Men of Earth – A Novel
March is Women’s History Month and it’s time to reveal that my novel Men of Earth is arriving soon. The book cover is finished, final edits are in progress and Men of Earth will be landing in the physical and digital realms shortly.
The men in Men of Earth may be products of this writer’s imagination, but their genesis is firmly rooted in the real world. As women continue to fight for equality (and against the atrocities of man-made wars), many of us are discovering not only how deeply entrenched and covert some misogynist attitudes are, but also how we are still floundering when it comes to the wider implications of true equality for women. After all, we all know how men shouldn’t treat women, but how do women want to be treated? And what would a more feminine world look like? How might genuine gender equality play out on the world stage? The answers aren’t quite as simple as we might wish and involve a lot of unpacking of enculturation, oppressive and possessive ideologies, expectations and subjugations.
And, if we want to stop our planet dying and human civilisation falling apart at the seams, everyone – men and women – need to embrace more feminine qualities such as empathy, nurturing and gentleness, and abandon the attitudes of domination, predation and that ‘win at all costs’ approach to conflict which is currently playing out so horribly on the other side of the world.
Yes, Men of Earth is a fantasy, (well magical realist, metaphysical, speculative and science fiction, to be more precise – there’s a bit of genre-bending involved here…), but just as reality inspires fantasy, fantasy inspires reality.
Or as Buddha says: ‘Everything begins with a thought.’
May your Women’s History Month be filled with compassion, courage, inspiration and grace.
‘The path from dreams to success does exist. May you have the vision to find it, the courage to get on to it, and the perseverance to follow it‘
Genesis of the Story
We all have back stories – those life experiences – subtle, gentle, dramatic, and life-wrenchingly traumatic, that shape who we are and how we respond to the world. Fictional stories have back stories as well – reasons why they come into being.
Back in 2017 – I enrolled in a Master of Creative Writing degree at Macquarie University in Sydney. My background was in the visual arts, not writing, and more than once, I wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew.
But of course, biting off more than we can chew either leads to indigestion or a greater awareness of our capacities and opportunities for growth.
One of my first writing challenges involved using a series of active, pre-selected verbs in a short exercise. I built a story around those verbs and in those moments, Men of Earth was born.
2017 was also the year Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States. It was a year of wildfires and rising concerns about climate change and social media chat bots along with deeper conversations about the dangers of AI. It was the beginning of the fake news era, a time when we all started to wonder where we could find the truth.
And then, came the explosive allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the beginning of the #MeToo movement. The added revelation that everyone knew it was happening, but did nothing and even aided and abetted, added fuel to the fire of women’s indignation. Collectively and personally, 2017 felt like the bursting of a long-festering boil.
Men of Earth’s first draft began with an apocalypse – a war and a virus that killed most of our planet’s men. Back then, with all those tyrants dictating the fate of the planet and the lives and careers of women, it seemed like a nice, simple solution to world problems.
In this dystopian, not too distant future, a group of women – in possession of ancient mystical knowledge and cutting-edge science – build and animate artificial men from clay called golems. My protagonist buys one of these golems at a marketplace for a discount, because he has a scar. Her handsome new purchase comes with complementary trousers, tee shirt and butcher’s apron. He cooks and cleans, recites poetry, has advanced carpentry skills and is a vigorous and enthusiastic lover. Many of my female cohorts who read this short piece responded with: ‘I want a golem!’
Unfortunately, this supposedly brand new, virgin, hot-off-the press man is discounted for a reason. He behaves eccentrically and confesses one morning in bed that he once had a wife, but can’t recall much else. He is a product, the protagonist concludes, of too much sorcery not enough science. She begins to mistrust him. She finds him sinister.
But this was where the writing got challenging. This was the point where I lost the story, but also the point where I was forced to dig deeper and ask myself what I was really trying to say.
Men (particularly artificial men) depicted as dolts is a common trope in stories that promote the empowerment of women. Back in 1996, The Stepford Husbands took on this challenge with a story about men ‘reconditioned’ to be domesticated. The trailer describes those Stepford Husbands as: ‘Husbands too good to be true.’ At the end of the movie, a reconditioned husband, who is docile and passionless, has a brain snap, turns violent, kills his wife then suicides. This dark ending implies it’s not possible to create gentle, cooperative men who joyfully support and serve women, because men are inherently dominant and violent. The message embedded in that story pokes us between the eyes. Want to change men? Don’t bother, girls, it’ll be a disaster and you’ll undoubtedly end up dead.
I’m happy to note the movie as not a hit.
These days, everywhere, we see examples of men behaving badly. We witness male entitlement daily on the news and read about it in novels and memoirs. Here in Australia, there’s rising awareness of the epidemic of coercive control and domestic abuse, as well as the deeply entrenched attitudes and systemic malignancies that enable this behaviour. Gentleness, empathy and vulnerability have long been enculturated out of men by ideologies that value and promote hierarchy, conformity, domination, oppression and violent solutions to conflict.
‘Where is the guidance for respectful, supportive male behavior? Where are the examples of good men?‘
Somewhere in all of this observing, reflecting and rewriting, the question I was asking about what my book was really about became crystal clear: We all know about how men shouldn’t treat women. But how do women want to be treated? How do women want men to behave? Where is the guidance for respectful, supportive male behavior? Where are the examples of good men?
A great deal of art, is, on some level, political. Art also reflects the time in which it is created – even when the creator tries very consciously, to critique society or step outside its boundaries. Yet art also creates new ways of seeing our world, opens up new perspectives and new possibilities. So yes, Men of Earth is a fantasy. But just as reality inspires fantasy, fantasy inspires reality.
Men of Earth is a story about women reclaiming not just their stolen human rights, but also their spirits. It’s a story of conflict, recovery, triumph and possibilities. Who, for instance, would have imagined – two hundred years ago years ago – women would get the vote, control their reproductive lives, earn their own money, own their own property? Two hundred years ago, that would have seemed a fantasy. Women fought for those rights. They fought to make their dreams a reality.
The fact is, we spend most of our waking lives simultaneously inhabiting both the worlds of fiction and fact, navigating our way through those inner and outer realities; those community and digital echo chambers, reconciling what we perceive with what we think and hope and imagine.
And, as we are increasingly witnessing on the plethora of platforms we use to gather knowledge and information, truth can be a slippery, sly and shy beast. Sometimes, the only place we can glimpse the truth is in the realm of our imaginations.
Men of Earth Trailer
A fresh version of the Men of Earth trailer is here! I’m interested in your feedback ( you can leave a comment on the ‘Books’ page) and, if the story intrigues you, please feel free to subscribe to my newsletter. On a PC, the link is on the side panel, but if you’re looking at this on a phone, sorry, you’ll have to scroll right to the bottom.
Frequently Asked Questions
When will Men of Earth be published?
An excellent question. For which as of yet, there isn’t a definite date. The book is edited, reader-tested and ready to go. I still, however, have to design the cover, and set up all the printing and production protocols. Having said this I’m on to it and the novel Men of Earth is on its way.