Saturday, 14 September 2013

70s Saturday Sci-Fi Scans

Today's gem is actually from my own collection, and I found it at the diviest, funky smellingest used bookstore ever. Really, there is no getting away from the scent of aging paper, which also takes on any scents in the home. Do used bookstore clerks suffer from "paperback lung"?

I don't really remember growing up in the seventies - just born that bit too late - but I can tell it was an awesome time of experimentation, ideas and technology. Society was not quite where it is today - it's hard to believe some of Mom's stories aren't crazy talk. What? You couldn't get a credit card because you weren't married? No way! Thirty some years later, we're still not a perfect world, but back in 1975 there was...

More Women of Wonder

One of science fiction's great appeals has always been that it both reflects the age in which it was written and forecasts the future. For many years, its women characters appeared only in the traditional roles of damsels in distress, wives and mothers, or occasionally tempters. Today women writers are producing some of the best science fiction - with women protagonists. In this new collection of stories, seven women writers use the literary form of the novelette to explore feminist themes in science fiction.

CL Moore: "Jirel Meets Magic"
Leigh Brackett: "The Lake of the Gone Forever"
Johanna Russ: "The Second Inquisition"
Josephine Saxton: "The Power of Time"
Kate Wilhelm: "The Funeral"
Joan D. Vinge: "Tin Soldier"
Ursula K. Le Guin: "The Day Before the Revolution"

Compared to the other books profiled here each Saturday, the cover and back copy aren't really selling it. The cover has a remarkable sense of constraint. It is a nice change from the anti-gravity boob babes often found on SF covers, but it doesn't really convey excitement and adventure. The back cover copy is so, so serious, almost academic. What are the women of wonder actually doing? Why should I buy this? I actually bought this more for Pamela Sargent's introduction, which is an invaluable history of women and science fiction.

Last night I reread the last three stories, because they are also my favourites, especially "The Funeral". It's a science fiction story tinged with Victorian horror. I still don't quite understand the story, but I do understand the sense of dread that fills young Carla as her own life is beyond her control. The breadth of subjects in this volume make it unique because they're not really about science fiction or fantasy, but oftentimes about human relationships, such as in "Tin Soldier", when a gruff bartender falls in love with a space cadet. Many a SF saga revolves around social movements - crushing an evil empire for example - but Ursula K. Le Guin looks at the "woman behind the revolutionary man" instead.

As writers still continue to fall back on lazy female tropes such as the damsel in distress, creators need constant reminding that women can do a lot more than just look pretty, be strong or need rescuing. To be honest, when I put my book up on Smashwords back in December, I didn’t know if I should use my first name. So I just put a J on the cover. I kind of assumed no one would want to read science fiction written by a woman, otherwise James Tiptree wouldn’t exist as a nom de plume. But everyone has a story to tell and it's not my problem if someone cares more about the gender of my name than the ideas in my head!