Once again, it has been made abundantly clear that female sf writers get less respect, less reviews, and less sales than male sf writers. In response, I’d like to take the meme going around (in honor of Joanna Russ) and give it a bit more content.

The original meme is a basic list, available here, which simply shows which writers you're familiar with.

My version: Drop the authors you’ve never read to the bottom. For the remainder, discuss or rec at least one of their books with at least one sentence of explanation about why you do or don’t like it. Ask your readers to tell you about the authors you’ve never read.

Eleanor Arnason. Ring of Swords. A first-contact story involving a race of furry aliens, hwarhath, with a strictly gender-segregated society. The alien culture is wonderfully detailed, unusual but not gratuitously bizarre, and it captivated me. The plot is fairly standard, but the characterization and prose style is good, and oh, those aliens!

Octavia Butler. Wild Seed is an exceptionally well-characterized and thoughtful novel set largely in Africa, about the multi-generational relationship and battle between two people whose mutant abilities make them effectively immortal. Most easily available in the compilation Seed to Harvest, but note that while it stands on its own and ends hopefully, the loosely related sequels are really depressing. Click her tag for more reviews.

Joy Chant. Only read one of hers, and was not enormously impressed. Click her tag to read the review.

Suzy McKee Charnas. I’m a fan of hers. All else aside, she made me read a horse bestiality book – and like it! Her books are all extremely different from each other, and several of the ones long out of print are back, either in paperback or Kindle, such as the unsentimental The Vampire Tapestry, the moving southwestern fantasy Dorothea Dreams (Heirloom Books), and the genuinely epic post-apocalyptic feminist quartet beginning with The Slave and The Free: Books 1 and 2 of 'The Holdfast Chronicles': 'Walk to the End of the World' and 'Motherlines'. For the latter, warning for upsetting content and amazingly non-gratuitous bestiality. If you can get through the first one, they get steadily less depressing and more hopeful as they go along. Click her tag for more reviews.

C. J. Cherryh. I love Cherryh, bizarre prose style and all. No one captures paranoia, sleep deprivation, and alien thought processes quite like she does, which makes reading her books a disconcerting yet immersive experience. I often have to plow through the beginning before I get sucked in, but I am immensely rewarded when I do. My favorites are Cyteen (you can skip the stultifying prologue to get to the juicy emotional and psychological dynamics between the clone slaves and their co-dependent owners), and the weird and wonderful duology Rider at the Gate (Nighthorse, Book 1) and Cloud's Rider, which is both revisionist of and glories in the tropes of the companion animal story, set on a planet where all the animal life is telepathic, and humans must huddle in enclaves protected by the bonded riders of native “horses,” lest they be driven insane. Click her tag for more reviews.

Diane Duane. I’m a huge fan of her, from her marvelous Star Trek novels suffused with a sense of wonder, to her great original fantasy. She can be uneven, but her better work is fantastic. So You Want to Be a Wizard and Deep Wizardry (The Young Wizards Series, Book 2) are still wonderful (the sequels are uneven), and I will never stop pushing her adult fantasy “Tale of the Five” books, which are charming and lovely and have dragons and polyamory and battles and shapeshifting and very cool magic, and make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. (Note: warm fuzzies notwithstanding, the second book contains a non-gratuitous, plot-essential scene of child sexual abuse.) Also, you have to click this just to see the most hilariously inappropriate cover in the history of anything: The Door Into Fire (The Tale of the Five #1). Click her tag for more reviews.

ETA: I have been tipped off that "Tale of the Five," several of the Young Wizards books, some uncollected short stories and an original fantasy novel I never heard of before are all available now in e-book form, DRM-free and for anyone in any country to read, here.

Mary Gentle. I either love or hate her books, which vary widely in tone and subject matter. Her completely engrossing A Secret History: The Book Of Ash, #1 (one book split into four due to length), is an alternate history/science fiction/steampunk/war story, about a medieval woman mercenary on a very, very strange journey, featuring stone golems, incursions from the future into the past (and vice versa), a Carthage that never fell and where the sun never shines, and a whole lot of pigs. Dark and violent but not depressing, and laced with black comedy. It might well have been hailed as one of the essential classics of the field had it been written by a man and had a male protagonist: in terms of ambition, scope, and cutting-edge ideas, it’s up there with Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun.

Authors I’ve never read, A-G: Lynn Abbey, Moyra Caldecott, Jaygee Carr, Jo Clayton, Candas Jane Dorsey, Phyllis Eisenstein, Sally Gearhart, Dian Girard, Eileen Gunn. If you’ve ever read anything by any of them, please discuss in comments.
Help me prioritize my to-read stacks! Please comment to tell me which I should read first and why, and if there's anything I should avoid and why.

Note: This is just the first poll.

Other note: I have already read and enjoyed other books by Butler, Myers, Johnson, and Liu.

[Poll #1342964]
Help me prioritize my to-read stacks! Please comment to tell me which I should read first and why, and if there's anything I should avoid and why.

Note: This is just the first poll.

Other note: I have already read and enjoyed other books by Butler, Myers, Johnson, and Liu.

[Poll #1342964]
I was shocked and saddened to hear that veteran sf writer Octavia Butler had died, from a cause variously reported as a massive stroke or head injuries following a fall. She was only 58, and I'm sure she had a lot more stories to tell.

