In Which Tor.com Reveals a Thing I Did With Lock In + Lock In Spoiler Thread

And it involves the book’s protagonist, Chris Shane. 

What is it?

1. It may be a spoiler for those of you who have not read the novel already, so don’t click the link below unless you’ve read the book and/or don’t car if the book is spoiled in a sense (note the information does not spoil the plot, just something about Chris).

2. To find out what it is, follow this link.

And yes, it was fully intentional.

I’ll talk more about it in the comment thread here, which will serve as the spoiler-laden discussion of the book. So obviously, don’t read any further unless you’ve read the book and/or don’t mind it being spoiled for you.

173 thoughts on “In Which Tor.com Reveals a Thing I Did With Lock In + Lock In Spoiler Thread

  1. So, Chris Shane. Chris’ gender is not specified for reasons I note in the Tor.com article, but a couple more thoughts about it over here.

    1. As noted in the Tor.com article, the fact that Chris is a Haden means that presentation of gender, sex, etc are not necessarily obvious to outsiders, which allows the Haden to have significant control over presentation — or not to offer any conventional presentation at all — both in a threep and inside the Agora. This is not to say every Haden moves their gender presentation around (it’s clear many Hadens choose traditional gender presentations in the book) but it’s a thing that can be done if one chooses.

    In the writing I didn’t gender Chris (or speculate about Chris’ sexuality, other than to suggest Chris does have sexuality) partly as a writing challenge and partly because I think that as a matter of worldbuilding it makes sense that for some Hadens, Chris being one of them, gender would not be a thing that is in the lead for their presentation.

    2. As a writer, I was curious to see — in a way that would not distract from the narrative of the murder mystery at the heart of a novel, or would make an overt political statement — what people’s defaults would be in relating to Chris as a protagonist. Do they see Chris as male? Female? Neither or somewhere inbetween? And in each case for what reasons? Would the fact I am a male author have an effect? What other factors would come into play? And so on.

    I would note I didn’t tell anyone I was doing this — not even my editor Patrick. When he read it, he filled Chris in with his own defaults; so did Krissy, my wife, who is my usual first reader. In their cases they came to different conclusions.

    We also decided not to call attention to it in the publicity run-up for the release, which was slightly tricky with regard to the audiobook version, as it had two versions, one read by Wil Wheaton and the other by Amber Benson (both of whom did a fine job). We didn’t hide it, or run from it — I was asked about it a couple of times during the book tour — but by and large we let people come to it without calling attention to Chris’ gender (or lack of stated one thereof). So it was very interesting to see how people reacted to it if they noticed at all, which they often did not.

    What I’ve found anecdotally is that it seems that it’s about 70/30 in terms of how people see Chris, with 70% defaulting male. I would say nearly all men defaulted male, while there was more parity amoung women in terms of how they defaulted out. No one as far as I could tell assumed Chris was without gender, which in itself probably says something. Nearly all the reviews of the book I’ve seen assumed Chris was male, I would note.

    As for which gender Chris really “is”: I don’t know. I knew going in that I wasn’t going to gender the character, so as far as went, I worked not to let myself default one way or the other. Whether I was successful in this regard is up to readers to decide. This also means there’s no “right” answer. If Chris is male to you, that works for me. It also works for me if you see Chris as female. It also works if you see Chris as something else, or somewhere inbetween.

    Finally, I would note that while there is certainly a bit of me making a sociopolitical point here about how people default with gender in the absence of over information, the point is intentionally rather mild, indeed to such an extent that it can (and ancedotally is) often missed or ignored entirely. It’s there for people who notice it and want to think about it, and not for those who don’t. Other people with more focused thoughts and (using the term non-perjoratively) agendas with regard to gender can and do have more to say about the matter in fiction, and do. I suspect some people would say I didn’t press the point far enough, and that there are other who would say that pressing it at all was too far.

    For me, this was something I could do in the specific world I constructed, and did, and was curious to see how people would respond (or even if they would respond). It’s been interesting so far.

  2. Given the amount of work I’m sure you had to do to avoid using pronouns, titles, and the like, I figured it would have been impossible for it to not be intentional.

  3. That makes the double audio book idea so much more interesting/meaningful, I’m kinda sad I didn’t take advantage of the buy-one-get-one deal while it was on.

  4. “Weak male” and “possibly European”?

    Why didn’t they just program the analysis algorithm to use “gammabunny?”

    It really does beg the question of whose assumptions are being used to identify assumptions….

  5. I…am really embarrassed that I did not notice this. Even though I got the audio edition with both narrators. So, I guess kudos for writing that in a way that’s not awkward and blatant!

  6. I do think the voice of the audiobook reader matters. I listened to the Wil Wheaton version first and heard Chris as male, then listened to something else as a “palette cleanser”. Now listening to the Amber Benson version, and I am envisioning Chris as female. There are a couple of places where I think Chris could still be male in the AB version, where I didn’t hear/think about that in the WW version. So I would say I have a bias toward thinking of Chris as male but having a female narrator makes me question that assumption. Enjoying the different perspectives based on the second listen. Will probably buy it as well to see how it “reads” at some point.

  7. Three things:

    1. The Tor piece says we never know Chris’ race. Not that it matters, but at one point you identify his father as African-American (or at least black) when he shoots the intruder.

    2. Their analyzer identified your writing style as a “weak Male.” You just know a certain group of your detractors are going to run with that as their headline. :(

    3. As I read Lock In it seemed like you were trying to break some other stereotypes, i.e. the hard-edged worn-out cop being female, the CEO of the pharma company having a same-sex marriage, and probably others I didn’t note. Care to comment?

  8. I sort of noticed as I was reading, but as I commented elsewhere I actually settled on thinking of Chris as male early on for a pretty trivial reason – s/he uses the phrase “take a piss” during an early scene and to me that’s a very male-gendered statement.

  9. I had wondered if Chris’s gender would remain undefined onscreen by using an androgynous voice, but I’m re-listening to Unlocked, and it describes the first words from Margie Haden’s threep as sounding just like her. Will casting Chris’s voice for TV be like opening the box and observing Schrödinger’s cat?

  10. As @Beej pointed out, I did catch the race bit when identifying Chris’ father as a “black man with a shotgun.”

    But like @TEarlGrey, I also could have sworn there was a “he” or two in there or that Chris’ father referred to Chris as “son.” Again, likely gender bias on my part.

  11. I kinda figured that’s where you were going before the official release due to the 1st-person perspective and the pair of readings on the audio book.

    Interestingly, Sam’s gender ambiguity still stands out for me, even after two readings and two listenings, much more than Chris’s. I’m not sure why that is.

    I also like how you play on assumptions about race with respect to Chris’s dad. I initially identified him as white, because I’m white, then as black, because basketball. And then I thought, “Well, that’s not right either. There are plenty of successful players of several racial identities.” And, turns out he is black, so there.

    I still think the opening of Ghost Brigades is cheating.

  12. I noticed the lack of pronouns and other gendered terms, but I have to say that Chris’ voice still read as male to me.

    That might just be projection on my part, but I also can’t help feeling that (for instance) the first encounter with Tayla would have gone very differently if Chris had had an obviously female presentation.

    (As an aside, this isn’t the first time our host has done this: IIRC, he also did it with Sam Berlant in The Android’s Dream, although that was a far more minor character)

  13. As a woman and a baby boomer, my entire long sci-fi reading life I’ve read mostly male centric sci fi. And it hasn’t bothered me, frankly. But I got to the end of Lock In, completely convinced Chris was a woman. Completely. Then I began to read comments that pointed out your carefully crafted characterization. Amazing. Truly. I’m really interested to find out if perceptions of Chris do correlate to the reader’s gender. I haven’t told anyone about this when I recommended the book because I truly want to know what they think when they finish.

  14. I kept it in mind primarily because I’d heard that there would be two audiobook versions, one with a woman and one with a man. And this isn’t the first time that John has pulled this “trick”… go read THE GOD ENGINES and notice the lack of gendered pronouns attached to Shalle.

  15. I’m in the same boat as @TEarlGrey. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t notice (even though I’ve noticed this in other Scalzi stories). It makes me realize I need to pay even MORE attention to my own gender bias.

  16. For me, the fact that you were doing it intentionally jumped out when Chris’s father referred to Chris as “my child” which struck me as a slightly odd way to refer to one’s adult offspring… unless you weren’t wanting to use a gender specific term.

    I did read Chris as female, but that was probably informed by listening to the first chapter of audio read by Amber Benson.

  17. I don’t think of Chris as a unisex name, so I went automatically to male without ever considering it. Though I should have considered the non-binary-gender possibility, since I have quite a few friends in that category.

  18. That said, the more I thought about it– especially how Chris was Locked In at such an early age– the more I considered that a sense of gender identity wouldn’t necessarily form in quite the same way, if Chris had spent most of their life interacting with the world as a threep. This frame of mind, I think, is even further shown by the existence of Cassandra Bell, Locked In in the womb, so her sense of self being tied to a body at all didn’t exist. Thus she interacted with the world entirely through the Agora, never using a Threep.

  19. I listened to the Amber Benson version.
    An odd thing is that I noticed the gendering (or lack of it) early on – I thought it was interesting and was running with Chris as provisionally female until pointed otherwise. I was listening for it, and would have sworn I caught a reference somewhere about halfway through the book pointing to Chris as male. (Obviously, I misheard.) It didn’t change my (considerable) enjoyment of the book at all.
    Tor also mentioned race – I know Chris’s dad explicitly ID’s himself as African-American late in the book (after the shooting?) but no mention is explicit of Mom’s background other that being an old Virginia family with ties to the Confederacy, which seemed to point fairly white – I know there are exceptions to everything, but that seems like a pretty safe assumption.
    (Mom’s family was gun runners or smugglers for the Confederacy? Can’t 100% remember.)

  20. I thought leaving Chris’s gender undefined might be your intention as soon as the samples from the audiobook performances were made available. Without that clue, I don’t know that I would have noticed and now, being biased, I can only hope that I can notice and appreciate how you went about doing this.

  21. I listened to Wil Wheaton’s audio version first, and then Amber Benson’s. I’m female, but I generally prefer male narrators over female, and that was my experience here (and I’m also a huge fan of Wil’s audiobook narration in general). Since I heavily preferred Wil’s version, Chris skews male to me.

