I’m calling this a book review because this special issue is about the length of a book. The whole thing stemmed from yet another high-profile case of rampant sexism in the sci-fi community this year, in which a bunch of whiny men complained that “women are destroying science fiction.” Well, this naturally caused some backlash, not to mention many people pointing out that a whole bunch of the best sci-fi and fantasy coming out right now is by women.
Examples? Lois McMaster Bujold and her big stack of Hugo awards and best-sellers. Elizabeth Moon. Connie Willis. Anne McCaffrey. Ursula LeGuin. J.K. Rowling, who was told boys wouldn’t buy books written by a woman. Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Justice winning both the Hugo (fan-voted) and Nebula (peer-voted) awards this year. I could go on and on.
But I don’t have to, because the lovely people at Lightspeed magazine did it for me. They decided to push back against the ill-informed haters and create a special issue written and edited entirely by women. And they called it the Women Destroy Science Fiction issue, which is just really cool.
Let’s just say it’s a resounding success. They received over 1000 submissions. The issue contains fiction – both new and reprints, non-fiction, interviews, articles, you name it. All of it is high-quality and it was so well-received that they are now making a Women Destroy Fantasy and Women Destroy Horror. Women are writing in every genre, and they are writing good stuff.
As to the special issue itself? All good stories. The intro alone is highly entertaining. A few of the stories I didn’t particularly care for, but that’s normal in an anthology-type book or magazine. I especially loved the variety in the issue, though. The stories ranged from hard sci-fi to the whimsical and fantastic. The reprints included some very well known short stories. There was also a great collection of personal essays, some interviews, and even podcasts if you listen from the website link or get the ebook version.
I quite enjoyed the flash fiction section, since that’s not normally a story length I read much of, so it was new and enjoyable. The reprints were some fairly famous classics, which got me to finally read the fabulous “Love is the Plan the Plan is Death” by James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon). Who, as you can tell from that last sentence, had to write as a man in order to get published back in the ’60s and ’70s.
My least favorite was probably Each to Each by Seanan McGuire – not because it was a bad story, but because it’s one of those things where stories/movies/TV that deal with your profession (the Navy, in this case) have to be spot-on or they rub you the wrong way. Just ask any medical professional who has tried to suffer through watching ER. The story was good, and creative, but from a standpoint of women serving in the Navy I found it pretty unrealistic.
The novel excerpt from Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold got me hooked, and so it has now been added to my “to be read sometime soon” list, hopefully to be reviewed here at some point. Her fantastic huntress character definitely made me want more.
The interviews section is tremendously special. It was enlightening to read some of the stories from women who were pioneers in the genre – what they dealt with, what has changed, and what (sadly) hasn’t changed much since they started writing and interacting with fandom. The personal essays were a great mix of experiences, some sad, some empowering, all quite powerful.
I always like stories that make me think, or look at something from a new perspective. Two of the best stories from that aspect were “Like Daughter” by Tanarive Due, and “Walking Awake” by N.K. Jemison. Without giving too much away, “Like Daughter” explores an aspect of cloning I had never thought about before, and “Walking Awake” is a darkly disturbing cautionary tale one a scientific advancement terrible people could abuse.
I found “The Sewell Home for the Temporally Displaced” by Sarah Pinsker to be utterly charming. “Cuts Both Ways” by Heather Clitheroe contained the coolest bit of new technology. “In the Image of Man” by Gabriella Stalker is a very interesting perspective on where American culture might be headed. “A Word Shaped Like Bones” by Kris Millering was probably my favorite story, and you’ll just have to read that one – any attempt I make at describing it would probably ruin it.
Overall, this is one I can highly recommend – you may not enjoy every bit of it, but I think you will find within this special issue something new, something that will make you think, and definitely quite a few things you like.