In Regards to pages 1 through 47 of
Linda Jaivin's Rock 'n' Roll Babes from Outer Space
24 February 1999
Jaivin's decision to use first and second point of view for the first chapter (if I may call the segment a chapter) of the book was a wise decision, immediately enthralling the reader's attention by dragging him/her into the story line. It has been my experience, particularly when reading science fiction and fantasy literature, that first person narratives almost always create the most sympathetic environment for the reader.
As for second person, outside of one singular surreal experimental short story of my own (called Theatre Improbable fit for publication, but I've been lax about finding a publisher; preview available upon request), and a forgotten piece that helped to inspire Theatre Improbable, I don't recall having seen second person used. It's always a risky venture since the reader must be willing to accept the manipulation. But I think Jaivin pulled off the feat quite well and I wish she might have chosen to continue along that same vain.
On the other hand, I completely understand her decision not to, since it can be very confusing to include multiple points of views all in the first person and it would be difficult to continue with Jake as the second person being as Jake is identified as an Australian male rock star, which might alienate most of the readers who will not be Australian male rock stars.
However, disgruntle as I may or may not be about Jaivin's decision to terminate the first/second point of view narrative, Jaivin's next point of view trick was also clever and enjoyable: after reading Baby Baby's point of view, we now read Jake's point of view which reinterprets much of what we have already read without any real redundancy except at the most superficial and necessary level.
Whether out of wisdom or limitations, I can not say, but for better or for worse we did not read the scene from Doll's, Lati's, or Revor's points of view. I think it may be interesting to dig through her old drafts to see if such accounts exist, especially the oioi's, but it is probably for the best that they are not included since there is only so much more information I she might have squeeze out, the oioi's perhaps least intelligibly, and it would prove awkward going forward in the story after reading more than two accounts of the same instant.
There can be no denying the sexual issues within these pages. Most obvious are bestiality and sexual molestation (of a male by a female, no less). There is also the idea that sexuality is not necessarily a matter of male or female, but that there are supposedly seventeen known sexes. And the female vagina may be anywhere on the body, not just between the legs (i.e. thigh, belly, neck).
Is this necessarily a commentary on patriarchal sexuality? I tend to view it more as a commentary on female sexuality. It is a message that women are sexual creatures and their entire body can be erogenously stimulated.
Further, it is a message saying female sexuality is not all about reproduction but rather about pleasure. And once one concedes that sexuality is about pleasure, one need no longer indulge soley in sexuality that may lead to fertility, thus bestiality, particularly with a willing and eager creature, is an entirely acceptable scenario.
I don't know what sort of point Jaivin wishes to make about shopping at this time. This seems the most stereotypically female characteristic of otherwise unstereotypical females. Why does she leave this intact?
It is too early yet to see how Jaivin feels about her alien protagonists. One might assume that because she and they are female, they might espouse her own viewpoints. But it is also true that they may not (which is actually one of the great stumbling blocks for critics of Sade - too often they foolishly assume every character speaks Sade's voice, which is not even true of all Sade's heros). Even if Jaivin means to endorse female sexuality, does it necessarily follow that she endorses female materialism? I reserve judgement until I see how else materialism manifests within this work.
It was interesting to note how unworldly a view of human relationships Jaivin ascribes to earthlings. Only one sixteenth of the human population actually lives in a culture where monogamy is expected. Over eighty percent of those people fail to meet that expection and another large percentage (swingers, polyamoures, etc.) never concede to this in the first place.
Free love was conceived long before the sixties. Sartre and Crowley both advocated it early in this century. A woman (I forget her name) ran for president of the United States on the platform of free love and legalized prostitution in 1896 (alas, she lost - but see Alternative Presidents, edited by Mike Resnik, for an humorous account of an alternative scenario). Marquis de Sade preached to a school of libertines in the late 1700s. And though the author of Kama Sutra, writing at least 1500 years ago, was an advocate of monogamous marriages, he was well aware of the alternatives.
But Jaivin makes a valid point, even if the whole world is not entirely guilty of being part of the culture she condems.
Having never been to Australia, I can't comment upon how much this book is a metaphor for American culture and people acting upon Australian culture and people. Certainly there are an abundance of references to American culture (X-Files, Star Trek, Simpsons) and several to British culture (Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Dr. Who).
I think before we read too deeply upon that line we should remember that America was founded by Puritans and we have a very repressive and hypocritical attitude about human sexuality. Australia was a prison colony and perhaps was settled by people more apt to take liberties. All I can say for sure on this subject is that I have invariably faired better socially in the company of those random Austrialians that have crossed my path than I have faired with most Americans; and that no culture on earth, not even the British, has such an great appreciation for beer.
While this book may be subversive or rebellious compared to modern literature, it pales in it's decadency when compared to Sade's philosophical novels written in the late 1700s. The only thing potentially innovative about this book is that it was authored by a woman. But how far should we credit that? Women writers have been subversive to patriarchy since they first took pen to paper. It is true that I can not vouch for an earlier work of female humour (at least not of depth or quality), but I don't think there has ever been a conspiracy to keep women out of that particular niche either; thus, if we admit it to be a breakthrough, we can't even say it was one that defied great odds.