    Aside from the narration bias, I also felt the scene where Chris steps in and saves her doctor housemate from a bashing seemed very “male”. That’s probably because I generally wouldn’t expect to see one female stepping in and offering to swap herself for another in a dangerous situation like this in a world without threeps – which is obviously the world in which I’ve developed all my gender role references and expectations. So while it’s just me reacting with a real-world brain and gender role conditioning to a sci-fi situation, it’s the one scene that sticks out to me as non-gender-neutral.

  22. I’m genderqueer (and, as it happens, a wheelchair user); about 20% of the way through I twigged that you hadn’t gendered Chris yet, and was delighted to get spoiled for the fact that you kept not doing it, because it meant I didn’t have to wait for the other shoe to drop.

    So: here’s at least one person who didn’t gender Chris male or female, was thrilled to bits, and steadfastly refers to them as “they” when pronouns turn useful. :-)

    (And as a shouty trans activist — honestly, the thing that annoyed me most in the book? Was the TRULY TERRIBLE WHEELCHAIR. But then that’s to be expected, I suppose, for a law-enforcement agency…)

  23. I was tipped off to the “Chris is never gendered” piece before I read the book, and by the end of the book I was left thinking that it was Chris, not “the author,” who was deliberately refusing gender and race.

    If you can customize your threep to be anything you want, what does it mean to choose an absolutely blank presentation?

    Also: the piece about young!Chris choosing an ivory threep made me think of the “Black kids want to play with white dolls” study. We don’t know Chris’s racial identity, but we do know Chris’s father’s racial identity, and I would love a short story from Chris’s father’s perspective, or from another parent’s perspective once the parent realizes the Haden child has the option to reject race and gender and is choosing to exercise that option.

  24. My husband listened on audible (starting with Benson, switching to Wheaton) and he marveled how you could seamlessly make Chris gender-ambiguous because you are so good at making your characters people first and foremost.

  25. I live in DC, so when Chris’s dad was mentioned as having attended Cardozo High, I figured he was black, though I know the demographics of the District and of the high school would probably have changed a bit in the next 25 years.

    I didn’t catch the gender thing until I saw the discussion thread on PNH’s site, and it blew my mind how I didn’t notice this (I ended up reading ANCILLARY JUSTICE soon after, so that was a nice one-two to gender assumptions when reading!).

  26. When my wife gleefully bought the double-win audiobooks of Amber’s and Wil’s reading I was immediately suspicious. For some odd reason, SNL’s Pat and Chris popped into my mind. The cool thing is Haden’s using threeps can present themselves as anything. Why not the opposite sex? Why not a spider? A giant, awesome, steampunk spider. That flies.

  27. I did notice after a couple of chapters, as I tend to visualize what I’m reading, and the protagonist remained a complete cipher far longer than usual. The dinner scene was where I realized it was deliberate and would probably continue for the rest of the book, but the phrase “poster child” in the previous chapter had already nudged me towards interpreting Chris as female (I’ve heard women refer to themselves that way, but I can only recall hearing guys use “poster boy” about themselves).

    I did find it kind of amusing that, in a book where characters complain of being treated as robots, or less than human, the only physical descriptions we got of Chris were of the threeps being worn.

  28. Huh, totally didn’t notice that. Which is kind of amazing, usually a lack of pronouns/titles/etc is fairly noticeable because of the gymnastics that are done to avoid them. I did assume male, but I think that’s because (at least in my experience) “Chris” is almost always male, while Kris goes either way (leaning slightly female for me)

    I am really curious about the roommate (roommates?) that had two names. Was that two people sharing a threep? Or one person that presents differently depending on the day?

  29. So not only did I read Chris as male, but I’ve seen the non-gender-discrimination thing posted somewhere else a few days ago, and dismissed it as “nah, I clearly remember a scene where he shaves his body’s face”. And now I re-read the place where I thought that thing was (namely “My body was neat and clean, which was not always a guarantee with a Haden. Some Hadens didn’t bother with having their hair cut or trimmed because, honestly, what did it matter?”), and obviously it’s… well, not there. So weird :)

  30. Because of Sam in Androids Dream and the fact that there were two audiobooks with one male and one female reader being put out (not a minor cost), I was aware before starting to read Lock In that the sex would probably be indeterminate.

    Knowing this in no way hurt the book for me. I loved the book and cannot wait for more in this world.

    On a second reading I have been reading and listening to the book alternating between Wil Wheaton and Amber Benson (using Kindle Fire Immersion feature). It is amazing how quickly one can switch between the two sexes, yet even so how switching changes my perception of Chris.

    Wil is the faster reader, if this makes any difference in your choice of reader. Both are very good.

    As to the race, I guess I assumed that someone who is a star Basketball player for Washington and is named Marcus would be black. This may show a cultural tendency in me, but at least this time I was right.

    Keep up the good work, and hope that they are able to keep this in the TV series.

  31. While I am not at all surprised by a 70/30 split there (I haven’t known any female Chrises since high school so the name automatically biases male for me), I wonder if the selection of a commonly male first name as Chris’s last name also subtly primed people’s expectations towards male.

  32. I am interested in Wil and Amber’s experiences: did they know about the deliberate non-gendering? What gender did they assign?

    I know I assigned “male” to Chris, because at one point I was sure that Trihn had insinuated that Vann had had a physical relationship with her previous partner (the one who killed herself), and was insinuating that she would want one with Chris as well. I remember being somewhat confused about it, and resolving the confusion by slotting Vann into “bi”. Of course, now it occurs to me that sex with a Hayden via a Threep is… rather undetermined. Except for that, I’m not sure Chris’s gender ever consciously occurred to me.

    I found the dad-as-successful-businessman-running-for-senator-in-virginia reveal as black to be a slap-in-the face, uncovering unconsidered assumptions on my part. For that I thank you.

    Last year I started writing a story where I chose “Chris” as the name for the undetermined-gendered protagonist and “Riley” for Chris’s undetermined-gendered romantic partner. So perhaps I was primed to keep Chris androgynous in my mind. (My notes on my story say I’ve decided Chris is male, but I still don’t know about Riley.)

  33. I thought Chris was male. But I think that’s because I don’t know any females who call themselves Chris (Those I know were Chrissy or Christine but didn’t like to be called Chris). So it defaulted male to me. Don’t think that’s gender bias, but more personal bias.

    Then when the bit about an ex-girlfriend thinking Chris’ Agora space was like the batcave translated easier to me as heterosexual-relationship by default, so I guess that would be gay bias?

  34. I can’t recall how, but I’d been spoiled/figured out that you were avoiding identifying the gender in the leadup to the book. When I listened to the audio, I chose to do Amber’s first. I’m working my way through Wil’s now, though not in one big chunk. I’m not sure if my perception of Chris as female from listening to Amber’s performance will stick through it.

    What I want to do is find a way to synchronize (as much as possible) the tracks and listen to them at the same time. This will probably not work at all and cause me lots of headaches, but it will be an interesting experiment.

  35. I thought that something like this might be going on in the book – hence the two different audio versions being produced. As a result, I actually found it a bit distracting from the story. I felt like I was reading the book over my own shoulder to see if there was ever going to be an inadvertent hint or a slip-up somewhere along the way. (I didn’t spot any!)

    As it was, I listened to Amber Benson’s reading from Audible, so I tended to picture Chris as female more than male, but always with the thought in the back of my mind that I wasn’t supposed to be doing any such thing! Great choice of narrator, by the way.

  36. Shayde:

    “Then when the bit about an ex-girlfriend thinking Chris’ Agora space was like the batcave”

    You should go back and read that part again, actually.

  37. Apparently, I’m entirely too literal-minded to have noticed the undefined gender. I tend to identify a first-person protagonist as the voice of the author. So to me, Chris was male because you are. I actually have an impulse to do this even in novels written in third person – not as strongly, but enough that I experience a slight cognitive dissonance when starting a novel with an author and a protagonist of different genders – especially when it’s an author I’ve read before with same-gender characters.

    But, the good news is, all your hard work to keep the gender non-specific without being obvious about it wasn’t *totally* wasted on me – now when I re-read the book in a few months, it’ll be fun to visualize the character as female. It’ll be like a totally new book! So there’s that to look forward to.

  38. I noticed you weren’t gender-identifying Chris early on. I think “Chris” may be the easiest name ever for this sort of exercise! Having read your words a lot over the last few years, I trusted that was deliberate and very much enjoyed your exercise. I also have not mentioned this to others to whom I recommend this book. :) More fun that way.

    Now, since I knew early on what you were doing, I was paying attention to me, and I did default to male or female sometimes. But most of the time, Chris read as “human” first for me, which is often how I wish people would treat me. I don’t want to be Locked In, and I enjoy being female most of the time, but I am human *first*. Every time. I WANT MY SHINY ANDROID BODY. Wait, that doesn’t sound right….

  39. Whereas a dear friend of mine uses Chris, so I had no trouble gendering the narrator as female. It’s always interesting to see the fillips life experience adds to other people’s interpretations.

  40. I read the book in print, not audio, and I completely failed to notice that Chris was not gendered. I identified them as male. I think a part of that is that I see the name Chris as much more often a male name than a female one, but I also acknowledge that my own bias plays a strong part.

    I did pick up on that fact that Chris’ race was mostly left ambiguous (apart from one reference to their dad as black) – although the fact it took their father being a basketball player to make me wonder about race says a lot about my assumptions.

    I’ve had to go back several times while composing this comment (I write and delete a lot of lines of thought) to correct uses of “him” “his” & “he” regarding Chris Shane that I typed without realising I was doing it.

  41. It just shows how tightly dependent on culture our perceptions of gender are–Sarah Caudwell’s (extremely excellent) British mystery novels have a first-person protagonist whose gender and sex are never referenced, but since to me Hilary is a female name, I can’t help but think of Hilary Tamar as female, though there are very plausible readings of the text for Hilary as female, male, or genderqueer. But, also, there’s it’s not central, it’s characterization of Hilary and not plot-critical, which sounds like Chris in _Lock In_.

    (The first time I read a first-person protagonist whose sex and gender are not referenced for a significant part of the book is Emma Bull’s _Bone Dance_, and I didn’t notice because I unconsciously assigned Sparrow as “like me.” Sparrow’s identity is actually plot-critical there. Oh, hey, look at that, it’s in print now, yay–though I hesitate to re-read it because I don’t know how the voodoo stuff will hold up.)

  42. I will admit that I heard the line “Oh, come on, I just bought this threep!” in Wil Wheaton’s voice; he does exasperated so very well.

