A Woman's Liberation
seems to promise explicitly feminist stories, but with one exception, that is not what you get. In sociopolitical terms, there isn't much in A Woman's Liberation
that would discomfort the white, suburban, American middle class, and that's something that will discomfort many feminists.
The collection may be mainstream in its feminism and, usually, its sociocultural assumptions, but that does not mean the stories are comforting--quite the opposite. In "Inertia," Hugo, Nebula, and Sturgeon Award winner Nancy Kress takes a disturbing look at a concentration camp for disease sufferers in a repressive, decaying America. In the Nebula and Hugo Award winner "Even the Queen," Connie Willis deftly dissects mother-daughter relationships and satirically skewers a naive, doctrinaire feminist; this story represents an impressive but little-noted feminist accomplishment: Mrs. Willis placed a story blatantly about menstruation in Asimov's SF. Multi-award-winner Pat Murphy's "Rachel in Love" is guaranteed to disturb readers: when a young woman, Rachel, dies in an accident, her mind is downloaded into a chimpanzee's body, creating a mixed human-ape consciousness, and Rachel is torn between love for a man and love for a chimpanzee. The title story, Ursula K. Le Guin's impressive novella "A Woman's Liberation," is the book's most overtly feminist work; a multilayered, perceptive examination of politics (of several sorts) and freedom, it follows a woman's journey from slavery to liberty across two planets.
The anthology's subtitle, A Choice of Futures by and About Women, describes the contents perfectly: stories written by women about strong, intelligent female lead characters, set in the present and the future, on Earth and on distant planets. A Woman's Liberation is a superior collection of modern SF stories accompanied by an insightful introduction. --Cynthia Ward
From Publishers Weekly
This anthology, which reprints 10 award-winning stories by and about women, brings little new to the table, but it does assemble excellent work by sci-fi luminaries, originally published in Analog and Asimov's (for which Williams is executive editor). Its failure to provide historical context, however, renders the stories somewhat flat. The pieces range widely: Vonda N. McIntyre's "Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand" and Katherine MacLean's postapocalyptic "The Kidnapping of Baroness 5" present worlds where scientific study uses animals for healing humans or for gathering genetic material. The human condition is deftly described in both Connie Willis's "Even the Queen," a hilarious story about menstruation, and Ursula K. Le Guin's poignant "A Woman's Liberation," a first-person journey through the eyes of a former slave who discovers that freedom comes at a price. Many stories explore the world via metaphors of illness or plague: Nancy Kress's "Inertia" describes a quarantined plague community given hope that the plague might be cured; Anne McCaffrey's dated "The Ship Who Mourned" chronicles a sentient ship's trip to a plague world; and in Octavia Butler's harrowing but hopeful "Speech Sounds," a plague has caused people to forget how to speak or read, leading to chaos. Many SF fans will have read at least some of these stories already. Maybe the familiarity of the stories in this anthology signals women's entrenchment in the genre.
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