Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Love Story by Irving E. Cox, 1956

Everything was aimed at satisfying the whims of women. The popular clichés, the pretty romances, the catchwords of advertising became realities; and the compound kept the men enslaved. George knew what he had to do...

If it hadn't been for the cover, which looked like a picture from a vintage issue of Ladies Home Journal, and the catchy blurb, I would not have read this short story by sf writer Irving E. Cox.

Science fiction is riddled with possibilities, such as the uneven matriarchal society in this story where women rule the world and treat men like slaves. Their weapon is a mysterious compound, an addictive love potion, that makes the men amorous and lust after women, all in the name of love. The compound, 
a mixture of aphrodisiacs and a habit-forming drug, forces the men to wait on women and do as their wives say. The potion, stored in a capsule, is secretly brewed at the all-female Directorate Building in Hollywood.

However, not all men allow themselves to be subjugated by females. Many have tried to escape bondage under women and have failed. Nineteen-year old George, a veritable Adonis standing over six feet, has been swallowing the compound as well but his domineering mother doesn't know that he is immune to it. George chooses his marriage to the stunning Jenny Harper, whose mother paid his mother twenty-eight thousand shares as dowry, to plot his revenge against female dominance by targeting the Directorate and destroying the machine that makes the compound.

The story appeared in If,
Worlds of Science Fiction

April 1956
Love Story is ludicrously sexist. For example, a federal law requires every male to watch television romances three hours a day and failure to do so would mean a three-month sentence to the national hero’s corps, whatever that is, or, worse still, elimination by the Morals Squad. The television romances are meant to “shape male attitudes and emotional reactions” and make the men hunger for women even more. Ironically, however, the women are actually craving to be appreciated, loved, and desired by the very men they seek to control through their potion.

Conversely, bachelors are treated like traitors, enemies of the state, while those who dream of avoiding their matrimonial duties and ditching their wives would have to first break their years-old addiction to the compound.

But is the compound for real and does George succeed in rebelling against women?

Irving E. Cox has written a futuristic story where men, and not women, are marketable products in a matriarchal, and not patriarchal, society. While not overlooking matriarchy in some traditional communities around the world, the role reversal as propounded in this story sounds unthinkable in our times, but it sounds plausible at some point in the distant future. However, if Cox is trying to make a case for gender equality, it's not exactly convincing. Still, Love Story is a nice and readable story.


Irving E. Cox (1917-2001) was a prolific sf writer of short stories, short fiction, and anthologies. Some of his noted works include Adolescents Only and The Instant of Now (1953), The Cartels Jungle and The Guardians (1955), and Impact (1960). All these stories including Love Story are available online.

15 comments:

  1. Musr admit, I think I enjoyed your post far more than I would the story, which really does sound a bit of a feeble fable than proper SF.

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    1. Sergio, thank you. While I'm no expert on science fiction, I agree that this story does not strictly fall in the realm of sf. It is more "feeble fable," even feeble fantasy, on a theme which I think is not uncommon. I'll see how some of Cox's other short stories and short fiction are.

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    2. Cox was a minor sf writer, though this is a fairly legit means of casting an alternate reality sf story...even if this one sounds like the kind of not terribly imaginative satire that publisher James Quinn loved to get for his version of IF (see the fine WORLDS OF IF retrospective anthology Frederik Pohl and MH Greenberg edited, which includes a Lot of memoirs from the various contributors and editors of the magazine who chose to speak up (and were still with us to do so). FWIW, the "cover" is a quick cut and paste for the web post/e-story version...

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    3. Todd, I was hoping you'd comment on Irving E. Cox and and his work, many thanks. I'll look for the anthology you mention. I didn't know about the cover which I found on several sites including Unz and Amazon. Is it not the original cover? At present, I'm comfortable reading more sf short stories than full-length novels although I do intend to graduate to the longer form on a regular basis.

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    4. Well, that "cover" was only cobbled together for the epublication by whoever posted it...it has nothing to do with the original publication of the story in the magazine IF or anywhere else but on the web. Here's a post about the IF anthology (and a similar one for TRIQUARTERLY) I did for FFB some time back:
      http://socialistjazz.blogspot.com/2011/09/ffb-worlds-of-if-retrospective.html

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    5. Unless you refer to the IF magazine cover...I'm talking about the one you post at the beginning of your review, giving Cox's name and the story title alone. (Amazon US, at least, doesn't have that image up at all.) Project Gutenberg reprints the IF cover and the Orban illustrations from the IF appearance. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/32078/32078-h/32078-h.htm

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    6. Todd, I confused the issue by referring to the IF cover instead of the one right above which you were referring to. Clearly, I was taken in by the "vintage" cover which is attributed to Feedbooks and, as you point out, was used for the e-story. It appears on only one website, I think.

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  2. I did initially wonder if this was in some way related to your Ryan O'Neal film from a week or two ago, but apparently not. Seems a bit like Stepford Wives but turned on its head. Not one for me mate.

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    1. Col, I thought that might happen. STEPFORD WIVES is a good example of what this story eludes too. In fact, it's possible that the makers of the film adopted the idea from Irving E. Cox. We'll have to see if someone else wrote about it before Cox.

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    2. The Stepford Wives was originally a book by Ira Levin (1972) that the film (1975) was based on. I seem to remember a later adaptation with Nicole Kidman.

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    3. Col, I remember seeing parts of the Nicole Kidman film although I didn't know it was based on a book by Ira Levin who I have never read. In fact, I didn't even know there was a 1972 version. Thanks for letting me know.

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    4. Levin wrote some decent books - not that many though.
      ROSEMARY'S BABY, A KISS BEFORE DYING and THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL to mention a few - all his stuff seemed to lend itself to film adaptations.

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    5. Col, I have only heard about Ira Levin and the first two books you mentioned; otherwise I'm blank about the author and his work. I may have seen some of the films without knowing they were based on his books.

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  3. Cox' story reminds me of an old Norman Lear produced satirical soap opera called All that Glitters in which stereotypical gender roles are reversed. Women control all US corporations and men are their secretaries or "househusbands". Men are also eroticized in the show and used as sexual playthings by the women in power. Didn't last long, but it was a great showcase for some 1970s actresses like Lois Nettleton, Anita Gillette and Eileen Brennan and was a comeback of sorts for Barbara Baxley who was something of a sex kitten on 1960s TV shows.

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    1. John, thanks for writing about ALL THAT GLITTERS which sounds vaguely familiar while the four actresses are totally new for me. The theme of this story appears to have been a popular formula back then.

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