  43. I assumed Chris was male because it is more common for an FBI agent to be male. I agree with Don Whiteside: the phrase “take a piss” reads as male to me. I’m pretty sure that I (female) haven’t ever used that phrase. I usually say “go to the bathroom” or within immediate family I might say “I’ve really got to pee!) Also, I felt the same as PJ, with regard to the scene where Chris saves his/her new housemate, that it felt more like a cocky/brave young man’s attitude. What I failed to realize is that a man and a woman would have the exact same physical characteristics when using the same type of threep! This is actually a pretty exciting point — it could level the playing field, among threeps, between males and females.

    (On a tangential note, I was surprised that Chris’s physical body was in a room with a glass door. It would seem to me that the greatest vulnerability for Hadens would be the physical health & safety of their bodies and since Chris’s family is well-to-do, someone could potentially threaten/kidnap Chris.)

  44. Bravo, great story. I suspected the ambiguous gender from the time that the two version of the audio version were announced, and was pleased to be correct in my suspicions. I deliberately listened to the AB version first and had no problem with Chris as a female. Upon listening to WW version I’m still inclined to see Chris as a female.

    My mom is a late stage MS patient and I can only imagine how frustrated we would be if Threeps were available and she couldn’t have one because she has the “wrong” disease. Hell I’m frustrated that we don’t have them now. How different her life would be! I loved the fact that president Hayden was a “skin flint” republican who created the biggest social program ever because he loved his wife. The whole thing was well done.

    On another note Sam? Might not be male? Mind BLOWN. I need to good re listen.

  45. John,

    I haven’t read the book yet (it’s next on my list, and I don’t mind spoilers), but I have read “Ancillary Justice” and liked it very much. I’m wondering how you think what you did with Chris compares to what Ann Leckie did with her lead character. Were you thinking about the similarities when you wrote the blurb for her cover?

  46. Daaaang, I’ve been had again.

    John, I finished Lock In with much the same feeling I had when I finished Red Shirts; vaguely unsatisfied and not at all sure why. Then, I read the comments, at that time and today, and had to take aspirin to clear the headache from the resounding ‘CLICK’ in my narrow mind. I have since re-read Red Shirts twice, crying each time I finished the codas and NOW I’ll be re-reading Lock In thinking, ‘that Ohio-dwelling bastard got me again.’

    You are sneaky yet oddly magnificent man.

  47. As long as we’re noting our personal reactions:

    I slotted in “white male” because that’s my bias, both because I am one and because we get to be the heroes in fiction a lot. Once Chris’s family showed up I realized that, even if it wasn’t stated, statistically speaking Chris’s dad was probably black – basketball star businessman from DC, and all. That was a striking revelation, as I began to retroactively repaint my image of Chris’s father, and instinctively, Chris and Chris’s mother as well. That’s when I realized that as long as I was paying attention to the text, I hadn’t seen Chris referred to explicitly as male. I didn’t rescan the whole book, but a few spot checks seemed to confirm it. That was a less startling revelation, probably because I had already reexamined Chris racially, and because in my social circles I have a lot more gender/sexuality diversity than I do racial diversity.

    What’s striking to me in retrospect is that I thought of the worldbuilding entirely in terms of presentation. Despite being close friends with around half a dozen with a genderfluid identity, taking the step to realizing that Chris’s gender identity would have been unattached to his biological processes, or at least unattached to the gross externals of them, never happened for me. That’s smart worlbuilding, and delightfully subtle.

    I never stopped thinking of Chris as basically male, that’s the voice that settled once these revelations passed. Worth noting – I didn’t catch the genderlessness of “relationship” when I read that brief gag about Chris’s liminal space being the “Batcave.” For some reason I painted that relationship as gay by default, and didn’t think anymore about it. In retrospect, it seems likely that relationships in the Agora are quite a bit more fluid than that, or at least can be and I just put a square peg in a phase shaped hole in n-space.

    I have some other thoughts on using the background details like this to have a conversation about an idea, but I should probably shut up now and let those thoughts simmer for later. I’m mostly satisfied that an idea which easily could have been used to build a Potemkin world was allowed to put down some roots before the story happened.

  48. I was slow to notice Chris’s gender ambiguity (possibly because I have a grandson named Chris so it reads as male to me) but I did notice early that characters were not described in terms of their race. I assumed that Trinh was Asian-American because of the name but that was not included in Chris’s description. The father was only referred to as black when it was relevant. I figure this was also deliberate for several reasons. One reason might be that if you are living in a virtual world or using a threep, that race or gender might be less important to you.

  49. over on Making light several points about gender roles come up.

    Hadens can easily, and sometimes need to, use Integrators of different gender, race and sexual orientation (including involuntary sexual response) and possible height, than the Haden hiring them.

    Rental Threeps would most likely be semi-adjustable. So even Threeps could allow easy gender, race, and height role playing or out right deception.

    The older a Haden becomes Locked In, the less flexible they are with preferred Integrators and Threeps. Chris was Locked In quite young.

    Even characters we know the apparent gender of, often defy gender roles.

    http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/015966.html
    “Leslie Vann is referred to by female pronouns, but seems to behave in a more masculine manner.”

  50. I didn’t catch this, but master reviewer Terry Weyna did point it out when we reviewed the book for Fantasy Literature. After our review (we tried not to spoil things) I read several reviews that referred to Chris as “he.” The gender of the reader, the author, and the audio-book performer all seem to be factors.

  51. Interesting. I totally didn’t catch that Chris wasn’t gendered. (I haven’t read the printed copy, only listened to the audiobook.) I did assume male, but now I’m going to have to listen to Amber Benson’s reading and see if that holds for me while I listen to that version. It does make sense, though, in terms of the world in the book. A Haden who got locked in at an early age would have less of a gender identity than someone who was stricken later in life.

    It’s also interesting to picture a world where you could, theoretically, choose any gender (at least for public use) you wanted or even have no gender at all.

    Excellent work, sir.

  52. It seemed as if threeps tended to be non-gendered and clearly robotic (example, the Oscar statuette analogy). I assumed that over the decades of experimentation with such things, that the “uncanny valley” syndrome had some impact on the look of threeps.

  53. So, does the phrase “take a piss” actually appear in the book? I think I know the scene y’all are referring to, but it’s in Chapter 2 so it’s easily searchable in the online excerpt at tor.com. And it doesn’t say that.

  54. Don

    As I noted on the thread at Making Light, the phrase ‘shitted myself’ is not stereotypically female but it was used by Vann, who we know to be female; I don’t think using the word ‘piss’ can be construed as clear textual evidence of the male voice…

  55. I had assumed that Chris was male while listening to the audiobook. Silly of me, given that I dated a woman in college who answered to Crys.

  56. Interesting. I strongly typed Chris as male in my head; didn’t realize s/he possibly wasn’t until I read this.

    I am female.

    I know that I personally have a strong male-bias in reading. (And in writing.) Also, both of Chris’ names (Chris, Shane) are typically male. As I think on it, definitely the “lack” of “feminizing” features in Chris helped me not question my default of assuming a character is male unless stated otherwise.

    Which really all comes back to me having a strong “male = male, neutral = male, character is only potentially female if specifically indicated” bias.

  57. I find it interesting that my first reaction was anger/annoyance at being toyed with (as a reader). Of course, that’s silly, but there it is.

    Yes, I identified Chris as male, mostly because of the name though (that’s what I tell myself :) ). I don’t know any female “Chrises.” Maybe “Taylor” would have been more gender neutral, for me anyway.

    Very interesting.

    Have you talked about the lag question? It was mentioned once early in the book (when Chris was looking for an apartment), but never showed up again. Even when Chris was “in” Arizona.

    -Matt (Married White Male)

  58. @Shayde
    Just read you comment, and thought “you’re right”
    Then searched the eBook for the actual text…Chris’s gender seems even more fluid than I first thought.

    It might be influenced by recent readings of _Wood Sprites_ by Wen Spencer (“Chuck {Norris} would be mad to find out that she can’t pick her gender”) and confusing a biological male for female in _Ancillary Justice_ by Anne Leckie.

    P.S. Speaking of ambiguity, I like Scalzi’s and Leckie’s use of titles that change meaning as the novels progress.

  59. Also, how will this be handled in the TV adaptation? I realize you have no idea yet, but it will be significantly harder to keep Chris gender-neutral on screen. Or, will it?

  60. “No one as far as I could tell assumed Chris was without gender.”

    You can count me as another one who read them that way. I suppose you didn’t hear my (quiet) cheer when you mentioned that at the Seattle event. Probably relevant that I also identify that way myself, more or less.

    @Kate Nepveu – I actually read Bone Dance quite recently, for the obvious reason. :) I thought it did a good job with the gender aspect, and I’m not fully knowledgeable enough to properly judge the spiritual aspects, I thought it did a decent job there too (aside from conflating hoodoo and voodoo but that’s hardly uncommon)

  61. I initially thought of Chris as male. Somewhere near the middle of the book I noticed the lack of gender identifiers and thought about it for a minute. My line of thought was was that no police officers or FBI agents referred to Chris and Leslie by some sort of sexist collective term, so Chris was probably male (being as famous as Chris is, it would be hard to imagine Chris’s assigned gender is not well known). That might say something more about my opinion of cops/sexism than anything else . . .

  62. Never picked up on that, going to have to go back and re-read it now. Congratulations on that Mr. Scalzi. I assumed him as male somewhere early on and never though about it again. I guess primarily because I am male and I’ve grown up on a steady diet of sci-fi, thrillers, and mystery novels so I just didn’t even think of it as an assumption.

  63. @mwlphelps
    The TV series _Bones_ had an episode with people trying to guess the gender of a visiting expert. If they can do it realistically with a live actor, Chris should not be a problem.

  64. I noticed you’d done this about halfway through and read the second half with that in mind. Made it interesting. A question, though….

    In the Tor.com post you’re quoted as saying “The primary thing people are seeing threeps as are – are as threeps. Right? The gender of the person contained within the threep is secondary at best.” which makes me wonder… do the three voices present as male, female or something that could be either? I wonder how the regular, non-Haden population would adapt to dealing with robotic constructs that didn’t present any identifiable gender clues even via voice.

    it’s funny, but Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice also confuses gender (though differently, since the protagonist simply doesn’t seem much aware of it) and in clubs I belong to this really bothered some people. It’s good to see SF forcing people to confront their biases and internal thinking processes.

