Why I'm nominating this one: it's a swell book. The gender stuff is key but integral to the story. Well written, as are all but her earliest book. I figure we're probably due for a sequel to this or another book from Arnason soon, but it's not necessary in order to enjoy this one. There's adventure, cultural intrigue, first contact, strong female characters, you name it. Her earlier book (out of print, arrrgh) tied for a Tiptree award. Read this even if we don't select it.
This volume is a reprint of the first two novels of Charnas's Holdfast series, Walk to the End of the World and Motherlines. Together, these two novels were awarded one of the three Retroactive Tiptree Awards in 1996 and at last they are back in print.
These books amazed me when I first read them five years ago. Charnas writes in a spare, calm style that sets off the strangeness of the plot and setting to great effect. All of the Holdfast books (the series is now complete after four volumes) take place in an indeterminately distant future after the world ecosystem has collapsed and nearly all humans have died, along with most large species of animals. The residents of the Holdfast are descendants of the lucky few who were able to hide out underground in secret government shelters and who emerged after "the Wasting" to found a new society. They think they know what caused the collapse of civilization: the influence of women. Now known as 'fems', women are drudges and breeders and are beaten or killed for the flimsiest of reasons or no reason at all.
The first book recounts the journey of three men and a fem to find the father of one of the men. The plot twists are completely unpredictable and harrowing. It left me shaken, but giddy with all that the author had attempted and succeeded at. The second book follows the fem out into the wilderness beyond the Holdfast, where she discovers an undreamt of society of women who breed horses and reproduce without need of men. She also discovers a group of escaped fems like herself. And all is not sweetness and light. These are wonderful books that address power relationships with a psychological realism and depth of thought that I haven't often seen. And they are founding texts of feminist sf.
It's been nominated by someone else before, but competition was fierce in the first round. Seems like it'd be worthwhile to raise the flag again. It's a classic - winning the 1989 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
It's not easy to synopsize the plot. A young girl growing into adolescence and assuming the reins of political power as she discovers she is the clone of the former leader of her world.
To quote from a recent Amazon.com review:
"This is the "young/exploited genius" book you should give your kids, especially your daughters, when they go to college or maybe earlier if they're mature. Second Ari is raised, & genetically bred, to be a dictator. Yet she turns out to be both that & not-that. Unlike Ender's the emotions seemed real instead of stylized to "grip" us. So it isn't as memorable, but ultimately it's better.
Also inspiring is that it goes against this genetic determinism & blank slatism going on today. Genetics does give you potentials & "rules", but who says you can't play by the rules & do great things?"
I've loved this book since I first read it. I'd appreciate the opportunity to be able to discuss Ari's struggles with other members of the list.
In the world created by first-time novelist Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, there is a spice to cure every human ailment, and her heroine, Tilo, is in fact The Mistress of Spices. Tilo (short for Tilottama) comes by her curative powers in a magically roundabout way. Born in India, she ends up on a remote island courtesy of pirates and sea snakes. Here she encounters an ancient woman who instructs her in the power of spice. Her education complete, Tilo heads for Oakland, California, to practice her healing arts. She diagnoses the ills of the various people who come to her spice shop, and cures them, too, until one day she discovers that magic is a double-edged sword.
In chapters named for spices, we follow Tilo's adventures from her birth to the moment she must decide whether to ply her special powers alone or share her life with another. Divakaruni has created a memorable heroine in The Mistress of Spices.
Women's Studies Editor's Recommended Book
On a mythic island of women "where on our skin, the warm rain fell like pomegranate seeds" powerful spices like cinnamon, turmeric, and fenugreek whisper their secrets to young acolytes. Ordained after trial by fire, each new spice mistress is sent to a far-off land to cure the life pains of all Indian seekers, while keeping a cool distance from the mortals. Only stubborn, passionate Tilo, disguised as an old woman merchant in present-day Oakland, California, fails to heed the vengeful spices' warnings. Fragrant with spice and sensuality, this winning tale rolls off the tongue. Written in the soaring, poetic tradition of China Men and Haroun and the Sea of Stories.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Editor's Recommended Book The Calcutta Chromosome is one of those books that's marketed as a mainstream thriller even though it is an excellent science fiction novel (It won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award). The main character is a man named Antar, whose job is to monitor a somewhat finicky computer that sorts through mountains of information. When the computer finds something it can't catalog, it brings the item to Antar's attention. A string of these seemingly random anomalies puts Antar on the trail of a man named Murugan, who disappeared in Calcutta in 1995 while searching for the truth behind the discovery of the cure for malaria. This search for Murugan leads, in turn, to the discovery of the Calcutta Chromosome, which can shift bits of personality from one person to another. That's when things really get interesting.
Booklist review: On Irustan, a planet settled long ago by humans, the Book of the Second Prophet painstakingly details the proper way of being. Despite space travel and advanced technologies, men are the absolute decision makers. Women, draped in shapeless silks, their faces heavily veiled, are chattel. Only a select few get a glimpse at independence by becoming medicants, who are trained in the medical sciences. Such work is regarded as too distasteful for men. The beautiful Zahra is a young wife, a talented medicant, and a murderer. Sickened by a world of abusive husbands, Zahra's choice to kill is believably righteous, but is fraught with treacherous subsequent ramifications. Marley realizes Irustan in dynamic detail, and she manages real, consistent character development so that not only does Zahra mature, but secondary characters subtly grow as situations demand. Throughout, Marley's acclaimed, exquisite prose and her universal themes of feminist heroism light the book brightly. (Karen Simonetti, Copyright 1999, American Library Assn.)
