Carter: The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories
[Note: this collection of stories
is out in paperback on its own, but is also part of the omnibus collection
Burning Your Boats: Collected Stories--- an amazing deal in paperback,
$12-$15; it's too large to be considered for the BDG, but is well worth
buying instead of the smaller collection for any fan of Carter]
Prime Carter. Just 10 works, some
very short: dark and sumptuous variations on fairy tales, with a vampire
story and a werewolf. Wolves that are hairy on the inside, Tigers that
weep tears of amber.
McKee Charnas: The Furies
Overview: This is the tale of
Alldera a slave in the Holdfast, where women are not women but fems, and
all fems are the slaves of all men. Alldera escapes to the land of the
Riding Women, where men are nothing more than a shadow threat in the foothills,
and the Women live their own lives of horse-theft and adventure. Now Alldera
leads a band of Free Fems back to the Holdfast, to the land of their nightmares,
to overtake their old masters. --from the front flap. HC, 383 pages.
C. J. Cherryh:
Probably the best cloning sf written.
A powerful woman who heads, among other things, a vast genetic-engineering
concern (designing, birthing, training customized workers) dies suddenly,
and a clone is very carefully reared to take her place. Most of the book
deals with the raising of her clone (with computerized advice from the
original) in a dangerous political atmosphere, and her relationship with
the man the original traumatized in his adolescence. Much science, much
action, intriguing characters. Interesting issues of sex, power, network
associations, and genetics. Beautifully put together, crisp writing, great
dialogue, nothing sloppy.
in Chainmail. Esther Friesner (Ed.)
Emshwiller: The Start of the End of It All : Short Fiction.
A collection of complex short stories:
most explore inner landscapes of women living in dangerous or bewildering
circumstances. Told with humor and humanity.
By the nominator: Described by the
author (I believe) as "Jane Austen meets Ghengis Khan", it got fulsome
if not particularly analytical reviews on amazon.com. A little science
fiction, some well-drawn aliens, some romance, a bunch of galloping across
the plains, and a rigidly sex-stratified culture along totally different
lines than you would expect. (For instance, women have no choice in marriage,
but can sleep with whomever they want; the father of a child is *defined*
as the husband of the mother.) The author calls it "speculation about gender
roles and how other peoples might bring different expectations to what
it means to be and act female and/or male"; and it does this without either
dystopia or utopia. A happier book than some we've read lately.
Another opinion: I absolutely loved
Tess because she grows throughout the book from someone of little confidence
in herself to a woman who is very aware of her strengths and doesn't hesitate
to follow what she believes in. Someone has already talked about Jaran's
interesintg gender roles. To add to that, it's interesting what happens
when the space-enabled human population meets up with the Jaran. unfortunately,
there isn't room to discuss the whole series because when you get to the
fourth book (and I think books that haven't been written yet will go further
into detail) there is the interesting gender relations of the alien race
(I can't remember the name right now, sorry). In them, women have
absolutely no power and are considered "nameless". At least, that's
what Tess and every other human believes.... In the fourth book though,
elliott reveals that there is more going on than has thus far met human
eye..... I LOVE this series and am panting for book 5.
And another opinion: I *Loved*
it - as you say, the twist on the gender relationships of the Alien _Chapalli_
race at the end of the fourth book blew my mind. ( Spoiler alert! ) Anyway
- one of the things I enjoyed most about _Jaran_, was the aspect of a truly
feminist vision which included strong believable male characters as well
as women. There is action, adventure, soul-searching, discussion, conflicts,
romance and exploration of not so much gender roles, but gender 'spheres
of influence'. I had to laugh out loud at the image of the Jaran men returning
from conquering the world with sabres and bloody wounds, then sitting down
quietly at the fireside doing their embroidery, and blushing and averting
their eyes as the women walk through.
However,as you say Tess - the down-side
for book-discussion is that much of the development takes place over several
books and I too am panting for Book 5. I expected all the way through Book
4 to finish the story off and resolve all the loose ends - but, just as
I thought it was all tied up - the character/plot twists at the end of
Book 4 left me breathless for more:))
Yet another poster: Before all the
people seconding this nomination scares everyone off -- I swear, the book
really does end! Currently published are four books in the series, and
at the end of each there are many, mnay things left unresolved (as in real
life) but the first book doesn't end on a cliffhanger. She's also stated
her intention to write many more books tracing out many of the lines of
plot generated here. I recall reading an interview in which the author
talked about a primary underpinning of her book being the idea of consequences:
when you do something big, when you save the world or take over a continent,
everything changes and goes on changing for generations.