  65. I did question gender and race generally for Threeps and the Locked In community based on “Ready Player One” whose protagonist occasionally referenced not being sure off their people’s gender in a virtual reality world. Also, I thought of an article on World of Warcraft, where he predominantly male player population was not equally represented by male avatars in-game, meaning some were playing female avatars.

    Despite this, I envisioned Chris as male but not Caucasian/White–for whatever reason.

  66. I remember finishing the book and thinking that not using semi-colons could not have been the hardest part of writing it :) I realized partway through that Chris was genderless in description, and that was interesting because I realized I was flipping back and forth in my mind between male and female “voice”.

  67. I got through the whole book assuming Chris was female (like me) and didn’t even realize it was left open until I read a review with male pronouns. I’m still half convinced Chris’s father used the word “daughter” at one point but I must have imagined it.

    When I was a kid I remember reading books (particularly science fiction books) told in the first person, assuming the narrator was female (like me!), and being jolted out of the story when someone finally used a pronoun. I thought I’d internalized that and started assuming male unless told otherwise, but I guess not. Which is nice!

  68. The original post indicated to me that this would also serve as the open ”spoiler thread” for Lock In. I apologize to the Mallet God if this is not the case. If so, I have another topic I’d like to bring up.

    Matt

  69. My wife and I both read the book at the same time. We didn’t notice that Chris’s gender wasn’t identified until we started talking about the book, and realized that I read him as make and my wife read her as female.

  70. I suppose I read Chris as male because I was reading the book from the start as a police procedural, much like the TV show Castle. So I was identifying Vann with Beckett and Chris with Castle, I suppose. The analogy’s not too far off: you’ve got a female NYPD detective with a past history vs. a female FBI agent with a past history, and a rich writer who wants to play detective while getting ideas for new books vs. a rich young person who wants to be an FBI agent to prove they can accomplish something on their own.

  71. OK, cool.

    I wonder why there wasn’t any hacking, DIY mods, or even commercially available upgrades to the capabilities of the threeps?

    Stuff like infrared vision, or modified legs to jump higher, etc. I can see the threeps were developed with government money, and hence probably have artificial limits on them so as not to scare the masses, but if I had an artificial body under my control, the first thing I’d want is for it to fly. Perhaps an underground movement to produce superthreep villans? (You can send me the royalty checks for the sequel via PayPal :) )

    If this was discussed in the book, I missed it.

    Matt

  72. I totally missed the lack of gendered pronouns, but read Chris as androgynous/gender fluid anyway. They flipped to sounding masculine and feminine at times, but overall they sounded neutral.

    As someone identified as female at birth but who sees themselves as genderqueer and no good at a lot of ‘feminine’ stuff that was a bonus. And as someone who is disabled and would often love a cyborg body, the world you created has so many touchstones for me, so thank you. It’s excellent to read a protagonist I can truly relate to in mainstream SF.

  73. I definitely read Chris as male, which certainly could be a default, but it was reinforced by stuff like “the first encounter with Tayla” (as mentioned by an earlier poster). Certainly, Chris could still be either female or neither in his threep presentation.
    I completely missed Chris’ dad’s race even when reading the book.

  74. John,

    I ran across a book by the author Georges Perec. This book did what you did in Lock In. A conspicuous lack that is difficult to nail down. You did this in “The Androids Dream” too. To this day I still do not know Sam Berlant. Bravo!

  75. This is a tad off topic but I hope JS will not unsheath the Mallet since it’s so cool; researchers in Harvard have published a proof of principle study involving subjects separated by 4000 miles in a paper entitled:

    ‘Conscious Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans Using Non-Invasive Technologies’

    You can find it at:

    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0105225

    As I have said elsewhere, JS is not telepathic but he certainly seems prescient…

  76. Back in the late 60s/early 70s, there were a *lot* of stories/riddles/anecdotes designed to make you feel like you were a complete moron for failing to recognize that, oh, a surgeon might be female or an important character might be nonwhite. I got *really* tired of these, and tend to have a knee-jerk reaction to being surprised by such things. (There is a character in Vonda McIntyre’s Dreamsnake, Merideth, who is referred to as “the rider” and stuff like that and who is in a three-person relationship with a man and a woman; I mentioned this to a roomful of science fiction fans and they’d all missed it, but since I caught it right away I found it interesting rather than annoying.)

    So I was *very* glad that I was spoiled on Chris before I read the book.

    I did it thoroughly. I read it first, mostly seeing Chris as male, which I decided was probably because I was hearing Scalzi Voice. Then I listened to Amber’s version, and in about four chapters I’d made the transition to Chris is female (with occasional lapses). Then I listened to Wil’s version and tended to think in terms of male but didn’t really worry about it that much. There was one moment there where I went “Hey wait! Did it just say Chris is a he?”, backed it up, and discovered the reference was to another character (I think it was to the dead person who started it all, but I’m not sure; it was fairly late in the book, I think).

    Whatever. I’m willing to try to play along, but I *really* hate the “Omigod I’m so dense!” trick. I don’t know how I’d have felt if I hadn’t been spoiled….

    Making Chris filthy rich *really* helps with the Threep destruction problem.

    A minor point – at one point, Chris says you’re aware of your body and where it is every second you’re awake. But Chris didn’t seem to be aware of the bedsore and was told the body would be turned over as though (s)he wouldn’t notice. That niggled a bit.

    Will there be answers to such questions as What IS it with Trinh and Vann? and What’s the deal with the twins?

  77. Apparently those of you who site the “the first encounter with Tayla” as reason to picture Chris as male haven’t known many female first responders, cops or soldiers? I’ve certainly known females who are every bit as ready to put themselves in harms way to help someone as any male is.

  78. I read Chris as male and didn’t notice the lack of pronouns. Off the top of my head, I think there are a few reasons for this.

    – The book was written by a male author who mostly writes male protagonists, and it is written in the first person. (Also, your characteristic “voice” is very strong in Chris, and thanks to, well, you, I tend to read that voice as masculine. And then there was the fact that the opening seems to subtly hearken back to Old Man’s War (“My first day on the job…”/”The first thing I did was visit my wife’s grave…”) so I was associating Chris with John Perry right off the bat.)

    – Leslie is female, and so, following buddy-cop convention, Chris would be male.

    – Most protagonists in the sci-fi genre are men.

    – Like others have said, I know a lot more Christophers than Christinas. So while I recognize that Chris is a unisex name, it is coded somewhat more masculine for me. If the protagonist’s name had been Leslie or Evelyn, I may have read him or her as a woman.

    And yeah, I do think that I tend to default to “male” in a general sense, but I don’t really think the bias is all that strong. It would have taken very little prodding (like, for example, listening to Amber Benson’s narration) for me to conceive Chris as female.

  79. I listened to the Amber Benson audiobook first for Lock In. I did read Unlocked first though. While reading that I assumed Chris was male, but while listening I assumed Chris was a girl at times and a boy at other times. So, I guess John did a good job in keeping it “unclear” for me. But it didn’t take away from the story at all. The gender wasn’t what the story was about, and therefore why does it matter?

  80. Excellent. It’s both fun and educational to be caught by one’s own (mis)perceptions so nicely. You got me twice here. Chris’s gender, which I didn’t question, and his father’s race which also surprised me. Nicely done! And some lessons for me to take to heart. It’s not easy to disengage from one’s preconceptions.

  81. Yes I noticed. I’ve read a lot of mysteries, including Sarah Caudwell’s mentioned above, so I could not help but notice it early on. But…in my mind I remembered “Unlocked” talking about Shane’s “son” getting Haden’s so I figured the “aha!” moment when Chris was revealed as female wasn’t going to come after all.

    As, of course, it did not….

  82. I’m female, and I assumed Chris was male, and didn’t even realize Chris’s gender was unspecified until someone pointed it out on Making Light. And this even after having to rethink my default assumptions about Chris’s race when Chris’s dad has to give up his senate run because “angry black man with a gun” is too scary to play well with the local voters. (Note that “basketball player” didn’t help me here–perhaps because I don’t much pay attention to sports.)

    For my part, far from being annoyed, I kind of enjoy being shown the inside of my own head. Perhaps in no small part because I am one of the gender traditionally erased by these assumptions, and I like to think that things like this will help people learn better.

  83. So. I’m thinking sequel. I hope you are too. :) First the twins call out for more elaboration along with the intentional community that Shane’s in. Shane’s relationship with the doc and the software engineer can expand interestingly as well. And Shane’s partner dynamics will be interesting, then there’s his friend(s) on the res. Besides, who ever heard of a police procedural that wasn’t episodic? The form demands it!

  84. @Nicole — yes, agreed on the ivory threep thing! (Though also: I am whitey mcwhiterson, take with pinch of salt). & — I genuinely couldn’t tell whether the wheelchair thing was Chris-fail, societal-fail (of the FBI-is-shit-at-this variety), or authorial fail… I am ready to be sold on the “Chris is actually astonishingly privileged and has never had to think about this” angle, though, esp given the way the funding’s entirely tied up in Hadens folk rather than technology being more broadly available…

  85. MRAL

    I have real difficulties with the idea that JS has a characteristic voice; JS has already noted the differences of his voice between Whatever and Twitter, and it seems to me that he has many different voices depending on his surroundings.

    We all do.

    What we don’t all do is assume that JS would write an SF novel reflecting buddy cop conventions; why should he?

    Equally the fact that most protagonists in SF are male is irrelevant; why should he write a novel consisting of same old, same old?

    I’m not interested by same old, same old…

  86. “I don’t think using the word ‘piss’ can be construed as clear textual evidence of the male voice…”

    Oh for sure – we’re dealing with folks in law enforcement and in the future; and even aside from that I wouldn’t make the assertion that it’s a slam dunk. I was just relating what I can trace my mental sort back to, not claiming that it made me Right or that it was even necessarily defensible.

  87. The two audiobooks sort of made me wonder, after I’d reviewed it, but I did pick up on some other things: same sex marriages, a non-white protagonist, which I thought was interesting.

    I thought of Chris as male: I think it was the spelling. The only female ‘Chris’ I know spells her name Kris, which is probably what defaulted me over. It’s a neat thing.

    Moreover, what I like about this is the idea of how technological changes really can impact social growth and changes. I would imagine that should this sort of scenario play out, you’d have a whole spectrum of genders play out.

