Summary: I just finished reading Lisa Yaszek’s “The Future Is Female! More Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women, Volume Two: The 1970s” (9/2022, The Library of America). Strongly recommended, with an overall rating of 3.9/5, or “Great”.
The Story: I am a big fan of science fiction stories, whether short fiction or novels. I have also become a fan of anthologies that focus on historically underrepresented or suppressed SF authors, such as women SF authors.
I can’t say for certain that the first such anthology I read was Pamela Sargent’s 1975 “Women of Wonder” anthology on Vintage, but it probably was. After reading that in 1997, I have continued to look for and read other such anthologies, such as:
- “The Penguin Book of Modern Fantasy by Women“, Richard Glyn Jones & A. Susan Williams editors, Viking 1995 (I do find myself wondering why they did not do a book of modern SF by women)
- “Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology“, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer editors, 2015 PM Press
- “Women of Futures Past: Classic Stories“, Kristine Kathryn Rusch editor, 2016 Baen Books
- Most of the other Pamela Sargent “Women of Wonder” anthologies
Last but not least, I read Lisa Yaszek’s anthology, “The Future Is Female!: 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women, From Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. Le Guin“, 2018 The Library of America. The stories included are from 1928 to 1969. I had this at “Superlative” (one step below my highest book rating of “A Classic”) in my Book Database. Upon a March 2022 re-read, I had it at “Great” based upon my individual story ratings. Either way, I loved it.
I know there are other similar anthologies that I have not read, such as the Justine Larbalestier anthology “Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century“, 2006 Wesleyan University Press.
Regardless, I heard earlier this year that Lisa Yaszek’s “The Future Is Female! More Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women, Volume Two: The 1970s” (“Volume Two”) would be published this year. I was quite excited about this, and purchased the e-book version this fall after it was issued by The Library of America.
“Volume Two” contains 23 stories, from 1971 to 1979, and several essays.
For me, it’s a great anthology. My overall rating for the fiction was 3.9/5, or “Great”. While there were classics that I had previously read (such as the Joanna Russ story, “When It Changed“), there were also a number of great stories I had never read before, often by authors I was not familiar with. It’s always possible I have read some of those but have forgotten them 50 years later, but I am very sure some of these I have never seen before due to where they were published.
Favorite stories that were new to me included:
- “The Anthropologist”, a 1975 short story by Kathleen M. Sidney
- “… The Best Is Yet to Be …”, a 1978 novelette by M. Lucie Chin
- “Cassandra”, a 1978 short story by C. J. Cherryh.
I loved that the first two were from authors I was not familiar with.
I know you could find many of these stories in various online forms for free, although I doubt you could find all of them. For me, the readable yet informative, authoritative and insightful Introduction essay, the Biographical Notes, and the Notes were as essential as the fiction. These were equally important and of value as a complement to the fiction, and an argument for buying the book or checking it out of the library.
I was also pleased that Yaszek took the effort to discuss both parents of the authors in the Biographical Notes. Depending upon the era, it can be a lot harder to find information on female parents versus male parents, and it matters that she worked on this to cover both.
I do have two minor nits to pick. First, I am generally a fan of having author/story introductions adjacent to each story. For me at least, it helps me group the information and apply it to the story; it’s a bit harder for me to do this when that information is found in the Introduction, Biographical Notes, and Notes. However, I can see very valid reasons for having the book organized as it is, and this content is great and valuable. Second, I feel that the 1974 Eleanor Arnason story, “The Warlord of Saturn’s Moons“, and the 1979 Connie Willis story, “Daisy, In The Sun“, are perhaps more speculative fiction than science fiction. Still, these are both very minor complaints and don’t in any way impact my overall feeling about this outstanding anthology.
I know this is available in e-book and paper, but I have not yet seen an audio book version. My library did not have this, but there are copies available at my regional library consortium.
Strongly recommended, and a great Holiday gift! I hope Lisa is able to continue with a Volume 3 and later.
I have also added the Lisa Yaszek/Patrick B. Sharp anthology, “Sisters of Tomorrow: The First Women of Science Fiction” (2016, Wesleyan University Press) to my TBR list. It looks like an interesting combination of essay and fiction. I am surprised it was not in my Book Database.
Detailed Story Review/Comments: Here There Be Spoilers!
“Bitching It“, a 1971 short story by Sonya Dorman, originally published in “Quark/2” (Paperback Library, Samuel R. Delany & Marilyn Hacker editors). A great, powerful story about gender and sex and power. I can see why it was not reprinted much until this anthology, as it’s not comfortable at all, but with a setting that is banal and normal. As one commentator said, “what if women raped men and it was normalized?” Rated 3.8/5, or “Great”.
“Frog Pond“, a 1971 short story by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Galaxy March 1971. I love this story of a young woman in a semi rural setting, near future, perhaps during some societal collapse or conflict, perhaps not far from Mill Valley. During a frogging expedition to a local creek, she meets a man who wants to teach people. She is also revealed to have had genetic engineering, perhaps, with nictating eye flaps. I own this issue of Galaxy, so I expect I must have read this story but do not remember anything. Rated 3.8/5, or “Great”.
