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Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1953 – 1957)

Edited by Gideon Marcus 

26 Apr, 2022

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Gideon Marcus’ Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1953 – 1957) is an anthology of women’s science fiction published between 1953 and 1957. Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1953 – 1957) is a follow-up to 2019’s Rediscovery Vol 1: SF by Women 19581963, which I reviewed here.

There are twenty stories in this anthology, each of which is accompanied by an afterword. These afterwords were initially solicited as introductions, but after reader feedback, the introductions were moved to follow the stories. Of course nothing prevents readers from reversing the order in which they read story and commentary. 

Every introduction/afterword was contributed by a different author (you will find all the names below, in the headings for each story). I am not going to review the commentaries beyond assuring readers that they are worth reading.

Entirely tangential: for some reason the ISFDB entry for this anthology lists the afterwords twice, once as an afterword and once as a review. The 294 page anthology is jam-packed, but it’s not quite that jam-packed. 

Once again, the editors have rejected the temptation to anthologize works already frequently anthologized. I’d encountered only two of the stories herein before. Granted, over-anthologization is less of an issue with classic SF by women, which tended to be overlooked1. Each story is accompanied by a note concerning its reprint history. 

For me, the outstanding stories were Captive Audience,” The First Day of Spring,” Two-Bit Oracle,” and The Wines of Earth” but really, there are lots more hits than misses in here. This is one of those rare modern anthologies where I want a physical copy. 

Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (19531957) is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), and here (Book Depository). I did not find it at Chapters-Indigo.

1: One 1970s pundit asserted that most of the interesting new authors in that era were women, save of course for James Tiptree, Jr. (Who gets the credit for this bon mot varies, and I have not been able to find the original. Which does not stop me from using it.) This appears not to have been a common belief, given that the best-SF anthologies of the time were populated almost entirely by male authors. I think I could fill a readable anthology with The Stories by Women That Male Editors Didn’t See (1970 – 1979).

Now for individual story reviews.

Foreword (Science Fiction by Women (19531957)) • essay by Janice L. Newman

A short essay examining the history of women authors in science fiction.

Games” • (1953) • short story by Katherine MacLean

Afterword by Lisa Yaszek

A professor refuses to weaponize his research; the government is displeased and imprisons him. Faced with inevitable death, he takes extreme measures to ensure that something of his legacy survives.

This is one of the few stories I had read before, as it was included in MacLean’s The Diploids.

Captive Audience” • (1953) • short story by Ann Warren Griffith

Afterword by Andi Dukleth

An old lady manages to avoid ads. That’s illegal. However, her transgression inspires a bold new frontier in advertising.

This story may have seemed less plausible in 1953 than it does today. 

Gallie’s House” • (1953) • short story by T. D. Hamm [as by Thelma D. Hamm]

Afterword by Erica L. Frank

A little girl’s imaginary friend proves not so much imaginary as just out of reach and very definitely doomed by the atomigeddon that waits for us in every dimension.

The First Day of Spring” • (1954) • novelette by Mari Wolf

Afterword by Jessica Dickinson Goodman

Starfaring world-ships convey their passengers across the cosmos in search of new worlds. Unfortunately, lives spent in the world-ships have left the travellers ill-suited to mere planetary existence.

The world-ships are just too well designed and pleasant. 

The Agony of the Leaves” • (1954) • novelette by Evelyn E. Smith

Afterword by Christine Sandquist

Escaping romantic enslavement by two rival witches requires the assistance of a romantically inclined young woman. She may be something of a witch herself.

Two-Bit Oracle” • (1954) • short story by Doris Pitkin Buck

Afterword by Marie Vibbert

A perfectly good Bronze-Age oracle scam is endangered when one of the oracles is plagued by unwanted, unbelievable, and entirely accurate visions of our present. 

Change the Sky” • (1955) • short story by Margaret St. Clair

Afterword by Cat Rambo

A jaded starfarer commissions the creation of a perfect world, little comprehending that his grasp of perfect” is itself imperfect.

This is the second (and last, I believe) story I’ve reviewed before, here. It’s a theme all too often replayed in real life by demanding clients who ask professionals for an ad campaign/costume/song/whatever without having any clear idea of what they really want. Feel free to complain in comments about examples of this sort of thing from your lives.

Miss Quatro” • (1955) • short story by Alice Eleanor Jones

Afterword by Gwyn Conaway

Miss Quatro seems a perfect housekeeper but she has a secret agenda that would distress her employers … were they to learn of it. 

This falls nicely into the genre of child minders who are more than a little fae. Although in Miss Quatro’s case, she isn’t so much Fair Folk as someone who works for entities indistinguishable from the Fair Folk. 

The Princess and the Physicist” • (1955) • novelette by Evelyn E. Smith

Afterword by Robin Rose Graves

Interfering Terrans scheme to exploit an alien god, little suspecting that the entity has plans of its own for the imperialist visitors. 

This is God as a labor-saving device, which I don’t think I’ve seen before. 

Birthright” • (1955) • novelette by April Smith

Afterword by Janice L. Newman

A seething junior functionary discovers the reason why, despite a record of promising marks, he has been consigned to a distant, obscure backwater world. 

The Piece Thing” • (1956) • short story by Carol Emshwiller

Afterword by Natalie Devitt

Marooned on Earth, a lost infant alien discovers their purpose in life.

This is a 1950s monster story, told from the monster’s point of view. It’s much more upbeat from that perspective…

News for Dr. Richardson • [Of Mars and Men] • (1956) • essay by Miriam Allen deFord

Afterword by Kerrie Dougherty

An angry response to Richardson’s proposal that perhaps one or two women should be supplied to Martian expeditions to provide sexual services. For the record, this predates the very similar proposal in Ringworld by fourteen years.…

Woman’s Work” • (1956) • short story by Garen Drussaï

Afterword by Laura Brodian Freas [as by Laura Brodian Freas Beraha]

A housewife uses every tool at her disposal to resist the enticements of technologically enhanced travelling salesmen.

Poor Little Saturday” • (1956) • short story by Madeleine L’Engle

Afterword by Erica Friedman

A young man befriends a witch and her apprentice. The friendship is doomed by his inability to follow simple rules. 

Is there a variation on this sort of story in which the protagonist is told never to do X and never does X? 

The Red Wagon” • (1956) • short story by Jane Roberts

Afterword by Kathryn Heffner

A reincarnated man struggles to resist being absorbed by the infant mind of the body in which he now resides.

There are parallels between this story and Flowers for Algernon.

The Queer Ones” • (1957) • novelette by Leigh Brackett

Afterword by Cora Buhlert

For which underhanded purpose have the strangers targeted a swath of rural communities?

How bad must galactic civilization be that primitive Earth seems like a better alternative?

The Canvas Pyramid” • (1957) • short story by Jane Roberts

Afterword by Lorelei Esther

A slick travelling revival minister meets his match.

We Move on Turning Stone • (1957) • poem by Leah Bodine Drake

Afterword by Erica L. Frank

Space travel presented as a search for companionship. 

Moonshine” • (1956) • short story by Ruth M. Goldsmith

Afterword by Alyssa Winans

Moonshiners are the first humans contacted by naïve alien researchers. Wacky hijinks ensue. 

The Wines of Earth” • (1957) • short story by Margaret St. Clair

Afterword by T. D. Cloud

A middle-grade vintner is visited by aliens eager to sample the best wines Earth has to offer.