galacticjourney: (Default)


Here's a question I've gotten more than once: what is the point in spotlighting woman writers? Shouldn't I simply point out the good stories as I find them, and if they happen to be written by women, bully for them? Why should I create an artificial distinction?

Those are actually fine questions, about which I've given much thought. I make no claims to being an expert, or even someone whose opinion should matter much to you. All I have is my taste, my gut and (lucky for me) my own column in which to voice my opinions. So take my words as strictly my viewpoint.

We live in a particular kind of world. Men are the default: the default heroes, the default writers, even the default pronoun. Open a history book, and it will be filled with the names of great men. Women are a seeming afterthought. You may not even have thought twice about it. It seems "natural" that movies should star men, that books should star men, that men should be the generals, the presidents.

But, there is a change a brewing. Black men universally won the right to vote in 1865. Women secure duniversal suffrage in 1920, fully three generations after the least privileged men. The gap is narrowing. This year, a Black man became skipper of a U.S. Naval vessel. 1961 also marks the year a woman became a shipboard U.S. Naval officer for the first time. Women are now just one generation behind the least advantaged of the men. Someday, we may be on a level playing field, all races of men and women.

Science fiction is supposed to be forward-looking, yet socially it seems stuck in the present, or even the past. One almost never reads about woman starship captains or woman presidents or woman...well... anything. I don't think this is the result of deliberate collusion by the science fiction writing community. It's just that society is the air we breathe. We are unconsciously bound by its rules and traditions. Unless something shakes up our viewpoints, we'll stick in our ruts and continue to accept this male-dominated paradigm as the natural order of things.

So when I spot something unusual that I think should be universal, I note it. I encourage it. I enjoy it.

Without further ado, part #3 of my encyclopedic catalog of the woman writers active as of this year of 1961:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
galacticjourney: (Default)
If you've been a fan in the scientificition/fantasy genre for any length of time, you've likely been exposed to rumors of its impending doom. The pulps are gone. The magazines are dying. The best writers are defecting for the lucre of the "slicks."

And what is often pointed to as the cause of the greatest decline of an entity since Commodus decided he liked gladiating more than emperoring? The visual media: science fiction films and television. Why read when you can watch? Of course, maybe the quality's not up to the standards set by written fiction, but who cares?

All this hubbub is silly. There are two reasons why printed sf/f isn't going anywhere, at least for the next few decades. The first is that the quality isn't in the films or television shows. Sure, there are some stand-outs, like the first season of The Twilight Zone, and the occasional movie that gets it right, but for the most part, it's monsters in rubber suits and the worst "science" ever concocted.

But the second reason, and this is the rub, is the sheer impermanence of the visual media. If you miss a movie during its run, chances are you've missed out forever. Ditto, television. For instance, I recently learned that an episode of Angel (think I Love Lucy, but with a French accent) starred ex-Maverick, James Garner. I'm out of luck if I ever want to see it unless it happens to make the summer re-runs.

My magazines, however, reside on my shelves forever. I can re-read them at will. I can even loan them out to my friends (provided they pony up a $10 deposit). They are permanent, or at least long-lived.

And that's why I'll stick with my printed sf, thank-you-very-much.



Speaking of permanence, I think April 1961 will be a red-letter date remembered for all time. It's the first time, that I'm aware of, that women secured equal top-billing on a science fiction magazine cover. To wit, this month's Fantasy and Science Fiction features six names, three of which belong to woman writers. Exciting stuff, particularly given my observation that, while female writers make up only a ninth of the genre's pool, they produce a fourth of its best stuff.

(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
galacticjourney: (Default)
Happy birthday to me! I entered my fifth decade of life yesterday; I hope middle age will be kind to me.

This month's F&SF certainly has been. I have an interesting mix of stories about which to relate.

It has often been said that, to be a good writer, one must be an avid reader. There is no better way to learn the tricks of the trade than to see how others have manipulated the printed word. I, myself, have been a writer for two decades, but I still often find some new technique that impresses me sufficiently to enter my repertoire.


Permission to republish graciously granted by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

Something that struck me while reading Gordon Dickson's quite good modern fantasy, "The Amulet," was its focus on sensual descriptions. You always know the temperature and flavor of the air, the tactile qualities of a seat, the character of sound and light. It makes this a very feeling story, very visceral.

The following psi/space-travel story, by brand-newcomer Anne McCaffrey, The Woman in the Tower, is far more spare in its descriptions. The focus is on a series of telepathic conversations that presumably carry little sensual information. It is a story drawn almost in skeleton sparseness, and it makes sense in the context.

Seeing the two techniques in stark juxtaposition really drove home how important it is to focus (or choose not to focus) on the scenery. Frankly, when I write fiction, I am often afraid to lavish attention on the background or prosaic items for fear of boring my audience. Yet spending some extra time describing an item or sensation is the literary equivalent of conveying the focus of a character's attention. It happens in real life, so it should happen in a story, where appropriate.

So an oldish dog can learn new tricks!

Aside from all that, you probably want to know more about the stories, themselves. Well, The Amulet has witches and all the paraphernalia associated with them. It's a dark story with a dark viewpoint character, about as different from The Man in the Mailbag (April 1959 Galaxy) as you can get. Gordy's got some range.

McCaffrey's tale features a future in which a few supremely powerful telepaths with the ability to teleport matter have become the foundation for an interstellar transportation system. It is a first contact story in several ways, and it is also a love story. I found it very good though perhaps with a bit of the rough-hewn quality one associates with new writers. I hope we see more of Anne in the future.

Speaking of unusual writing styles, Asimov has a piece of fiction in the issue in addition to his science article. Unto the Fourth Generation is an interesting mood piece involving the evolution of a name's spelling and pronunciation over time. Perhaps the only "Jewish" piece I've seen Asimov write, it is a departure from his usual unadorned, functional technique. I liked it.

That's that for this installment, but there are still several more stories on which to report. And if you're an Asimov-o-phile, you'll like this column 'round the end of the month.

Stay tuned!

P.S. Some have inquired as to what happened to the March F&SF and how I got my hands on an early April release. The answer is simple--the author of this column pulled a "Charlie Gordon" (as opposed to a "David Gordon," which some would argue is worse). I actually managed to pick up both the March and April copies at the same time at the source, the latter being a pre-release proof. So entranced was I by the cover that I started reading and forgot that I needed to do March first.

Please forgive me, and if the order bothers you, I recommend swapping your left eye for your right, or perhaps reading upside down.





(Confused? Click here for an explanation as to what's really going on)

Profile

galacticjourney: (Default)
galacticjourney

September 2017

S M T W T F S
      12
3 45 67 89
101112 1314 1516
17 1819 2021 2223
24252627282930

Links

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 23rd, 2017 02:10 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios