the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘science fiction

The Future is Female!  25 Classic Science Fiction Stores by Women, from Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. Le Guin, edited by Lisa Yaszek

published in 2018 (features scifi stories from 1928-1969)

where I got it: borrowed from a friend

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When a friend offered to let me borrow his copy of The Future is Female,  I jumped at the chance. The volume features science fictioni short stories dating back to 1928, and featuring authors like C.L. Moore, Kit Reed, Judith Merril, Kate Wilhelm, Leigh Brackett, and of course Ursula K. LeGuin and James Tiptree, Jr., among many, many others.   I pick up a lot of random scifi anthologies and single author collections, I liked the idea that this one pulled fiction from across so many decades and generations. There is also a companion website, womensf.loa.org, that offers more in depth author biographies, and a truly excellent trove of cover art of the magazines and anthologies where these stories were originally featured. (Note to self: remember this website later this month when we’re talking about scifi cover art!)

 

The introduction, by editor Lisa Yaszek, gives a very, very quick summary of three generations of writers, and the pulp magazines they wrote for.  I got a chuckle out of Yaszek’s discussion of why these female writers often wrote under a pseudonym – in a number of cases it was to protect their jobs, their privacy, and to protect their government clearance.  I also laughed out loud at the editors mention of some authors with female names, who upon further research, turned out to be men!

 

Designed to be read in the order presented,  I was a jerk and jumped all around in the table of contents, reading what looked interesting first. So far, I’ve read only a handful of the short stories, here are my thoughts on them.   And yes, there are spoilers in some of these mini-reviews, and no I don’t feel bad about the spoilers. These stories are in many cases, older than my parents!

 

The Black God’s Kiss by C.L. Moore (1934) – this is a famous short story, which I am embarrassed to say I have never read until now.  A sci-fantasy starring Moore’s famous Jirel of Joiry, Jirel must defend her fallen lands against the invader Guilliame. Since no weapon on earth can destroy Guilliame, Jirel travels to an unearthly underworld in search of a weapon that can stop him. Here’s where things go from an epic fantasy to sci-fantasy – there are changes in gravity, changes in the laws of physics, possibly alien technology. I love the atmospheric feeling in this story! Makes me want to read a lot more Moore.  She hasn’t got time to wonder about all the amazing (and sometimes horrifying) things she comes across, her goal is Get the Weapon, and then Get Home, and then Kill Guilliame. What she has to do to get the weapon, and what the weapon is, I was not expecting any of this, and I hope it was shocking in the 1930s. Highly recommended.

 

Space Episode by Leslie Perri (1941) –  Lida, Michael, and Erik are astronauts, and upon return to Earth their ship was hit by a micro-meteor, doing damage to one of the engines. If they are going to survive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, someone has to go outside the ship to repair the engine. With the damage to the airlock, whoever goes outside will not be able to get back in. One of these astronauts must sacrifice their life to save the other two.  Lida assumes one of the men will make the sacrifice, but they turn out to be cowards, so (spoiler) she does it. When this story was originally published, apparently male science fiction fans took offense to having to read about two cowardly male characters. Is Lida a heroic female astronaut? Or is she a heroic astronaut?

 

That Only a Mother by Judith Merril (1948) – a cautionary tale. The bombs fell far away, but the radiation and chemicals are in the air here too,  causing children to be born with horrible mutations. Maggie is sure her unborn baby will be fine, and when her husband Hank gets called back to the labs after their daughter’s birth, Maggie sends him letters telling him about their little girls beautiful face, and her laughter, and her development.  If there is anything wrong with their daughter, Maggie hasn’t said a word. In fact, their little girl seems to be developing quicker than expected, at less than a year old, she can speak and can even sing a little! When Hank is finally granted shore leave to spend days on end with his wife and baby daughter,  he discovers a secret he must keep, forever. I was not AT ALL prepared for the shocker of an ending. In the biography area, it is mentioned that not only was That Only A Mother Merril’s first SF story, but it was written to win a bet with John W. Campbell. And yes, she won the bet handily.

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Hello and welcome to this week’s #VintageSciFi discussion!

Topic for Jan 6 – Jan 12:  I just dated myself. In your experience, which vintage SF books don’t feel dated?  What titles have passed the test of time, and feel like they could have been written in the last ten years? Is such a book possible? What, in your opinion, makes something feel dated?