  88. I am laughing at myself because I totally missed this entire thing. I caught the fact that Chris’ dad was black, but I, for whatever reason, painted Chris in as male very early on. Perhaps it was the voice. Perhaps it was the way Chris interacted with his damaged partner. But I “coded” the character as male.

    It will be really interesting to reread the book in light of this information. FWIW, I am female.

    Thank you for conducting this experiment!

    FYI, I enjoyed Lock In more than any of your books that I’ve read so far. I’ve read all the OMW books and tried Redshirts but could not get through it.

    Well done!

  89. Don

    Sorry if I implied that you were trying to say ‘I’m right’ and I’m really glad we can amicably exchange views on a contentious issue.

    After all, that’s what Whatever is about…

  90. I assumed Chris was male from the beginning though I’m not sure why. I read it, then listened to both audio versions and still felt he was male -mainly because of the bicycle accident -it just seemed a more traditionally “boy” thing to do.

    I’ll have to read it again and see if I can be convinced Chris is female.

  91. I think I was too busy being excited about the significant number of women in authority or “NPC that had a gender associated” roles, although I’ll bet if I read again and count it will be half. It was more than 13% so I noticed and was seriously happy that random person x was not defaulted to dude. Same went for everyone not defaulting to straight or white.

    I generally read first-person characters as women due to other genres I read using it fairly frequently (and having women as protagonists), so I read Chris as a woman all the way through and am pleased as punch to have this brought to my attention so I can re-read with Chris as genderfluid, or Chris as agender, or if the tone is different reading Chris as a man. I was also more interested in the “subtle pin-striping” as to whether or not it was the entire threep body, or like, just a suit painted on.

    Not gonna lie, my initial image of Chris was an ipad strapped to an RC car. It took me a little while to get my head around what a threep looked like, and even then it was more like a plastic mannequin than something meant to look human.

  92. Well I was thinking of saving this for one of your weekly answer anything questions but I am too curious to find out, and it sorta fits with a thread about what you meant in lock-in.

    I spent 3 years living on the Navajo Nation teaching at a private school. I was surprised to see the Navajo play such a prominent role in the story (good surprise though). I also know they can be touchy about white viewpoints regarding the tribe. What interaction did you have with the Navajo in writing this book? What research did you conduct?

  93. I listened to Wil’s narration first and never twigged to the gender-neutral presentation. Then, I read about it and felt appropriately ashamed. I purposely waited a couple of weeks before listening to Amber’s narration and was blown away. Chris works in either gender. Ah, but female Chris is a different person to me than is male Chris. I’m glad I got to know both of them. Kudos to you, Mr Scalzi, and to Ms. Benson and Mr. Wheaton as well.

  94. Pkeet99:

    I have Native American and Navajo/Dine friends and acquaintances I pinged off of, plus research online. That said, I fully accept there might be things I got wrong. I expect to hear if I have.

  95. I was also spoiled about the gender thing. And despite the fact that the only person who currently goes by Chris in my life is female, I read Chris as male. (I am also female, FWIW, and I read the book rather than listening to it one way or another.)

    I read Chris as male because of absence of getting grief over Chris’ gender. I had this whole line of reasoning – Chris would have to be gendered because many people get really, really angry when they don’t know how to gender someone.* As a public figure, Chris’ gender was probably an “asked and answered” question, and since Chris got no grief for being female or defiantly ambiguous, Chris unintentionally defaulted to male. Other Hadens with ambiguous names would be asked to gender identify, or get grief if they didn’t, and we didn’t see it because it was from Chris’ point of view.

    Then I realized that while Vann gets lots of grief for lots of things, being female is not one of them. So perhaps this is more than 20 minutes in the future and people are less up in each others’ gender identity. Given the presences of racial and disability biases, I’m not so incline to believe it, and it makes me think that Vann not getting explicit grief for her gender is part of the camouflaging of Chris’ gender. But people also don’t get grief for same-sex relationships in Lock In. Which leaves me back thinking that perhaps Chris could get away without a stated gender.

    *I’m cis and present as such, so anyone with personal experience, please tell me if I am wrong about this. I hope I am. When I was younger I watched some of my friends who presented more ambiguously get some really angry stuff yelled at them from people who couldn’t deal with their lack of obvious binary identity. I’m just assuming that still happens.

  96. Count me as one of those that never noticed Chris was ungendered and assumed he was male.

    Incidentally, the book I read before Lock In was Ancillary Justice and I thought it was kind of annoying in that book how the protagonist was constantly confused about genders and basically too many paragraphs spent on whats the big deal about gender anyway.

    I did have nitpicks about Lock In though, from early on in the book I was wondering why everyone just assumed the threeps/integrators were who they said they were. A haden being seen in the physical world doesn’t seem like it should ever be a valid alibi (you could get an accomplice to claim to be you, forge your ID, etc). That did end up being a plot point at the end, but it still annoyed me.

  97. And now I like this book even more than I did before. I’m a guy, and I absolutely presumed that Chris was male. I went back and took a look at some passages that I thought cued me that Chris was male (including an absolutely certainty that Chris’s father referred to him as his “son” at the dinner party early on in the book) and in each instance what I thought was there isn’t actually there.

    I’m going to read the book again to see if I can impose female gender presumptions on Chris as I read, but I don’t expect that to work since a) I know now that the author intentionally left Chris without traditional gender role/markers; and b) without those markers, I seriously doubt I’ve got the ability to impose a set of female gender presumptions on Chris. But it should be fun (and hopefully mind expanding) to try. More likely, as a wanna-be-writer I’ll probably just end up trying to pick on Scalzi’s techniques on dealing with making his main character non gender specific.

  98. Chris’ voice reads male to me too. Maybe that’s because I’m a male. Ultimately, I think it was a successful experiment. I could see how Chris could read as a strong female character too. Plus, Lock In was just a damn good read!

  99. I thought of Chris mainly in the threep. So male/female didn’t come into it. Other times, I have thought of your deliberately non-gendered characters of male.

    I have a question related to this. How does Tor plan to handle it when the book is translated to languages like Spanish and German that have gender built into the language? I am sure there is some plan, but being am amateur language geek, I am curious what it might be.

  100. Like Rachel, I thought the word daughter was used to refer to Chris. I thought it was at the dinner party. After I finished the book I went back and realized it was someone else being referred to as a daughter.

    Before that scene Chris was ungendered in my mind. After that point I read Chris as female and the story read completely reasonably to me. I want to throw that out there to dispute the people who say “I have trouble envisioning a female character doing some of the things Chris does.” Chris’s behaviors seemed natural for a young idealistic law enforcement officer to me.

    For me the hardest part was waiting for other people to read it so I could say “Look at this cool thing Scalzi did — he never gendered his main character in this book!”

  101. When a friend had tipped me off to the gender ambiguity, I had read the chapters released online as well as ‘Unlocked’. By the time I was able to read the book, I was looking for it.

    I am female, but read Chris as male, primarily due to the anecdote about the difficulties s/he had using the bathroom while using the integrator at Disney World. I figured that even though Chris was presumably locked in before being old enough to potty train, that having to figure out how things worked was more likely a male’s experience of the bathroom, rather than a female’s. I mean, really – we sit, go. There’s no aiming involved! It was pointed out to me that it’s possible that this was due to the integrator not being of the same sex as Chris, so previous experience might not apply, but it was still enough to tip my perception.

    Once that association was in my head, the character’s voice set as male and nothing really undid that, though I could certainly read it either way. My friend came to the opposite conclusion, and there have been some spirited debates on the topic.

  102. Stevie @6:46

    Me: Whatever. I’m willing to try to play along, but I *really* hate the “Omigod I’m so dense!” trick.

    Stevie: I don’t understand why you think that it’s a trick; can you clarify what you mean by that?

    After a few gazillion stories designed to make you Realize Your Consciousness Needs Raising, it got really old. Scalzi seems to have been exploring because he loves to try things. But lemme tell ya, there were a LOT of stories back in the day that set you up to feel like an idiot. At first, I went Wow! I so totally didn’t think of that! Awesome! After several years of this, I nearly always felt tricked/conned/led to the edge of a well so I could fall in.

    I read a story online once that was supposed to raise consciousness about something (I think it was race, it’s been a few years), and I found it interesting that everyone adored it except for me and a couple of other people around my age (61 now) or older. Someone who liked the story protested that they’d been exposed to other stories like that too, but it’s sort of the difference between being gently nudged and being given the Chinese water torture.

    I do consider auctorial intent in these things.

  103. I knew it! I even posted it to my Goodreads updates as I made progress. At first, I noticed Chris wasn’t Ms. or Mr. Shane, Chris was “Agent Shane.” Chris wasn’t Marcus Shane’s son or daughter, they were his kid, or child. Then the scene where Chris looks at the body in the cradle, and gives us a description with no gender markers. No hair length, no comments on attractiveness or lack thereof, no mentions of body hair grooming or scent (as in, fruity or musky).

    I did spot a few places where I felt some people would gender Chris as male, like the rough-and-tumble childhood that led to the destruction of a threep and Chris’s boldly confronting people. But those aren’t innately male, only stereotypically so. Vann’s characterization was more stereotypically masculine than Chris’s.

    I listened to the version narrated by Amber Benson. While I could believe, therefore, that Chris was assigned female at birth, I read them as genderqueer. Chris didn’t identify with the lump of flesh their mind was trapped in, so there was no need to define themselves by that body’s parameters.

  104. Where I live, Chris is not a female name. I know it is used for both genders in English, but not in my original language, which made me default to view Chris as male. I am a little embarrassed about not noticing the lack of gendered pronouns.
    It’s inetersting to think about though. I read Ancillary Justice by Ann Lecky in which the main character refers to everyone by female pronouns regardless of their gender. This reversal of the standard of using primarily male pronouns for when the genders are mixed or undefined really made me think about how important it is to know the gender of characters. I came to the conclusion that often it isn’t, but my cultural/linguistic background made me think it is. For that reason (among others), it was one of my favorite books of the year.

  105. In my mind Chris was male, but I think that is mostly shaped by my first language (German), where Chris is a 100% male name. I picked up on the fact that Chris is never gendered (John did something similar in the God Engines, if I remember correctly).

    Lock In will be a nightmare to translate into German if the translation is to preserve the gender-ambiguity.

  106. I immediately slotted Marcus Washington in as black when I read “Unlocked” (before Lock In was released) because 1) basketball player, 2) named “Marcus”. I freely admit that this is a result of my cultural imprinting for those arenas. Bad? Or just something that “is”?

