dogs but also "guns [that] won't fire" and "engines [that] won't start." Both nature and technology rebel against men "machinery and animals acting in harmony." The failure extends to men's bodies, so "rape is no longer possible" (Stratton 332).

Gearhart makes a strong technophobic statement, taking "the position that technology serves no useful purpose that could not be achieved more directly," and Stratton cites Natalie Rosinsky (Feminist Futures 1984) to the effect that Gearhart "inverts and extends the patriarchal culture/nature paradigm to demonstrate that women's closeness to nature yield more, not less power than men's technological manipulations (80-81). Windriding replaces airplanes; mental power replaces electricity"; even the deadly effects of weapons could be reproduced, "except that women choose otherwise." Indeed, all of the civilization of the West could have been established by women, except they "'rejected most such ideas as unnecessary or destructive' (145)" (Stratton 333).

RDE, Initial Compiler, 2Mar19