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Many of history’s—and the present’s—irresistible, beautiful women heartbreakers can’t tolerate mere males.
January 6, 2013 8:46 PM   Subscribe


 
Something like this could happen if Facebook buys OkCupid.
posted by Grimgrin at 8:50 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Homosexuality is a "ghastly prank" ? I hope Gernsback was taking the piss, otherwise my opinion of him just dropped through the floor.
posted by New England Cultist at 8:51 PM on January 6, 2013


That was laughably stupid. Unsurprisingly, wikipedia indicates Mr. Gernsback was married three separate times; this article came 13 years after his third marriage (no easily googled indication of whether they were still married at that point). I think he may have been grinding an axe a little bit there.
posted by axiom at 8:53 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lonely people love to come up with elaborate solutions for their loneliness. When I was a kid I had the idea of a genetically modified virus that would make women love Nice Guys, with a side effect of reducing the aggressiveness of the population. I like to think I'm better now. Reminds me of the Barenaked Ladies song Some Fantastic.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:55 PM on January 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Kraftwerk wrote a song about this.
posted by ovvl at 8:57 PM on January 6, 2013


The only appropriate response to this is to giggle hysterically and then write romantic teen dystopias about it. Quick! Someone give me a romance plot! That preferably doesn't involve vampires! Unless the vampires are being assigned their victims by computer selection, like a very boring vending machine of exsanguination!
posted by nicebookrack at 9:05 PM on January 6, 2013


I hope Gernsback was taking the piss, otherwise my opinion of him just dropped through the floor.

It was 50 years ago, that was what most people believed. Perhaps a more productive response than to sneer at him and preen about how superior we are now, is to spend some time considering which of our unexamined prejudices and conceptions of the world will seem just as preposterous and blatantly immoral to people 50 years from now. I can assure you there will be many.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 9:16 PM on January 6, 2013 [21 favorites]




According to Wikipedia, HP Lovecraft was often underpaid when his works were published in Hugo's Amazing Stories. He called him Hugo the Rat.
posted by eye of newt at 9:24 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was 50 years ago, that was what most people believed. Perhaps a more productive response than to sneer at him and preen about how superior we are now, is to spend some time considering which of our unexamined prejudices and conceptions of the world will seem just as preposterous and blatantly immoral to people 50 years from now. I can assure you there will be many.

It would be hilarious if something like this ended up working on a large scale, and threads like this were mocked. We have so much more data due to the Internet now that maybe it would be possible to aggregate everything from Facebook, Google, Spotify, etc and plug that into a dating site. The big issue, besides the ethical ones, with Gernsback's idea is the massive scale of data required. Advertisers and other sites HAVE that data, and if we could give them permission to use it to help pair us up it might end up working.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:31 PM on January 6, 2013


Lonely people love to come up with elaborate solutions for their loneliness.

Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software - Epilogue: Crushing Loneliness:
"I really admired the way Richard built up an entire political movement to address an issue of profound personal concern," Sarah said, explaining her attraction to Stallman.

My wife immediately threw back the question: "What was the issue?"

"Crushing loneliness."
posted by benito.strauss at 9:32 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's a site that gives quite a bit more information about Hugo Gernsback.

Apparently he created the term 'science fiction'. His list of predictions is amazing if true.
posted by eye of newt at 10:04 PM on January 6, 2013


It was 50 years ago, that was what most people believed.

While that may be true, you would expect that someone who was, and still is, frequently referred to as 'visionary', would have a more educated perspective. Or, yet again, that might just be me.
posted by New England Cultist at 10:48 PM on January 6, 2013


While that may be true, you would expect that someone who was, and still is, frequently referred to as 'visionary', would have a more educated perspective. Or, yet again, that might just be me.

Even if you're able to look ahead successfully, you might not see the whole horizon. Given I recently learned homosexual intercourse was only legalized here (Victoria, Australia) in 1981, I'm willing to give him leeway for 1964.
posted by solarion at 11:08 PM on January 6, 2013


I'm pretty familiar with the sf from the period and that was a reasonably progressive thing of Mr. Gernsback to say. He didn't call homosexuals sick, depraved, or the psychological definition of the era, "inverted", he just said that some women prefer women; the icky part is that he felt this was more of an inconvenience for the males attracted to the lesbians, which gets into the whole patriarchical culture thing, but isn't actually offensive in the context of 1964. If anything, his reference to "frigidity" as a "sexual disturbance" is more evocative of prejudices of the time.