Anytime this week, post a blog post with your thoughts, and leave the link down in the comments so others can more easily find your post.

Not sure where to start?  Here are my questions and thoughts.

 

What makes a Vintage book feel dated?  

On the hard scifi side of things, whenever I read an older science fiction story and the author talks about “computers the size of a room”, or punchcards, I laugh my head off.  1960 called, they want their room sized computer back!  I do want my scifi to have technology – computers, spaceships, flying cars, but almost the less the author speaks to the specifics of the inner workings of the technology (how exactly the spaceship flies, how big/small the computer is), the less dated it feels.  Vintage Science fiction is more a victim of the “dated through technology” issue than vintage fantasy. In fantasy, a magic wand is a magic wand, you know?

Many readers are turned off and bothered by the fact that older scifi fantasy books tend to feature only white, male protagonists, and that female and non-white characters are built around stereotypes and flimsy characterization.  This can make a book feel not only horribly dated, but also offensive.  In my personal experience, I’ve read some books where this is super-bothersome for me, and other times i am not as bothered. Could be the author, could be the mood i’m in that day, I have no idea.

 

What dated books do I enjoy, even though they feel dated?

 

I recently read Isaac Asimov’s Caves of Steel (review coming soon!).  It is horribly dated, often to the point of being funny. The main character comes off as a country bumpkin at times, and i’m hoping that was on purpose, actually, and his wife is written as a 1 dimensional cartoon character. More of this in the review, but his entire worldview is just so narrow as to be silly.  So, yes, horribly dated, but more in the review about why I think this is an important read, and how influential the ideas presented were.

 

One of my favorite older short story collections is The Best of Hal Clement, but yeah, in style and pacing, these stories feel really dated.  Lots of hard scifi, good conversations, excellent commentary on communication between humans and aliens.  If you’ve never read any Hal Clement, this paperback is worth hunting for.

 

It should surprise no one that Mary Shelley Frankenstein does feel dated, and in my opinion this is 100% due to the writing style, which was perfectly modern when the book came out two hundred years ago (Yes, TWO HUNDRED years ago!!).  If you’re not sure where to start with historical Science Fiction,  Frankenstein a perfect place to start.

 

What Vintage SciFi Books have you read that didn’t feel dated?

 

I’m really interested to hear what everyone else has to say on this one, because the only ones that quickly come to mind for me are Dune by Frank Herbert,  Nova by Samuel Delany,  Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm, and Waystation by Clifford Simak. With the Wilhelm title,  the first chapter or two feel a little dated, but everything after that could have been written last year.

What do Dune and Nova have in common?  They take place in the far future, and the lives and goals of the characters have nothing to do with today’s life on Earth.  In Nova, Earth and Earth based politics are mentioned, but Lorq’s decisions are not based on 20th century Earth.

 

Now it’s your turn to join the discussion!

As always, my “best of the year” is the best stuff I consumed this year.  It may not have been created this year, but I read it or watched it this year.

My favorite novels that I read in 2018

Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee

The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Latchkey by Nicole Kornher-Stace

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

The Scar (reread) by China Mieville

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

Nova by Samuel Delany

 

 

My favorite short stories, novellas, and novelettes that I read in 2018. Huh. I read a lot of short stuff in 2018!  and a lot of really good short stuff!

The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Acadie by Dave Hutchinson

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

The Inconvenient God by Francesca Forrest

Time Was by Ian McDonald

“Monologue by an unnamed mage, recorded at the brink of the end” by Cassandra Khaw, Uncanny Magazine

“On the Day You Spend Forever with Your Dog”, by Adam Shannon, Apex Magazine

 

 

My favorite science fiction movies of 2018

Annihilation, starring Natalie Portman

Bird Box (on Netflix), starring Sandra Bullock

(honorable mention to Arrival and Interstellar, because I watched them both about 20 times while we had Amazon Prime in 2018)

 

As 2018 wraps up,  2019 is already looking to be amazing.  Because, this.

I was hoping to write full length reviews of these books, but well, life (and Netflix) happens, so I didn’t.  Here are some ultra quick reviews of some recent reads!

 

Vicious by V.E. Schwab – I am finally on the Schwab bandwagon, and I can see why she has the following she has.  Vicious was hella fun! I described it to a friend as “gleefully violent”. Think Flatliners meets X-Men, But twice as snarky and three times as smart.  Tight writing, fast paced, not a wasted sentence. I enjoyed every minute of reading this book! I will def be reading the sequel, Vengeful.

