In the late 1970s, the science fiction writer A.E. Vogt sat down at his typewriter (or with a notepad, I don’t know the dude’s method) and decided that the world needed a novel about a future where aliens had arrived, judged that the problem with humanity was male aggression, and promptly required that all men be chemically made nearsighted so that they would have to wear prescription glasses that would functionally kill all their aggressive, violent, and sexual drives. And then one day Physicist Peter Grayson’s glasses break. He finds himself more aggressive and engaged with the world. Women start to throw themselves at his feet (well, not his ‘feet’) and he starts to find more joy in life. But will he get away with his liberation? Or will the aliens who imposed their order on the world find out and put him back in his place–or worse?
Obviously, A.E. Vogt’s Renaissance isn’t the book for our moment. I’m not even sure it was the book for his moment. Though I suppose it could be generously read as an attempt to write the second wave feminist perspective in a gender-swapped future world. Maybe Vogt was being ironic here? To be fair, he is known for writing fairly thematically deep stories with multiple layers of meaning. But that’s also the most generous view of the book one could possibly take. I think it’s more likely that he was venting in middle-aged-man style about how guys are becoming a bunch of sissies and isn’t it time to kick off the blinders and take charge again? Renaissance is the science fiction novel form of a drunk uncle at the holidays telling the kids they’d better get out and play some sports or they’ll end up being pushed around by their wives someday.
Which means first and foremost that it’s probably a good thing the patriarchy guys haven’t found this book yet–though it’s probably just a matter of time. Second, there are interesting questions here for Christians. Just what are the differences between men and women? Are there sins that are unique to men? (or to women, though that’s not the point of Renaissance) Is violence one of the sins that men engage with in a way that doesn’t apply to women? Unfortunately, Renaissance is so heavy-handed in its approach that the subtlety and nuance required for carefully, thoughtfully, and Biblically answering those questions is virtually impossible to summon.
So, you know, look elsewhere for careful thought about the nature of gender and the relationship between the sexes than this obscure work of 1970s science fiction.