Nominated by: Faith R.
The majority of Anne Bishop's work deals with misogny as its main theme.
Shadows and Light is the second book in her latest triology, which
documents the growth and development of misogny in the land of Tir Alainn.
I choose the second book over the first because the first book is more background
than story, in my opinion.
For many years the Fae have ignored the witches and humans, looking down on them as poor country cousins. Their extreme arrogance is about to cost them dearly, however, for only the witches, as sons and daughters of the House of Gaian, can anchor the magic in the Old Places and keep the magical roads between the Fae's land, Tir Alainn, and the human world from disintegrating. But the witches are disappearing. In fact, women everywhere in the east are being taken by the Inquisitors, tortured and mutilated, and then killed. Three of the Fae--the Bard, the Muse, and the Gatherer--understand the enormity of the situation and seek a way to avoid the destruction of both witches and Fae. Unfortunately, only one of the Fae can convince the others to leave ! the safety of their land and venture into the world of humans to save the witches. So the Hunter must be found--soon--or there will be nothing left to save. Paula Luedtke Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Goonan, Kathleen Ann: Crescent City Rhapsody
Nominated by: Monika P.
A multi-narrative storyline that develops over many years; not exactly feminist, although there are some strong female characters. The premise is that a "pulse" from outer space knocks out most of Earth's advanced technology, forcing the world to confront a major political, social and economic re-think against the backdrop of this pulse as proof of extraterrestrial intelligence. I loved to read it and agree with the review on this site: http://www.sfsite.com/06b/ccr83.htm But opinions on this novel are very much divided, the reviews range from praise to slating.
Holland, Cecilia: Floating Worlds
Nominated by: Petra M.
First published in 1975
I found this in a SF bookstore in Berlin. On the one hand it is published as part of Gollancz' Collectors' edition (i.e. it is sort of a classic). On the other hand I had never heard it mentioned as one of the (lesser) feminist classic of the seventies although the first chapter showed me that it is gender-conscious and showed an anarchist society. I am not further along in the book yet but I think it is worth a discussion.
Book description by publisher:
When the Styths, a powerful and aggressive race of mutants from Uranus and Saturn, launch pirate raids on ships from Mars, Earth's Committee for the Revolution sets out to negotiate peace. The task falls to the resourceful and unpredictable Paula Mendoza. The initial meetings hold little hope for success--until Paula adopts a less conventional approach and appears to obtain her objective. But, the consequences for Paula prove considerable, when she finds herself on the floating cities of the Gas Planets, the tenuous, and only, link between Earth and the Styth Empire.A profoundly moving portrait of one determined and strong-willed woman.
Kirstein, Rosemary: The Steerswoman's Road
Nominated by: S. McI.
Unfortunately I think this book is out of print but it has been reprinted in a new version called The Steerswoman's Road, which is a compilation of the first two books in the series: The Steerswoman and The Outskirter's Secret.
Brief description from Amazon:
If you ask, she will answer. If she asks, you must reply. A steerswoman will speak only the truth to you, as long as she knows it—and you must do the same for her. And so, across the centuries, the Steerswomen— questioning, searching, investigating—have slowly learned more and more about the world through which they wander. All knowledge the Steerswomen possess is given freely to those who ask. But there is one kind of knowledge that has always been denied them: Magic.
When the steerswoman Rowan discovers a small, lovely blue jewel of obviously magical origin, her innocent questions lead to secret after startling secret, each more dangerous than the last—and suddenly Rowan must flee or fight for her life. Or worse, she must lie.
With every wizard in the world searching for her, Rowan finds unexpected assistance. A chance-met traveler turned friend, Bel is a warrior-poet, an Outskirter, and a member of a barbaric and violent people. Or, so it would seem.
