|PHOTO SOURCE: NASA
By Katherine V. Forrest
My novel Daughters of a Coral Dawn was published the same year Sally Ride made her second flight on the Space Shuttle Challenger, the year after her initial pioneering triumph. The publication of this novel of mine in 1984 and Sally Rideâ€™s historic achievements have one commonality: they happened in the direct aftermath of the pitched battles our sisters fought in the seventies that not only let us dare to dream, but inspired and allowed us to reach out and grasp our dreams.
Sally Ride took our gender into Earth orbit on her monumental flights. On a flight of imagination, Daughters of a Coral Dawn took us beyond, to a world that women discover, to the lives they lead and the society they create on a world they call Maternas.
The genesis of the book actually has its roots in the bedrock of the womenâ€™s movement. Around 1980, I sent Ms Magazine a short story titled â€śMother was an Alien.â€ť They held onto the story for monthsâ€”eight, as I recall. Then I received the pages back in the mail, dog-eared and ringed with coffee stains, with an unsigned notation, apparently from an editor: Sorry, I tried as hard as I could. No worries, Ms. Magazine.
â€śMother was an Alienâ€ť became the first chapter in a novel that has become over the years a lesbian classic.
My concept for Daughters of a Coral Dawn was simple. To portray a world that women might build if left to our own devices, given our female nature and our talents, and to present this in an entertaining and fully lesbian story. The idiosyncratic heartbeat of the story is that aforementioned alien, Mother, and it also stars the nine gifted daughters she whimsically names after the goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome; and Megan, who becomes the charismatic and necessary leader of an assortment of lesbians who by their very nature disdain leadership.
The major story centers, generations later, on 6000 of Motherâ€™s progeny, of whom 4000 have elected to leave Earth. The 2000 that choose to remain for varied reasons make up the story of the second book, Daughters of an Amber Noon. The final book, Daughters of an Emerald Dusk, returns us to the planet to learn what has befallen these lesbian adventurers fifty years later.
My three science fiction novels represent the thought and observations of a lifetime about my gender and our possibilities. Ann Bannon once wrote, â€śDaughters of a Coral Dawn is a love song to the strength, beauty, and ingenuity of women.â€ť I hope this most beautiful line ever written about my work is true of all my books.
That Iâ€™ve lived long enough to see such a flowering of our gender as personified in this issue of the Bay Times is gratifying, it is a joy. Now that I know Sally Ride was a lesbian, I can dare to dream that maybe, just maybe, she found the book that rode into space along with her that year of 1984.
I hope you enjoy the chapter that follows. Slightly edited for length, here is the famous landing of the women on their new planet of Maternas.