A review of The Terrorists of Irustan on Science Fiction Weekly by A.M. Dellamonica.
Tiptree website about
"The James Tiptree, Jr. Award has been recognizing science fiction and fantasy novels and stories that explore and expand gender for the past six years. Although the award itself is given to one or two works of fiction a year, each jury also produces a "short list" of notable works that were considered for the award. This first anthology contains almost all of the short fiction that has either won or been short-listed in the first five years of the award."
Read reviews of the anthology by Nalo Hopkinson in Science Fiction Weekly and by Don Webb in Tangent Online. I have the anthology by now and read half of the stories and IMO it's really worth it. There are so very different authors writing from different viewpoints represented in it that it gives a nice indication of the 'present state' of feminist science fiction. There's a lot to talk about.
According to the BDG rule a selection of the stories included in the anthology should be included in the nomination. 13 stories are a bit much to discuss. I think 8 stories is a good number to discuss and I propose the following:
1. Eleanor Arnason, "The Lovers"
2. James Patrick Kelly, "Chemistry"
3. Carol Emshwiller, "Venus Rising"
4. L. Timmel Duchamp, "Motherhood, Etc."
5. R. Garcia y Robertson, "The Other Magpie"
6. Ian McLeod, "Grownups"
7. Delia Sherman, "Young Woman in a Garden"
8. Ursula K. Le Guin, "The Matter of Seggri"
The remaining stories are
- Kelley Eskridge, "And Salome Danced"
- Ursula K. Le Guin, "Forgiveness Day"
- Ian McDonald, "Some Strange Desire"
- Graham Joyce and Peter F. Hamilton, "Eat Reecebread"
- Lisa Tuttle, "Food Man"
For those, who do not approve my selection: of course, all the other stories can be discussed as well as any book can always be discussed on the list (and my selection can also be discussed).
Willis also says, "What you think the story is about at first is almost invariably wrong. ...Kit Reed's true genius lies in her ablility to see straight through to the center of things. It's this clear-eyed ability to get below the surface and down to the reality--more than her flair for detail and dialogue, her quirky insights, her fantastical stage settings-- that makes Kit Reed stories unique. She sees straight through to the truth. And understands just how complicated that truth is."
20 short works, a treasure to keep but too much to take entire in just a month.
Suggest a selected few from the collection: The Wait; Cynosure; Songs of War; The Food Farm; Winter; The Bride of Bigfoot; Pilots of the Purple Twilight; The Mothers of Shark Island; any other suggestions?
Comments from the "short list" for the 1998 Tiptree (to be taken with a dose of salts).
Science Fiction Weekly review by John Clute, Leaving a Taste in the Mind.
AND, from the same site, a story that appears in the collection, "The New You" (not, by any means, the best in the book, but it has a great vintage feel to it).
For those who have the needed software installed: you can listen to Kit Reed reading "The Bride of Bigfoot" (which is part of Weird Women, Wired Women) at SCIFI.
Waitman explores one of the eternal questions in this absorbing new work of science fiction: what is life without balance? Dark without light? Good without opposition? And what are the consequences if someone works to eliminate the division? Sekmé, a warrior woman, finds herself thrust into the center of this controversy. No matter the outcome, the end will result in the destruction of life as the people of her land know it. By the author of The Merro Tree.
Distinctive contemporary fantasy set in the Arizona desert, from the well-known editor (the annual Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, with Ellen Datlow, etc.) When the prizewinning, gin-sozzled English poet Davis Cooper died in a dry gully (of drowning!) near his home east of Tucson, he left his house, papers, and real estate to budding poet Maggie Black, with whom he had corresponded but had never met. Separating from her talented but demanding musician husband Nigel, Maggie takes up residence in Cooper's old house, discovering fragments of unpublished poems, together with a gallery of extraordinary paintings left by Cooper's lover, Anna Naverra - paintings that Maggie finds both provocative and disturbing. The locals, too, seem to hint of another unseen world behind the real one, a world of magic and metamorphosis that Maggie can almost perceive, whose landscape is defined by mysterious, powerful mages operating by rules that she finds herself gradually able to comprehend. To understand Cooper, Naverra, and the unseen world, Maggie must delve deep inside her own being, where, ultimately, she will find the key to her own poetry - as well as the means to transcend space and time, to actually meet Cooper and unravel the mystery of his bizarre death. A splendid desert enchantment that flows with its own eerie logic - arresting, evocative, and well worked out despite the entirely superfluous last couple of chapters.
Folk Tales On-Line Magazine:
Books are letters from the author to the readers. In the case of Terri Windling's The Wood Wife, the letter is a love letter, a breathtaking yet gentle missive of affection for many things: the art of English illustrator Brian Froud; the Sonoran desert of Arizona; faery beliefs and Native American myths; and the odd enigmatic culture of the city of Tucson. Windling's passion for her setting and subject shine through like the clear golden sunlight of the desert, and somewhere along the way, she tells a fine, fine story as well, full of twists and turns and filigreed with love.