For Bel, unknowing, possesses secrets of her own: secrets embedded in her culture, in her people, in the very soil of her homeland. From the Inland Sea to the deadly Outskirts, surrounded by danger and deceit, Rowan and Bel uncover more and more of the wizards’ hidden knowledge. As the new truths accumulate, they edge closer to the single truth that lies at the center, the most unexpected secret of them all...
Lange, Sue: Tritcheon Hash
Nominated by: Dave B.
I would like to nominate list member Sue Lange's novel, Tritcheon Hash.
She wrote earlier on the listserve, "I wrote this social satire from
a feminist perspective and used science fiction as the vehicle to answer the
question what would happen if women did just pick up the ball and go home."
The listserve seems to be going through something of a doldrums at the moment, not many nominations, and not much discussion. The current month's discussion may be listless, as it were, because it is a list member's work, not a well known classic or hot new writer, but Sue would seem to be closer to the latter category:
"Tritcheon Hash is a wild good read, with special appeal for fans of
science fiction or
gender studies." -- S. Ardrian, Fearless Reviews
"...funny, sobering, delightful feminist sci-fi satire"
-- (four out of five stars) Sharon Shulz-Elsing, Curled up with a Good Book
"Sue Lange hits hard, plays rough, and charms - just like her unforgettable
character, Tritcheon Hash" -- Shawn P. Cormier, The Eternal Night
"Funny, perceptive and hard-hitting by turns - welcome to a new and
witty voice in
sf satire." -- John Grant, co-editor, The Encyclopedia of F*ntasy
"Lange writes with an undeniable energy and a Gibson-like use of slang
that rings true. Her level of craft is high and the story never lags."
-- (Five stars our of five), Lynn Nicole Louis, sfreader.com
"...the satirical elements work well, the characterization is surprisingly
effective, and I
still chuckle over some of the passages in the book."
-- James Schellenberg, Challenging Destiny
"The backgrounds and settings are quite well done. There is lots of
historical detail to
support the differing societies. The characters are well developed, 3 dimentional, not
just cardboard cutouts. The dialogue is witty and enjoyable-Not a forced line
anywhere. All-in-all a very good book."
Nagata, Linda: Limit of Vision
Nominated by: S. McI.
I hesitate to nominate this book (I really enjoyed a short story of hers which was more feminist in tone) because I'm not sure it would qualify as feminist literature. But I think her ideas are interesting. The daring journalist described here is a young woman named Ela Suvantat.
Here's a brief description lifted from Amazon: "A beautiful young scientist lies dead in a top-secret laboratory, a victim of an illegal experiment with the forbidden nanotechnology known as "LoVs"- intelligent organisms that live at the limits of human vision. In Vietnam's Mekong Delta, a daring journalist probes mysterious cult rumored to have awesome powers. As factions across the globe race to control this strange creation, in orbit high above Earth, an awesome new stage in evolution is about to begin..."
Niffenegger, Audrey: The Time Traveler's Wife
Nominated by: Diane S.
I'm not sure if this really qualifies as a Feminist Science Fiction book, but I think it sounds interesting at the very least. The central relationship, between the time traveller and his wife, and the difficulties they face as a result of the time traveller's very being, is explored. It might prove fodder for interesting discussion...
