December 4th, 2013
So yeah, I didn’t really keep up with this series, did I? But now that I finally remembered to do this on a Wednesday, I would like to look back on the past year and give a shout out to a few of the new female science fiction writers I first read this year. My science fiction reading has been majority female this year and I’ve set out to try and find more new female writers, if only to balance out my gender stats at LibraryThing. The results so far have been good; the occasional dud, but the majority of writers I tried, I liked.
The discovery of the year for me was Elizabeth Bear, who has been writing for a long time but who I only started reading this May. Everything I’ve read of her so far has been excellent and I especially liked Hammered and sequels, especially the humanity of its protagonist:
while the setting might be cyberpunk, Jenny Casey’s life lacks the glamour a heroine in a Gibson story would’ve had. Her metal arm suffers from phantom pains, fucks up her shoulder and back where it attaches to the rest of her and while her artificial eye is an advantage in a low light situation, it’s a pain most of the rest of the time. She has had to live with her cybernetic implants, not just the arm and eye but also the enhanced nervous system that can make her reaction speed inhumanly fast when needed, for some twentyfive years and now that she’s pushing fifty, she’s suffering for it.
Another veteran writer was Linda Nagata, whose Vast I’ve just reviewed. Brenda Cooper, who I only knew from a collaboration with Larry Niven is another one; her The Silver Ship and the Sea was another good read.
Of newer writers, Kameron Hurley impressed me even though God’s War had serious flaws. I still bought the sequels. Other new writers that impressed me were M. J. Locke, whose Up Against it was old fashioned hard science fiction and Ann Leckie, with Ancillary Justice, far future space opera.
Finally there was also Margaret Atwood, who’s not a science fiction writer, but could’ve fooled me with The Handmaid’s Tale, which was much better than I expected.
So that’s half a dozen new, impressive female sf writers found so far this year. Any suggestions for next year?
Categories: books and books review, science fiction
December 1st, 2013
published in 1998
Space opera used to be terrible, reactionary stories of brawny male heroes with safe anglosaxon names making the galaxy safe for terran manifest destiny by cheerfully genociding any alien races looking at them funny. Long derided as the lowest of the low, though with the occasional saving grace in the form of that elusive “sense of wonder” all science fiction strives to achieve, it was sort of rehabilitated in the seventies by a generation of fans and writers who’d grown up reading the stuff. In the eighties and nineties this led to the socalled New Space Opera, which took that sense of wonder and removed the xenophobia and human supremacy from it. Though in this New Space Opera the universe was far more indifferent to human pretensions than the old stuff, it could still be upbeat, as in e.g. Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels, where hundreds of various human races live happily ever after in an AI controlled utopia.
But not always. In Linda Nagata’s Vast the universe is not just indifferent, but actively hostile to human life. A millions years old alien war has left still active, automated warships behind, warships capable of blowing up suns. As humanity moved out of the Solar System and established colonies around other stars, these Chenzeme ships started to attack. One such attack has left only four survivors, fleeing the attack aboard the Null Boundary, a slower than light spaceship, who have decided to go look for the source of the Chenzeme coursers, somewhere in the swan direction of the Orion arm of the galaxy, all the while being chased by a Chenzeme courser themselves.
Categories: books and books review, science fiction
October 28th, 2013
Nicola Griffith has a new novel out, Hild and is getting a bit fed up with people asking about her heroine’s sexuality:
Interviewers and reviewers have already asked me: So why is Hild a lesbian?
I say: First, she’s bisexual. Second, why the fuck not?
I am tired of having to have a reason for characters being queer. When my first agent told me that my proposal for Slow River was “not a selling outline,” I asked her to explain. She said, “Well, why does Lore [the protagonist] have to have a girlfriend?” I said, “Because she’s a dyke.” And fired her.
Nicola Griffith is right that it should be normal for some characters to be queer, that there doesn’t have to be a reason for them to be and that more science fiction/fantasy writers should be unafraid to use queer characters if they want to. What I’m more worried about is whether the average science fiction writer is up to writing queer characters without it coming over as exploitative or overtly preachy.
But more queer characters, yes please.
Categories: GLBT, science fiction
August 24th, 2013
Here’s an interesting gimmick, from my local science fiction bookstore: books wrapped in brown paper, with only a couple of keywords to keep you guessing. Can you guess which books are hidden behind thes descriptions?
- Fantasy, paranormal, suspense, Prague. Could be anything
- Science-fiction, planet spanning shield, Earth is doomed, teleological engineering. Perhaps Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin?
- Fantasy, Low Countries 1421, deluge of Biblical proportions, three conspirators. Dunno, but sounds interesting.
- Fantasy, clash of civilisations, holy war, divided loyalties. Could be any epic fantasy novel
- Fantasy, poker tournament, monsters and demons, underdog. ?
- Fantasy, Mississippi, riverboat, pale gentleman. This could be George R. R. Martin’s Fevre Dream.