Hopkinson: Brown Girl in the Ring
BGR won the Warner Aspect First Novel
Contest. Several people have already commented the novel on the list, all
favourable. As example I repost a review by Maryelizabeth from Mysterious
Galaxy (July 1998):
"Hopkinson's debut novel is the premier
winner of the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest. Future winners have a
high standard to match. BROWN GIRL IN THE RING tells the story of Ti-Jeanne,
a young woman of Caribbean heritage in a bleak near-future Toronto. Like
the players in the game for which the novel is named, Ti-Jeanne must learn
by observation of her grandmother's magic ritual in order to do battle
for those she loves. Part of what makes this novel exceptional is the recognition
of the often bitter and difficult nature of family relationships.
Also, unlike many SF novels, it features both people of color (rather than
peoples of exotic colors) and a main character actively immersed in her
family. I very much enjoy genre- blending novels, as well as those which
give me insights into other cultures, and BROWN GIRL IN THE RING does that
and more. Part horror novel, part SF and part dark fantasy, it blends genres
with a deftness which can escape more experienced hands."
K. LeGuin: A Fisherman of the Inland Sea
Synopsis Reprint. PW
"A collection of stories highlight
such objects of the imagination as a starship that sails on the wings of
song, musical instruments that are played at funerals only, and orbiting
arks designed to save a doomed humanity."
Synopsis HC: HarperPrism.
"The only SF writer to win the National
Book Award, not to mention the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy awards, Ursula
K. Le Guin has created a profound and transformational literature. These
stories range from the everyday to the outer limits of experience, where
the quantum uncertainties of space and time are resolved only in the depths
of the human heart."
A review by Yvonne Rowse: Star rating:
Actually I think this should probably
have a six star rating: Buy this immediately and get a spare copy in case
you misplace/lend out the first one. I have in fact got two copies.
This is a book of short stories. Although
I’m a long term LeGuin fan I haven ’t always found her short story collections
to be as good as her novels. That isn’t to say that she doesn’t write good
short stories. I have reread ‘The Day Before the Revolution’ more times
than I care to remember and ‘The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas’ has been
a light in my darkness but generally I have found her shorter work less
satisfying. This book is so good I’ve read it three times.
The first six stories are good stories.
I particularly enjoyed/loathed Jerry, the quintessential American tourist,
in the first story and ‘Newton’s Sleep’ brought into focus my uneasiness
with all the bright people flying off into adventure and leaving everyone
else to die in a massive environmental failure. Most SF of this type inevitably
leads the reader to identify with the leavers. Perhaps some of my unease
is due to my suspicion that I’d be one of those left behind. As cautionary
tales go this is a pretty good one.
The last three stories and the largest
part of the book are based around ‘churten theory’ which allows instantaneous
‘The Shobies’ Story’ starts on Hain.
I’ve long wondered how LeGuin would deal with a world that had hundreds
of thousands of years of history. Brilliantly of course; “Liden was a fishing
port with an eighty thousand year history and a population of four hundred”
where children play at space ships “passing behind the half circle of adults
at the driftwood fire on the wide twilight beach.” The crew of theShoby
is mixed, mixed race, mixed age. They churten to an inhabited
planet where they have to build their
reality by telling their stories to save themselves from nothingness and
In ‘Dancing to Gaman’ four Terrans
churten to a planet inhabited by an apparently primitive people where one
man is greeted as a god and mates with the beautiful princess. The charismatic
hero lives out the fantasies of many of the men I know, wrenching the story
to fit his needs. Eventually the remaining three crew find a meaning closer
to reality but not before tragedy strikes.
The final story, ‘Another Story’,
is set on O. It is a love story, a time travel story and a story of another
wonderful world. I’d like to know more of O. The hero leaves his home for
studies on Hain. He leaves more than he realises knowing that his family
will age while he travels. In an apparent failure of churten technology
the hero returns to an earlier time and saves his life from disaster. I
liked this story a lot. I liked the permanence of the society, the integration
technology into a rural life and I
particularly liked the marriage/sexual relationships.
LeGuin’s work resonates with me like
good poetry. Her books are full of people I want to meet, places I want
to live. Her SF is human in a way very few SF books are. If you want all-action
thrillers with high technology weapons this won’t suit you. If you want
to find unforgettable characters this is the book to buy.
K. LeGuin: Four Ways to Forgiveness
Consists of 4 interconnected tales
about 4 different characters during revolution and political turmoil on
twin planets where an era of slavery and repression is
coming to an end.
