In his introduction to The Book of the Law, Aleister Crowley wrote: “Observe for yourselves the decay of the sense of sin, the growth of innocence and irresponsibility, the strange modifications of the reproductive instinct with a tendency to become bisexual or epicene, the childlike confidence in progress combined with nightmare fear of catastrophe, against which we are yet half unwilling to take precautions.”
These are precisely the observations that undergird Sturgeon’s prescient 1960 novel Venus Plus X, about human gender, religion, and social control. The protagonist Charlie Johns is transported into a strange time in which the not-quite-any-longer-homo sapiens seem to have realized the Law of Thelema on the level of an entire society. One of its advocates explains its religion thus:
“We worship the future, not the past. We worship what is to come, not what has been. We aspire to the consequences of our own acts. We keep before us the image of what is malleable and growing–of that which we have the power to improve. We worship that power within ourselves, and the sense of responsibility which lives with it. A child is all of these things.”
In common with Sturgeon’s work generally, this book has an awareness of the tragic aspects of human interaction, and an assertion of the redemptive power of love. Parallel to the exotic utopian scenario, he presents vignettes from the life of an American middle class family, highlighting the relevance of the issues addressed by Charlie Johns’ adventures in the strange country of Ledom. The deft prose style makes the reading an easy pleasure throughout, despite the extensive descriptions and lean plot. One substantial “sermon” is compensated by an equally substantial plot twist.
While this book is not about homosexuality (although some thickheaded reviewers have understood it thus), it is certainly a timely read when the issue of gay marriage is an object of political contention. And it should be abidingly provocative to those of us who have affirmed our entrance into the Aeon of the Crowned and Conquering Child.