    Unlocked talks about the big deal that Marcus Shane makes about “his toddler” being locked-in. This read as “little boy” to me — because I would have expected it to say “his little girl” otherwise. Again, a reaction to cultural imprinting. In real life, regardless of the issue, when the subject is female, people almost always make a big deal out of the fact that the subject is female. I don’t necessarily agree that it should be this way — but I do think that it IS this way, and that I have imprinted this cultural bias. (The fact that all the females I know who go by Chris rather than Chrissy or Christine spell it “Kris” also reinforced that. The only female Chris I could think of was Chris Evert, and it took me a while to come up with her. So again, cultural imprinting on my part.)

    But really, what cinched it for me was in Lock In, when Chris is ridiculed. If Chris had been female, I would have expected there to have been an additional gendered aspect to the ridicule (based on my cultural expectations, because that is consistently what I see in real life when the person being ridiculed happens to be female). Note that Agent Vann is described by at least one male character in the book as a “ho” (my words, not Scalzi’s) for indiscriminately picking up partners in bars — and in real life, this negative projection wouldn’t have been done if Vann had been male (he’d have been getting high-fived).

    All of this makes great fodder for personal introspection about my own perceptions and attitudes, in addition to good group discussion material about cultural perceptions and imprinting for those of us who’ve read the book.

    Thanks for choosing to “push” us to examine our prejudices and preconceptions in this way — I think it’s really healthy for us to be forced to do that.

  107. Ell

    Interesting; you have come to perceive the process of writing fiction as similar, if not identical, to the process of writing propaganda.

    My experience is somewhat different to yours, probably because I live across the Pond, and I originally studied plays, rather than books, at University.

    Thus, whilst I know that Aeschylus actually fought at the Battle of Salamis, I am dubious about the veracity of his rendering of the Greek battle cry in ‘The Persians”:

    “On, sons of Greece! Set free / Your fatherland, your children, wives, / Homes of your ancestors and temples of your gods! / Save all, or all is lost!”

    not least because it was a naval battle. It is easy to perceive ‘The Persians’ as a work of propaganda written by a Greek glorifying a Greek victory in an ongoing war.

    On the other hand, the play in performance frequently results in the audience sympathising with the Persians; we pity them. Aeschylus was a great playwright; he didn’t do things by accident, just as Shakespeare didn’t accidentally give Shylock the greatest speech in the whole of ‘The Merchant of Venice’.

    You are, of course, perfectly free to detect auctorial intention to your hearts content, just as I am free to note that JS seems to be exploring the consequences of an infant or a small child having no memories of ever interacting physically with others. I don’t regard that as a trick…

  108. I found several interesting things, both in the writing itself, and in the discussion here about it.

    First, there’s the fact that the lack of specification of Chris Shane’s gender isn’t plot-relevant, but is, essentially, an Easter egg. Like Sam Berlandt in The Android’s Dream, it truly doesn’t matter to the plot.

    Then there’s the oddity that more than once, judging from this thread, people get things stuck in their heads that weren’t actually part of the original text. It often happens in nature; heck, when was the last time you noticed the blind spots in your vision? Everybody’s got them, but the brain kind of interpolates to fill in the gaps. And that’s how optical illusions work as well – the brain fills in the gaps, and you end up “seeing” things that weren’t actually there.

    I have to admit, I got spoiled for it – and I have to admit that even knowing about the gender ambiguity going in, for some reason, when I got going, Chris seemed to default to male for me. I can’t figure out what the trigger was, other than being susceptible to cultural norms and defaults. I can hear Chris as female, or as androgynous, but it takes a little bit of concentration while reading (not too much, but a bit).

  109. @Devereaux Library:

    Apparently those of you who site the “the first encounter with Tayla” as reason to picture Chris as male haven’t known many female first responders, cops or soldiers? I’ve certainly known females who are every bit as ready to put themselves in harms way to help someone as any male is.

    It wasn’t so much the fact that Chris stepped in as the goons’ reaction when they did. IIRC, Chris didn’t pull the “I’m with the FBI” card until quite a way into that conversation, and I can’t help feeling that if they had been obviously female the reaction would have been more “why is this {{gendered slur}} interfering” rather than the macho posturing that actually happened – that’s more of a reaction to another bloke..

    But that’s just my take.

    In other news, I seem to have tremendous difficulty typing “blockquote”

  110. As a male Chris myself, not only did I identify the narrator as male, but I didn’t even notice that there were no gender descriptors. Part of me thinks that’s awesome – it’s like watching a magic trick you didn’t even know was being done.

    Another part of me – the part that teaches high school literature – is really annoyed that I missed it. It’s the kind of thing I feel I should have noticed, and would have dinged my students for not noticing if we were reading it as a class text.

    I’ll take it as a learning experience. Just because I’m reading for fun is no reason to not dig a little deeper into what the author is up to.

  111. The genderless nature of Chris was pretty apparent, but I originally assumed female, for whatever reasons. Maybe just the choice of Chris’ first partner?

    I was half-expecting another Haden to show up named Pat.

  112. I suppose another reason I didn’t default to male on Chris is from my decades working as and with the military. There are so many strong, physical, tough females in my life that I didn’t jump to, “physically active means male.”

  113. Unlocked says kids Threeps are easy.

    http://www.tor.com/stories/2014/05/unlocked-an-oral-history-of-hadens-syndrome-john-scalzi

    “dial back the (Threeps’) overt sexuality. Margaret Haden’s public image was fit and healthy, not sexpot. It took him six tries, but he got it. Chris Shane he got in one. Children are easy.”

    Brings up the question, what happens when a Haden goes through puberty? or before? Hadens can be children, but legal Integrators have to be adults. An Integrator’s innate sexuality will color their view of the world.

    Throw in the Agora, where Haden intimacy and sexuality are literally unknowable to “Dodgers”, and you probably have a sexuality not as has heavily gender based as we know.

    If a partner said, you would look sexier with X figure or Y figure, you could just go Avatar or Threep shopping together.

    Would this increase the feminists and gamma rabbits among young Hadens? the “cat fishing”? gender play?

  114. @mwlphelps

    There may be modded Threeps, but does this void the warranty? Not a big problem if you are rich or work from your cradle as a programmer, but a huge problem if you are poor and work in a retail store.

    Currently telepresence robots are being used from school attendance to museum tours to doctor visits.

    One possibility for real life super hero abilities that has been brought up on Making Light is drone operators. You cannot tell if a drone operator is a Dodger or a Haden. While not everyone can be a drone operator (or programmer or writer), Hadens who like being drone operators would appear to have an innate advantage versus humans. A Haden SWAT drone operator may have a Threep for getting drinks after work, but his work may be from his cradle piloting a surveillance (flying), assault (armored), or bomb defusing (microscopic manipulators) drone.

    Even though Chris Shane makes a huge deal about the fragility of Threeps vs T-800 from Terminator, the biggest complaint I have heard from my friends who are first responders is how hot and uncomfortable gear can be from bullet proof vests to fire boots to helmet lights. While Chris Shane has a headlight, instead of deciding on ballistic protection, he decides on more economical Threeps to deal with unexpected bullets.

    Chris Shane is using his Threep as a telepresence to perform the work of an FBI agent instead of an unstoppable T-800.

  115. I find it interesting that many people seem to see the interactions of others with Chris as to a clue to Chris’ gender — like the intervention during the attack on Tayla.

    Re-reading the encounter with Tayla, it’s not clear that the four attackers ever identify Tayla as a woman, although Chris does immediately (even before she is identified as a Haden). Chris clearly treats this as purely Haden-bashing, and Chris is called a “clank”, in much the same way as someone interfering in an analogous gay-bashing attack would be called a “faggot” or “dyke”. But “clank” is non-gendered, and everything about the encounter implies that the attackers are attacking Tayla because she’s a Haden, not because she’s a she.

    I believe, at that point, Chris is in a new Threep, so it’s possible, likely even, that it isn’t that customized yet. There’s no reason for it to look particularly male or female, so that’s one more reason for the attackers to have not added a gendered slur.

  116. Hah! You completely had me. I noticed that you didn’t specify a sexual preference (the absence of gendered language when Chris was discussing past romantic experiences stuck out to me), but I assumed that Chris was male and never noticed that it wasn’t specified. I am impressed, as well as a bit chagrined at both my failure to notice the game and my tendency to give Chris a gender without any textual cues.

  117. I’m halfway through, and I absolutely did not notice one bit. You’ve done this in other novels, I think, where there’s no mention of gender for certain characters, but it does show my bias that I’ve been thinking of Chris as a male this whole time. I think I’ll listen to the Amber Benson audiobook to see how it shifts with a female narrator.

  118. I’m one of those readers who finds that most characters sound like John Scalzi, so to me Chris was male from the start. It’s the default … :).

  119. Ah, Agent Chris Shane…no gender identity specified. I shall attempt to read the book with Chris as ungendered and see how it goes. But I am waiting on the novella to ship from Subterranean so I can read it first before the novel as suggested by others on non-spoiler posts.

  120. Wait.. Breq in Ancillary Justice was gender neutral too? I thought Breq was female from the word go. Although all the gender switching on her companion (forgot name) from people who weren’t aware on the pronouns confused me for a bit, but then I decided on female there too.

    Weird. Ambiguity in one book, I go one way, in another, I go the opposite.

  121. I was born actually with klienfelters Syndrome an Xtra x chromosome .I had small fatty tissue growing I my Breast area .I had it removed in 1990 .Just a few facts .

  122. I’d like to posit an hypothesis: Part of the reason for the 70/30 break for a male Chris is due to Scalzi’s voice.

    I think John does write his novels in a distinct voice. I also think that it is very similar to the voice he uses in most of his non-fiction writing (i.e. the Whatever). I also note that John likes to have his characters use many of his own favorite idioms (“I’m not gonna lie…” for instance). I think this causes Chris, in the absence of other gender-identifying markers, to read as male – at least, more male than female – in subtle ways.

    While we’re on the subject of language, this has caused me to think of something (potentially) weak in the world-building. Other than a small handful of slang terms (threeps, dodgers, etc.), the community of Hadens don’t have a distinct way of speaking to each other. Spend any time in different online communities now, and you’ll notice that each has a “local dialect” for lack of a better term. But despite developing a strong sense of identity, Hayden’s don’t really talk to each other in any particularly noticeable way. Chris has dialog with Hadens in and out of the presence of non-Hadens, but never seems to code-switch in any noteworthy way. Only Cassandra Bell speaks in anything unusual, but that could easily be chalked up to a personal affectation, not an example of Haden-speak. Hadens end up feeling like a culture without a language.

