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Beatrice the Sixteenth (wikipedia.org)
55 points by apollinaire on Sept 24, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 36 comments

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this book, but I am absolutely shocked that nobody has posted it online in any of the usual places given its Wikipedia entry. I had hoped that External Links would point me to a copy.

Apparently, according to WorldCat, I’d have to travel overseas to other libraries to read it. And it was published in 1909, so presumably its copyright has long since expired. If travel ever resumes, I think I’ll make vacation plans to visit one of these libraries and scan the book myself...

Regarding sources for Wikipedia on Dr Thomas Baty, one of the longest freely published accounts I found online is at http://www.ilajapan.org/doc/baty_e.pdf - relevant as Baty spent much of his life in Japan.

British copyright law states that books enter the public domain 70 years after the author's death, in this case, 1954. So hopefully in a few years it'll be accessible.

Oh. In Canada it’s only 50 years.

Well, I guess we’ll have to wait until 2024 then. Unless maybe it was published locally in one of those countries like Canada with a shorter term.... but that seems doubtful given the limited availability in public libraries.

It’s interesting to me how a modern critique by Taylor argues that the novel’s setting is not a real utopia. I took a philosophy course on utopias and dystopias. Through all of the readings my biggest takeaway is that the distinction between a utopia and a dystopia is your point of view within the setting.

That is to say, utopias achieve social harmony by excluding dissidents. The process of exclusion varies widely, of course. In the past the means were crude: slavery, war, closed borders. More modern “solutions” might include drugs, eugenics, or genetic engineering, or simply pretending the problem doesn’t exist.

And what is the problem, anyway? It’s that people disagree, in fundamental ways, how the world should be run. These disagreements are presently held in check by a delicate balance of power and complex political processes. But utopian authors don’t want that. They want to simplify society and sweep away the complexities and ugliness of the real world. I have yet to see anyone succeed at doing that without some process of exclusion.

I just wonder how significant getting kicked in the head by a camel is to the whole scenario.


> I dont even want a future where there are no gender differences anymore.

FWIW, I know many trans people who agree with this.

FWIW, it's a work of speculative fiction and not a manifesto.

Please don't take HN threads further into generic directions, and especially not generic ideological flamewar directions. Those are the most repetitive, least interesting discussions that occur here. They make up for it by being intense and nasty, but that's not what we're going for.





Please don't take HN threads further into flamewar. Adding nationalistic flamewar on top of gender-ideological flamewar is one bad cocktail.


This thread is inherently gender-ideological, and of course HN being HN, only one side of the argument is allowed.

That's not an accurate description of HN. You might be falling prey to the notice-dislike bias: https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&sor..., which is one reason why people arrive at this kind of distorted generalization. There is also https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23308098 and https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=false&so....

The fact that the topic is ideological is no reason to go into flamewar about it. Actually it's a reason not to go into flamewar. Note this guideline from https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html: "Comments should get more thoughtful and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive."

Regarding your first link, which I really would have liked to read: "This page will only work with JavaScript enabled"

I dunno. Both sides can get heard but it's like half the time I don't understand what the other side is saying, the other half they won't change their mind, but more importantly won't give me enough info for me to reconsider my position and learn from it.

eg. I don't understand what the other side is saying: You mention identity politics. I don't care. I don't know anyone who cares, including trans people I know. They (and I) would rather have a good night out and a couple of drinks.

All such discussions become fruitless in the end.

I'm also outside the US, but can't understand why everyone gets their knickers in a twist over addressing people as they prefer to be addressed.

If we want real problems, how about people who insist on addressing others with T-pronouns when they're still on a V-basis? Now, those are the real savages.

Bonus clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Am5AEPHd6k

also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDe9msExUK8&t=35

USA politics are infectious. For instance, a local politician in my country recently demanded that we deweaponize our police. We dont even had incidents like in the USA. But hey, the americans are asking for crazy shit, so why aren't we?


No matter how many (20 year old) examples you might find, asking to deweaponize the police is still an extremely dumb thing to do.


Literally "worthless"? The article contains quite a detailed history of Thomas/Irene/Theta. Does their life mean nothing if you can't figure out what their genitals looked like?

Harvard used to take nude pictures of entering freshmen, for, I guess, reasons. I have no idea if turn of the century Oxford was as interested in its students' junk.

As for that breakaway technical college somewhere off in the fens, it somewhat de-victorianised in the twenties: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24340585

> Harvard used to take nude pictures of entering freshmen

Every time I think I have seen the most bonkers thing that the US has to offer someone trumps it.

Did no one refuse? Was it a male only institution and they wanted to make absolutely sure that no women got in? If so why the photographs? Surely a discreet examination would do?

Regardless of the 'reason' it is astonishingly weird.

> There is no reference if it was man who became a woman or vice versa to even start

I don’t think that is significant but it is strange the article describes the person with pronoun they instead of the pronoun identifying their preferred sex. It seems some increased context would be beneficial as perhaps there is a historical reason.

Based on the "Personal Life" section of the page it would seem they were non-binary, making "they/them/their" appropriate pronouns. Additional it states they were sometimes regarded as a trans woman, so to answer the grandparent comment's question, they were likely assigned male at birth.

