Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Invisible Women in S-P-A-A-A-C-E!!!!

This is appearing as a blog post, and not a book review,  for two reasons:
1. I am reforming my blogging patterns, based on advice from experts. If I have something to say, I will blog it.
2. Ummm...I haven't actually READ it yet.

I HAVE however, read the most excellent and illuminating introduction by that powerhouse editor/writer, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and it answers a question that has been bothering me for at least the past 10 years or so. And so, after getting the TRUE DIRT (!!!) on the subject, I decided I had to get this out of my system NOW, rather than trust my attention deficit disorder to bubble it to the surface at a later date. This is an issue for me, because I read books in AT LEAST two different locations, sometimes three, and rarely four. Right now, this is my upstairs bathroom book. I'm reading something else downstairs in the man cave, which is where I write my reviews. I don't know how long it will take me to FINISH WOMEN IN SP A A A C E !!! but I do know that the message is right now.
Okay, here's the question I have: Why does it seem today that the field of science fiction is sexist, when it DIDN'T feel that way earlier? I have been reading science fiction AT LEAST for 50 years. I stuck with it, because it seemed to me to be the literature of hopeful futures and escape from a dreary reality, and you just can't get there if you are systematically ignoring and repressing people. And yet, I have read a LOT of smart people who have said that the history of science fiction is replete with male dominance.
I'm reminded of the scene in "Miracle on 34th Street" where the clerk tells Santa Claus that he just found out he hated his mother. He observes sadly, "I never knew that. I always thought I loved her!"
Ummm...the field that helped me keep it together for so long was training me to be a gynophobe? Gee, I never knew that. I always thought I liked women.
But the people who have been saying that CAN'T all be wrong. It's impossible. There are some incredibly gifted people out there with legitimate issues, and so it would be ignorant not to see if there is some truth to the claim.
And that's what Rusch does in her introduction. And I'm going to let you in on the secret.
But you still have to buy the book.
Okay, FIRST of all, Rusch has had her own experiences of being trivialized and ignored, and has been witness to this happening to other women. Just to cite ONE example, she was editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction from 1991 - 1997, after Edward Ferman and before Gordan Gelder. Yet, when Locus magazine announced a new editor in January of 2015, and published a list of past F&SF editors, they left her name off the list. She is confident that it was a simple accident, and not a conspiracy, but still: she was the first female editor of one of the most prestigious titles, and she became a non-person. Just like that.
So, she met with the utterly fabulous-in-every-way Toni Weisskopf, publisher of Baen, and pitched an anthology of the early ground-breaking women in science fiction, and this work is the result.
And what did she find? Why have women become non-persons?
From the beginning (literally, we are talking Amazing Stories in 1928 here) women have been writing and editing science fiction, and getting lots of followers. And then, they vanished. WHY?
Simple answer follows; to get a more detailed answer, you have to read the book.
Even though their works were well received in the pages of the magazines, they were NOT featured in the 'Best Of' anthologies for the year. And people typically go to anthologies, rather than dig up the old tattered issues themselves.
And she documents the crap out of this abysmal fact, closely following the research done by Eric Leif Davin, which was published in 2006 . And if you want more information of THAT, you gotta read the book.
And if you want to know WHY they were left out of the anthologies; well, she has some ideas. But she deserves to have these presented in her words, not mine.
I've listed the Amazon link to the book at the top of the page; you can get it directly from Baen here. If you have EVER wondered why there is a flutter, and I think we all have, then the introduction is something you need to read. Then, read the stories, because they are good examples of the work women were doing Way Back Then. The story I am MOST familiar with is the oldest, a creepy little bit of creepiness called "Shambleau" by C. L. Moore.
After I read all of the stories, I WILL do a review, but the introduction packs the punch, as far as I'm concerned.


  1. Thanks for favorably mentioning this book, and my own in passing. Rusch is right, and it's a point I also make in my book, that the plethora of women's stories in the early SF mags weren't anthologized, and later readers got their impressions of early SF from the anthologies. Kate Wilhelm says this about herself in her memoir, "Storyteller." She never read the mags, she only knew the SF that was in the anthologies..... which was gender biased. -- Eric Leif Davin

    1. It always amazes me when a person with foot-stompin' credentials reads my blog, and then comments on it!
      What Davin and Rusch present goes a LONG, LONG WAY toward explaining the schizie perception that SF gives off. And it's clear, ONCE you are able to look at it. That's the kind of brilliance that you didn't need to pass physical chemistry in order to appreciate.