  123. I noted the lack of gendered pronouns fairly early on, but my husband didn’t.

    I’m a white hetero lady, and pretty active in efforts to expand gender, race, sexuality, etc. portrayal in media (especially video games and speculative fiction, because if you can have dragons and ftl travel and magic and Romulans there is no reason for all the humans to be straight cis white guys), so I tend to be far more “on the lookout” for these things than your average person probably is on a daily basis.

    That said, I still read “wealthy DC politician” as white for Chris’s father and didn’t question that assumption until it was mentioned that he’d been a basketball player, at which point I questioned my assumptions on multiple levels and briefly felt like a terrible human being.

    I think that it’s marvelous that books like this and Ancillary Justice are popular right now and making people question why they make the assumptions about characters that they do. It shouldn’t require the addition of racial, gender, etc. coding for people to read characters as anything other than white men, and the more we’re reminded of this, the more inclusive speculative fiction can become.

  124. I half expected this before starting to listen to the book due to the two audiobook version. I started listening with Ms. Benson narrating, and switched to Mr. Wheaton part-way through. I noticed right away that Chris was deliberately never gendered. (Giveaways are when Chris’s parents refer to their “child”.) I actually tried to go along with the non-gendering, and I think had some success at perceiving Chris as “threeped” instead of either male or female.

    Someone above mention Trihn warning Chris about Vann becoming involved with her parnters as a giveaway. I’m pretty sure that Vann’s sexual preference (gay/straight/bi) is also never explicitly mentioned in the novel. Vann’s always trying to get laid, but the novel never describes any of her sexual encounters.

  125. I defend my assumption that Chris was male by noting that, while both sexes can be named Chris, it seems from the baby name sites and my own experience that it’s currently significantly more popular for males.

  126. I’m female, and I read Chris as male. I didn’t notice the lack of gendering until I saw the spoiler thread on PNH’s site. That got me thinking about why (other than male author–>male protagonist) I read Chris as male. What it was for me, was none of the other characters ever gendered Chris.

    No one called Chris “little lady” or “sweetheart”, no one suggested Chris was less competent because girl, no one treated Chris in that hard to define but always noticeable different way that women are treated. So since Chris didn’t have to deal with everyday sexism, Chris didn’t read as female to me.

  127. I read Chris as male because of reasons, assumptions, and defaults.
    On the other hand, I had to keep reminding myself just how much we haven’t been told about the main character either because it was unimportant or being kept from the reader for storytelling reasons or both. I knew, from chatter around the book, that something special went on with regards to gender in the book, but it wasn’t until the dinner conversation about curing Haden Syndrome that I had the aha moment that I had seriously not been giving the possibilities of a being not shackled to their body enough credit.

  128. It is interesting to me that many commenters say their experience of the given name “Chris” skews male. I believe that if one is as old as dirt (like me) the Christines of our long lost youth significantly outnumbered the Christophers. For me, Chris (the character) stayed ambiguous.

  129. I had noticed that there was no gendering in the text, and the two readers was a tipoff. I preordered the audiobook to get both versions. Currently listening to Wil, because Fuzzy Nation was the first of your books I grabbed, and I like Wil as a narrator. I absolutely plan to listen to Amber. The word choices and authorial voice do often scan as “male” but I also have moments, even with Wil doing the reading, where I could easily imagine Chris as female, or neuter/neither.

    I think I noticed the work you’d done most with the “my kid” wording at the dinner after Chris’ second day. I am so glad you put in the effort. It has been very smooth, for the most part. I think choosing a job with a one-size-fits-all title like Agent or Detective or Doctor works to your benefit on not having to define gender, but also plays on our cultural bias that the FBI field agents are male, which might have skewed that 70/30 split.

    I especially love that the same sex marriage is presented without drama. Looking forward to finishing the book.

  130. As an owner of the name, “Chris,” who happens to be male (and also gay, but whatever), I am fully aware that mine is a gender-neutral name. I wish I could use that to say that I kept the character gender-neutral, but that wasn’t the reason — I got clued in with your tweet about the two differently-gendered narrators being appropriate for the book (which caused me to pre-order and take advantage of the offer). Knowing you sprinkle this kind of fabulous glitter all over the place, I was ready for it. Although I was consciously aware that Chris was written as gender neutral, I did start identifying Chris in my mind as female because apparently I need to pick one (something for me to work on…).

    What I was not ready for, though, was seeing how I participate in race bias. I had assumed that Chris and the Shane family were all white. Not until the end of the book where Chris’s father is explicitly identified as black did I realize what I had done. Kudos to you for that (and also for the largely accurate portrayal of DC geography)!

  131. I would have bought that Chris could be a Haden of indeterminate gender, were it not for the fact that the Shane family, and Chris in particular, were very well-known, and everyone would already have known Chris’s gender from way back at the outbreak. Therefore, if Chris had been well-known as female, she would have gotten a lot of the treatment that women get (see comment by gingerbread quorum). Since this treatment was never seen, I have trouble reading Chris as female, even though on re-read I’ve tried very hard to do so. If Chris had been less famous, I could maybe buy the “gender-indeterminate” thing a lot better.

    (fwiw: cis Asian female, assumed narrator was male, black, and of indeterminate sexuality)

  132. Kat Ling:

    Mind you, not everyone knows Chris is that Chris; Chris doesn’t stay in the same threep all the time. Someone in the physical world dealing with Chris for the first time will only see the threep; unless Chris’ threep presents an obvious gendering signal (which Chris’ threeps do not). Also, put into the mix the question of whether wealth/status is a factor and how and to what extent being a Haden (i.e., someone whose presence in the world is disassociated from a physical body) is also a factor. And so on.

    I think that those are interesting to consider as regards how folks approach Chris in particular and Hadens in general.

  133. I read Chris as male. It would be interesting to re-read and try to read her as female.

    As long as we’re talking about spoilers: I was surprised that the Internet and other social media were not more overt. You mention email and other stuff here and there, but it all seems very background. I can’t quite decide if I think that’s really unlikely or on the other hand really likely. I kind of feel like you’re implicitly arguing that either your world is different in that way (in addition to all the other ways it’s different), or that by that time “social media” is just “media”, and not something to be called out, just like modern regular fiction writers don’t make a big deal out of cell phones, computers, etc. They’re just there and assumed, and they only come up of they’re important to the plot.

    Or maybe I just missed it. :)

    I was also fairly annoyed at those characters arguing that Haden’s is not a thing that we should attempt to cure. Mind you, people in real life argue similar things about some kinds of deafness (and probably other things), so I know it’s not *unrealistic*. But those people annoy me, too.

    And finally, it seemed odd that threeps were only for use by Hadens. It seemed like they’d be really handy in lots of situations for non-Hadens (e.g., you know, cops and soldiers). But there’s probably something I’ve forgotten along the lines that you have to *have* Haden’s to even be able to use a threep.

    Anyway, great book, and I look forward to more in the same universe.

  134. Larry

    I’m exceedingly doubtful that cops and soldiers would want invasive brain surgery, plus periods of total immobilisation, with all the attendant risks; Hadens do so because that is their only way of acting in the physical world…

  135. @Larry

    L. Hubbard plans to corner the market before non-Hadens are allowed access. Several people (including Scalzi?) have said the largest segment of the non-Haden population for Threeps is the mobility impaired elderly. You could see an “Old Man’s War” change in first responders as older, and wiser, personal no longer has to deal with mandatory retirement.

  136. Ah, the magic trick worked on me too! I totally thought there where hints of romance when Tayla was introduced.

    I do remember wondering why there were two narrators for the book and why one was female narrating for a male character. I never connected the dots.

    But the question is: what does Chris see himself/herself as! Maybe Chris sees Chris as gender neutral because Chris was raised from very young as a Hayden.

  137. Stevie:

    Fiction *can be* propaganda. I am, in fact, assuming that Scalzi wasn’t propagandizing, but I was still glad I was spoiled because I got inundated with propaganda stories about 44 years ago and am still gunshy. “Trick” really refers to the stories where the intent was to make you feel like a bigoted ass; that’s not Scalzi’s style. I’m talking about stories with Big Reveals of the “Haha, made you flinch!” variety.

    I liked the book. No way I’d have read it once and had it read to me twice if I didn’t, not even for the experiment of seeing how I reacted to it in each version. I mean, I like experimenting, but not THAT much!

  138. I was watching Scalzi’s Google video (posted 24th from talk on Sep. 4th) and noticed the presentation stumbles on gender. JS said–during the the intro to the story– ‘he’ did something and then quickly respoke it as ‘Chris’ did something. It was after book release and well before the spoiler-y reveal, but it seems JS thought about Chris as male and yet wanted to keep the non-specificed gender character a question in the minds of the tour attendees.

  139. Ben:

    Nope, although it is evidence of something I’ve noted elsewhere, which is my tendency to use male as the default generic gender, thanks to years of indoctrination from teachers, grammar books and style guides. But as noted in the entry, I went in with the intent of not gendering Chris as I was writing the character. Any gender defaults in sentence construction should not be considered dispositive.

  140. My reading was of Chris deliberately leaving identity unstated… but I associated it with race. This has been a very interesting revisiting of how I arrived at my impression. Very well done, sir!

    I wonder how intentionally you selected those attributes that threeps do by default communicate, particularly wealth. The price bracket of a threep model and some implications of that for status were significant to Chris… were you basing that on an idea that status of that sort is conceptually distinct from gender and race? Or is it just that it matters to Chris that much?

  141. John, I think—based on as you say, society’s pervasive male-default gender conditioning—that the ability to remain gender-neutral toward your protagonist while writing this excellent story must have been significantly harder than avoiding using semi-colons. I like the conscious exercise of your writing-style muscles.

  142. Ben:

    It was indeed a very interesting writing exercise. As a practical matter, however, the semicolon thing was much harder. I use those things, like, every other sentence if I don’t consciously avoid not using them.

  143. Yep, avoiding semicolons in real-time writing is tough for me too, but the em dash is my bugaboo. At least with both of those little buggers you can search/find them after the fact and fix on editing—if you really; truly want to.

  144. I noticed fairly early on when listening to the Amber Benson audio book version, but I am probably more tuned in to noticing this sort of things because my spouse is transgendered.