He referrers to himself as a very old man, so that's their preferred pronoun -


It's possible they had to do that because of the times. But where is the evidence? Why is this not discussed in an encyclopedia we can look up? Do we need an uncensored Wikipedia now?

I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume the perceived hostility in your posts is accidental. Here are two tips that will help you avoid that unintentional impression and will allow you to escape the downvotes you are receiving.

Transgender identity has changed a lot over the last several decades. You therefore shouldn't expect someone who lived before that to have used the same vocabulary and labels we use today. You also shouldn't force them into a binary gender bucket. There is a wide variety of transgender identities and it isn't exclusively about going from man to woman or vice versa.

When you aren't sure of a person's preferred gender identity and pronouns, you are probably better off using general terms like they/them/their as the Wikipedia article does. You should never use "it" like you did in your first post unless specifically told to do so. It is can be viewed as dehumanizing.

> You should never use "it"

'It' referrers to the situation, not the person. I changed the grammar a little to try and fix this.

>There is no reference if it was a man who became a woman or vice versa

Maybe that also isn't intentional and is merely poor grammar, but that certainly reads as if you are using "it" to refer to the person.

I read it as "it" being the situation. e.g., "was it a child who painted this?"

it isn't bad grammar, though you could argue it's poor writing because it's confusing. it's using a feature of english called it-extraposition. some examples here: https://www1.icsi.berkeley.edu/~kay/bcg/extrap.html

basically, it-xp lets you delay a constituent in certain circumstances using "it". sometimes this is required to make a sentence grammatical.

    "(What to do next) is not clear"
    "It is not clear (what to do next)"

    *"Was (who painted this) a child?"
    "Was it a child (who painted this)?"
We can combine this feature with clefting the end of the sentence to make something that seems to refer to a person by "it", but actually refers to an elided constituent:

    Discourse: "I don't know the gender of the writer"

    R1: *"Was (who wrote this) a man?" (can't have wh-phrase here, needs it-xp)

    R2: "Was it a man (who wrote this)?" (OK, but the last part is redundant. Discourse already includes we are talking about a writer. Grice's maxims suggest we will usually drop it.)

    R3: "Was it a man?" (looks weird, but sounds perfectly normal in context)
I'm a linguist / syntactician by training, but also nonbinary and use they/them, so I have some skin in this game. I think the GP was being obtuse, maybe purposely, but not malicious.

Fair enough. It might have been the usage combined with the rest of that user's posts, which seemed to have an aggressive tone, that caused me to read it the way I did.

I will also say it is worth the tiny bit of extra effort to make pronoun use clear when dealing with members of the trans people. That community already faces so many challenges, accidentally offending them with our laziness is a mistake we shouldn't make.

Since we're on a grammar tangent already, as a non-native speaker, I thought "was it a man who did this" was a valid construction. Am I in error?

That is fine, but keep in mind that a valid answer to that question can be “No, it was a cat that did it.”.

If you are already sure it was a person and wanted to be specific, you could rephrase that as “Was the person who did this a man?”.

(The answer to that might of course be “I don't know, they looked rather androgynous.” or the more down to earth “Dunno. Couldn't tell if it was a bloke or a gal.”.)

I wrote a more detailed answer to GP: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24576616, but basically: yes that's totally natural, but in edited writing / speech sometimes should be avoided for clarity reasons. But I didn't blink twice at the comment myself.

You got a lot of flak, but I was similarly confused and mildly annoyed. It does make a difference, especially at that time, if a woman lives as a man or vice versa. I could only deduce that at that time there were very few female lawyers. (Looked it up: In the US Arabella Mansfield was the first in 1869)

At least Wikipedia has a copy before degenderisation:


They're notable for writing the book they wrote at the time they wrote it. The book is notable in that trans people are normalized instead of being throwaways or villains. The book is quite early in my community's history, and its author is notable on that basis alone. Your dismissiveness and singleminded focus on their gender is unbecoming, and frankly kinda weird. You're not even discussing the book here, but complaining about the style of an adjacent article.


> If this out of copyright book is Notable, why is there no copy available on the internet?

You made that up. Here's the actual criteria: [1].

> This page in a nutshell: A book is notable, and generally merits an article, if it verifiably meets through reliable sources, one or more of the following criteria:

> 1. The book has been the subject of two or more non-trivial published works appearing in sources that are independent of the book itself.

As the article lists quite a few references, it's soundly in the Notable category. Please take this elsewhere.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Notability_(books)

Uh, the author's in the Non-binary Writers category, which would explain the use of the pronoun "they," if that's what you're referring to...

I get the impression the commenter is going out of their way to not understand things in order to be contrarian. Best to ignore them.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sealioning

I got the impression the commenter was just maybe letting their frustration get the better of them in their expression; I also found the article a bit head-scratching and definitely understand the wider frustration with Wikipedia editorialising having a particular bias at times.

I'm not saying that's the case here (I thought it was an interesting article), just offering context for why it might have been frustration rather than deliberate bad faith.

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