A Door into Ocean

A Door into Ocean is a 1986 feminist science fiction novel by Joan Slonczewski. The novel shows themes of ecofeminism and nonviolent revolution, combined with Slonczewski's own mastery of knowledge in the field of biology.

A Door into Ocean
AuthorJoan Slonczewski
Cover artistRon Walotsky
CountryUnited States
SeriesElysium Cycle
GenreScience Fiction
Published1986 (Arbor House) (New York)
Media typePrint (Hardcover & Paperback)
813/.54 19
LC ClassPS3569.L65 D6 1986
Followed byDaughter of Elysium 


The novel is set in the future, on the fictional planet of Shora, a moon covered by water. The inhabitants of this planet, known as Sharers, are all female. Sharers use genetic engineering to control the ecology of their planet. They are peaceful beings who "share" — that is, they have a spiritual and linguistic union with each other and treat everyone equally. The Sharers take egalitarianism for granted because they share and they lack the concept of "power-over", making their society one in which conflicts are settled without violence. When they are being threatened by an outside power, they resist nonviolently because they refuse to believe in power. Thus, the Sharers can never be subdued by force.

The Sharer way of nonviolence is more than spiritual. It is based on historical realities of nonviolent resistance. The author based the events of her novel on much historical research, particularly the writings of peace historian Gene Sharp. The novel includes much biological research into the evolution of innate capacities for nonviolence. For example, the participation of children in nonviolent resistance draws on deep instinctual responses found in humans and related mammals.

A unique expression of the Sharer way is their language, in which subject and object are interchangeable. The Sharers know by context what subject and object are—but their language does not allow them to make a distinction. As a result, they always know that what one person "forces" upon another can always go the other way. Their language impedes anyone from "giving orders" to dominate others. For example, if a stranger says, "You must obey me," the Sharer hears, "I must obey you," or (the closest translation), "We must share agreement." Their language reinforces the Sharers' inability to accept any situation in which one individual dominates another by force.

The Sharer worldview extends to their environment, their surrounding ecosystem. They cannot act upon their plants and animals without being acted upon in return. So, for example, because Sharers consume plants and animals as food, they accept the fact that they in turn will become food for other life forms; that predators will ultimately consume them.

At the beginning of the novel, the Sharers are all female. But as they encounter a non-Sharer community from another planet, which threatens them, the Sharer Merwen realizes that they must find out whether other kinds of "people" can share their life or not. Merwen goes to the other planet, Valedon, to recruit a young man, Spinel, to return to Shora and attempt to learn their ways. This venture leads to disagreement within the Sharer community (they have plenty of disagreements, though addressed without violence). With many false starts, Spinel gradually learns the Sharer way, as a man; and ultimately he works with the Sharers to help them defend their planet from a military invasion.


  • Merwen
  • Usha
  • Spinel
  • Uriel
  • Lystra
  • Berenice
  • Realgar
  • Malachite
  • Siderite
  • Yinevra

Literary significance and reception

The 1985 Library Journal review highly recommends this novel, saying "Slonczewski creates an all-female nonviolent culture that reaches beyond feminism to a new definition of human nature".[1]

Awards and nominations

Publication history

  • 1986, USA, Arbor House, ISBN 978-0-87795-763-8, February 1986, Hardcover
  • 1987, USA, Avon Books, ISBN 978-0-380-70150-6, February 1987, Paperback
  • 1987, UK, Women's Press, ISBN 978-0-7043-4069-5, June 1987, Paperback
  • 2000, USA, Orb Books, ISBN 978-0-312-87652-4, October 2000, Paperback


  1. ^ "A Door into Ocean". Library Journal. 110 (20): 129. 1985-12-01. ISSN 0363-0277.
  2. ^ "Prometheus Award for Best Novel -- Nominees". Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 16 May 2008.

External links

Arbor House

Arbor House was an independent publishing house founded by Donald Fine in 1969. Specializing in hard cover publications, Arbor House published works by Hortense Calisher, Ken Follett, Cynthia Freeman, Elmore Leonard and Irwin Shaw before being acquired by the Hearst Corporation in 1979 to move into paperback publishing. Arbor House became an imprint of William Morrow & Company in 1988.

