Lightspeed Magazine, June 2014: Women Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue
by Christie Yant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is one of my favorite collections of stories and one of the best anthologies/magazines I’ve read so far in 2021. A lot of the stories in here a phenomenal. There are also a lot of authors in here who, in the past 6-7 years have become quite a bit more famous. That’s fun. The essay section was a little sad in the repetition of negative situations the women found themselves in. There were rays of hope in there, too. And I hope things are getting better. I’m certainly trying with my kids to raise them without gender limits.
As usual with a magazine or anthology, here are my reviews and notes for each story and essay:
ORIGINAL SHORT STORIES
– Each to Each by Seanan McGuire – What makes this tale of a SF future female navy extra scary is that we’ve done stuff like this before. We prefer looks over practicality. In this tale there are genetic modifications done to make the women better submariners (don’t want to give the plot away), but they are left with even larger breasts because that will increase the appeal for the program. At once terrifying and sweet, a great story by Ms. McGuire.
– A Word Shaped Like Bones by Kris Millering – This could almost have been in Nightmare magazine; a variant on the insanity of long-term space travel. A great subversion of my expectations.
– Cuts Both Ways by Heather Clitheroe – While this is immediately a meditation on what it’s like to work intel and get scarred by the situation, it also appears to have a couple other metaphors in it. The PTSD that our main character feels also seems an apt metaphor to what some folks on the autism spectrum describe as their lived reality when people don’t respect their needs. It also appears to be a slight metaphor for trans folks with the drugs and his whole situation going through airport security and having his body a source of ignorant questions. Even if none of that was Ms. Clitheroe’s intention, it’s still really neat that so much could fall out of one short story.
– Walking Awake by N.K. Jemisin: There is so much metaphor in one short story: slavery, complicity in opresssion, denial, how oppression can swallow the perpetrators of oppression, sacrifice, and more. It’s pretty powerful in a small package.
– The Case of the Passionless Bees by Rhonda Eikamp: A steampunk Sherlock Holmes, how delightful! Like any detective story, a good twist; one I didn’t expect.
– In the Image of Man by Gabriella Stalker: Combines late 80s-early 90s libertarian corporate dystopia with a solution to the mall crisis plus a little bit of of a reaction to the debt crisis. It’s really great.
– The Unfathomable Sisterhood of Ick by Charlie JaneJane Anders: Almost like a reverse Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Charlie Jane Anders has created a very interesting premise here. The story goes in some unexpected directions, but I really enjoyed it.
– Dim Sun by Maria Dahvana Headley: a science fantasy story about a good critic in the most exotic restaurant you’ve ever heard of. Funny and enjoyable.
– The Lonely Sea in the Sky by Amal El-Mohtar: I love this style of short story where it cycles between story and news clippings. Really enhances the universe of the story.
– A Burglary, Addressed By A Young Lady by Elizabeth Porter Birdsall: I’ve read some SF where, for some reason or another, Victorian values have reasserted themselves. But often they have some moral message within. This one seems to just be pure fun.
– Canth by K.C. Norton: The Science Fiction is almost incidental to the story and it falls more into Science Fantasy anyway. The story unfolds slowly, revealing a little more about the situation with each new discovery. A fairly neat and self-contained story, but I’d love to have another story with this protagonist.
– Like Daughter by Tananarive Due: An interesting story about clones that hearkens back to the debates from a few decades ago that treated clones as some weird mystical thing when they’re simply time-separated twins.
– The Great Loneliness by Maria Romasco Moore: A delightfully strange world full of clones and Popes frozen while waiting for the second coming. It’s ultimately more profound than it seems at first.
– Love is the Plan the Plan is Death by James Tiptree, Jr.: I’m sure there are all kinds of metaphors here about sex and gender and roles and so forth. But I hate stories like this that are hard to parse because the characters speak strangely and there isn’t anything to latch onto for understanding.
– Knapsack Poems by Eleanor Arnason: very cute and fun hive mind story. Really enjoyed it.
– The Cost to Be Wise by Maureen F. McHugh (novella): Deeply depressing story about a space colony that has fallen “backwards” on the civilization scale and the Earth anthropologists interacting with them.
ORIGINAL FLASH FICTION
– Salvage by Carrie Vaughn – The old, investigate a dead spaceship trope in flash fiction form.
– A Guide to Grief by Emily Fox – This one takes a little bit to parse because of the way it’s written – almost poetic, but it’s very neat once it comes together.
– See DANGEROUS EARTH-POSSIBLES! by Tina Connolly – A bit dark, but hopeful. Enjoyable.
A Debt Repaid by Marina J. Lostetter – an extremely dark short story involving a fascinating technology. Really moving.
– The Sewell Home for the Temporally Displaced by Sarah Pinsker – a very short story about a possible danger of time travel. Would love to see more in this universe.
– #TrainFightTuesday by Vanessa Torline – A really funny story about a superhero fight told via tweets
– The Hymn of Ordeal, No. 23 by Rhiannon Rasmussen – A story that could be considered a metaphor for how our soldiers often come back in worse physical shape than the left.
– Emoticon by Anaid Perez – A very, very short story.
– The Mouths by Ellen Denham – a very interesting story about a society with only one sense organ
– M1A by Kim Winternheimer – HOLY MOLY! You can make stuff sound REALLY scary when it’s from a kid’s point of view! An interesting take on the stem cell debate. Showed this to my wife who is really into horror. She said it’s one of the most disturbing things she’s ever read. Now we’re reading Nightmare Magazine’s People of Colour Destroy Horror issue. Also, she has a different interpretation of the ending which is that the main girl will be replaced by the clone because the clone is more capable.