From Publishers Weekly
This highly original first novel won the largest advance San Francisco-based MacAdam/Cage had ever paid, and it was money well spent. Niffenegger has written a soaring love story illuminated by dozens of finely observed details and scenes, and one that skates nimbly around a huge conundrum at the heart of the book: Henry De Tamble, a rather dashing librarian at the famous Newberry Library in Chicago, finds himself unavoidably whisked around in time. He disappears from a scene in, say, 1998 to find himself suddenly, usually without his clothes, which mysteriously disappear in transit, at an entirely different place 10 years earlier-or later. During one of these migrations, he drops in on beautiful teenage Clare Abshire, an heiress in a large house on the nearby Michigan peninsula, and a lifelong passion is born. The problem is that while Henry's age darts back and forth according to his location in time, Clare's moves forward in the normal manner, so the pair are often out of sync. But such is the author's tenderness with the characters, and the determinedly ungimmicky way in which she writes of their predicament (only once do they make use of Henry's foreknowledge of events to make money, and then it seems to Clare like cheating) that the book is much more love story than fantasy. It also has a splendidly drawn cast, from Henry's violinist father, ruined by the loss of his wife in an accident from which Henry time-traveled as a child, to Clare's odd family and a multitude of Chicago bohemian friends. The couple's daughter, Alba, inherits her father's strange abilities, but this is again handled with a light touch; there's no Disney cuteness here. Henry's foreordained end is agonizing, but Niffenegger has another card up her sleeve, and plays it with poignant grace. It is a fair tribute to her skill and sensibility to say that the book leaves a reader with an impression of life's riches and strangeness rather than of easy thrills. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
On the surface, Henry and Clare Detamble are a normal couple living in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Henry works at the Newberry Library and Clare creates abstract paper art, but the cruel reality is that Henry is a prisoner of time. It sweeps him back and forth at its leisure, from the present to the past, with no regard for where he is or what he is doing. It drops him naked and vulnerable into another decade, wearing an age-appropriate face. In fact, it's not unusual for Henry to run into the other Henry and help him out of a jam. Sound unusual? Imagine Clare Detamble's astonishment at seeing Henry dropped stark naked into her parents' meadow when she was only six. Though, of course, until she came of age, Henry was always the perfect gentleman and gave young Clare nothing but his friendship as he dropped in and out of her life. It's no wonder that the film rights to this hip and urban love story have been acquired. Elsa Gaztambide Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Ore, Rebecca: Outlaw School
Nominated by: Beth B.
Okay, I'll nominate one. This is about one woman's struggle in a heavily stratified, repressive society where many of the elected officials are actually AI, including the president.
Book Description from Amazon.com:
Nominated for the 2000 James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award
In as gray, industro-technical future of protective shackles and slowed ideas, Jayne wants to be respectable and conform. But conformity means accepting a limited destiny and the hollow entertainments that are brutally enforced as "news". And to be respectable, she must gain back her virginity and give up an eye. Jayne's life is out of control-her reality has teeth and educational drugs and binding tools- and the only cures for her growing dissatisfaction with a bleak, repressive status quo seem to be madness or legal suicide. Or rebellion. Jayne cannot, will not, be rehabilitated. So instead, she will live her life between lines, illegally encouraging the otherness of the lowly, the renegades, the crazies, the virtual whores, as she dedicates herself to the dangerous cause of outlaw education. There are many pitfalls built into the road Jayne has chosen to walk: failure, betrayal, terror, arrest, cyberia. But her courage and determination could be the catalyst for a new future.
Richards, Leigh: Califia's Daughters
Nominated by: Dave B.
This isn't such a good book as Ammonite, but I think it's sort of a daughter of Ammonite - not quite a woman-only society, but something close, after a virus has killed most men, so that women are the warriors and protectors of the rare males, who are considered too precious to be allowed to do anything physical or risky. It's set in California, with a racially mixed society. Definitely worth discussing. The author has written detective stories as Laurie King and this is her first sf novel.
Also nominated by: Margaret P.
from the website
Califia's Daughters is a story set in the not-too-distant future, when a series of catastrophes have caught up with the human race, reducing the population to a fraction of its current state, and cutting the ratio of male to female even more drastically. With men accounting for less than a tenth of the population, it's a woman's world.
Califia, I should mention, is the name of a mythic woman warrior said by the Spanish conquistadores to rule an island off the western coast of the New World, after whom both Baja and my own state of California take their names. With males so drastically threatened (and thus both nurtured and protected) Califia's spiritual descendents have taken over. Califia's Daughters follows the inhabitants of one small central California community in the dangerous times ahead, and particularly the actions of Dian, a woman warrior restless in her safe place.
