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I'm trying to identify a book I read somewhere in the 90s. It was a far future story with spaceships, interstellar travel, a rebellion and similar generic sci-fi elements.

What made it somewhat unique was the use of partial or full sex changes during the course of events. People were sex-changed as a punishment or to control them. One guy's male genitalia were replaced with female parts to – if I remember correctly – punish him for some failure. Another guy, a kind of leader for some kind of rebel group, was turned into a woman with low IQ to keep him from continuing his rebel activity.

Sadly, I don't remember much else - it's only the weird (and probably quite sexist) stuff that stuck to my head.

The story is, I assume, from the 80s or early 90s.

I put some further thought into the publication date, and I'd focus on late 1980's to 1995 by now.

The book was from a public library, and they seem to have put mostly pretty current stuff on their shelves, such as A Song of Ice and Fire, When Gravity Fails and so on. Some older classics like Asimov and Lem, but the majority apparently was newer.

Common sense would say that it was something pretty popular or well-known, as most of the stuff I remember from that shelf is seen as a classic now. But I just cannot find that one now.

One younger guy was kind of a soldier or lieutenant in what I remember as the rebel organization. He was a point of view character iirc. He got captured by the enemy or messed up something, and as a punishment (again: probably sexist to current standards) was turned into a female waist-down. He hid that from others, but had trouble riding a horse with his changed body for whatever reason.

Another older guy was the organization's leader, guru or something similar. He was known to be a smart, sly tactician, hard to catch, never giving up - a kind of old fox stereotype. He was captured by the enemy (that seems to a common theme) and turned into a full-fledged woman, or what stereotypical parody the author thought women are. He was dumbed down on purpose and given an unnatural appetite for sexual intercourse, both to make him unable to continue his war effort. He did conquer those problems, however, and somehow contributed to the rebellion later on.

That does sound vaguely similar to Medusa: A Tiger by the Tail from Jack L. Chalker, but I don't think it was that book, judging from the plot summary on Wikipedia.

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    As is somewhat standard when discussing books involving body transformations, something by Jack L. Chalker would seem likely. Most of his work is multi-book series - could this book have been part of a series?
    – RDFozz
    Nov 5, 2018 at 2:50
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    Were women forced to change to men? Nov 5, 2018 at 12:05
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    Hi and thanks for the answers! Jack L. Chalker... skimmed the publication list, but nothing seems to fit. His stuff seems even weirder (though less sexist) than what I read back then. I don't remember any female-to-male-transformations. Cannot rule that out, but I'd say no. That's one of the elements that seems so weird (and plainly sexist) to me today. Nov 5, 2018 at 19:10
  • You need to check out the Songs of Fire and Ice and Soul Rider series. Both have forced sex change (one female to male, IIRC), as well as a sort of species change.I also think one of the Well World books also had a female to male sex change, but it's been along time since I read those. Nov 5, 2018 at 20:00
  • @Ring - The Well World did have a lot of Gender Swapping (Juan Campos, a male gangster, was turned into a 'Sexy Daisy Duck', as I recall. Two of the 'heroic' side also both swapped and became a couple.) But I don't remember gender swap being used as part of torture.. partially because it wasn't easy -- the basic changes were done by the well, and the ones done by surgeons included neutering and other things, but not gender swap, as I recall. As you mention, the Soul Rider series, on the other hand....
    – K-H-W
    Nov 5, 2018 at 20:03

3 Answers 3

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The part about being changed as punishment, and riding a horse later (and commenting as to how it was easier with female private parts), sounds a bit like some events that happened in Spirits of Flux and Anchor by Jack Chalker. The character that this happened to was named Dar.

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This is a long shot but could it have been the book Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan? (The tv series changed many of the book's controversial elements. ) In one of the more disturbing scenes, the male protagonist is "resleeved" into a female body and graphically tortured. The book makes it far more clear than the tv show that the protagonist is a rebel.

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  • Hi and thanks for the answer! No, it wasn't altered carbon. The person's actual body was changed via surgery. Nov 5, 2018 at 19:08
  • Another shot in the dark but did a character go from male to female with a prehensile tail? That happened in Justin Leiber's Beyond Rejection (1980). Nov 6, 2018 at 22:53
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Chalker, Rings of the Master series - has a change; brilliant rebellious woman was given a lush body, and more hormones/sex-drive (continuously pregnant?) - as a means of punishment/control, iirc.

She was the sort of woman men fantasized about: small but perfectly proportioned, her face one of classical Han beauty, her gestures and movements somehow always erotic. Her looks masked her extreme intelligence: Her IQ off the measurable scale, and she was an authentic genius whose mind worked so fast and on so many levels it often seemed more computerlike than human. She was not without flaws; as the oldest child of the chief administrator of the Han district, she was spoiled rotten, and her intellectual and physical development had not been accompanied by any real emotional growth; there she was almost childlike, a situation her parents kept excusing because of her age, although she had just turned seventeen.

For example, you have high hormonal levels, but your psychosexual level is quite low, meaning that you don’t think of physical sex as very important to you. Now, that energy has to go somewhere, so it goes into aggression, a drive to work or achieve, that sort of thing. It’s all interrelated, and it shows up quite clearly on my monitor here.