“The Funeral“, a 1972 novelette by Kate Wilhelm, originally published in “Again, Dangerous Visions“, Harlan Ellison editor, 1972 Doubleday etc. Wow. A searing story of reshaping society, with some foreshadowing of Margaret Atwood’s later “The Handmaid’s Tale“, told by a young woman who is not a citizen. I own “Again, Dangerous Visions” and I’m sure I’ve read this, but I did not remember this Nebula nominated story. Rated 3.8/5, or “Great”.
“When It Changed“, a 1972 short story by Joanna Russ, also published in “Again, Dangerous Visions”. A Nebula winner and Tiptee Retrospective winner, Hugo and Locus nominee. Perhaps read most recently in the VanderMeer’s 2016 “The Big Book of SF: The Ultimate Collection“. A classic tale of a planet where all the men died in a plague, and women lived on without them. Six centuries later, men return to Whileaway. Life will change. Rated 4.3/5, or “Superlative”.
“Lament of the Keeku Bird” a 1973 short story by Kathleen Sky, first appeared in Stephen Goldin’s “The Alien Condition” anthology (Ballantine Books). A very good story of life and death by an alien female, by an author I am not familiar with. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good.” It’s also interesting that the cover art for “The Alien Condition” was an excerpt of the Mati Klarwein cover art for the 1970 Santana album “Abraxas“.
“A Way Out“, a 1973 short story by Miriam Allen deFord, also published in “The Alien Condition”. A great story of an alien delegate to the United Planets and his attempt to be banished back home. Rated 3.8/5, or “Great”.
“Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand“, a 1973 novelette by Vonda N. McIntyre, Analog October 1973. Originally read in Analog, and perhaps not since then. A great story of a young woman who uses poisonous snakes for healing on a harsh planet. She meets a challenge, but loses one of her snakes. Nebula winner, Hugo and Locus runner-up. Reprinted in the “The Best Science Fiction of the Year #3” (1974, Ballantine Books) by Terry Carr and in the 1975 Pamela Sargent “Women of Wonder” anthology on Vintage Books. Rated 3.9/5, or “Great”.
“The Girl Who Was Plugged In“, a 1973 novelette by James Tiptree, Jr., “New Dimensions 3“, Robert Silverberg editor, Nelson Doubleday/SFBC. Read before, at least in Tiptree’s 1975 collection “Warm Worlds and Otherwise” and the 1990 Tiptree retrospective “Her Smoke Rose Up Forever” (Arkham House), and then most recently for Heather Masri’s giant 2008 “Science Fiction: Stories and Contexts” anthology on Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press (I wrote about this giant 20th century SF survey volume and others like it at “A Ton of Science Fiction!“). Hugo Award winner and Nebula and Locus Award nomination. An amazing story of an almost dead (suicidal) young woman who becomes the Waldo handler for a beautiful young body. She is an influencer for commerce, and she falls in love. Rated 4.1/5, or “Superlative”.
“If Ever I Should Leave You“, a 1974 short story by Pamela Sargent, Worlds of If Jan-Feb 1974. A woman and a man are of an era when most people live 300 years. They both use the Time Station to visit each other at different parts of their lives, and both die young due to their use of the Time Station. Finally, when he is dead and she almost so, she uses the Time Station to urge him to meet her. A very good story, rated 3.7/5.
“Pale Hands“, a 1974 short story by Doris Piserchia, “Orbit 15“, Damon Knight editor, 1974 Harper & Row. A very good story of an overpopulated future where people are conditioned to masturbate in public stalls. A young woman falls in love, but cannot overcome the conditioning. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
“The Day Before the Revolution“, a 1974 Hainish short story by Ursula K. Le Guin, Galaxy August 1974. Most recently read in the anthology “Galaxy: Thirty Years of Innovative Science Fiction“, Martin H. Greenberg, Joseph D. Olander, & Frederik Pohl editors, 1980 Playboy Press. A great story of an aging revolutionary after a stroke, many years later. Great character. 1975 Locus and Nebula short story winner, Hugo nominee, rated 4.3/5, or “Superlative”.
“The Warlord of Saturn’s Moons“, a 1974 short story by Eleanor Arnason, “New Worlds 7“, Hilary Bailey & Charles Platt editors, Sphere 1974. First read in “The Norton Book of Science Fiction: North American Science Fiction, 1960-1990“, Ursula K. Le Guin and Brian Attebery editors and Karen Joy Fowler “consultant”, W. W. Norton & Company 1993, see my review. I love this story, but it is perhaps more speculative fiction than science fiction. An author spends a lot of time writing a story about the Warlord of Saturn’s Moons, and she really loves one of her characters. I believe this is the 2nd story Arnason had published. Nebula nomination. Rated 3.8/5, or “Great”.
