Book Review: Women Destroy Science Fiction

Lightspeed_49_June_2014Women Destroy Science Fiction is a special, book-length edition of Lightspeed Magazine featuring short stories (originals and reprints) flash fiction, author interviews, and essay – all by women.  This issue was funded through a kickstarted campaign.  Here’s the pitch:

Women aren’t writing “real” science fiction, the fallacy goes. “Real” science fiction is . . . whatever science fiction certain men like. Some days this makes us sad. Some days it makes us angry. And some days it just seems hilarious. . .and a quip on Twitter turns into a special issue of LIGHTSPEED in the space of roughly half an hour.

When we announced the Women Destroy Science Fiction! special issue in September, the response was immediate and overwhelming. All people had was a title and an email address, but the enthusiasm was boundless. The special “I Want to Destroy SF” inbox we setup filled with subject lines like:

  • Helping my sisters destroy science fiction since 1983
  • If anyone’s going to destroy SFF—
  • Please sir, may I destroy science fiction?

Why, yes. Yes, you may.

LIGHTSPEED was founded on the core idea that all science fiction is real science fiction. The whole point of this magazine is that science fiction is vast. It is inclusive. Science fiction is about people (roughly 50% of whom are women), just as much as it’s about ideas. Science fiction is about us, our perils and our promise; it’s about our collective future. LIGHTSPEED has also been committed to gender parity from the beginning, and we have achieved it consistently for nearly four years now. But looking around at media at large, it’s clearly just not enough—and thus the Women Destroy Science Fiction! special issue was born.

Lately I’ve been coming across a lot of short story anthologies that score high on concept and low on content.  Luckily these stories combine original ideas with excellent craft, and the essays provide plenty of brain food.  Here’s some highlights from the original stories in the anthology:

Each to Each, by Seanan McGuire:  When the navy starts modifying women’s bodies to turn them into every possible variety of mer-creature, what could go wrong?

The Unfathomable Sisterhood of Ick, by Charlie Jane Anders:  A friendship between two women is challenged when one accesses the memories of the other’s ex-boyfriend

A Burglary, Addressed by a Young Lady, by Elizabeth Porter Birdsall:  Another story with an emphasis on friendship between two women, this story is about a Regency-style world in which courtship is conducted through burglary instead of Balls.

There are steampunk stories and stories about clones and stories about body-swapping.  There are weird stories (Dim Sun, by Maria Dahvana Headly, is especially surreal) and in the flash fiction category, there’s a story that contains only four sentences.

This is an exquisite collection and I can’t wait for the upcoming issues: Women Destroy Horror, Women Destroy Fantasy, and Queers Destroy Science Fiction.  I had a great time with the stories in these collections as well as the essays and interviews that accompanied them, especially the roundtable interview by Mary robinette Kowal which features Ursula K. LeGuin, Pat Cadigan, Ellen Datlow, and Nancy Kress.  This is good stuff!



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