Note to alien invaders: Take away my Internet, and you will have a force to reckon with. When history professor Kay Zeldin's vid...
“Alanya to Alanya”
by L. Timmel Duchamp
Aqueduct Press, 431 pp., $19
Note to alien invaders: Take away my Internet, and you will have a force to reckon with.
When history professor Kay Zeldin’s vid (a future version of television and the Internet) screen goes blank in Seattle, Kay walks out to her office’s hallway to see what’s going on. Kay is calm, accustomed to terrorist attacks and power outages that plague Earth in the not-too-distant future.
As the story in “Alanya to Alanya” develops, we realize that the power outage is worldwide and the Marq’ssan, the all-female alien group responsible for the “Blanket,” have specific requirements for Earth’s cooperation with their plans. Although Seattle author L. Timmel Duchamp’s novel (Book One of the Marq’ssan Cycle) is a story of the effect an alien presence has on our planet, it’s also an exploration of the dynamics between classes and sexes, how those divisions fall apart under stress and, ultimately, how they define a culture.
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L. Timmel Duchamp
The author of “Alanya to Alanya” will read at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Science Fiction Museum, JBL Theater, 325 Fifth Ave. N., Seattle. Tickets are $4; $3 for seniors and students (206-634-3400; www.ubookstore.com).
In Duchamp’s futuristic scenario, the governments of Earth have developed a more powerful way to control their civilizations: by segregating them into separate groups of techs, professionals and the Executive. Members of the Executive rule over a “civilized” society in which the division of classes is extreme. Techs are the controlled majority, providing the support to perpetuate the system. While the professionals are at a higher level than the techs, they are nowhere near the status of an Executive.
Members of the Executive value control and order over emotional responses, and children are conceived by assignment. Because of this, those in the Executive rarely find an emotional connection with their partners; marriage is a timed contract solely for producing children and maintaining a household.
The division between the sexes also is radical. Women are considered hysterical and incapable of making rational decisions. Men are sensible and use women for intimacy, but do not give validity to the female point of view. The few female characters that are part of the Executive are molded into servile creations of the men they answer to.
Along come the aliens, who put a “Blanket” over the planet, effectively knocking out vid, communications and electricity. It turns out that humans aren’t advanced enough to be a threat to the Marq’ssan now but have the potential to become a galactic force to be reckoned with and pose a future threat. They insist that humans learn how to negotiate globally. They require that only female representatives from each government convene in the Marq’ssan spaceship to learn their negotiation techniques.
“Alanya to Alanya” is not so much an exploration of the way humanity responds to an alien presence as an illustration of how a world under siege from its own governments finally revolts; the invaders are simply the catalyst for change. The main emphasis is on the silent majority finding its power, and even more so on the feminist revolution among that majority.
One of the more interesting ideas presented in “Alanya to Alanya” is that the Marq’ssan are becoming contaminated by humanity, and that the longer they remain on Earth, the more diminished becomes their ability to resist their baser instincts. By merely living in the presence of our society, they are losing their ability to negotiate.
While at first the book’s premise suggested “Childhood’s End,” by the fifth chapter I felt like I was reading feminist theorist Germaine Greer. The premise is an interesting metaphor for aspects of today’s society, but most of the characters are too one-dimensional to allow the reader to connect to the story.