– Standard Deviant by Holly Schofield – A very cool story about how much worth we truly have.
– Getting on in Years by Cathy Humble – A really neat story about how we can be and are manipulated by PR firms.
– Ro-Sham-Bot by Effie Seiberg – A neat story about bots and sentience.
– Everything That Has Already Been Said by Samantha Murray – a poetic story.
– The Lies We Tell Our Children by Katherine Crighton – a pretty sad story about parenting
Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold – seems to be a sci-fi/fantasy combo in the Neo Pulp tradition. Added it to my TBR pile.
– All of these involved talking about stories that appeared before: Seanan McGuire, Kris Millering, Heather Clitheroe, N.K. Jemisin, Rhonda Eikamp, Gabriella Stalker, Charlie Jane Anders, Maria Dahvana Headley, Amal El-Mohtar, Elizabeth Porter Birdsall, K.C. Norton, Tananarive Due, Maria Romasco Moore, Eleanor Arnason, Maureen McHugh
– Artists Spotlight by Galen Dara – Interviews with all the artists and their galleries.Artist Gallery: Li Grabenstetter; Artist Gallery: Hillary Pearlman; Artist Gallery: Elizabeth Leggett; Artist Gallery: Christine Mitzuk
– Illusion, Expectation, and World Domination through Bake Sales by Pat Murphy – we still have unconscious bias, maybe through science fiction we can start changing assumptions.
– Women Remember by Mary Robinette Kowal – A very cool interview and the older generation of female genre fiction writers. They talk about how things have changed and how they’re the same. Also some conversation about the acceptance of genre fiction in the broader literary world.
– Interview: Kelly Sue DeConnick by Jennifer Willis – An interview with one of my favorite comic book writers about how she got into comics and her views of the industry, particularly as a female writer. It’s a good interview, but I wonder how much more incredible the interview could have been if Bitch Planet was already out at the time.
– The Status Quo Cannot Hold by Tracie Welser – A summary of a feminist SF convention. Sounds like it was a very awesome time.
– How to Engineer a Self-Rescuing Princess by Stina Leicht – A great essay with a reading list for the budding female SF fan.
– Screaming Together: Making Women’s Voices Heard by Nisi Shawl –
– We are the Fifty Percent by Rachel Swirsky – this goes in a slightly different direction than i thought it would. It’s less about women being approximately 50% of the population and now about how people over-perceive women’s presence.
– Science Fiction: You’re Doin’ It Wrong by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff – about the perception (among some) that women automatically can’t write hard SF.
– Join Us in the Future by Marissa Lingen – About the whiplash of enjoying female SFG authors for years and then realizing some think that women don’t write in the genre.
– Are We There Yet? by Sheila Finch – another essay about dealing with the idea that women can’t write hard
– Not a Spaceship, Robot, or Zombie in Sight by Anne Charnock – about writing SF without the usual tropes.
– Writing Among the Beginning of Women by Amy Sterling Casil – another person who was rejected from SF because she focused on character development.
– Toward a Better Future by Nancy Jane Moore – editors should work to increase the amount of women published so that new authors will feel there is a market.
– We Are the Army of Women Destroying SF by Sandra Wickham – an essay that i think supports the idea that people raised without limits will not accept their imposition.
– Read SF and You’ve Got a Posse by Gail Marsella – a great essay about the camaraderie in the SF world.
– Stomp All Over That by O. J. Cade – a poetic essay about women in science and SF.
– For the Trailblazers by Kristi Charish – a really awesome essay about someone who’s only had positive experiences in the fields of science and genre writing.
– Women are the Future of Science Fiction by Juliette Wade – another neat essay about gate keeping
– We Have Always Fought by Kameron Hurley – I think this is my favorite essay, probably because it is longer and has much more space to make its point. Ms Hurley does an awesome job conveying why it’s important to make sure the women in SFF are more than 1D caricatures.
– Writing Stories, Wrinkling Time by Kat Howard – One of many essays that mentioned how A Wrinkle in Time was a life-changing read.
– Where Are My SF Books? by DeAnna Knippling – Bemoaning the last of middle grade SF books. (A sentiment I share!)
– Reading the Library Alphabetically by Liz Argall – Both a view to how even the old Golden Age SF could be inspiring to *some* women and a tale of internalized misogyny.
– Stepping Through a Portal by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam – Again, about how there have always been a lot of women genre writers, but they often aren’t taken seriously.
– The Wendybird by Stina Leicht – Another essay about internalizing misogyny from old genre stories.
– I Wanted to be the First Woman on the Moon by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley – About how easy it is for the adults to kill (or at least smother) drive in children.
– Never Think of Yourself as Less by Helena Bell – Introduced to SF by her mother, but her mother was going with what she knew – perpetuating the cycle of the idea that it’s men who write SF.
– An ABC of Kickass by Jude Griffin – An alphabet poem celebrating women authors of the past and present.
– Stocking Stuffers by Anaea Lay – About being 13 and getting the perfect SF book for Christmas.
– Breaching the Gap by Brooke Bolander – X-Files leads the author to a depiction of a realistic woman in SFF.
– Women Who Are More Than Strong by Georgina Kamsika – A call for more SF featuring women
– A Science-Fictional Woman by Cheryl Morgan – an interesting essay with a few different ideas, but that meshes with what other essays have said – the future is here and that has changed some of the ways people are seeing SFF and how that brings out regressive ideas and actions in some.
– Your Future is Out of Date by Pat Murphy – Another essay talking about how books have the power to affect the way people think.
– Stray Outside the Lines by E. Catherine Tobler – about not letting the constant moves against you kill your motivation.
– My Love Can Destroy by Seanan McGuire – About how lonely it can be when you have to hide your passions.
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