Mares and Stallions

Tom Wilkie

  • Games, Sex and Evolution by John Maynard Smith
    Harvester, 264 pp, £14.95, August 1988, ISBN 0 7108 1216 7

From the peacock’s tail to the quiet of an English rose garden, the dominant message of the natural world is that of sexual reproduction. We are so used to its omnipresence that we seldom question it. Few writers have seriously explored what life would be like in a sexless but otherwise human society, although Ursula Le Guin, in her very effective Science Fiction novel The Left Hand of Darkness has tried to do so. Whether consciously or not, Ms Le Guin set the action of her novel on a planet where perpetual winter provides an appropriately gray and colourless backdrop. But even she could not quite sustain the imaginative leap required: once a month her characters acquire sexual characteristics, but at random – an individual may be male one month and female the next.

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