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The World Well Lost is often presented as a love story, the first to depict homosexuality in a sympathetic light in the science fiction genre. But it’s so much more than that. First, it’s a comment of human shallowness. The “loverbirds”, a pair of aliens very much in love, arrive on a future Earth and become instantly famous. They mean to stay and Earth has no problem with it, but Dirbanu, their planet or origin and a place that Terrans might not visit, asks Earth to send them back, with vague wording about them getting access to Dirbanu in exchange. Of course, even though nobody is told what the loverbirds’ crime was, diplomacy requires this is agreed to. The ship they are sent into is manned by two men, a huge man who hardly speaks, to the point he’s called Grunty, but whose mind races with words and images from all that he’s read and a smaller-than-average macho Captain who is so deeply in denial he’s swimming in homophobia.

During the trip, during one of the periods in which Grunty is awake and the Captain unconscious (the travel method renders someone smaller so for longer periods) he discovers the loverbirds are telepaths and they know his secret, the secret desire that rules his world and that he has managed to balance with his reality in a way that leaves him happy enough. Of course, it all depends on it staying secret, especially from the captain, and Grunty *spoilers* decides even killing the prisoners is justified to keep it. They know what he is planning, naturally, but they don’t try to stop him (and he thinks “A species that can’t defend itself, does not deserve to exist” in all of our Darwinian fanatism), instead they reveal to him that their fugitive status is due to the fact that they are both male. That, alien as they are, they understand him better than anybody in his closeminded world ever has, that they know him and don’t hate him for being who he is. He lets them go, instead. When he wakes up the Captain decides, more or less all on his own, that Grunty let the “faeries” escape so the captain wouldn’t kill them, thus, he did it to protect the captain.

They tell Dirbanu the prisoners are dead. Dirbanu mentally checks if they are faking it, but, of course, their absence is equal to death telepathically speaking. Which brings the point home, why would they care if they are death as long as they are not in Dirbanu? When they make it very clear they want NO contact with Earth whatsoever in any case? What is this relentless need humans feel to seek out that which is different to them and destroy it even when it’s not interfering with their own lives?

There is simply something tantalizing about Sturgeon's writing. You read him and feel that on the other side there's this amazing creature, someone who can really look beyond the obvious, who gets things. But only ocassionally are you smart enough to understand those things he's trying to tell you. Like "Grumpy", Sturgeon caged in by language's limitations, even as he stretches language's limits as much as he can.


☀   They were primitives, both of them, which is to say that they were doers, while Modern Man is a thinker and/or a feeler. The thinkers compose new variations and permutations of euphoria, and the feelers repay the thinkers by responding to their inventions. The ships had no place for Modern Man, and Modern Man had only the most casual use for the ships.

☀   Doers can cooperate like cam and pushrod, like ratchet and pawl, and such linkage creates a powerful bond.
There was that about Grunty which made moments of isolation a vital necessity, for a man must occasionally be himself, which in anyone's company Grunty was not. But after stasis shifts Grunty had an hour or so to himself while his commander lay numbly spread-eagled on the blackout couch, and he spent these in communions of his own devising. Sometimes this meant only a good book.

@read in english, +gay, author: Theodore sturgeon, *author: male, 2011, book-2011, #cuento/short-story, #science fiction, @_space, 2011: short-story in english, to re-read

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