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Wraeththu: gay fanfiction
Posted: Posted May 1st
Edited May 1st by gjkadh
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Out of curiosity, I recently picked up the one-volume Wraeththu trilogy by Storm Constantine. I knew very little of the series beforehand, but I did know that it featured a significant amount of transgressive content, which I find interesting for multiple reasons. However, upon reading the first 75 pages of the first book (written in 1987, which will be important later), I found myself unwilling to continue for multiple reasons.

Wraeththu as a setting is based around one element: the Wraeththu (or, more casually, the "hara") race of post-humans. The hara are, at least on the surface, supposed to be a perfect union of male and female stereotypes, with none of the weakness of either but all of the strengths of both. However, what they turn out being is drastically flawed in actuality - and only minorly due to writer intent.

The hara are, in essence, men. They are lithe and muscular, care is taken in describing their "improved" male genitalia while the female side of their reproductive cycle is left to mystery, they are associated primarily with male-stereotyped possessions and activities, and (perhaps less importantly to the written format but incredibly important to the overall experience) they are depicted in official art as basically looking like more athletic and goth David Bowies. The aspects of femininity that they take on are aesthetic: long hair, more delicate facial features, etc. They do not acquire breasts, wide hips, shorter stature, higher adipose tissue, etc. In every respect of becoming their "perfect forms", they are adjusted towards an athletic man - but with proclivity towards finer features and never becoming masculine enough to be threatening or inaccessible.

They are not described as wearing traditionally feminine dress, though they all have at least a slight interest in fashion, up to and including extreme hairstyles. They are often found doing drugs, carrying deadly weapons, having casual sex, and participating in criminal activity or traditionally patriarchal hierarchical politics or ritualism. They don't really have designated sexual roles within their society, but there is a fluid top/bottom system that reflects the basic mindset of real-life same-sex relations.

I read them as males that have been given the option of functioning as female with respect to reproduction - and, from what I saw, more than one female Amazon reviewer also read them as male from their perspective. Given how it reads on its own and knowing that it was published in 1987, this feels like nothing so much as a female-idealized fetishization of real-life gay male subculture.

Interestingly enough, I saw multiple markers in this setting that I have also seen in much more modern properties that have notable sexually-fluid subcultures with a higher-than-normal amount of female fans. It's just put a bit more crudely in Wraeththu than I usually see it, which can be excused somewhat by its notable age. I think I also saw a statement that Constantine was somewhat embarrassed by her early writing and sought to rework it a bit. If it was massaged from an even cruder earlier form, I have no desire to find out. I stopped after 75 pages, both because of the aforementioned reasons and also for the much more mundane reasons that there were a large number of typos and very little action, which left me irritated and bored. Most of the drama of Wraeththu comes from internal character conflicts, which I only care for in the context of more pressing matters.

So, that's my first impression of a series that I have not found much reason to continue. It's not a very sophisticated opinion, but I don't think I'll be putting in more effort in order to develop one when I could be spending my time reading something that I like more. I was prepared to be absolutely in love with a transgressive queer weird-fiction story, but it came off more like gay fanfiction.

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Interesting premise. Did the author write anything else? Maybe her newer work is better.

Posted May 1st by Xhin
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