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by Rosemary Benton

It's an interesting premise: what would a meeting between Apaches and Tartars be like in a “wild west-esque” science fiction setting? And what if the Apaches were American explorers while the Tartars were from the Soviet Union? Andre Norton sets out to explore this idea in The Defiant Agents, her third installment in the Time Traders series.

This time it's not agents of the future who are being sent physically into the past, but rather the minds of a select group of volunteer Apache explorers who are on a rushed mission to reclaim the alien planet Topaz from the Communists...



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Rosemary Benton

Catseye is the short, but very well written, science fiction novel from the pen of the legendary Andre Norton. I'm ashamed to say that I haven't experienced much of Norton's writing myself, although her fans sing her praise joyfully and have repeatedly recommended her titles to me. Reading the back cover of Catseye while in my town's book store, I had to berate myself for not looking into her before. If half of what her book promised was true, then here was an author that I could fully invest in. I was not disappointed.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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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!)
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I didn't start Galactic Journey with the intention of spotlighting female writers and characters in science fiction. It just happened organically. A good many of my readers are women, and their interests may have influenced me. Or perhaps I simply became bored with the status quo. Woman authors tend to be more experimental or, at least, stylistically unique. And good female characters are a rare surprise (though increasing in frequency).

For a column that emphasizes the literary contributions of the species' better half, there has been one curiously large omission. Not once have I reviewed a work by Andre Norton.

Norton, despite the masculine pen name, is a woman, and she is one of the genre's most prolific writers. I think she has escaped my ken because she tends to write juveniles and fantasy novels, so she doesn't appear in my magazine subscriptions. I also attempted to start one of her books at a reader's suggestion (Star Gate), and I found it impenetrable.



But last month, I was caught up with current publications and an Ace Double from a few years back attracted my interest: The Crossroads of Time by Norton paired up with Mankind on the Run by Gordon Dickson. I finished Norton's short novel over Thanksgiving weekend, and here's what I found:

(find out at Galactic Journey!)

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