While reading Lucifer’s Hammer I have felt constantly conflicted about the authors’ portrayal of different social groups at the time the book was created, specifically minorities, women, liberals, and the like. Although there is a decidedly vast array of character types throughout the novel, one cannot help but begin to notice a pattern develop among characters that the authors seem more sympathetic towards and those characters who receive less favorable attention.
Conservationists, for instance, appear as lunatics who only want to pick fights and hate advancement. When Harvey meets Mabe Bishop (155), for instance, we can see a starting contrast between the cool and collected Randall and the fanatical, unreasoning Bishop. While Bishop rambles on about the deterioration of the planet and the threat of atomic energy, Randall calmly dismisses her complaints and, rather informatively, cancels out her claims and then feels triumphant when she cannot counter his argument. Does anyone else find it odd that she not only stands behind every cause that a stereotypical conservationist at the time would (spray cans and the ozone layer, etc.) and that she seems to simply regurgitate complaints rather than provide an actual challenge to modernity?
Then there are the women in general. For the most part, Niven and Pournelle seem to classify female characters into two categories: weak wives and girlfriends who become fodder for the readers’ bloodlust and strong, “modern” women. Women such as Loretta who are petty, greedy, and unreasonable are simply accessories that turn to liabilities and later die off, releasing their men and allowing them to survive without the burden of suitcases full of makeup. Women like Maureen, Leonilla, and Eileen, on the other hand, embrace modernity, can take care of themselves but have the potential for nurturing, and have sex appeal to boot. Is this slightly tilted in favor of a current standard of what is considered desirable in women or is this
And what about the African Americans? Again, we have two groups: those who are considered urban thugs and those who have conformed to the majority. While the latter group—Rick and the mayor of LA—are all successful and seem almost the same as their Caucasian counterparts, other African Americans in Lucifer’s Hammer rob and murder for a living. Not much room for ethnocentrism.
So ultimately what I am asking is whether the characters in this book are a product of uncensored views of social groups at the time or if this book is the construct of the authors’ interpretation of the times. Before you answer, keep this in mind: this book was made in the late seventies. PC is not as prevalent at this time, so writers at this time are free to call things as they see them. What we now would call stereotypes may have been more of the standard back then.
[ps I know the authors were into technology and all, but the part where Maureen microwaved frozen steaks just killed me. I'm a vegetarian and I wanted to cry; no cut of meat deserves to go out that way!]