“A Scarab in the City of Time“, a 1975 short story by Marta Randall, “New Dimensions Science Fiction Number 5“, Robert Silverberg editor, Harper & Row 1975. A woman and teacher breaks into an enclosed City, where the residents have lived believing there is nothing outside. Finally, she escapes when young people break out. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
“The Anthropologist“, a 1975 short story by Kathleen M. Sidney, “Orbit 17“, Damon Knight editor, Harper & Row. Humans come to an alien planet, where they encounter the triceph. It is unclear if the tricephs are intelligent or not, which dictates whether humans settle the planet. The tricephs leave three triceph eggs, apparently in an effort to learn more of humans and whether the races can live together. One of the eggs grows to adulthood, raised by a human scientist and her family on Earth. The alien, Robert, returns to the home planet trying to do anthropological research on their species. They have a child, and the effort may succeed. I thought this was a fantastic story. I am surprised this is the first reprint of this story. I am not sure I have read any other fiction by this author. Rated 3.9/5, or “Great”.
“Hey, Lilith!“, a 1976 short story by Gayle Netzer, first published in fanzine “The Witch and the Chameleon, 1976”, Amanda Bankier editor. A very good story, deconstructing all kinds of tropes and stereotypes. I am not sure I have read any other stories by this author. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
“The Screwfly Solution“, a 1977 novelette by James Tiptree, Jr., Analog June 1977. I probably first read this in my copy of the 1981 Tiptree collection “Out of the Everywhere and Other Extraordinary Visions“, Del Rey/Ballantine. This is a scary, outstanding story of the end of the human race by biological jiggering of the adjacency of sexual and violence urges in men by an alien species, leading to the killing of all women. Outstanding writing, voices and characters. A great and chilling last sentence in the book, regarding the aliens, “I think I saw a real estate agent” for those who will take the planet. Nebula winner, Locus runner-up, and #3 Hugo. I agree with Jo Walton and Gardner Dozois that it should have won the Hugo Award; I wrote about this at “Hugo Award Hindsight“. Rated 4.3/5, or “Superlative”.
“Time to Kill“, a 1977 short story by Elinor Busby, Amazing Stories October 1977. A good but not major story of an attempt to rewrite history with a time machine. Rated 3.6/5, or “Very good”.
“… The Best Is Yet to Be …“, a 1978 novelette by M. Lucie Chin, Galileo, January 1978. A great story of a woman who has had 9 brain transplants into donor bodies, and decides it must end. Rated 3.9/5, or “Great”.
“View from a Height“, a 1978 short story by Joan D. Vinge, Analog June 1978. I own this issue of Analog, and originally read it there. A great story of a woman born without an immune system. She goes into astrophysics, and is hired for an outer space observatory launched into extra-Solar System space and that will never come back. Her only company is a parrot. After 20 years, she finds out that science can now give her an immune system. She has a crisis, but survives and rededicated herself. Locus and Hugo finalist, reprinted in “The Best Science Fiction of the Year #8” by Terry Carr. Rated 3.9/5, or “Great”.
“No One Said Forever“, a 1978 short story by Cynthia Felice, “Millennial Women“, Virginia Kidd editor, 1978 Delacorte Press. A very good story of a woman transferred to a secret project in Antarctica. She has a son with her boyfriend, but she has commitment issues and almost breaks up with him. This could be SF, but it is not clear that it has to be. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
“Cassandra“, a 1978 short story by C. J. Cherryh, F&SF October 1978. Most recently read in Heather Masri’s “Science Fiction: Stories and Contexts“. From my perspective, this is quite a a different story for Cherryh. A woman sees the future, which comes to include death and destruction, and perhaps a nuclear attack. A great story. Hugo winner, Nebula and Locus finalist, and reprinted in “The 1979 Annual World’s Best SF“, Arthur W. Saha and Donald A. Wollheim editors, Daw Books. Rated 3.9/5, or “Great”.
“Wives“, a 1979 short story by Lisa Tuttle, F&SF December 1979. Most recently read in “The Big Book of Science Fiction: The Ultimate Collection” by the VanderMeers. The story reveals that the “wives” of Earthman are nonhuman. The Earthmen know this, but they generally ignore the fact as long as the “wives” act as expected. One of the “wives” realizes life with an Earthman no longer works for her, and attempts to recruit others to go with her. An old leader, who still remembers the coming of the Earthmen, explains that their prior life is over and survival depends upon being “wives”. They kill the protagonist with her willing acquiescence, and a spare “wife” takes the place. Reprints include “The Best from Fantasy & Science Fiction: 24th Series“, Edward L. Ferman editor, 1983 Charles Scribner’s Sons and “The Penguin Book of Modern Fantasy by Women“, Richard Glyn Jones & A. Susan Williams editors, 1995 Viking. Rated 4.3/5, or “Superlative”.
“Daisy, in the Sun“, a 1979 short story by Connie Willis, Galileo November 1979. IMHO, perhaps the first great story by Connie Willis, of a young woman and the sun going nova, and her perhaps metaphysical existence thereafter. Hugo nomination, and reprinted in “The 1980 Annual World’s Best SF“, Arthur W. Saha and Donald A. Wollheim editors, 1980 Daw Books. Rated 3.8/5, or “Great”.
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