|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|December 23, 1992|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|LC Class||PS3557.R48935 A8 1993|
Ammonite is Nicola Griffith's first novel, published in 1992 (ISBN 978-0-345-37891-0). It won both the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) fiction, and the James Tiptree, Jr. Award for science fiction or fantasy that explores or expands our understanding of gender.
Ammonite is the story of Marghe Taishan, an employee of the sinister, monolithic 'Company', sent to the planet GP (Gershom's Planet- pronounced 'Jeep') as an anthropologist. The distinctive feature of Jeep is an endemic disease which kills all men (and some women) who contract it. While testing a vaccine made to protect unexposed people form the virus, Marghe makes a journey across Jeep, living with many of its indigenous cultures. She is enslaved by the nomadic Echraide, and then reaches the quieter village of Ollfoss, where she joins a family, learns the mystic discipline of linking, and eventually becomes a 'viajera', or traveling wise woman, giving up the vaccine in favor of accepting the virus into her body and truly learning what it is like to be a native. Afterward, she is forced to the center of a conflict between her former people, the Mirrors, with their native allies and the Echraide, who follow a member of their tribe whom they believe to be the Death God- Uaithne, possibly experiencing psychosis. Marghe wins peace for all as the Mirror's guard ship is blown out of the sky by the Company, who believe the vaccine has failed.
Adaptation to life on Jeep appears to be a greater theme of Griffith's novel, as not only Marghe, but other Company personnel, also eventually are forced to settle on Jeep and adapt to the cultures that its prior colonists have created, in order to adjust to the planetary environment.
Although the narrative voice never refers to any characters as lesbians, it is assumed that most of the natives of Jeep can form sexual relationships with other women. Marghe also forms a sexual relationship with a member of her adopted family, Thenike, and both become pregnant. However, Ammonite differs significantly from other feminist science fiction novels that depict a matriarchy through depicting active social antagonisms between Jeep's female tribal groups, particularly Marghe's battle against the barbarian warrior Uaithne.
Ammonite falls into a tradition of science fiction stories that deal with worlds where everyone belongs to a single gender: Tiptree's Houston, Houston, Do You Read? is a notable example, while Joanna Russ' The Female Man is another.
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