 

Noumenon Infinity by Marina J. Lostetter –  I really loved the first book, Noumenon, and my Dad did too. So we read the 2nd book together.  I had a hard time getting into this book, very little of the characters I’d enjoyed so much from the first book. Had I not been reading it along with my Dad I would have DNF’d it. Too much felt like a plot device – too much of “ok, so this plot thing needs to happen for the story to go in this particular direction because that direction makes sense”, and then exactly that happened. The big reveal at the end wasn’t a surprise at all. I wish C had been a bigger part of this book.  Lots of great science and an intriguing first contact plot line, but execution was flawed.

 

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal –  very fast paced, Kowal has a ton of story to cram into a not very long novel.  I loved the alternate history extinction level event – a meteor lands off the Atlantic coast, taking Washington DC with it. Within a few decades we may not be able to survive on Earth, so it’s to the stars we go! Elma is a “computer”, that is, she is a math savant who can do complicated calculations in her head faster than a 1950s computer can. She’s also a pilot. Who says women can’t be astronauts? Umm…   all the male astronauts, and the government,  that’s who. So Elma and all her female pilot friends will just have to prove them wrong. This book teetered right on the line of Punching You In The Face Every Other Page with all the isms. You might not even notice that aspect, you might love it, you might hate it.  This is a prequel to Kowal’s novellette The Lady Astronaut of Mars, which you can still read over at Tor.com.

 

Bride’s Story vol 10 by Kaoru Mori – Finally the story is  back to Amir and Karlak! Karlak has decided to spend a few seasons with Amir’s family, so that he can learn how to hunt with a bow and understand more about her family’s nomadic culture.  Amir’s brothers and cousins quickly adopt Karlak, and even though he has a lot to learn, they treat him with respect. Karlak is even gifted with a hunting eagle. I think Karlak went into this expecting Amir’s brother and cousins to treat him like a child, like a “city boy”, like a joke.  And they treat him with hospitality and respect.  The artwork in the scenes with the eagles were incredible! I love this series for the artwork alone!  The last third of the volume goes back to Smith. He gets the surprise of his life, and he’s going to decide what to do with her. And she no longer has a home to return to. Volumes 7 – 9 were all over the place and didn’t have much focus, so I’m happy that this volume has more focus and features more of my favorite characters.

Watching!

 

I’ve gotten hooked on The Final Table on Netflix  – Think Iron Chef mixed with the drama of Chopped, but the dial cranked up to twelve. It’s over produced and more than a little ridiculous. Lol, maybe it’s Total. Drama. Cooking show! My favorite part has become the “final plate” portion. The judges for the final plate portion of each episode give supportive and positive feedback.  There is a contestant I wish had more screen time, he is slender, wears round glasses, and wears his brown hair in a ponytail. I want to know how long his hair is. He looks like an anime guy!

 

And speaking of anime,  I’ve also gotten hooked on Castlevania, also on Netflix.   An American version of the Japanese anime, this is paced and designed more to western tastes and expectations. I nearly cried in the first episode. The characters are snarky, sweary, fighty, and the dialog is fantastic.  I’m only 4 or 5 episodes in, and we just met Alucard, who is most certainly not the sleeping savior soldier. (I knew he had to show up eventually). Oh boy, my female gaze is strong with this one! How are those pants staying on?  I know (i hope at least) he’s not there just for fan service, but DAMN.  Anyway,  great characters who are snarky, sweary, smart, and sexy? And an excellent Dracula story? Um, yes please!

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately. How about you? what have you read, watched, and enjoyed?

What happens every December?

Christmas? the Solstice?  not enough sunlight?

close!

 

Every December I get read for Vintage Science Fiction month in January!

I’ve been hosting this little party since 2012, by reading and celebrating science fiction and fantasy that is older than I am – that is, created in 1979 or earlier.  Over the years, the party has grown!  it’s grown so big I can’t host it alone anymore.  Red Star Reviews is my fantastic co-host, and we’ll be posting, tweeting, retweeting, insta-ing, tubing, and a bunch of other cool stuff.

Follow us on twitter at https://twitter.com/VintageSciFi_ , find us on bookstagram, mention us on YouTube, retweet and share what your friends are doing.  January is a wibbly wobbly timey wimey kind of month.