"Science Fiction and Fantasy Editor's
Recommended Book Ursula K. Le Guin revisits her popular Hainish universe
with four interconnected stories that together weave a tapestry of revolution
and political turmoil. Le Guin tells the tale of two worlds where decades
of slavery and class distinction are about to come to an end. She begins
at the end with the story of a woman who survived the perilous times and
now must face what comes after. Then in turn come
tales of a naive envoy, an aloof observer
forced to choose sides, and a young slave who wins freedom, only to confront
the bonds of her own mind."
Moon: The Deed of Paksenarrion
This is an omnibus volume containing
Moon's Paksenarrion trilogy (Sheepfarmer's Daughter, Divided Allegiance,
and Oath of Gold).
The Bohr Maker
Piercy: Woman on the Edge of Time
From 500 Great Books by Women; review
by Holly Smith
With honest and compelling prose,
Marge Piercy delves into the mind of thirty-seven-year-old Consuelo (Connie)
Ramos, a woman who exists on the fringes of life in contemporary New York
City. Early in the novel Connie beats up her niece's pimp and is committed
- again - to the psychiatric ward in Bellevue Hospital. The novel
shifts between the horrible conditions in psychiatric wards and the year
2137, as Connie at first talks to, then time travels with Luciente, a person
from that future time. Luciente lives in a non-sexist, communal country
where people's survival is ensured based on need, not money. A sense of
freedom, choice, and safety are part of Luciente's world; Connie's world
is the complete opposite. Though Connie struggles to stand up for herself
and others in the treatment centers, she knows that the drugs she is forced
to take weaken her in every way. She knows she shouldn't be there, knows
how to play the game, and tells herself "You want to stop acting out. Speak
up in Tuesday group therapy (but not too much and never about staff or
how lousy this place was) and volunteer to clean up after the others."
But she knows she is stuck. Connie spends more time "away" with Luciente,
trying to develop a way out of her hell. Ultimately Connie makes her plan
of action, and the book leaves us with our own questions about Connie's
insanity and decisions.
Russ: The Female Man
(from our own science fiction page)
"No discussion of the 1970s wave of
feminist utopias is complete without a mention of The Female Man (1975).
This simultaneously hilarious and angry novel is based on the premise of
alternate worlds. Its four protagonists share identical genes, but have
developed into four very different women according to their environments.
Jeannine, who lives in an economically depressed United States, is the
most oppressed and unhappy character; the only life for a woman in her
world is marriage, and she both longs
for and dreads that destiny. Joanna (a fictionalized version of Russ) comes
from a world familiar to the novel's readers -- America, 1969, with second-wave
feminism on the move. Joanna has more choices than Jeannine, but she is
still expected to orient herself around men and is constantly being told
"women can't" or "women don't".... She longs to be something other than
a woman and tries her hand at becoming a female man. Janet represents the
ideal, a woman who grew up with no gender-based constraints on her life
and thus developed her full human potential. She hails from the utopia
Whileaway, a world in which all the men were killed off centuries ago in
a plague (or, in a different version of the story, a war). Joanna wistfully
calls Janet a woman "whom we don't believe in and whom we deride but who
is in secret our savior from utter despair." Jael brings the other Js together
in her world, a near future in which men and women wage a cold war. Jael's
experience of being a woman is much like Joanna's, but her response is
Mike Stanton: "Russ' _The female man_
is one of the so-called 'non-linear' novels that on analysis proves to
be nothing of the kind. An allegory illustrating the evolution of a feminist,
it's the story of four characters (or four 'facets' of the same character):
Jeannine, Joanna, Jael and Janet - each living in a different universe
and each defined in terms of her attitude to men, her time/space relation
to the 'central' character Joanna and in her relationships with the others.
Jeannine, a pre-feminist, is Joanna's
earlier self who, unmarried at 28, views herself as an 'old maid'. Joanna,
ostensibly a 60s-type radical feminist but in the book's context a proto-feminist,
lives in a universe similar to our own. Jael (Judges 4:21), Joanna's contemporary
and the 'true' feminist, is from a parallel, alternate history which is
torn by gender wars. Janet, Joanna's future genetically improved self and
a post-feminist, lives in a Utopian society on Whileaway, a planet without
The four are brought together in Joanna's
universe; it is their interaction and Jael's radical answer to the war
with men ('The Final Solution of the Male Question') that form the
book's central theme."
Springer: Fair Peril
A middle-aged woman finds a talking
frog and tries to protect her daughter against fairy tales. Not as significant
as Larque on the Wing, but fun.
This is a gorgeous story about Beauty,
she who was supposed to be sleepy for a hundred years. By a bit of
luck she escapes her fate to become an independent, outrageous woman.
