Walk in the Sun

The Future is Female! — Lisa Yaszek

The Future Is Female


Lisa Yaszek’s 2018 The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories By Women, From Pulp Pioneers To Ursula K. Le Guin is an anthology. As promised by the title, it contains twenty-five classic stories by women, published over a span of time stretching from the early days of commercial science fiction to the late 1960s.


Introduction • 2018 • Lisa Yaszek

A brief history of women in SF. It may astound the Guardian to discover that this history did not begin with the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

“The Miracle Of The Lily” • 1928 • Clare Winger Harris

The great war between insect and humanity ended with total victory over nature… and crushing ennui. At least until the messages from Venus arrived.

 Comments

To save humanity, it was necessary to eliminate all life on the land aside from humans. This included plants, which must mean that in this setting, all the necessities of life can be produced artificially. It’s odd that this tech doesn’t seem to be used when humans are settling other worlds.

The story covers several millennia; none of the characters are developed in detail.

“The Conquest Of Gola” • 1931 • Leslie F. Stone

The matriarchs of Venus were not prepared for the barbaric Men of Earth. The Men of Earth proved even less prepared for what they found.

 Comments

One has to wonder if a male author of this era would have ended such a tale with the Venusian matriarchs going all swoony over the hunky Men. That’s not the direction Stone takes.

“The Black God’s Kiss” • 1934 • C. L. Moore

To regain her fiefdom, Jirel would consort with the very demons of hell!

 Comments

The first Jirel story, which establishes one of the basic rules of Jirel: Jirel always carries out her projects to the bitter end, regardless of personal cost.

“Space Episode” • 1941 • Leslie Perri

Their rocketship was disabled. It was up to one of the three space farers — two utterly useless men and a single brave woman fully aware of the consequences of her actions — to sacrifice their life to save the other two.

 Comments

Take that, “The Cold Equations.”

That Only A Mother • 1948 • Judith Merril

Every mother’s baby is a perfect little gem, whether born in a pristine world or in a radioactive hellscape.

 Comments

My Young People’s reactions to this story can be found here.

“In Hiding” • 1948 • Wilmar H. Shiras

A teacher grants an extraordinary young man the one thing the young man he needed but could not attain: hope.

 Comments

I would be astounded if Stan Lee and Jack Kirby didn’t have Shiras’ “In Hiding” and its fix-up novel Children of the Atom in mind when they created the X-Men. But the ultimate lesson of the Shiras stories is that neither segregation or conquest are the correct solutions for the super-children of tomorrow. This is not the lesson of the X-Men.

Contagion • 1950 • Katherine Maclean

Spacefarers struggle to save their men from the dreadful Melting Disease. The cure is almost as dire as death itself.

The Inhabited Men • 1951 • Margaret St. Clair

Three castaways rescued from a cursed planetoid each discover the nature of that world’s curse, but none truly understand it.

 Comments

Oddly reminiscent of Asimov’s 1950 “Green Patches,” although much more tragic.

“Ararat” • 1952 • Zenna Henderson

Refugees from space, the People conceal their true nature by avoiding the Outsiders, as they call the humans of Earth. There is one exception: lacking teachers of their own, they must accept an Outsider in their little schoolhouse. Until now, all the teachers have been elderly. Miss Carmody is young and beautiful, and Jemmy is immediately smitten. But should People marry Outsiders?

 Comments

When this was published, many people regarded so-called mixed marriages with disgust. That possible reader reaction shaped the story, which in some ways has not aged well.

“All Cats Are Gray” • 1953 • Andrew North

A brilliant spinster and her cat contend against the secret horror that left a spaceship derelict.

 Comments

Our hero is single because she is utterly convinced nobody aside from her cat could love someone with her particular handicap. [Rot13]

Fur’f pbybhe-oyvaq.


Andrew North is Andre Norton.

“Created He Them” • 1955 • Alice Eleanor Jones

She hates him and he hates her and necessity requires they stay together forevermore.

 Comments

There’s actually no reason that the couple have to live together. True, they are interfertile, which is rare and valuable. But they don’t have to cohabit; artificial insemination is possible even without hi-tech and was when this was written. But the author wanted to write a story about domestic abuse….

“Mr. Sakrison’s Halt” • 1956 • Mildred Clingerman

An eccentric elderly lady searches for the forgotten stop where she hopes her lost beau and a better life wait for her.