Dune (novel)

Dune is a 1965 science fiction novel by American author Frank Herbert, originally published as two separate serials in Analog magazine. It tied with Roger Zelazny's This Immortal for the Hugo Award in 1966, and it won the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. It is the first installment of the Dune saga, and in 2003 was cited as the world's best-selling science fiction novel.Set in the distant future amidst a feudal interstellar society in which various noble houses control planetary fiefs, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides, whose family accepts the stewardship of the planet Arrakis. While the planet is an inhospitable and sparsely populated desert wasteland, it is the only source of melange, or "the spice", a drug that extends life and enhances mental abilities. As melange can only be produced on Arrakis, control of the planet is a coveted and dangerous undertaking. The story explores the multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the factions of the empire confront each other in a struggle for the control of Arrakis and its spice.The scion and heir of the Atreides family, Paul is believed to be a candidate for the Kwisatz Haderach, a messianic figure whose coming is fortold by the Bene Gesserit sisterhood. On Arrakis, Paul and his family are betrayed by the Emperor and the former overlords of the planet, House Harkonnen, and Paul seeks refuge with the Fremen, the nomadic natives of Arrakis. Paul becomes a messianic leader of the Fremen and is dubbed Muad'Dib. He is trained in the Fremen ways, including the riding of gigantic sandworms, whose life cycle is important in the production of melange. Paul trains the Fremen into a fighting force, and leads an assault on the Emperor and the Harkonnen for control of Arrakis. The book ends with Paul's defeat of the Emperor, and upon assuming the Imperial throne himself, he expresses doubt that even he can control the Fremen or stop the coming revolution that he has unleashed on the universe.

Herbert wrote five sequels: Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune. The first novel also inspired a 1984 film adaptation by David Lynch, the 2000 Sci-Fi Channel miniseries Frank Herbert's Dune and its 2003 sequel Frank Herbert's Children of Dune (which combines the events of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune), a series of computer games, several board games, songs, and a series of followups, including prequels and sequels, that were co-written by Kevin J. Anderson and the author's son, Brian Herbert, starting in 1999. A new film adaptation directed by Denis Villeneuve is scheduled to be released on November 20, 2020.

Since 2009, the names of planets from the Dune novels have been adopted for the real-life nomenclature of plains and other features on Saturn's moon Titan.


The term ecofeminism is used to describe a feminist approach to understanding ecology. Ecofeminist thinkers draw on the concept of gender to theorize on the relationship between humans and the natural world. The term was coined by the French writer Françoise d'Eaubonne in her book Le Féminisme ou la Mort (1974). Today, there are many interpretations of ecofeminism and how it might be applied to social thought, including: ecofeminist art, ecofeminist theory, social justice and political philosophy, religion, contemporary feminism and poetry. As there are several different types of feminism and different beliefs held by feminists, there are different versions of ecofeminism.

Ecofeminism is widely referred to as the third wave of feminism, it adds to the former feminist theory that an environmental perspective is a necessary part of feminism. Ecofeminism uses the parallels between the oppression of nature and the oppression of women as a way to highlight the idea that both must be understood in order to properly recognize how they are connected. These parallels include but are not limited to seeing women and nature as property, seeing men as the curators of culture and women as the curators of nature, and how men dominate women and humans dominate nature.Charlene Spretnak has offered one way of categorizing ecofeminist work: 1) through the study of political theory as well as history; 2) through the belief and study of nature-based religions; 3) through environmentalism.

Joan Slonczewski

Joan Lyn Slonczewski is an American microbiologist at Kenyon College and a science fiction writer who explores biology and space travel. Her books have twice earned the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel: A Door into Ocean (1987) and The Highest Frontier (2011). With John W. Foster she coauthors the textbook, Microbiology: An Evolving Science (W. W. Norton). She explores her ideas of biology, politics, and artificial intelligence at her blog Ultraphyte.