Her stories and novels, though many of them used old sf concepts like time-travel, psychic powers, or aliens taking over Earth, had such a unique perspective, clear style, thought-through implications, and intensity that they always read as fresh and new as if she had invented sf from scratch.

She returned to some of the same related themes and situations again and again in different contexts, which were slavery and the psychology of master-slave interactions, and how people live with insoluble problems and dilemmas where no choice will create a perfect world. Her stories could be depressing, but not always; they were always unsentimental, well-characterized, and smart.

My favorites of hers are two novels, Wild Seed and Dawn, and a collection of short stories, Bloodchild and other stories.

The latter is a must-read and also a good entry point to her work. It only contains five stories, but three of them are masterpieces, simultaneously more intense and more uplifting than her novels, and bursting with startling sfnal ideas. "Bloodchild" is horrific and moving novella about humans in a complex slave-symbiotic-loving relationship with their alien owners/symbiotes/family. It encapsulates her favorite themes, and is simultaneously a sweet love story and a intensely creepy horror story. "Speech Sounds" is a very brief story that punches way above its weight, the only story I've ever read in which humans lose the ability to communicate through written and spoken language. "The Morning and the Evening and the Night" is about the cost and unexpected benefits of a horrible genetic disease. I don't find these stories depressing or nihilistic, but they're all pretty disturbing in one way or another.

Wild Seed is an excellent sf novel set in Africa, about two "Wild Seeds": Anyanwu, a woman who can shapeshift, heal herself, and who seems immortal, and Doro, who switches bodies when he chooses or when the one he's in dies, killing his hosts in the process. Doro starts breeding people for psychic talents, a program which Anyanwu, at various times his enemy and his companion, tries to stop or ameliorate. The characterization is as vivid and believable as the landscape.

This features a common theme of Butler's, which is the unsolvable dilemma, and how people learn to live with it. When her novels set up a really big problem, they rarely have someone pull a scientific or any other sort of simple solution out of a hat. In this case, Doro cannot be killed, period, no escape clause, and is about Anyanwu's attempts to find a way to deal with an extremely powerful, immortal, and invincible enemy. There are chronological sequels which were written earlier and are not as good.

Dawn is about an alien takeover of a post-apocalyptic Earth. The aliens, their culture, their interactions with humanity, and the ways that the surviving humans try to deal with their situation are all beautifully depicted and cleverly imagined. The sequels to this one are good and worth reading.

The Parable of the Sower and its sequel, about a post-apocalyptic America and a female Messiah, are well-written but so close to reality that they are too depressing for me to re-read.

I have not yet read Kindred or Fledgling.
I was shocked and saddened to hear that veteran sf writer Octavia Butler had died, from a cause variously reported as a massive stroke or head injuries following a fall. She was only 58, and I'm sure she had a lot more stories to tell.

Her stories and novels, though many of them used old sf concepts like time-travel, psychic powers, or aliens taking over Earth, had such a unique perspective, clear style, thought-through implications, and intensity that they always read as fresh and new as if she had invented sf from scratch.

She returned to some of the same related themes and situations again and again in different contexts, which were slavery and the psychology of master-slave interactions, and how people live with insoluble problems and dilemmas where no choice will create a perfect world. Her stories could be depressing, but not always; they were always unsentimental, well-characterized, and smart.

My favorites of hers are two novels, Wild Seed and Dawn, and a collection of short stories, Bloodchild and other stories.

The latter is a must-read and also a good entry point to her work. It only contains five stories, but three of them are masterpieces, simultaneously more intense and more uplifting than her novels, and bursting with startling sfnal ideas. "Bloodchild" is horrific and moving novella about humans in a complex slave-symbiotic-loving relationship with their alien owners/symbiotes/family. It encapsulates her favorite themes, and is simultaneously a sweet love story and a intensely creepy horror story. "Speech Sounds" is a very brief story that punches way above its weight, the only story I've ever read in which humans lose the ability to communicate through written and spoken language. "The Morning and the Evening and the Night" is about the cost and unexpected benefits of a horrible genetic disease. I don't find these stories depressing or nihilistic, but they're all pretty disturbing in one way or another.

Wild Seed is an excellent sf novel set in Africa, about two "Wild Seeds": Anyanwu, a woman who can shapeshift, heal herself, and who seems immortal, and Doro, who switches bodies when he chooses or when the one he's in dies, killing his hosts in the process. Doro starts breeding people for psychic talents, a program which Anyanwu, at various times his enemy and his companion, tries to stop or ameliorate. The characterization is as vivid and believable as the landscape.

This features a common theme of Butler's, which is the unsolvable dilemma, and how people learn to live with it. When her novels set up a really big problem, they rarely have someone pull a scientific or any other sort of simple solution out of a hat. In this case, Doro cannot be killed, period, no escape clause, and is about Anyanwu's attempts to find a way to deal with an extremely powerful, immortal, and invincible enemy. There are chronological sequels which were written earlier and are not as good.

Dawn is about an alien takeover of a post-apocalyptic Earth. The aliens, their culture, their interactions with humanity, and the ways that the surviving humans try to deal with their situation are all beautifully depicted and cleverly imagined. The sequels to this one are good and worth reading.

The Parable of the Sower and its sequel, about a post-apocalyptic America and a female Messiah, are well-written but so close to reality that they are too depressing for me to re-read.

I have not yet read Kindred or Fledgling.
.

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags