Nominations for Book Discussion Group (BDG) from November 2001 to February 2002

The nomination period is CLOSED.

Nominated books: 11
Catherine Asaro: The Last Hawk
From the Publisher
The Last Hawk is Catherine Asaro's third novel of the Skolian Empire, an interstellar civilization spanning hundreds of worlds and thousands of years. Each book approaches the Empire and a member of the ruling family from a different angle, or at a different moment in future history. Now, in The Last Hawk, Asaro tells the tale of the lost heir to the Empire. Fleeing the heat of battle in a wounded spacecraft, Kelric crash-lands on a proscribed planet where a matriarchy rules through the medium of a complex game. The women in power help to heal him, but destroy his ship and determine that he can never leave - for his knowledge of their world, if revealed to the Empire, would cause the rapid fall of their civilization. And so his rescue turns into an imprisonment of years, decades, a time in which he finds love and a challenging place in the universal game.

I am recommending this book because it takes a different look female dominated societies. Our main character is manipulated, fought over and forced to survive while several different and rather interesting women fight over him.

Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid's Tale
As I am relatively new to Feminist Speculative fiction, I'm working my way through the "classics" as it were.  I just finished reading The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and noticed that it's not on the complete list of books the list has discussed.  For that reason I would like to nominate it for discussion.

Emma Bull: War for the Oaks
I am currently reading War of the Oaks, by Emma Bull, and itis really great! This is a reissue of her first novel, Bull won the Locus Award for first novel for this book,and it was also nominated for the Mythopoeic Society Award. It is a classic of urban fantasy.

Jim Grimsley, Doug Beekman: Kirith Kirin
2000 Lambda Literary Awards Winner for Science Fiction/Fantasy

Anne Harris: Accidental Creatures
Anne Harris's second novel welcomes readers to the Detroit of the future--a city of extreme poverty and extravagant wealth, were every life is overshadowed by the megalithic biotech corporation GeneSys. With the rise of maglev transportation and the death of the auto industry, the name Motor City has become an anachronism. There are no jobs except GeneSys jobs. One can either pass an exam and obtain an office job at GeneSys headquarters or work in the dangerous biopolymer-growing vats in Vattown. Chango Chichelski, a sport (a mutant from exposure to lethal growth medium in the vats) with a passionate love of the Detroit of her grandmother's stories, chooses instead to fall through the cracks. Chango lives in an ancient motor car and spends her time haunting (and committing to memory) buildings slated for demolition.

Her life changes when she rescues, and then falls in love with, a fanged and four-armed sport named Helix. Helix is the adopted daughter of Hector Martin, the brilliant but emotionally unstable head scientist at GeneSys. Weary of her isolated life, Helix flees into Vattown, intending to become a vat diver. But her plan is opposed by Chango, whose union-organizer sister Ada died after contact with the vat's growth medium, and by the vat divers themselves, who refuse to accept a sport within their ranks.

Accidental Creatures is an action-packed tale full of intrigue, betrayals, and flashy characters. Interestingly, the sports of the Vattown underworld--drug dealers, junk artists, and healers--look positively normal compared to GeneSys's corporate denizens, who scream, cry, fight, and lie outrageously to retain or advance their positions in the corporate hierarchy.

Harris's writing style is not for everybody (for instance, readers allergic to comma splices should approach with caution). But for the less grammatically persnickety, Accidental Creatures may prove to be a rewarding tale of outsiders and identity. --Eddy Avery

Louise Marley: The Glass Harmonica
This review is from AMAZON:
Marley's genre-crossing tale of music and healing is built, literally, around the human bones found beneath Benjamin Franklin's London abode. Eilish Eam, an Irish orphan from Seven Dials, is saved from a life of squalor when Franklin hears her playing musical glasses on the street. Eilish is taken into Franklin's household to help tune, and then to play, his latest invention--the glass harmonica. But though Eilish is enamored of the instrument, enjoys the comfort of Franklin's house, and delights in a friendship with renowned harpsichordist Marianne Davies, she cannot divorce herself from her past or the handicapped child, Mackie, whom she left behind.

Complementing Eilish's tale is that of Erin Rushton. Erin is a musical prodigy, the greatest contemporary player of the glass harmonica--an instrument that, in 2018, has become fashionable again due to the wave of nostalgia sweeping the country. Erin's America is the product of civility laws run amok. Cities have been "reclaimed"--and very nearly turned into theme parks of the past--while the unsightly poor have been removed to vast tent cities.

Erin has recently been troubled by an apparition, first seen when she plays Franklin's original harmonica in Boston. To add to her stress, Erin's twin brother, stricken by a neurological disorder and wheelchair-bound since childhood, has recently begun an experimental and potentially dangerous therapy under the direction of Gene Berrick, a young doctor struggling to overcome the taint of his tent-city upbringing.

Alice Nunn: Illicit Passage
The book is out of print but Mysterious Galaxy has several copies. They also send them to oversea customers. Contact Maryelizabeth at Mysterious Galaxy

I am nominating Alice Nunn's _Illicit Passage_ for this next BDG round for several reasons:
1.  I ordered a copy through Mysterious Galaxy Books (it crossed the border in no time) and am interested in discussing it with others.
2.  We recently had a good discussion on the general list about cyberfeminism and cyber fiction and I thought members might be interested in
reading some feminist cyberpunk.
3.  18 of our members already have the book; 10 copies are still available from Mysterious Galaxy and it sounds like many more copies can be purchased from the author herself.

Below is the original email we received about the book.

>Some time ago, on this list there was some discussion of Alice Nunn's 1992
>novel - 'Illicit Passage' - which unfortunately went out of print when the
>publisher went out of business.
. . . the author . . . apparently chose to take
>the remaining few hundred trade paperback copies when the publisher folded,
>and they remain sitting in her shed:)  It was originally retailed at around
>Aus$15 - but Alice has been selling a few locally, and by postage through
>word-of-mouth at Aus$5 plus p&h for some time.
>However, she would be happy to offload larger numbers than the occasional
>one or two, if there is any interest - particularly as the Australian
>dollar is so cheap at the moment, I thought I would mention it here on this
>list if there are any booksellers who would like to order a consignment, or
>even just individual fans who would like a copy?

>For those who aren't aware of the book:I would recommend it - its a scream,
>very witty and a lot of fun, with a very distinctive Australian "flavour":)
>For those interested in feminist cyberpunk - *Illicit Passage* comes close
>- but with a few 'twists':))
>" Illicit Passage " - by Alice Nunn, 1992 - Women's Redress Press
>The blurb for the book is:
>" The year is 2101 and the space habitat colony of Anastasia Union is under
>siege. Systems are breaking down and sabotage is suspected.   Food is
>scarce, and the space city is icing up.
>Bureaucrats direct men and money to the war in space, but meanwhile in the
>Workers' Domes, the women develop some surprising strategies.
>A cheerful cuppa tea and a gossip isn't always what it seems.
>Gillie chats with *Big Barbara*,  *Dorothy*,  *Rita*,  and *Deirdre*, the
>computers on the supposedly 'incoruptible' security network.  Gillie is no
>cyberpunk hacking into the system however, but a new kind of hero, gleeful
>in her obscurity.  She playfully outwits the authorities while
>disconcerting her conformist sister, and confusing her Revolutionary
>Marxist friends."

Mysterious Galaxy received 28 copies. We have sold 18 (pretty much exclusively
to FEMSF members) and have 10 available for sale. I think it would probably work
as a valid BDG option on this basis.

J. Neil Schulman: The Rainbow Cadenza
Won the Prometheus Award for innovation in libertarian fiction - 1984.

For the first time I am nominating a book I  disliked, mainly because it purports to be strongly feminist, in a futuristic world that is described as 'Political Correctness gone mad'. Nonetheless, this book has been one of the most disturbing & uncomfortable I have ever read, staying with me for years after I first read it. Consequently, I suspect it would raise some interesting discussion, and I would like to hear other views on the book if its nomination is successful.

There are reviews and plot synopsis available at amazon.

One is pasted below:

The World Was Finally Politically Correct!
The People Who Care have remade the earth in their image, and it's an earthly paradise.
War, hunger, racism, nationalism, random crime and violence, and most diseases have been conquered.
Humanity is joined together under a single, popularly-elected world government.
If you even want to find a gun anywhere on earth, you'd probably have to look in a museum.
Technology is tamed to the needs of humankind, rather than despoiling the earth.
Gay men and lesbians are not only just tolerated at the fringes of society, but are among its most powerful and respected members. Gay marriage is an institution as normal as any other marriage.
Women are more politically powerful than at any time in human history. Abortion is freely available to any woman who wants it.
The First Lady is Head of State.
So why isn't everything perfect for everyone? Who are the new underclass called Touchables, and why are they hunted for sport? What social problems has cloning human beings created, and why are clones treated as inferior? Why do men outnumber women seven-to-one? And why are teenaged women being drafted into government sexual service for three years?

This novel is the story of Joan Darris, a brilliant young artist in the medium of laser concerts.
Is it her destiny to play music for men's eyes, or to make herself a plaything for their desires? Why does her love for her mother threaten to subject her to three years of legalized rape, and why does her family--the very politics on Earth in her time--tell her it's her duty to comply? How does the murder she witnessed at five years old make legalized rape seem the lesser of evils twelve years later--and how does the lingering horror of that murder threaten not only to rob her of her artistic triumph but threaten the life of a man she loves but who can't give himself to her without betraying everything he believes in?

Joan Darris's world is an Earth with Marnies who hunt Touchables, with Gaylords and with televised trials that sentence resisters to death in microwave ovens--an Earth that has eliminated war, but which has found new outlets for violence.
Is this book just a cheap science-fiction soap opera? Or one of the best novels ever written? It's been called both. Some women say it's the best feminist book they've ever read. It leaves others cold to the core. How will it affect you? You'll have to read it to find out.