I particularly love the intertwining of a handful or our fairytales with
a bit of a twist. She refuses over and over again to fit into the
role of passive and meek princess, waiting to be saved. instead she
saves herself, as well as the Fair Ones. Great fantasy
S. Tepper: The Family Tree
This technically polished novel ingeniously
combines elements from traditional quests, fables, and novels. A seemingly
rhetorical question is posed in chapter 1: Why did sociable, smart Dora
Henry marry cold, controlling Jared Gerber? But that question is the key
to the book and to the parallel stories told by Sheri Tepper. The sets
of characters unravel their separate puzzles until all become different
aspects of the same web of events, shaking the reader's, and Dora's,
perceptions to the core. Tepper's
linguistic sleight-of-hand with metaphor and image is breathtaking; her
storytelling is deft and funny; her characters are memorable and sympathetic.
Topical, mythical, archetypal, and provocative, this is a book no fantasy
or science fiction reader should miss. --This text refers to the hardcover
edition of this title.
S. Tepper: Gibbon's Decline and Fall
This takes place in a modern America,
albeit a darker and more depressing one. It centers around a group
of middle-aged women bound together from their college days. these
women represent the many different roles a woman may undertake: from the
independent Carolyn to meek housewife Betty to Sophy, mystery woman who
has disappeared. Although she is not in most of the book, Sophy's
presence (and lack thereof) haunts the other women who try to find out
who she was. In the process, discovering a horrifying conspiracy
that threatens to undermine the already delicate gender relations.
Occasionally this book can be a bit hokey but I liked a lot of the questions
it raises about gender. One thing I got out of this book was an even
stronger belief that there are many more genders than two. I have
to admit to occasionally wincing at the way she treats men, but then she
is almost as harsh with the women. Still, I think that this book would
spawn a great deal of discussion.
Weber: On Basilisk Station
I happened to notice this weekend,
while shopping at Wal-Mart for new heads for my Dremel tool, that BAEN
books had put out a new edition of David Weber's _On Basilisk Station_
for only $2.00 US.
That's pretty cheap for a novel these
days, and IIRC _On Basilisk Station_ is the Honor Harrington novel that
deals w/ feminist issues most directly.
Also, like most series, the early
ones are better reads, with less time taken in all the cute business that
has built up over the course of the series.
I think it would make a nice change
of pace for the BDG, being fairly upbeat space opera.
And, like I said, it's darn cheap,
but Weber is popular enough that used copies should be plentiful as well.
Bellwether is about chaos theory,
social trends, dwindling research funding, inept lab assistants, and the
sheep that pull it all together.
Willis: The Doomsday Book
Fantasy of a young student historian
who travels back in time from 2048 to an English village in 1348 just as
the Black Plague was about to begin. The book paints a bleak and harrowing
picture of life in the 14th C. It won both Hugo and Nebula awards.
Women of Wonder: The Contemporary Years. Science Fiction by Women
from the 1970s to the 1990s. Ed. Pamela Sargent (with intro. by Pamela
Sargent). Contents (short stories):
Choosing this short story collection ensures
that the BDG members will be exposed to a wide variety of female authors
and writing styles.
"Cassandra" / C.J. CHERRYH
"The Thaw" / TANITH LEE
"Scorched Supper on New Niger" / SUZY
"Abominable" / CAROL EMSHWILLER
"Bluewater Dreams" / SYDNEY J. VAN SCYOC
"The Cabinet of Edgar Allen Poe" / ANGELA
"The Harvest of Wolves" / MARY GENTLE
"Bloodchild" / OCTAVIA E. BUTLER
"Fears" / PAMELA SARGENT
"Webrider" / JAYGE CARR
"Alexia and Graham Bell" / ROSALEEN LOVE
"Reichs-Peace" / SHEILA FINCH
"Angel" / PAT CADIGAN
"Rachel in Love" / PAT MURPHY
"Game Night at the Fox and Goose" / KAREN
"Tiny Tango" / JUDITH MOFFETT
"At the Rialto" / CONNIE WILLIS
"Midnight News" / LISA GOLDSTEIN
"And Wild for to Hold" / NANCY KRESS
"Immaculate" / STORM CONSTANTINE
"Farming in Virginia" / REBECCA ORE
I particularly like short story collections,
because they allow people with hectic schedules to enjoy reading in the
10 or 20 minutes they can put aside at a time without worrying that they
will have to go back and reread a bit of a novel so they'll know what is
going on the next time they pick up the book.
Of course the best thing about this
collection is that it might introduce some BDG members to an author that
they haven't read before, discover that they like, and want to read more