So far, the representations of gender in the show are pretty sophisticated, I was impressed in that respect. I'm much less impressed with their treatment of race. In particular, why are all the most religious characters black? I'm delving a little into the beginning of season two here, but there's Roslin's (spiritual?) adviser (the one who realizes the importance of the 12 serpents), her guard in the brig, and the quorum member from Gemenon. It makes me a little uncomfortable...
One of the most interesting, yet very briefly discussed, differences between the inhabitants born on Toussaint and those whose ancestry traces far back on New Half-Way Tree is the concept of a higher power, the god-figure. The humans have Granny-Nanny while the douens have Father Bois.
Race and racial discrimination are a very large part of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, but they do not manifest in the way we would expect. In Stephenson's future world, race becomes defined more by who you work for rather than what your genetics are. Residents and employees of the various Franchises are granted a sense of exclusive community as per their "citizenship," and come to distrust and even feud with those from other Franchises.
In general, race in Cyteen seemed to be of absolutely minimal importance. Surface physical differences deteriorated (or evolved) into genetic ones: the most blatant division within Resuene society is the dichotomy of CIT and azi. However, I find myself wondering if that division is not just a displacement of race issues. The azi certainly seem to be the inferior members of this hierarchical structure. Although they have an important function within the society and do not seem to mind their lower status, they are forced to be servants of the upper strata of CIT's.
There is a fascinating interplay between light and dark, and the role of shadows in "The Left Hand of Darkness." Perhaps most interesting is the concept of shifgrethor, a code of honor amongst the Karhidians, which "comes from an old word for shadow" (247). There is also, among the Handdarata, a focus on the "un"--that which seems to be the opposite of what is. In many respects, the Karhidians seem to be defined more by what they are not, by what is unseen, and by what traditionally is thought to obscure.
I'm still interested in what happens in this novel in terms of race, and the representation of racial issues in the future. We might of tried to touch on it in class, but the overwhelming struggle over the meaning and the philosophy of gender in society was definitely something that took over. It clearly has for almost all readers of the novel, down to the feminist writers who proclaimed that Le Guin's use of the male pronoun was the number one most anti-feminist act of all time.
Well I just finished reading Neuromancer, and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've never read any cyberpunk before, so it was certainly an interesting read. For some reason I am drawn to the idea of an imperfect future where things are grungy and gross and the people are flawed. I suppose it seems to me like a more realistic version of the future than one in which everyone gets along and there is no poverty and crime (i.e. the Star Trek universe). Perhaps I have little faith in humanity?.
We all know that it's a common trope in science fiction for ideas about divisions of race to be transplanted to racial boundaries -- as if the authors are saying, "Look, if they can get along with wookies, why can't we humans all get along among ourselves?" It's such a common device, in fact, that it becomes difficult to recognize when alien species are actually not supposed to represent ethnicities.
So a couple thoughts on Heinlein. First of all, although I agree with the below comment that alien races can imply racial connotations, I think that in this case Heinlein used the communal properties of an insectoid race to demonstrate the potential power of a communist social structure in a species adapted to it--and to show it's fundamental incompatibility with human drives. Second, I think Heinlein's discussion of the source of political power, though not directly involving race or gender as a major factor, is a potentially useful tool for understanding modern political power relations.