Categories: books and books review, fantasy, science fiction
July 31st, 2013
Irritated by an old science fiction anthology, where out of the hundred stories only five were by women, Ian Sales put together the list below of a hundred great science fiction stories by women. A list like that is always a good way of hearing about writers you haven’t encountered before, so I want to keep this simple. Bold if I’ve never heard of somebody before, italics if I’ve read something of them.
- ‘The Fate of the Poseidonia’, Clare Winger Harris (1927, short story)
- ‘The Conquest of Gola,’ Leslie F Stone (1931, short story)
- ‘Water Pirate’, Leigh Brackett (1941, short story)
- ‘Space Episode’, Leslie Perri (1941, short story)
- ‘No Woman Born’, Cl Moore (1944, novelette)
- ‘That Only a Mother’, Judith Merril (1948, short story)
- ‘Contagion’, Katherine Maclean (1950, novelette)
- ‘Brightness Falls from the Air’, Margaret St Clair [as Idris Seabright] (1951, short story)
- ‘All Cats are Gray’, Andre Norton (1953, short story)
- ‘The Last Day’, Helen Clarkson (1958, short story)
- ‘Captivity’, Zenna Henderson (1958, novella)
- ‘The New You’, Kit Reed (1962, short story)
- ‘The Putnam Tradition’, Sonya Dorman (1963, short story)
- ‘Lord Moon’, MJ Engh [as Jane Beauclerk] (1965, short story)
- ‘Weyr Search’, Anne McCaffrey (1967, novella)
- ‘The Heat Death of the Universe’, Pamela Zoline (1967, short story)
- ‘The Steiger Effect’, Betsy Curtis (1968, short story)
- ‘The Power of Time’, Josephine Saxton (1971, novelette)
- ‘And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side’, James Tiptree Jr (1972, short story)
- ‘When It Changed’, Joanna Russ (1972, short story)
- ‘Sheltering Dream’, Doris Piserchia (1972, short story)
- ‘Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand’, Vonda N McIntyre (1973, novelette)
- ‘Clone Sister’, Pamela Sargent (1973, novelette)
- ‘The Violet’s Embryo’, Angélica Gorodischer (1973, novelette)
- ‘Stone Circle’, Lisa Tuttle (1976, short story)
- ‘Eyes of Amber’, Joan D Vinge (1977, novelette)
- ‘Cassandra, CJ Cherryh (1978, short story)
- ‘The View from Endless Scarp’, Marta Randall (1978, short story)
- ‘Scorched Supper on New Niger’, Suzy Mckee Charnas (1980, novelette)
- ‘Abominable’, Carol Emshwiller (1980, short story)
- ‘Sea Changeling’, Mildred Downey Broxon (1981, novelette)
- ‘In the Western Tradition’, Phyllis Eisenstein (1981, novella)
- ‘Her Furry Face’, Leigh Kennedy (1983, short story)
- ‘Bloodchild’ Octavia E Butler (1984, novelette)
- ‘Symphony for a Lost Traveller’, Lee Killough (1984, short story)
- ‘All My Darling Daughters’, Connie Willis (1985, novelette)
- ‘Webrider’, Jayge Carr (1985, short story)
- ‘Out of All Them Bright Stars’, Nancy Kress (1985, short story)
- ‘The View from Venus: A Case Study’, Karen Joy Fowler (1986, novelette)
- ‘Reichs-Peace’, Sheila Finch (1986, novelette)
- ‘Daily Voices’, Lisa Goldstein (1986, short story)
- ‘Rachel in Love’, Pat Murphy (1987, novelette)
- ‘Forever Yours, Anna’, Kate Wilhelm (1987, short story)
- ‘Stable Strategies for Middle Management’, Eileen Gunn (1988, short story)
- ‘War and Rumours of War’, Candas Jane Dorsey (1988, short story)
- ‘The Mountains of Mourning’, Lois Mcmaster Bujold (1989, novella)
- ‘Tiny Tango’, Judith Moffett (1989, novella)
- ‘Identifying the Object’, Gwyneth Jones (1990, novelette)
- ‘Loose Cannon’, Susan Shwartz (1990, novelette)
- ‘Dispatches from the Revolution’, Pat Cadigan (1991, novelette)
- ‘The Road to Jerusalem’, Mary Gentle (1991, short story)
- ‘The Missionary’s Child’, Maureen F McHugh (1992, novelette)
- ‘The Story So Far’, Martha Soukup (1993, short story)
- ‘The Good Pup’, Bridget McKenna (1993, short story)
- ‘California Dreamer’, Mary Rosenblum (1994, short story)
- ‘Last Summer at Mars Hill’, Elizabeth Hand (1994, novella)
- ‘Coming of Age in Karhide’, Ursula K Le Guin (1995, novelette)
- ‘De Secretis Mulierum’, L Timmel Duchamp (1995, novella)
- ‘Merlusine’, Lucy Sussex (1997, novelette)
- ‘Noble Mold’, Kage Baker (1997, short story)
- ‘All the Birds of Hell’, Tanith Lee (1998, novelette)
- ‘Rain Season’, Leanne Frahm (1998, short story)
- ‘Echea’, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (1998, novelette)
- ‘Patient Zero’, Tananarive Due (2000, short story)
- ‘Knapsack Poems’, Eleanor Arnason (2002, short story)
