Ammonite (novel)

Ammonite (novel)

"Ammonite" is Nicola Griffith's first novel, it was published in 1993 (ISBN 0-345-37891-1). It won both the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) fiction, and the James Tiptree, Jr. Award for science fiction or fantasy that explores or expands our understanding of gender.

Plot summary

"Ammonite" is the story of Marghe Taishan, an employee of the sinister, monolithic 'Company', sent to the planet GP (pronounced 'Jeep') as an anthropologist. The distinctive feature of Jeep is an endemic disease which kills all men (and some women) who contract it. Marghe makes a journey across Jeep, living with many of its indigenous cultures. She is enslaved by the nomadic Echraide, and then reaches the quieter village of Ollfoss, where she joins a family, learns the mystic discipline of linking, and eventually becomes a 'viajera', or traveling wise woman.

When her lover, Thenike, and she find a fossilised ammonite shell on a beach, Marghe acquires the additional title "Amun," which may be meant to suggest her adaptation to life on Jeep through reference to an indigenous life form. This appears to be a greater theme of Griffith's novel, as not only Marghe, but other Company personnel, also eventually decide to settle on Jeep and adapt to the cultures that its prior colonists have created, in order to adjust to the plametary environment.

Major themes

Although the narrative voice never refers to any characters as lesbians, it is assumed that most of the natives of Jeep can form sexual relationships with other women. Marghe also forms a sexual relationship with a member of her adopted family, Thenike. However, "Ammonite" differs significantly from other feminist science fiction novels that depict a matriarchy through depicting active social antagonisms between Jeep's female tribal groups, particularly Marghe's battle against the barbarian warrior Uaithne.

"Ammonite" falls into a tradition of science fiction stories that deal with worlds where everyone belongs to a single gender: Tiptree's "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?" is a notable example, while Joanna Russ' The Female Man is another.

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