I really think this is you, and similar to people who have a visceral reaction to Mark Twain using the N word throughout Huckleberry Finn. Twain was one of the most progressive writers of his era, by almost no measure a racist. Similarly, I think Gernsback is demonstrating "visionary" acceptance of different sexualities.
posted by dhartung at 11:09 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm looking for that sexual control center at the top of my brain. I think maybe I may ...oh, there it is. Never mind.

I bought every one of those Dozier anthologies--The Best Science Fiction Stories of The Year. I've been doing that for just a bit less than thirty years, and it's interesting to see how, over the decades, SF writers have evolved the craft, and made it more diversified. (A sharp division came in the fifties, and another one in the early sixties.) Even more instructive (of the evolution of SF) are the, so called, Golden Age writers--the early Asimov, and so on, where scientists were thought to have solutions for problems that people had yet to even define. Humans in those stories, in the early days, were simply puppets that explained neat scientifications to young readers. Writers who broke that pattern were rare. I'm not ashamed to sit back and smile condescendingly at their naivete--after all, we all shared it. Maybe some folks are young enough to not be able see how continuity, stretched out far enough, makes fools of the best of us.

I love those discussions about how "Visionary" SF writers are. You may notice--they are almost never instigated by SF writers, who know better.

I have a special place in my heart for SF writers. They take their readers seriously, and the cons are a scream. One of my most cherished possesions is a card typed by the good Dr. A. himself, where he chides me for not spelling his name right in a letter I wrote to him.
posted by mule98J at 11:19 PM on January 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


While that may be true, you would expect that someone who was, and still is, frequently referred to as 'visionary', would have a more educated perspective. Or, yet again, that might just be me.

I've been working through some of the canon of science fiction, and they illuminate as much about the past as the future. I just finished Foundation by Asimov; a highly acclaimed and great book, a respected author in every sense. But this specific future apparently contains more cigars than women.

No fish notices the water they are swimming in.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:22 PM on January 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


mule98J, you get a +1 from me for using the word "scientifications".
posted by benito.strauss at 11:50 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Similarly, I think Gernsback is demonstrating "visionary" acceptance of different sexualities.

Maybe. I certainly would like to think so.
posted by New England Cultist at 11:54 PM on January 6, 2013


Science Fiction is really about the present day of the writer, so if Gernsback was being visionary, it was in terms of the early 1960s. We have to see him in context, both the good and the bad. Not that this is excusing him- he's no role model, and hours ideas are of historical interest only.
posted by happyroach at 12:12 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gernsback, being a visionary, was just predicting Depeche Mode's take on God's sense of humour about 20 years early.
posted by Mezentian at 12:58 AM on January 7, 2013


I'd have thought the assumption that sexual relationships could be controlled by the giving or witholding of marriage licences was already a little out of date in 1964.
posted by Segundus at 1:42 AM on January 7, 2013


Homosexuality is a "ghastly prank"

Gernsback mountain.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:44 AM on January 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


If this sort of algorithm-of-matching-people actually worked, I'd be having a hell of a lot more luck on OK Cupid than I am currently having.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:15 AM on January 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Leaving aside the totalitarian state-run aspects, it's important to note that the 60s were not as cybernetically backward as you might think. Lots of issuers where written about, including fears about computer surveillance, the use of computers for daily activities, etc. They simply assumed that computers would be mainframes.

With regard to computer dating, the first proto-OKCupid had appeared at least 45 years ago, when two Harvard students put candidate's profiles onto punch cards.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:55 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


While that may be true, you would expect that someone who was, and still is, frequently referred to as 'visionary', would have a more educated perspective. Or, yet again, that might just be me.

Predicting social and cultural changes seems to be a lot harder than it is for technological changes. Even Clarke and Kubrick had a vision of the future that was all white and except for two Russian Scientists, with women as space flight attendants and hotel clerks.
posted by octothorpe at 5:22 AM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hugo Daffodil-10 Gernsback.
posted by usonian at 5:42 AM on January 7, 2013


Homosexuality is a "ghastly prank" ? I hope Gernsback was taking the piss

As others point out, describing homosexuality as merely unfortunate instead of criminal was a fairly open-minded belief for an elderly (Gernsback was 79 or 80 when he wrote this) straight man to hold in 1964.

Interestingly, in the same issue of Sexology "The Future: Electronic Mating" appeared in, another article, "Why Homosexuals Resist Cure," by Donald Webster Cory, (aka Edward Sagarin) was making a qualified case for the de-criminalization of homosexuality.

My favorite part of Gernsback's piece is:
"Let us begin with stage 1. A group of bright, young research scientists – psychologists should be organized under the tutelage of a brilliant, able leader."
which sounds like everything from the Foundation stories to Atlas Shrugged. And the "electronic mating" has me thinking of Cyril Kornbluth's "The Education of Tigress McArdle."