Here’s some artwork you can use:

I’m expecting January to be a bit busy, what with this and that.   But I still plan on enjoying some vintage reads, and helping our new VintageSciFi-ers find some old treats that they’ve probably never heard of.

 

With apologies to whatever has happened to the cover of this Kate Wilhelm book, here is my Vintage SciFi Month TBR:

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm was published in 1976. I’ve been looking for a copy of this book for at least 5 years, and  when I found this be-stickered copy at a used bookstore I snapped it up! now I just need some goo-gone and some patience to unveil the original cover art.

 

The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers was published in 1979 and was the author’s first major novel. I have no idea what this book is about (time travel? beer? saving the world?) , but Tim Powers is a little like being Batman: Always read whatever you want, unless you can read a Tim Powers book, then always read Tim Powers.  Powers is one of those authors that when I see a book of his that I don’t already own, I automatically buy it.

 

I was in a twitter conversation the other day about Where to Start With Asimov. I’ve always loved his I Robot stories, but I’ve read them to death. But it’s probably been ten years since I’ve read the Robot novels. Here’s to hoping these books aren’t too horribly dated!  The Caves of Steel was published in 1954.

 

So what’s on your #VintageSciFi list?

The Weight of Words, edited by Dave McKean and William Schafer

published in 2017

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher

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While whining about the books I’ve read recently and not reviewed (dear Andrea: is it OK to read something and not review it right away!), I got thinking about a book I’ve been reading and re-reading, and touching and oohing and aahing over the artwork of.  I’ve had this book in my possession for over a year, and it’s become less traditional anthology and more touchstone. The themes of the stories are all over the place – sad, creepy, hopeful, full of release, full of tension, seeking closure. The only thing these stories have in common is the artwork. If you’ve got a friend who loves the intersection of art and storytelling, this would make a great gift.

 

The Weight of Words, edited by Dave McKean and William Shafer came out around this time last year, but it’s a book I needed months and months to think about.  Dave McKean’s multi layered artwork draws you in, and then like a fractal, keeps drawing you in. This surreal artwork is the perfect match for speculative fiction stories that speak of places that never were.    These images tell a thousand stories, I almost feel bad for the authors who had to decide on just one plot line and write a short story!

Something incredible happens when artwork and storytelling intersect, something that feels like a chemical reaction.   The Weight of Words includes fiction by Joe Hill, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Catherynne Valente, Maria Dahvana Headley, Joe R. Lansdale, Alastair Reynolds, and more.

 

Here are my thoughts on some of my favorite stories in the collection:

 

Belladonna Nights by Alastair Reynolds –  McKean’s artwork prompt is a strange image of a clocktower, and violins growing out of the tops of the tower.  Reynolds took this fantastically surreal image and wrote a far future space opera about a reunion. Campion can continue to protect Shaula, or he can tell her the truth about her past.  If he tells her the truth, nothing will ever be the same again, and keeping up the lie is killing him. Just so you know, this story made me cry. I learned after I read the story that this story takes place in Reynold’s “House of Suns” world.

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Hello fellow #RRSciFiMonth readers! I wanted to share with you some of my favorite science fiction that I’ve read over the last year or so. If you’ve ever wondered to yourself “what kind of science fiction does Little Red Reviewer enjoy?” this list should answer that question. the links will take you to my review.

 

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

 

The Machineries of Empire trilogy by Yoon Ha Lee, which includes Ninefox Gambit, Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun. I love everything about this trilogy, even though I am still recovering from that scene that made me cry hysterically for most of two days. Here’s a link to all three reviews, but read everything after the Ninefox Gambit review at your own risk because Spoilers!

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells – A murderous cyborg who balances a heart of gold, an addiction to soap operas, and hating on humans. My fave entry so far is the 2nd one – Artificial Condition.

The Penultimate Truth by Philip K Dick – Fake news! First half of the book is excellent, second half isn’t so awesome, but this book is still worth the read.

Acadie by Dave Hutchinson – the best fun you’ll have in 100 pages

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer – weird, wonderful, post-apocalyptic. I hope one day Rachel feels safe enough that she can take her shoes off.

Nova by Samuel Delany – this story hasn’t aged a day! a compelling read that keeps you turning the pages. Excellent characters, fast paced plot.


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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