Friday, May 23, 2008

Far, far away

Next up in the Connie Willis sci-fi obsession was a collection of short stories she co-edited. (I will read all of her books by the end of the summer!) I've always loved books of short stories -- they're perfect for ADD lapses and/or busy schedules.

A Woman's Liberation: a Choice of Futures By and About Women seems like it should have presented different possibilities for a feminist manifesto. Which would have been ubercool. But there were no differing views of feminism, and no manifestos. Not by a long shot. Maybe I need to stop seeing politics in everything, but I can't (and quite frankly won't.)

Except for the last and longest story (which was also the most depressing because it linked the brutal history of American plantation slavery with women's enfranchisement and sexual slavery, and recast it in a future in outer space), it's really just a group of stories with female protagonists. The spectrum is good, though -- like any good ensemble it includes funny, bizarre, and sad tales. Connie Willis' introduction discusses the notion of flexibility within the sci-fi genre. So Vonda McIntyre's "Of Mist and Grass and Sand" and Katherine McLean's "The Kidnapping of Baroness 5" are sort of borderline fantasy stories, not stereotypically sci-fi. And S.N. Dyer's "The July Ward" is really just a ghost story (and my favorite of the bunch -- it's about doctors and patients who die).

As someone who is new to appreciating sci-fi (history nerds, sociologists, and political wonks can be harsh critics of alternate societies created, imagined, and marketed entirely within the existing and highly problematic ones), Connie Willis has been instrumental in helping me overcome my irrationally lifelong distrust of the genre. And now I also have a list of other great female authors to investigate at the library.

Also, I was excited to see McIntyre's story included, because she volunteered for us a lot, and was really nice.