King has two mystery series which are excellent: One is a Sherlock Holmes series in which an older Holmes develops a partnership with a young woman who is his peer in intellect and sleuthing skills. These are intriguing historical novels as well as mysteries. Then there is a modern day series set in San Francisco with a lesbian cop protagonist (although King is not a lesbian she has done her homework). She also has a couple of other mysteries set in the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest with themes related to mental health and recovery.
Here's a link to her website: Laurie R. King - Mystery Writer / Author
Ruff, Matt: Set this House in Order
Nominated by: Petra M.
This book won the 2003 Tiptree award. The following comments are taken from the press release.
"The winning novel, Set This House In Order: A Romance Of Souls (HarperCollins), begins with Andy Gage, a twenty-eight-old with multiple-personality disorder. Andy's many personalities (or souls, as he calls them) live in the house inside his head, a structure created by his father (another of the many souls). Andy meets Penny Driver, a young woman who also has multiple personalities, but is not fully aware of her condition. In trying to help Penny, Andy sets in motion a chain of events that threatens the stability of the house in his own head.
The judges were particularly impressed with the way Ruff handled gender issues in multiple personality, as a reflection of the difference of gender of the body and gender of the mind (or soul). They were also delighted with the book's overall quality. Jury chair Maureen Kincaid Speller says, "Of all the books I've read this last year, this is the book that most fascinated and pleased me generally, the one I've most wanted to write about in detail.""
I attend the panel of the Tiptree judges at WisCon. The judges were enthusiastic about the book although the had difficulties talking about it because apparently there is a big surprise somewhere (relevant for the Tiptree worthiness) and when too much is said this surprise is taken away. They warned, however, that one should not be depressed when reading it because the book certainly wouldn't help.
It was under discussion by the judges whether it is truly science fiction or fantastic fiction in any way. Matt Ruff said during this thank-you speech that he hoped that after the book was awarded the Tiptree the science fiction community would no longer ignore it.
Scott, Melissa: Trouble and Her Friends
Nominated by: Monika P.
Winner of the 1995 Lambda Literary Award for Gay/Lesbian Science Fiction
In the not very distant future, the United States has cracked down on the world of the computer nets, forcing illegal netwalkers like India Carless, aka Trouble, to reform or adapt to a new series of laws. India, once a powerful force in the shadow world of the nets, got out just ahead of the laws, abandoning her friends and her lover, and now runs the computer system for an artists' co-op.
But now someone has appropriated her name and is using it for a kind of illegal hacking she has always despised, and the forces of the law - including her ex-lover, now head of security for a major bright-lights corporation - are looking for her. To clear her name, Trouble has to return to the nets, looking for one last showdown.
Vonarburg, Elisabeth: Dreams of the Sea
Nominated by: Susan K.
I'd like to nominate Elizabeth Vonarburg's Dreams of the Sea. It's a lovely and haunting novel, suffused with mystery, of a colonized world. The voices of the past (and current?) voices overlap with the new colonists from earth. Several voices are used. The most important one is that of a Dreamer, an older woman whose memories and dreams comprise most of the stories. While reading it I felt the same haunted feeling I get when, say, walking through the abandoned sites of ancient Indian sites in the Southwest. Vonarburg's world is beautifully depicted, as are her characters. Is it feminist? Perhaps in the largest sense, in that although several of the main characters are male the voice that permeates is female; and that that woman has lived and dreamed her life on mostly her own terms.
The reason I nominate the book is because I have longed to discuss it with others, and who better than this group? The book is translated from French (the author is French Canadian, and is herself one of the translators). I should also add that although this book stands alone quite well, it is the first of a 5-volume saga. The other books have yet to be translated.