Also, this link from the same blog—"You’ll Own 'Slaves' by 1965"("Robots will dress you, comb your hair, and serve meals in a jiffy.")—is too WTF not to share.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:46 AM on January 7, 2013


EC: "If this sort of algorithm-of-matching-people actually worked, I'd be having a hell of a lot more luck on OK Cupid than I am currently having."

Don't give up. It could be just a problem with chads in the punchcards, or maybe the leader isn't sufficiantly brilliant.
posted by mule98J at 9:21 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even more instructive (of the evolution of SF) are the, so called, Golden Age writers--the early Asimov, and so on, where scientists were thought to have solutions for problems that people had yet to even define. Humans in those stories, in the early days, were simply puppets that explained neat scientifications to young readers.

Quite true which is why it has been eye-opening for me to read some early science fiction that is not at all in this simplistic gung-ho vein. Stapledon's Last and First Men (1930) and Star Maker (1937). Bester's The Stars My Destination (1956).

As always, seemingly, the work was there; the audience was not that receptive. Bester's book has had some very influential admirers over the years, but has been in and out of print. Stapledon's work was widely admired, but for some reason I hadn't heard of him till a couple years ago. It kind of feels like he was writing before science fiction, and anticipated a lot of the field -- certainly the first "space opera" was just coming out around that time. A number of big science fiction ideas appeared early or first in his work: "Dyson spheres," group minds, intelligence expansion. I think the cold, cosmological space operas of Vernor Vinge, which he started publishing in the 90s, are a little Stapledonian. Also recently, Robert Charles Wilson writes more human, psychological explorations of Stapledonian themes; my favorite is Spin.
posted by grobstein at 9:36 AM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did I read the proposal wrong or was this just about issuing marriage licences? It seems as if his idea wasn't a match service like OK Cupid or eHarmony but instead greater state control and regulation.

I mean, yeah, I see that the leap would be made but Hugo's proposal was even more ridiculous.
posted by mountmccabe at 10:19 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reading Asimov and other early sci-fi was never the same after I discovered Alice "James Tiptree Jr." Sheldon. My god, she simply eviscerated their entire comfy male pipe-and-slippers world, and while still disguised as a man, did so from the inside. If there is any more brutal takedown of Man's Grand Drive to Explore than A Momentary Taste of Being, I've never read it.
posted by emjaybee at 11:49 AM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Even more instructive (of the evolution of SF) are the, so called, Golden Age writers--the early Asimov, and so on, where scientists were thought to have solutions for problems that people had yet to even define. Humans in those stories, in the early days, were simply puppets that explained neat scientifications to young readers. Writers who broke that pattern were rare. I'm not ashamed to sit back and smile condescendingly at their naivete--after all, we all shared it. Maybe some folks are young enough to not be able see how continuity, stretched out far enough, makes fools of the best of us.

I'm not sure the loss of this perspective is a good thing. I love James Tiptree and find much hard sci-fi dull. But the devaluing of scientific expertise leads to everything from climate change denial to the anti-vaccination movement. There's a visceral distrust of scientific authority on both the Left and the Right, and I think a bit more of that 'Shut up, the adults are talking' attitude from scientists could be a good thing.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:17 PM on January 7, 2013


It pleases me and I take it as a sign of real progress that none of you guys seem to see this as thinly veiled advocacy for a science that dare not speak its name-- at least not since WWII-- that is, eugenics:
The questionaires and tests will go exhaustively into heredity, individual taste, sex habits, education, race, color and texture of skin, IQ, general health, past illnesses, texture of hair, Rh blood factor, ...[my emphasis]
And backed by a totalitarian state.
posted by jamjam at 1:48 PM on January 7, 2013


I've said some horrible things in this thread, and here's another one: eugenics never fell out of fashion for angry nerds, and I thought it was a good idea when I was 11. Its been advocated on Reddit a few times too.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:30 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Indeed. Eugenics, determinisms, sexism so massive and pervasive obviously it was invisible. I recently stayed in the house I grew up in and re-read my relatives sci-fi collection - glittering, dangerous Bradbury included. And he can imagine the unimaginable apparently, but not that women might in the future move out of the kitchen.
posted by glasseyes at 6:21 PM on January 7, 2013


but not that women might in the future move out of the kitchen.

Argument! There Will Come Soft Rains. No woman in the kitchen there!

I take your point, but also like Bradbury's Pipe-'n'slippers world. I find it comfy.
posted by Mezentian at 3:44 AM on January 8, 2013


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