John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, or Campbell Memorial Award, is an annual award presented by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas to the author of the best science fiction novel published in English in the preceding calendar year. It is the novel counterpart of the Theodore Sturgeon Award for best short story, awarded by the same organization. The award is named in honor of John W. Campbell (1910–71), whose science fiction writing and role as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact made him one of the most influential editors in the early history of science fiction. The award was established in 1973 by writers and critics Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss "as a way of continuing his efforts to encourage writers to produce their best possible work." Locus magazine has listed it as one of the "major awards" of written science fiction.The winning novel is selected by a panel of science fiction experts, intended to be "small enough to discuss among its members all of the nominated novels". Among members of the panel have been Gregory Benford, Paul A. Carter, James Gunn, Elizabeth Anne Hull, Christopher McKitterick, Farah Mendlesohn, Pamela Sargent, and Tom Shippey. In 2008 Mendlesohn was replaced with Paul Kincaid, in 2009 Carter left the panel while Paul Di Filippo and Sheila Finch joined, and Lisa Yaszek replaced Di Filippo in 2016. Nominations are submitted by publishers and jurors, and are collated by the panel into a list of finalists to be voted on. The minimum eligible length that a work may be is not formally defined by the center. The winner is selected by May of each year, and is presented at the Campbell Conference awards banquet in June at the University of Kansas in Lawrence as part of the centerpiece of the conference along with the Sturgeon Award. The award has been given at the conference since 1979; prior to then it was awarded at various locations around the world, starting at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1973. Winners are always invited to attend the ceremony. The Center for the Study of Science Fiction maintains a trophy which records all of the winners on engraved plaques affixed to the sides, and since 2004 winners have received a smaller personalized trophy as well.During the 46 years the award has been active, 176 authors have had works nominated; 46 of these authors have won. In two years, 1976 and 1994, the panel selected none of the nominees as a winner, while in 1974, 2002, 2009, and 2012 the panel selected two winners rather than one. Frederik Pohl and Joan Slonczewski have each won twice, the only authors to do so, out of four and two nominations, respectively. Kim Stanley Robinson and Paul J. McAuley have won once out of seven nominations, and Jack McDevitt, Adam Roberts, and Robert J. Sawyer have won once out of five nominations, while Nancy Kress, Bruce Sterling, and Robert Charles Wilson have won once out of four nominations. Greg Bear has the most nominations without winning at nine, followed by Sheri S. Tepper at six, James K. Morrow at five, and William Gibson, Ken MacLeod, and Charles Stross at four.

List of American novelists

This is a list of novelists from the United States, listed with titles of a major work for each.

This is not intended to be a list of every American (born U.S. citizen, naturalized citizen, or long-time resident alien) who has published a novel. (For the purposes of this article, novel is defined as an extended work of fiction. This definition is loosely interpreted to include novellas, novelettes, and books of interconnected short stories.) Novelists on this list have achieved a notability that exceeds merely having been published. The writers on the current list fall into one or more of the following categories:

All American novelists who have articles in Wikipedia should be on this list, and even if they do not clearly meet any other criteria they should not be removed until the article itself is removed.

Winner of a major literary prize, even if the winning work was a story collection rather than a novel: The Pulitzer Prize, The PEN American Center Book Awards, the National Book Award, the American Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Orange Prize, and some others. (Note: The only Pulitzer winner for Fiction not on the list is James Alan McPherson, who has never published a novel.)

Having a substantial body of work, widely respected and reviewed in major publications, and perhaps often nominated or a finalist for major awards.

A pioneering literary figure, possibly for the style or substance of their entire body of work, or for a single novel that was a notable "first" of some kind in U.S. literary history.

Had several massive bestsellers, or even just one huge seller that has entered the cultural lexicon (Grace Metalious and Peyton Place, for example).

A leading figure—especially award-winning, and with crossover appeal to mainstream readers, reviewers, and scholars—in a major genre or subcategory of fiction: Romance, science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, western, young adult fiction, regional or "local color" fiction, proletarian fiction, etc.

List of Quakers

This is a list of notable people associated with the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, who have a Wikipedia article. The first part consists of individuals who are known to be or to have been Quakers continually from some point in their lives onward.

The second part consists of individuals whose parents were Quakers or who were Quakers themselves at one time in their lives but then converted to another religion, formally or informally distanced themselves from the Society of Friends, or were disowned by their Friends Meeting.