    As a woman who gets sick of default detective = male tropes, or the answering tropes where if a detective is a woman it’s a BIG DEAL that she’s a woman, I greatly appreciated that you took the time to write the story and the character this way.

  145. I took advantage of the twofer offer at audible, and listened to Amber’s narration first, so i did think Chris was female. I was unspoiled, but did notice about half way through that there were no gender identifiers for the character. I probably would have identified Chris as male if i listened to Wil’s first. I honestly can’t say what i would have concluded had i read it instead of listened to it.

    I also thought Chris Shane’s father was white until it was mentioned after the assassination attempt, though.

  146. I had been clued in to the lack of gender thing when I was patiently waiting with a duffle bag of books to get signed by you in Brooklyn. So I began to read “Locked In” right away. I probably would have seen Chris as female if I hadn’t been clued in….usually cops & such partner males with males & females with females….and the FBI is usually seen as a conservative body (biases again, eh?), so that would have reinforced my assumption Chris as a female being partnered with a female. Not that it would have mattered….
    But having been clued in, I was looking at the Crafting of the lack of gender identity instead….the use of “child” instead of son or daughter, the “bat cave” as a comfort zone (slightly male), the relationship with mom (seemed more feminine)…it gave Chris a chameleon-like quality that I appreciated more than if there had been a definite gender identity….it worked perfectly for me as an unknown factor that really didn’t matter to the story (which was fabulous, but isn’t all of your writing, with the witty repartee in your dialogue that I have come to love, expect and respect). I hope there will be more of Chris in the future….

  147. I really love what you did with this book. It sucked me in hard and didn’t let go, so I felt like I barely had the time to take note of some of it. Chris’s gender wasn’t quite clear to me, but I was leaning toward possibly male. I figured I read a male pronoun somewhere, but I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t want to stop reading and go back to double-check. Besides, it didn’t much matter because the story and character were amazing. It did make me wonder for a while afterward about how gender presentation and lack thereof would manifest in such a society, though.

  148. I definitely read the main character as male – mostly because the father-child relationship scanned distinctly father-son to me. This is probably my personal bias talking, but I would expect a female protagonist to be more focused on the mother/daughter relationship than what is presented in the book. Instead Chris’s familial thoughts center on his father, and the mother is not characterized in depth. When thinking about his personal impact and professional aspirations, Chris also focuses on his father and not his mother.

  149. A few thoughts:

    * one the surname Shane as contributing (for some) to a masculinity perception – as an Australian of a certain age, Shane is not a name that genders male for me, due to our famous female Olympian swimmer of the 70s, Shane Gould.

    * I was a very physically active tomboy who had several hospital trips due to impulsive recklessnesses, so that childhood bike accident doesn’t gender especially male to me either.

    * I’m the eldest child as well as the older daughter, and my primary parental affinity for my first few decades was with my father. My younger brother and sister both felt a stronger affinity with my mother. As I got older, I ended up forging a stronger bond with my mother, but that wasn’t until I was nearly 30 years old. Thus Chris seeming to have a stronger father-bond than mother-bond doesn’t gender especially male to me either (also it’s not something I particularly noticed while reading and neither do I see it now – Marcus Shane is the parent with the fame and political ambitions whose public profile complicates Chris’ life and therefore takes up more of their time and energy – that doesn’t necessarily mean that the mother-bond is less strong).

    * the lack of everyday sexism towards Chris doesn’t strike me as a slam-dunk for gender in a world of threeps. Given how many women use gender-neutral nyms online especially for the purposes of minimising everyday sexism, I would be utterly amazed if most Haden women didn’t deliberately choose gender-neutral threeps for their interactions with the physical world, and that the lack of external gender signifiers for a majority of threeps wouldn’t lead to a precipitous drop-off in the everyday sexism directed towards threeps even when known to be carrying female Hadens. Seems like genderqueering or agendering as the norm would be even more likely given the existence of the Agora, especially for those who became Hadens before puberty.

    Now, despite none of these particular things mentioned by others striking me as particularly strong gender cues for me, I nonetheless read Chris as male all the way through. I caught the ambiguity about Marcus Shane’s race early on, but I didn’t notice the lack of gendered pronouns etc at all until I saw this post and read the Making Light thread (I hadn’t been paying attention regarding the two readers for the audibles). So that’s an interesting thing to examine about my own defaults.

  150. Very interesting, I never even noticed the lack of gender during my reading. I’ve never known a woman who has gone by the name of Chris (I believe if I’ve known any that have used it as a nickname, it’s been spelled differently, which slots it as a different name in my brain. Dani does not equal Danny to me, even if they sound the same out loud), so I assumed male. Regardless, as I think about it, I believe my assumption regarding non-specific gender names is set by who I first knew by that name. I assume a Kelly is male. I assume a Leslie is female. I have known people of both sexes of those names, but that’s my default. For what it’s worth, I am a woman and identify myself as female, though I feel I’m pretty close to the middle in between the genders as far as my behavior/interests/communication/etc goes (i.e. I act in many ways what people consider stereotypically male).

    What did surprise me during my reading was my assumption of Marcus as white. I’ve thought about it, and I believe that comes from my own personal experience with basketball. I followed it closely in the 90’s when two of the three big players on my local team (the Utah Jazz) were white. When I think of basketball, I think of John Stockton, basically. I’ve listened to podcasts in recent years that occasionally refer to sports and I’ve been surprised to find out that basketball is apparently considered a primarily black sport. The Jazz when I followed them had a number of white players and I never thought about race being involved in the selection process of players at all. Also, I’ve known a couple of people named Marcus, both of whom were white. If anything, the name makes me think of Marcus Aurelius. I was very surprised to see in the comments both here and at Tor that Marcus is considered a black name. I had no idea. So, between basketball player bringing up a picture of John Stockton in my mind and the name Marcus referring to two white guys or an ancient Roman (which I always see portrayed as white, though as I think about it, I honestly have no idea what skin tone they would have had), I thought Marcus the character was white too.

    Definitely an interesting examination of our defaults.

  151. I’ve been wondering about all the Hadens in third world countries. It’s implied that there are Hadens worldwide, but I would have thought that there’d have been a very high mortality rate among the locked in in less wealthy countries. Or less wealthy areas within wealthy countries, even. It takes a lot of work and resources to keep a completely paralyzed person alive, and especially in the early months before they realized that there was anybody still in there I suspect quite a few were simply allowed to die.

    I’m glad I didn’t get that virus that was going around last month; this would make me very nervous as a Locked In reader: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/virus-investigated-after-colorado-kids-develop-paralysis/

  152. Wow, just finished reading, and after following up this thread, I’m totally astounded that I missed all those hints and never thought about Chris not being male (especially, as after Redshirts such twists should be expected).
    Already tempted to read it again very soon (or watch it on screen, I hope it will work out…)

  153. @Nicole:

    If you can customize your threep to be anything you want, what does it mean to choose an absolutely blank presentation?

    What I found really interesting was how much thought John put into making the answer to that question rather complex. Class, age, status markers and sheer economics (because not everyone can afford the top of the line threep with all the mod-cons – guess some things never change) are all factors, and highly individual.

  154. I had thought Chris was male, but I don’t feel quite as bad as I might about this, mainly because I’ve never met a woman who abbreviated her name to ‘Chris’, although I know some do. (Much the same reason I originally thought Archie from The Android’s Dream was gay, because I’ve never really met female Sams.)

    That said, what *did* whack me completely upside the head was when I realized that Chris and their father were black. Up until (I think) the conversation in the trophy room, I had just blithely assumed Chris and their family were white. At which point the thought which crossed my mind was something like “Dammit Scalzi, I love your books but do you have to make me feel like a new kind of asshole every time I read them?”

  155. I have sooooo many thoughts I’ve been saving up for like a month, man.
    “”For me the hardest part was waiting for other people to read it so I could say “Look at this cool thing Scalzi did — he never gendered his main character in this book!”” ME TOO!

    * I didn’t buy the audiobook because to me listening to an audiobook is like hopping on one foot for a mile vs. driving said mile in a car, but I kind of wish there was a version in which the narration changed from Wil to Amber to Wil to Amber like, every other paragraph or something.
    * The most gender-y indication to me was the BMX biking, mostly because I haven’t even heard of any female BMX bikers (and I live in the bike capital of America). I actually LOOKED IT UP to see if female BMX’ers existed, which is sad. If it had been just a generic sort of biking, I probably wouldn’t have thought about it.
    * As for Marcus, he could have gone either way for me on the name and the sport and the height, though he did live in Virginia and was married to a woman from a family of Confederate gunrunners…that last fact made me assume he was slightly more likely to be white. Must have been uh, interesting for her to bring him home.
    * I do also wonder how the hell they will do a TV show of this and keep the gender neutrality. As for Margie’s voice sounding like her, I figured they did like they did with Roger Ebert–they had enough recordings of him speaking so that they could use them to make a new voice.
    * Looks like several of us had phony “I thought it said he” moments. Mine was in Unlocked because I thought it said “Marcus Shane’s toddler son.” Nope, did not.
    * Yeah, in retrospect Marcus saying “my child” stands out, but they’ve probably all gotten used to a gender-neutral-ish kid by now in that family.
    * The rescue of Tasha: well, Chris doesn’t have to worry about the “females are weaker than males” aspect of life. Lucky Chris. I love how in this world that is NOT something that holds you back and makes you an easy target for rape and death. I did like that moment.
    * Yes, what IS it with the twins? I assume they share a threep.
    * Chris’s room having a glass door: it’s probably for ease of checking up on his body for his parents/caregivers.
    * “My mom is a late stage MS patient and I can only imagine how frustrated we would be if Threeps were available and she couldn’t have one because she has the “wrong” disease.”
    Totally agree.
    * Yeah, I’d say most reviews I read said “he.” I noticed three reviews, including mine, that noticed a difference/mentioned it–and all of us were women. I particularly liked the video review on chezapocalypse.com for talking about how people would assume male because Chris wasn’t getting crap for being a woman. Though it is nice to think that in the future, maybe that isn’t an issue so much?
    * “It’s also interesting to picture a world where you could, theoretically, choose any gender (at least for public use) you wanted or even have no gender at all.” Yeah, that world would be a LOT safer, I think.
    * I would be very curious to hear how Haden dating goes. I doubt there is much, if any, cross-Haden/Dodgers dating.

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