The psychochemistry was simple, less than child’s play to the masters of Melchior. Eliminate the blockers, shift the hormones, create others that would be manufactured ever after. She was not merely oriented back to female, she was reoriented to very female. She would be like an animal in heat, single-minded and insatiable, until a pregnancy occurred. No test would be needed. Once the brain received notification and began the preparatory processes, those animal urges would cease. She would be normal, in full control, and since she would retain her old memories and basic personality, and since she would find her animal self unnerving if not somewhat frightening, it was predicted that during the whole period she would probably prefer women as company, friends, and lovers. Once the child was born, her body would begin a repair and reset, and when it was prepared once more, in a month, perhaps two, the cycle would begin again. It would continue this way until she ran out of eggs, perhaps thirty years from now.

"Another guy, a kind of leader for some kind of rebel group, was turned into a woman with low IQ to keep him from continuing his rebel activity."

It's convoluted, but maybe OP is mis-remembering.

This character is originally female, takes on identity of one of two boys who were only remaining survivors of a tech-cult. Mind-print and superficial body changes (lower waist), to escape.

It took almost four hours to clear and secure the technologist cell. At the end, forty-seven had been killed and almost twice that number wounded, but all but two of the three hundred twenty-four technologists had been killed. Those who were not killed in the defense committed suicide, taking their families with them. The only two survivors were young boys who had been felled in an explosion and had been presumed dead by their own

She selects logic-only mind-set:

The sense of strong sexual identity faded but was not replaced. She had no concept of maleness or femaleness; gender was an irrelevancy, without meaning to her. The anger, too, faded quickly, and she felt totally calm, unable even to relate to the emotions she had experienced up to that point. She was like a machine: aware, intelligent, but without passion, without any feelings at all about anything. Yet she was as clearheaded, as logical, as she could ever be. Stripped of her animalism, she stared at the patterns in the hologram and almost immediately grasped their logic and meaning based upon what she had seen so far. At this level, where even pleasure and pain, fear and love, were mere terms, she analyzed her situation. She was being reprogrammed, but this level was the most efficient for undertaking an escape. There was no hatred, no bitterness, no feeling of any sort that was relevant to her. Escape was mandated because this stage was the optimum one for her potentials, and it was illogical to abort it.

"I would like to perpetuate my current physical and mental orientation until otherwise instructed. Then stand by until I am able to contact you here again."

She swaps for boy:

"The younger of the two is close to your size, and with preparation and in transport clothing you might pass for him. While they will not look too closely so long as the paperwork is correct, some extreme adjustments would have to be made to you in order for you to sustain the masquerade all the way to the spaceport. Additionally, something must be done with the one whom you will replace, and adjustments must be made to the other, for he will know immediately that you are not his cousin and is most likely to betray you."

I can make some basic physical and chemical alterations in you within two hours. Because of the time involved, much of it will be synthetics and a basic shell, but it will be authentic and convincing. It is not possible to actually switch minds, nor desirable in this case in any event, because your psychochemistry and physical requirements are so different, but I can lay his template atop my alterations and reinforce the illusion with hypnotics. You will act like him, think like him on the conscious level, walk and talk like him. You will not be him, but you will think you are. I will then use a strong hypnotic on the other and replace the mental image of Chu Li with what you will look and sound like, and he will accept you as his cousin even in the face of true physical evidence to the contrary.

She's put in cell with other boy:

"It is the same with me," Chu Li responded. In Han and many other Oriental cultures, cousins of the same generation regarded one another as brothers and sisters and acted accordingly. The two boys were close. "My head is crowded and confused, almost as if . . . "

"As if what?"

As if there is another also inside my head, he thought, but he couldn’t say that. "I just wonder if they messed with our minds, and if they did, would we know?"

"How’s your—thing?"

Memories of brutish guards beating and torturing for the slightest infractions. Memories of one of them.

"There is no pain," Chu Li told his cousin. "It is not right, though. I shall have to pee sitting down for a while, I think. I do not know what awaits us, but it cannot be any worse than here. Even death is better than here."

Genitals are not correct for her mindprint/hypno as a boy:

"Only half a man," he responded, not realizing how much truth there was in that description. Because she had told him her ultimate shame, he felt not only that he could tell her his secret but that it might give her some idea that suffering was not exclusive. "The guards beat me terribly where that which makes me a man is, leaving it battered, bruised, and perhaps broken. There is no pain, but it will be a long time before I know. That is what I was too embarrassed and ashamed to say before."

The hypnotics held. When he emerged and looked at himself in the mirror, he still saw the image of a young boy, not the image that was actually there.

He was led to the bathroom, and he sat, holding his head in his hands. Then he looked down and put one of his hands down between his legs. Suddenly, some of the conditioning broke away and was gone. They have emasculated me! He unbuttoned his tunic and looked at and felt his chest. Two huge nipples atop small, perfect breasts. He quickly got up and disrobed completely, examining his body as if for the first time. The smooth skin, the curves . . . A girl! They have changed me into a girl!

Other character mind-printed as ape to gain compliance (the low iq portion).

Lazlo Chen had indeed taught Hawks the true meaning of "primitive." He had restored the two women, and after having them fully mindprint recorded so they could be restored later, he had wiped them basically clean and imprinted on them the mindprints of female apes of some kind.

Chen had ordered him imprinted with the bull ape imprint but otherwise left alone. He knew, and he had to watch those he loved act as animals and react to them so, as well. It was the most miserable, unhappy experience in his whole life.

However, very little horse-riding in that book, and none by altered people.

Quotations are partially out of order, to support points.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. You have the start of a good answer here; can you match any of the other points of the question, like a male character transformed to a woman from the waist down only?
    – DavidW
    Feb 27, 2021 at 22:03

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