List of fictional planets by medium

This is a list of fictional planets organized by the medium in which they primarily appear.


Nonviolence is the personal practice of being harmless to self and others under every condition. It comes from the belief that hurting people, animals or the environment is unnecessary to achieve an outcome and refers to a general philosophy of abstention from violence. This may be based on moral, religious or spiritual principles, or it may be for purely strategic or pragmatic reasons.Nonviolence also has "active" or "activist" elements, in that believers generally accept the need for nonviolence as a means to achieve political and social change. Thus, for example, the Tolstoy and Gandhian non violence is a philosophy and strategy for social change that rejects the use of violence, but at the same time sees nonviolent action (also called civil resistance) as an alternative to passive acceptance of oppression or armed struggle against it. In general, advocates of an activist philosophy of nonviolence use diverse methods in their campaigns for social change, including critical forms of education and persuasion, mass noncooperation, civil disobedience, nonviolent direct action, and social, political, cultural and economic forms of intervention.

In modern times, nonviolent methods of action have been a powerful tool for social protest and revolutionary social and political change. There are many examples of their use. Fuller surveys may be found in the entries on civil resistance, nonviolent resistance and nonviolent revolution. Here certain movements particularly influenced by a philosophy of nonviolence should be mentioned, including Mahatma Gandhi leading a successful decades-long nonviolent struggle against British rule in India, Martin Luther King's and James Bevel's adoption of Gandhi's nonviolent methods in their campaigns to win civil rights for African Americans, and César Chávez's campaigns of nonviolence in the 1960s to protest the treatment of farm workers in California. The 1989 "Velvet Revolution" in Czechoslovakia that saw the overthrow of the Communist government is considered one of the most important of the largely nonviolent Revolutions of 1989. Most recently the nonviolent campaigns of Leymah Gbowee and the women of Liberia were able to achieve peace after a 14-year civil war. This story is captured in a 2008 documentary film Pray the Devil Back to Hell.

The term "nonviolence" is often linked with or used as a synonym for peace, and despite being frequently equated with passivity and pacifism, this is rejected by nonviolent advocates and activists. Nonviolence refers specifically to the absence of violence and is always the choice to do no harm or the least harm, and passivity is the choice to do nothing. Sometimes nonviolence is passive, and other times it isn't. For example, if a house is burning down with mice or insects in it, the most harmless appropriate action is to put the fire out, not to sit by and passively let the fire burn. There is at times confusion and contradiction written about nonviolence, harmlessness and passivity. A confused person may advocate nonviolence in a specific context while advocating violence in other contexts. For example, someone who passionately opposes abortion or meat eating may concurrently advocate violence to kill an abortionist or attack a slaughterhouse, which makes that person a violent person.

"Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it."

Planets in science fiction

Planets in science fiction are fictional planets that appear in various media of the science fiction genre as story-settings or depicted locations.

Prometheus Award

The Prometheus Award is an award for libertarian science fiction novels given annually by the Libertarian Futurist Society, which also publishes the quarterly journal Prometheus. L. Neil Smith established the award in 1979, but it was not awarded regularly until the newly founded Libertarian Futurist Society revived it in 1982. The Society created a Hall of Fame Award (for classic works of libertarian science fiction, not necessarily novels) in 1983, and also presents occasional one-off awards.

Single-gender world

A relatively common motif in speculative fiction is the existence of single-gender worlds or single-sex societies. These fictional societies have long been one of the primary ways to explore implications of gender and gender-differences in science fiction and fantasy. In the fictional setting, these societies often arise due to elimination of one sex through war or natural disasters and disease. The societies may be portrayed as utopian or dystopian, as seen in pulp tales of oppressive matriarchies.

Timeline of science fiction

This is a timeline of science fiction as a literary tradition.

Underwater diving in popular culture

Movies, novels, TV series and shows, comics, graphic art, sculpture, games, myths, legends, and misconceptions. Fiction in general relating to all forms of diving, including hypothetical and imaginary methods, and other aspects of underwater diving which have become part of popular culture.

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