There were two main reasons why I wrote men out of Kray and Memory Seed. One was my burgeoning interest in feminism, a cause I wholeheartedly supported then as now. The second was a problem then only recently recognised by scientists, which can be called feminisation owing to pollutant chemicals. In the early 1990s, this topic, dealt with in New Scientist, which was where I noticed it, was a new threat. By a startling coincidence Erin Brockovich wrote a piece for The Guardian only a couple of weeks ago, which, if mathematically flawed, did alert readers once again to the issue of chemical pollution in the environment and in the objects we make and use – mostly of plastic, eg PFAS, specifically mentioned by Brockovich. (A follow-up piece by Professor Shanna Swan, an expert on environmental medicine and public health, on 28th March underlined the problem and the science behind it.)
It is Zinina in particular who notices the past history of this circumstance when she travels to the east of the city into wild jungle to find enigmatic carvings on various temple walls. The chapter in which this happens not only gives a little background to the reader, it allows the characters to assess and bond with one another as they grasp the truth of the distant past, and the noophytes in particular.
For me, feminism is a sub-category of humanism. I became a feminist not only because I recognised and identified with the situation of women in a patriarchal world, but because I saw patriarchy as a consequence of a form of social organisation operating at a still deeper level. In the decades since I’ve expanded and sophisticated that view; and have tried to write about it, usually failing. (At the moment I’m making a series of films, Condition: Human, covering these issues and topics.) In my opinion, all humanists could be feminists.
I wasn’t the first to create an all-female scenario and I won’t be the last, but that third version of the book was the one which got all the themes right, and I’m glad I put it together. Kray is a contradiction – a city of women, a women’s city, yet suffering from male social structures and problems: hierarchy, elitism, prejudice, violence.
Still… almost no men. That’s an improvement on what we have now.