'The book left me feeling for three days that I wished I'd been born without a penis.' --Larry Niven

'[I]n The Rainbow Cadenza, J. Neil Schulman has touched yet another nerve. The damn book haunted me for days after I read it. ... J. Neil Schulman has given us not only a fine story but a great deal to think about -- perhaps especially if we think ourselves sexually unprejudiced.' --Poul Anderson, Reason Magazine

Connie Willis, Sheila Williams (Editors): A Woman's Liberation : A Choice of Futures by and About Women
Something that caught my eye, I'm nominating it  without much info other than contents since it's brand spankin new...

Contributors: Nancy Kress, Connie Willis, Sarah Zettel, Pat Murphy, Vonda McIntyre, S.N. Dyer, Katherine MacLean, Octavia Butler, Anne McCaffrey, and Ursula Ld Guin.

Collected stories written between 1966 and 1995, all previously published.

Starhawk: The Fifth Sacred Thing
Kirkus Reviews wrote:
This first novel from Starhawk (Dreaming the Dark, 1982, etc.) is a big, shaggy, sloppy dog of a fantasy about a great war taking place during the 21st century: A city of eco-feminist witches must stand up to the violence of an army bred on a repressive Christian ideology that justifies the greed of a corporate cabal of rich white men. As the story opens, Maya, a 99-year-old writer of tales about witchcraft, climbs a steep San Francisco hill and surveys a kind of reclaimed paradise: The streets have been torn up, and organic gardens bloom everywhere. Since a great ``uprising'' some years before, the city has become a kind of pagan theocracy, run by guilds and councils of eco-feminist witches who have made it a green spot in the surrounding desert. The rest of the country is ruled by the ``Stewards''--a ruthless corporate power that justifies inhuman exploitation under the banner of the ``Millennialists,'' a fundamentalist sect that is not above breeding whores and soldiers in ``pens.'' Maya is witness to a battle that kills--or tests--many of her loved ones. First, her grandson Bird returns after ten years in a prison in the ``Southland.'' While he was away, the Stewards/Millennialists have sent an engineered virus to San Francisco that killed a good many of the population. Madrone, the grandchild of Maya's woman lover and male compañero (almost every witch is bisexual), is a gifted healer, so she is sent to the dangerous Southland to teach the rebel ``Web'' to heal themselves and to bring back specimens of the virus. Madrone returns after many narrow escapes to find the city occupied by the ruthless army of the Stewards--forcing the witches to put to the ultimate test their commitment to nonviolence. Starhawk deserves points for her idealism, but her vision and characterizations are only half-realized here--and further muddied as she goes on far, far too long.

For myself, I thought this was a terrific read, and included issues worth discussing.

Sarah Zettel: Playing God
From Booklist
A handful of the all-female Dedelphi, representative of all the Dedelphi families, flees the internecine warfare that plagues their world--and flees an artificial plague, the mutation of the latest nasty weapon, too--to form a peaceful colony among the humans on Mars. Their leader, Praeis Shin of the t'Theria family, hopes to forge an alliance with humans for an enormous project: relocating all Dedelphi to orbiting city ships while humans eradicate the plague and clean up the Dedelphi home planet. Under Praeis and engineer and urban planner Lynn Nussbaumer, it is a hopeful collaboration, especially considering that Dedelphi are so violently allergic to humans that a mere handshake can raise poisonous welts. But Praeis and Lynn are unaware of the seething, vengeful, rebellious factions back in the Dedelphi home world who will stop at nothing to make sure that their respective families not only survive but emerge as rulers. Zettel captures both loving, emotional relationships and the feverish thrill of battle in a fast-paced novel that will satisfy the most demanding sf reader. Roberta Johns

_Playing God_ was short-listed for the 1998 Tiptree. According to the comments of the jury gender is mostly explored biologically in this novel but I nonetheless think it worthwhile to read. According to most of the reviews it is a good read.

One of the Tiptree jugdges' comments:

Some rather wooden and rather politically correct human characters only highlight the fascination of Zettel's aliens, a female-centred species whose internecine conflicts and the culture consequent on their inhuman  biology were both believable and intriguing. The most interesting questions raised by this book were biological at base, and came from a parallel with humanity, and a recollection of Elaine Morgan's hypothesis, that menopause was evolved to keep old females' wisdom as a human resource, rather than have them expend their biological resources in dangerous births. The obvious twist in the Dedelphi story is the gender switch at menopause and the charmingly ironic reversal, both of all those patriarchal SF stories where aliens mutate into deadly female forms, and of all those old quips about brainless women. Because Dedelphi men are the post-menopausal form of  Dedelphi women, and they have literally lost their minds. But the less obvious twist is the question that arises in parallel with Morgan's hypothesis: is the violence that plagues this society due to the absence of "old" women? Could this book function as a parable or investigation of women's post-menopausal possibilities, a fictional version of Germaine Greer's The Change? There is no clear indication of such a purpose. Nevertheless, the potential it invokes make a shortlisting no more than its due. (SK)

Science Fiction Weekly Review by A. M. Dellamonica