18 August 2010

Book review: A Woman's Liberation

A Woman's Liberation, eds Connie Willis and Sheila Williams, 2001.

This is a collection of short stories reprinted from Asimov's and Analog, where Williams was an editor (at the time; possibly still). All the authors are female, and the main characters are all female. It's a collection of stories of "futures by and about women," as the book's subtitle declares.

(Note to anyone who thinks it's so hard to make a TOC in an anthology not composed 100% of men: you're not looking hard enough.)

Willis' story "Even the Queen" is a hilarious look at the politics of menstruation. S.N. Dyer's "The July Ward" is a haunting tale of a doctor's day on a neuro ward (though it barely counts as speculative, IMO; it's still quite good). The piece that lent its title to and inspired the anthology, Ursula LeGuin's "A Woman's Liberation," is a story about freedom (literally; the POV character was born a slave).

There are stories of loss: "The Kidnapping of Baroness 5" by Katherine MacLean is about loss of collective memory (thanks to prions), and Octavia Butler's "Speech Sounds" is about the loss of verbal communication. "The Ship who Mourned," by Anne McCaffrey, is also about loss.

The other stories are also good, but harder to summarize. "Fool's Errand" by Sarah Zettel is about saving the universe from rampant AIs; "Rachel in Love" by Pat Murphy is about a chimpanzee imprinted with a human teen's personality; "Inertia" by Nancy Kress is about people isolated in camps because they had a communicable, non-fatal disease; "Of Mist, Grass, and Sand" by Vonda McIntyre is about a woman who heals people with snakes.

I highly recommend this anthology to everyone, especially anyone whose bookshelves are populated with mostly male names.

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