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The following posts include (1) "footnotes" for The Doris Piserchia Website (link at left), (2) texts-in-process that will eventually appear there, (3) texts from other websites, and (we hope) (4) stimulating discussion threads. The picture to the left is the back cover of The Spinner (book club edition), depicting a citizen of Eastland "hanging out" while Ekler the cop and Rune the idiot-superman look on.

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Star Rider, 1974.

Lone (re-named Jade, later on) and her mount Hinx roam the stars looking for the fabled planet of Doubleluck. She is a jak, a roving space girl with a pioneer spirit, bonded for life with her powerful, dimension warping, telepathic space dog/horse. This big, muscley, smart fourteen year old girl and her brave mount answer all questions, expose all hypocrisy, and save the entire universe from stagnation and death. What could be more satisfying?

Don't miss Jade's sexy love-hate relationship with a buff, jaw-clenching, Clint Eastwood-esque dude named Big Jak. Some mystery and pathos is added by a race of weird grinning creatures, the varks, custodians of the galaxy, who fly by flatulence and can change minds with other species. Cheer her on as she aggressively takes on the depressing feminist allegorical planet Gibraltar, where the gibs work themselves to death in a sexist cultural wasteland, and the dreens hog all the power. Only dreens are allowed to use their telepathy and bond with mounts, though their mounts are like obnoxious little inbred poodles. The evil dreen Rulon wants to brainwash Jade, fill her mind with tranquilizers and her body with humongous breast implants, so that she will breed new vigor into the dreen population as his queen. Hmmm, I wonder if she will kick his sorry ass?

On a more abstract level, Star Rider is about the search for the unknown; call it a nomadic spirit or call it a genetic program to spread ourselves all over the universe. Jaks have been roaming our galaxy for millions of years. There are no new frontiers. The only thing that keeps them from going insane: the myth of Doubleluck, where the streets are paved with gold and it rains diamond every day--and also the faint hope that jaks might someday bridge the gap between galaxies and go on to explore the rest of the universe.

The solitary, vagrant life the jaks lead, disdaining artifacts, refusing responsibility, is deemed to be as sterile in the end as the gibs' acceptance of their life of drudgery and oppression. The power-hungry dreens' narrow vision traps them even as it keeps the gibs in line. The varks are incredibly frustrated at their role as guardians of humanity's path, and their limitations to their own planet. Even Big Jak, the ultimate cool dude, is dissatisfied with his hereditary position as guardian of Doubleluck. Jade, because of her superior telepathic ability to "jink" without limit and thus cross to the next galaxy, and also because of her strong survival instinct, becomes the catalyst that opens dialogue between the different races of the galaxy. Did Piserchia hope, back in 1974, that we would colonize other planets, that this expansion beyond Earth would give humans a better chance of surviving? That may have been part of it.

Above all I am touched by her character Lone/Jade; it lets me see a little of the adolescent girl Piserchia must have been, and must have wanted to be. That most of us probably wanted to be. Driven by ambition, yet able to appreciate beauty; fiercely independent, yet with a ton and a half of loyal, telepathic dog to depend on; able to defend herself against rape, but joyously sexual when she wants to be.

When you're reading Star Rider, you don't have the feeling (as I do when I'm reading a good percentage of feminist sci fi) that the writer said to herself, "OK, there should be a book where a girl does this, and that, and is independent and intelligent, and doesn't die in the end, and men are still given a fair hearing, and damn it, I'm going to sit down and write it." It turns out sounding ponderously formulaic. Star Rider avoids this, by Jade's sponteneity and passion.

This book isn't innocent but it is wildly, almost desperately optimistic, especially when you compare it to the nihilism of A Billion Days of Earth. Gibraltar, the planet that mirrors much of what is depressing about our own world, makes its appearance halfway through the book. Kind of takes you back to when feminists thought that maybe the Revolution would come, that it was already here, and that a girl who grew up knowing a new kind of freedom might effortlessly break down the walls of a structure much more enduring than than the Rock of Gibraltar.

--Liz Henry, 1995, from Feminist Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Utopia.

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- tom moody 3-09-2002 8:26 am [link] [1 ref] [add a comment]