- ‘State of Oblivion’, Kaaron Warren (2003, short story)
- ‘Inside Out’, Michaela Roessner (2004, short story)
- ‘Griots of the Galaxy’, Andrea Hairston (2004, novelette)
- ‘Riding the White Bull’, Caitlín R Kiernan( 2004, novelette)
- ‘The Avatar of Background Noise’, Toiya Kristen Finley (2006, short story)
- ‘Captive Girl’, Jennifer Pelland (2006, short story)
- ‘The Bride Price’, Cat Sparks (2007, short story)
- ‘Tideline’, Elizabeth Bear (2007, short story)
- ‘Arkfall’, Carolyn Ives Gilman (2008, novella)
- ‘Legolas does the Dishes’, Justina Robson (2008, short story)
- ‘The Ecologist and the Avon Lady’, Tricia Sullivan (2008, novelette)
- ‘Infinities’, Vandana Singh (2008, novelette)
- ‘Chica, Let Me Tell You a Story’, Alex Dally Macfarlane (2008, short story)
- ‘Spider the Artist’, Nnedi Okrafor (2008, short story)
- ‘Cold Words’, Juliette Wade (2009, novelette)
- ‘Eros, Philia, Agape’, Rachel Swirsky (2009, novelette)
- ‘Non-Zero Probabilities’, NK Jemisin (2009, short story)
- ‘Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast’, Eugie Foster (2009, hort story)
- ‘It Takes Two’, Nicola Griffith (2009, novelette)
- ‘Blood, Blood’, Abbey Mei Otis (2010, short story)
- ‘The Other Graces’, Alice Sola Kim (2010, short story)
- ‘Agents of Repair’, Rosie Oliver (2010, short story)
- ‘Amaryllis’, Carrie Vaughn (2010, short story)
- ‘I’m Alive, I Love You, I’ll See You in Reno’, Vylar Kaftan (2010, short story)
- ‘Flying in the Face of God’, Nina Allan (2010, short story)
- ‘Six Months, Three Days’, Charlie Jane Anders (2011, short story)
- ‘Nahiku West’, Linda Nagata (2011, novelette)
- ‘The Cartographer Bees and the Anarchist Wasps’, E Lily Yu (2011, short story)
- ‘Silently and Very Fast’, Catherynne M Valente (2011, novella)
- ‘Jagannath’, Karin Tidbeck (2011, short story)
- ‘A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel’, Yoon Ha Lee (2011, short story)
- ‘Immersion’, Aliette de Bodard (2012, short story)
- ‘The Lady Astronaut of Mars’, Mary Robinette Kowal (2012, novelette)
- ‘The Green’, Lauren Beukes (2012, short story)
- ‘Significant Dust’, Margo Lanagan (2012, novelette)
Categories: Feminism, geekdom, science fiction
July 31st, 2013
published in 2011
The main problem with God’s War is its setting. Kameron Hurley’s debut novel is set in an unspecified far future, on the alien planet of Umayma, featuring an unending, religious war between Nasheen and Chenja, Umayma’s biggest nations. The war has warped both nations’ societies, with each country’s men either dead or at the front, leaving only the very young and very old at home. Despite both societies’ innate conservatism that has left women to take up the slack, having to take on traditional male roles, resulting in what’s best called a violent matriarchy in Nasheen, with women in all positions of power and the men constantly being sacrificed at the front. Nyx, its protagonist, is a brutalised, aggressive, scary woman, a deliberate attempt by Hurley to create the female equivalent of somebody like Conan while the background against which Nyx plays out her story was meant to show how a brutal, violent hierarchical society doesn’t magically become better because women are now in power, how easy it is for women to keep perpetuating the same violence and abuse as the men, just with different people in the victim and oppressor roles.
It’s an interesting concept, but the execution is troubling. Because while it is set on another planet far in the future and the politics and religion that’s being fought about is fictional, the images that Hurley creates are very familiar, because the religion she creates looks a lot like Islam, veiled women, multiple daily prayers, holy book and all, with the war and the societies it has left in its wake familiar from what we’ve seen on the news from Iraq or Lybia or even Chechnya. The landscapes are all desert landscapes, the cities are Middle Eastern, with mosques and minarets, often broken, often bombed out. As Tariqk put it, it’s as if Hurley “took every stereotypical Arab world depiction & TURNED IT TO 11″. It’s this orientalism that fails this novel, this inability to do more than use orientalist stereotypes, that reduces it to just another grim and gritty adventure story when it could’ve been so much more.
Categories: books and books review, science fiction