As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been reading quite a few anthologies this year. I seem to have developed a new enthusiasm for the short form, and this has led to some very pleasant and often thoughtful reading adventures.Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century
, ed. Justine Larbalestier
What makes this anthology special is that, in addition to collecting 11 of the definitive feminist science fiction short stories of the last century (and one from the early part of this century), it also includes critical essays on each of the stories that examine the themes and context of each story. Also, by presenting stories from eight different decades, the anthology enables the reader to follow the development of feminist themes in science fiction writing. The short stories in this anthology are written by, from earliest to most recently published, Clare Winger Harris, Leslie F. Stone, Alice Eleanor Jones, Kate Wilhelm, Pamela Zoline, James Tiptree Jr, Lisa Tuttle, Pat Murphy, Octavia Butler, Gwyneth Jones, and Karen Joy Fowler. Some stories are very well-known, such as Tiptree’s “And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill Side,” Zoline’s “The Heat Death of the Universe” and Fowler’s “What I Didn’t See.” This is a unique addition to the growing body of feminist scholarship of science fiction – or should that be scholarship of feminist science fiction – and a fine collection of stories with a feminist perspective.
I will also direct you to calico_reaction
of Daughters of Earth
. I find some of the differences in our responses to the stories in this volume quite interesting, and in some ways indicative of just why such critical studies are so important. While we have similar opinions about the stories that were published before both of our beginnings as readers, especially readers of science fiction, and as feminists, we respond in some ways very differently to some of the later stories, primarily stories that write about, or reference, themes and ideas that I, as a woman who became both a reader of science fiction and a feminist in the early 60s, lived through first-hand and that I read as they were published in the context of their times. I actually think that it’s more the differences in our historical experiences as feminists than the differences in our pasts as readers of sff that accounts for much of the difference, based on what I’ve found in discussion with other younger women about feminist issues, but both are relevant.
For instance, I think that growing up in the era that produced Betty Friedan’s insights as expounded in The Feminine Mystique
makes Zoline’s “The Heat Death of the Universe” a much more personal narrative for me, despite its experimental and somewhat distancing style and structure. Fowler’s “What I didn’t See” reads as science fiction to me because of the powerful experience of reading Tiptree’s “The Women Men Don’t See” at a time when there really were millions of women that men did not see – the references are too immediate for me to see Fowler’s piece as anything other than a direct response to Tiptree and to a culture in which women in fictional products are repeatedly threatened by aliens, big apes and other monsters (in science fiction, and in its predecessors, the exploration adventure – from King Kong
to Allan Quartermain - and the romance as a plot device to give men a reason to be oh so very manly.
In any case, no matter what your background as a reader of sff and as a feminist, I think you will find much to think about in this volume.Shadows over Baker Street
(eds) Michael Reaves, John Palan
The blurb on the back cover says it all:
What would happen if Sir Arther Conan Doyle’s peerless detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his allies were to find themselves faced with Lovecraftian mysteries whose solutions lay not only beyond the grasp of logic but beyond sanity itself?
Holmes vs. Cthulhu! The battle of the aeons! What more can you ask for?
Assuming that you are a fan of both the Great Detective and of the Lovecraftian mythos, that is. I found something to enjoy in every one of these stories, but I do have a few particular favourites, most notably Neil Gainman’s “A Study in Emerald,” Elizabeth Bear’s “Tiger! Tiger!”The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 1
, ed. Jonathan Strahan
This is a new “year’s best” anthology series being published by Night Shade Books, and I bought it primarily because it contains stories by a number of authors that I’ve heard spoken of very highly, but have not read much – or in some cases, anything, of their work before now. And, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, an anthology is a good place to get to know new authors.
I enjoyed many of the stories collected in this volume, with special notice to Ellen Klages’ “In the House of the Seven Librarians,” Geoff Ryman’s “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy),” Kelly Link’s “The Wizards of Perfil,” Robert Charles Wilson’s “The Cartesian Theatre,” Peter S. Beagle’s “El Regalo,” and… well, the more I look at the table of contents’ the more I start thinking “you know, that one was really worth a notable mention… and so was that one… and that was a really interesting take on the subject matter… and that one was really powerful…” and so on.
Which tells you that Strahan is a very good editor, and this is a collection worth reading.DAW 30th Anniversary: Fantasy
, eds. Elizabeth R Wollheim and Sheila Gilbert
I had a specific reason for buying this anthology: it includes Michelle Sagara West’s “The Memory Of Stone.” You see, I’ve recently discovered West’s brilliant Sun Sword series and I’m trying to collect all of her short stories placed in the Empire of Essalieyan and the Dominion of Annagar.
But of course, what I got was so much more. New short stories by Andre Norton, Tanith Lee, Jennifer Roberson, Mercedes Lackey, Tanya Huff, Melanie Rawn, Deborah J. Ross, and others. Sirius the Dog Star
, eds. Martin H. Greenberg and Alexander Potter
This is another of the anthologies I acquired because it includes a story by Michelle Sagara West – this time, “Huntbrother” which in many ways completed her Sacred Hunt duology.
I must admit that I’m not a dog person, and had West’s story not been collected here, I probably wouldn’t have bought the book. And that would have been a bad thing, because then I would have missed such deeply moving stories as Tanya Huff’s “Finding Marcus,” Julie E. Czerneda’s “Brothers Bound,” Fiona Patton’s “Heartsease,” Rosemary Edghill’s “Final Exam,” Jane Lindskold’s “Keep the Dog Hence,” Kristine Kathryn Rasch’ “After the Fall” and Mickey Zucker Reichert’s “All the Vitues.”
It might not have turned me into a dog person, but it certainly made me appreciative of dogs as central characters in the hands of a skilful writer.Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse
, ed. John Joseph Adams
I think I’ve mentioned before that I have a fascination for apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction – a fascination with tales that spring from the notion “This is the way the world ends…” And so I must thank John Joseph Adams for making an anthology just for me (and, I suppose, the many others who share my fascination with the subgenre).
Books with apocalyptic themes are rarely funny, and this volume is no exception to the rule, even though, in some stories, there is hope: hope that some will survive whatever mess we’ve made of the world we live in, hope that we might learn something and go on to do it better. In others, there is only the telling of the downfall, and the rest is silence – possibly a silence that we who have not yet seen an apocalypse on a scale that could end all of our worlds can ponder on and use to look for paths that do not end that way. For every The Postman
, there is an On the Beach
I’m not going to single out any stories, because all of them had something important to say about how and why the world – or a world – might end, and what we might do to nudge it in that direction or away from it, and what we could learn from thinking about the issues now, before it really might be too late. Unless of course, it already is and we don’t know it yet.