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Enemy Mine [novella]

de Barry B. Longyear

Séries: The Enemy Papers (1)

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722289,474 (4.06)7
ENEMY MINE-The Nebula and Hugo Award winner that inspired the 20th Century Fox motion picture starring Dennis Quaid and Lou Gossett, Jr. The story of a man, incomplete in himself, taught to be a human by his sworn enemy, an alien being who leaves with the human its most important possession: its future.… (mais)
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Besides being an awesome science fiction novel, it's a great tale of friendship and loyalty. Quick and enjoyable read with lots of substance. ( )
  TinyDancer11 | Feb 17, 2011 |
http://www.nicholaswhyte.info/sf/enem.htm

This is what I wrote about Enemy Mine in 2002:
"Enemy Mine" by Barry B. Longyear won the Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novella presented in 1980; it also won the Locus Poll for Best Novella and on the strength of this early promise the author also won the John W. Campbell Award that year. ... "Enemy Mine" was later filmed by Wolfgang Petersen, starring Dennis Quaid and Louis Gosset Jr; the film is not universally loved (least of all by the author of the original story) but has some vocal defenders. Longyear published a revised and expanded version in The Enemy Papers, 1998.

[Adding: only one other author has since managed Longyear's feat of winning the Campbell/Astounding award and a Hugo for a written fiction category in the same year. This was Rebecca Roanhorse in 2018.]

Isaac Asimov's personal marketing of "Enemy Mine" in order to secure the first ever Hugo or Nebulas for a story published in IASFM attracted the scorn of Dave Langford in an early Ansible: "The success of Barry B Longyear with his 'Enemy Mine' in Hugo and Nebula is an indication of the new Isaac Astral award-grubbing technique: millions of copies of the story were sent to SFWA members with glowing recommendations from the Doctor." Whatever one may feel about Asimov's efforts, I suspect that the voters got it right. The only other novella of the year with a respectable run of reprints in anthologies (four times since original publication, compared to eleven for "Enemy Mine") is Hugo nominee "The Moon Goddess and the Son", by Donald Kingsbury; I don't recall ever reading it. The only other novella to feature on both Hugo and Nebula shortlists for the awards made in 1980 was "The Battle of the Abaco Reefs" by Hilbert Schenk, which I also have not read and which seems not to have been republished since, er, 1980.

[Adding for completeness: as noted, "The Battle of the Abaco Reefs" by Hilbert Schenk was on both ballots; it still has not been republished since 1980. The other Hugo finalists were “Ker-Plop”, by Ted Reynolds; “The Moon Goddess and the Son”, by Donald Kingsbury; and “Songhouse”, by Orson Scott Card. The other Nebula finalists were “Fireship”, by Joan D. Vinge; “Mars Masked”, by Frederik Pohl; “The Story Writer”, by Richard Wilson; and “The Tale of Gorgik”, by Samuel R. Delany.]

"Enemy Mine" is yet another story about a human vs alien war. The aliens this time are not the hive-minds of Ender's Game, The Forever War or Starship Troopers, but the classic sf reptilian humanoids which I think I first saw in "Frontier in Space", a Doctor Who story of the Jon Pertwee era, and most recently encountered in Harry Turtledove's awful Worldwar / Colonization alternate history series. (Actually I read Ken MacLeod's Cosmonaut Keep even more recently, but his intelligent saurs are from Earth and friendly rather than being hostile alien lizards.) Longyear's local inspiration here is certainly Gene L. Coon's 1967 Star Trek episode "Arena", which was inspired by Frederic Brown's 1944 short story with the same title, but replaced Brown's spherical alien with a reptilian Gorn.

Unlike in either version of "Arena", however, the human and alien are not doomed to fight to the death. Instead, they are forced to combine forces against their harsh environment. Again, this seems likely to have a source from a late 1960s screenplay, this time the 1968 John Boorman film Hell in the Pacific, which starred Lee Marvin and Toshirō Mifune as two WW2 pilots, one American and one Japanese, crashed on a Pacific island, who have to co-operate to survive. (Oddly enough there may be a precedent in another 1940s sf story, A.E. van Vogt's "Co-operate - or else!", collected in The War Against The Rull. Information on this point welcomed. [Note added January 2003: I tracked down The War Against The Rull and it seems rather different - the human and his unlikely partner are very different in size and ability, and united in their desire to evade the very present Rull, rather than equally matched and marooned far from anywhere.])

So far, so clichéd. The special twist to "Enemy Mine" is that Jeriba Shigan, the alien Drac, who it turns out is hermaphrodite and pregnant, dies giving birth to a child, who is then brought up by Willis Davidge, the human, until they are both rescued. Meanwhile the interstellar war has ended in an uneasy peace. The two are returned to their respective home civilisations, but Davidge has learnt too much respect for the Drac culture to fit in back home; he journeys to the Drac planet to rescue the child, Zammis, and they settle down together building a community for inter-species understanding on the planet where Davidge first met Jeriga Shigan and where Zammis was born.

I guess that the reason "Enemy Mine" is not generally regarded as a piece of classic sf is simply that the aliens are not alien enough. Even before I had come across Hell in the Pacific as a possible source, it was pretty obvious to me that the situation of the two characters is basically a WW2 setting, and that the Drac culture is based on Western perceptions of contemporary human East Asia (the respect for ancestors, hierachical society, etc). When you set them beside other extraterrestrials of 1979, such as George R.R. Martin's "Sandkings" or most of all Ridley Scott's Alien, it becomes clear that the Drac are just Asians in rubber suits.

Ironically I find "Enemy Mine" most successful when it is most human. Davidge's confusion about how to treat the newborn alien must resonate with any human parent who has looked down at a small pink loud thing in their arms and wondered what on earth to do with it. And the central message of the story, that the other guys are probably not evil, only different, is unfortunately at least as relevant today as it was during the fading years of Jimmy Carter's presidency when it was first published.

https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/3651558.html

Looking back on it now, I missed the huge other theme of the story: the exploration of gender and gender roles through the Drac and through Davidge's adaptation to their society. It's actually quite important to examine the extent to which gender is socially constructed, and Enemy Mine comes at it from an unusually macho angle, with no named or visible human women in the story. (Davidge mentions his mother a couple of times.) ( )
  nwhyte | Sep 23, 2005 |
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ENEMY MINE-The Nebula and Hugo Award winner that inspired the 20th Century Fox motion picture starring Dennis Quaid and Lou Gossett, Jr. The story of a man, incomplete in himself, taught to be a human by his sworn enemy, an alien being who leaves with the human its most important possession: its future.

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