Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Surprising Science Fiction

The MargaretsIt’s always a treat when a book recommendation introduces you to a new favorite author. Several months ago, a colleague found out that I like to read science fiction, and recommended The Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri Tepper. This recommendation floated around for a while in the form of a post-it note, but recently I had a gap in my reading stack and decided to give it a try.

Parable of the SowerI read the book, no, I devoured the book, anxiously awaiting breaks and time after dinner to delve back into the narrative. When I finished it, I went right back to the beginning and got as far as page 60, before a (male) friend grabbed it from my hands and found it equally difficult to put down.

BellwetherWhen an author grabs you like that, it’s natural to want to know a little bit more about her. The biography in the ’89 paperback says that
Ms. Tepper lives in Colorado, just like another favorite science fiction writer, Connie Willis. However, my newly-Tepperist friend did a little more research, and it seems that Ms. Tepper is living right here in Santa Fe! I won’t go as far as looking her up in the phone book, but if we ever cross paths, I hope she has some time for coffee.

UbikI’ve been a science fiction reader for over 25 years, since my dad introduced me to the
Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. Seen by many as a genre by and for men, or, in the eyes of less charitable people, for adolescent boys, being a science fiction fan and a woman can be lonely. Believable and three-dimensional women characters aren’t always easy to find in science fiction. For example, my favorite SF author, the late Philip K. Dick, quite obviously worked out his feelings at his five failed marriages through his female characters. I often have to wince through his women to get at his ideas. But thankfully, women writers of science fiction have become more common, more respected, and easier to find.

HerlandIt’s strange that science fiction has been so often thought of as a guy thing, since one of the
classics of early SF was written by a young woman. Louisa May Alcott, Charlotte Brontë and Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote science fiction. If you’ve been missing out on some of the wonderful science fiction by women, here are some titles to give you a start:

Bellwether, by Connie Willis
The Dispossessed, by Ursula Le Guin
Woman on the Edge of TimeParable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler
Woman on the Edge of Time, by Marge Piercy
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, by James Tiptree, Jr. (aka Alice Sheldon)
Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood
(you thought I was going to say The Handmaid’s Tale, didn't you?)

The Conqueror's ChildThere are many more to add to
the list by writers such as Madeleine L'Engle, Kate Wilhelm, Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing and fellow New Mexican Suzy McKee Charnas. I’m always looking for a good book or a new author, so let me know whom I’ve missed!

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