Winterson, Jeannette: The PowerBook
Nominated by: Grete
Here is the description and a brief author commentary, stolen from her site:
The.Powerbook is 21st Century fiction that uses past, present and future as shifting dimensions of a multiple reality. The story is simple. An e-writer called Ali, or Alix (because x marks the spot), will pin up a story for you, cut it to fit. She is a language costumier, writing to order, letting you be the hero of your own life, offering you freedom just for one night.
The price? Risk. You risk entering the story as yourself and leaving it as someone else. But if the narrative changes, then so does the narrator, as Ali discovers this is a price she too will have to pay.
Set in London, Paris, Capri and cyberspace, this is a book that re-invents itself as it travels. Using cover-versions, fairy tales, contemporary myths and popular culture, The.Powerbook works at the intersection between the real and the imagined.
Its territory is you.
Death can take the body but not the heart...
Why do you call it twenty first century fiction?
There's been a lot of talk about the death of the book, but there is no death of the book, only a transformation of the book, both as artefact and as idea. In a new century we need new ways of looking at familiar things - that's the only way we make them ours, otherwise they're just borrowed and soon become clichés. I've used all kinds of devices to keep asking the big questions and to defamiliarise what's important but in danger of becoming stale. The shape of the book, its structure, its language, is a different way of working.
Are you sure it's not all a gimmick?
What a bloody waste of time that would be! Who am I kidding? I'm in this because I'm passionate about language, in love with books, and because I want to move on the discussion. We can't go on writing traditional nineteenth century fiction, we have to recognise that Modernism and Post Modernism have changed the map, and any writer worth their weight in floppy discs will want to go on changing that map. I don't want to be a curator in the Museum of Literature, I want to be part of what happens next.
You use what you call cover-versions - re-writes of well-known texts. Why?
I've said before that a writer needs to be soaked in books. A writer can't ever read too much or know too much about the literature of the past. Those writers are your teachers and private ancestors. Their work informs your work, which is why, out of respect, you should never copy them, but try to honour their experiments with some of your own. We have to remember that what we now call traditional, was experiment once. Malory and Danté are two writers who have influenced me and so I wrote a couple of cover versions of two very famous stories.
There's no story as such, is there?
There are plenty of stories in this book. Tons of them. What there isn't is an old-fashioned plot line. Sorry, you'll have to watch TV if that's what you want, or read any of those books that are really just printed television. It seems to me that TV and cinema have taken over the narrative function of the novel, in much the same way that the novel once took over the narrative function of poetry. That frees me up for story, for poetry and for language that does more than convey meaning.
Not everyone will like this kind of thing will they?
No. Not everyone likes Tate Modern.
Why do you keep doing the gender bending?
Because I'm queer. Well no, that's only part of the answer. Being queer, that is not straight-line, not belonging, tells me that gender is only the beginning of the story, not the last word. I like some ambiguity. One of the exciting - and dangerous - things about email is that we have no way of discerning gender, and that upsets a lot of our notions about innate masculine or feminine traits. Listen, I don't want a unisex world. I like it the way it is, but I think we should have more fun with it, and the fun and the experiment is what Queer Culture is all about. To that extent, my own experience interfaces with my work.
You've said The.Powerbook is the end of a cycle.
Yes. There are seven books and they make a whole cycle. Oranges, The Passion, Sexing the Cherry, Written on the Body, Art and Lies, Gut Symmetries, and The.Powerbook. At least I don't do boring titles... I don't count the short stories for obvious reasons, and I don't count Boating for Beginners because it was written separately, as a comic book, as you will see below. I've done a lot of work over the last fifteen years, all the books, screenplays, loads of journalism, but it is in the cycle of the fiction that I can be found.
What happens now?
I don't know. I have to sit by the still pool and wait.
Perhaps this is how it is - life flowing smoothly over memory and history, the past returning or not, depending on the tide. History is a collection of found objects washed up through time. Goods, ideas, personalities, surface towards us then sink away. Some we hook out, others we ignore, and as the pattern changes, so does the meaning. We cannot rely on the facts. Time which returns everything, changes everything.