 Comments

Just in case anyone is arguing with someone convinced that SJWs are something new in SF: one of the lost Mr. Sakrison’s virtues is a distaste for the American racial caste system. As long ago as 1956, some authors knew that bigotry is bad!

“All The Colors Of The Rainbow” • 1957 • Leigh Brackett

Galactic emissaries to backwater Earth make the mistake of visiting Grand Falls, a town which still embraces the traditional American racial caste system. A town where the aliens’ technological and social superiority is nowhere near as important to the white locals as the green color of the aliens’ skin.

 Comments

See previous note. Brackett’s take is far more brutal than Clingerman’s.

“Pelt” • 1958 • Carol Emshwiller

A hunter gets his just comeuppance, as seen by his faithful dog.

“Car Pool” • 1959 • Rosel George Brown

A harried mother agrees to add a delicate alien child to her car pool. Tragedy ensues.

 Comments

The kids are casually violent towards each other, and the adults don’t bother to do anything about it. Ah, the 1950s, when major mayhem wouldn’t rate more than a stern lecture.

“For Sale, Reasonable” • 1959 • Elizabeth Mann Borgese

A human eager for employment in a world dominated by automation does their best to prove that affordably priced humans are a reasonable alternative to machines.

 Comments

This may have been inspired by Norbert Weiner’s The Human Use of Human Beings, specifically the passage that reads “Any labor which competes with slave labor must accept the economic conditions of slave labor.”

“Birth Of A Gardener” • • Doris Pitkin Buck

A physicist’s last words to his wife were needlessly cruel. Widowed, he is given a second chance to be with his wife, thanks to the universe next door.

 Comment

The universe next door is made of antimatter, but for some reason the mass of the (anti) proton is different. The potential for total annihilation is a minor side issue, however. What matters is that the protagonist is a complete asshole who deserves everything that happens to him.

“The Tunnel Ahead” • 1961 • Alice Glaser

Even in an America with a billion people, families can afford a day at the beach … provided they are willing to dare the Tunnel between their home and the beach.

 Comments

Because in pre-sexual-revolution America, it seemed possible that a US crushed by an unending baby boom would refuse birth control while practicing random mass murder.

“The New You” • 1962 • Kit Reed

The New Her had only one problem: what to do with the Old Her?

 Comments

READ THE FUCKING MANUAL FIRST, PEOPLE.

“Another Rib” • 1963 • John Jay Wells & Marion Zimmer Bradley

Reduced by a space kerblooie to a handful of men, the last remnants of humanity faced a dreadful choice: submit to extinction or submit to the conversion of at least one of them to female!

 Comments

Told from the point of view of the crew member with the strongest objection to the idea. That said, one could make a case that any anthology with an MZB story in it is one story too long.

“When I Was Miss Dow” • 1966 • Sonya Dorman

A shape-changing alien does her very best to conform to human expectations.

“Baby, You Were Great” • 1967 • Kate Wilhelm

How far will producers go to keep their legions of voyeuristic viewers happy? As far as it takes.

 Comments

My Young People’s reactions to this story can be found here.

“The Barbarian” • 1968 • Joanna Russ

He was almost a god; she was a barbarian warrior. Who would prevail?

 Comments

I was reminded of the Ana Mardoll collection I reviewed earlier this month: bragging about what cannot kill you only draws attention to that which can.

“The Last Flight Of Dr. Ain” • 1969 • James Tiptree, Jr.

A well-meaning scientist travels the world, sharing his gift with everyone he meets.

 Comments

Love Is the Plan the Plan is Death”

Not every Tiptree story ends in tragedy and or death, but it’s a safe bet that any randomly chosen Tiptree will end in tragedy and or death.

“Nine Lives” • 1969 • Ursula K. Le Guin

The clone workers functioned as a perfect team, even in death. But what is to be done with the sole survivor?

Biographical Notes

Self-explanatory. The author does not paper over MZB’s despicable behaviour.

Sources & Acknowledgments

 Self-explanatory.

General Comments

I had already read a number of these stories. In most cases, I found them in single author collections. I was happy to revisit many of them.

I was a little worried that the collection would recapitulate earlier anthologies like Women of Wonder, Amazons!, and Millennial Women. If you’re going to choose the best stories written by women, wouldn’t you end up with a lot of repeats? I am happy to say that this was not the case. The Future is Female builds on the foundation of the earlier collections; it does not recapitulate them. Unlike some other themed anthologies I could name (harrumph, ahem). Of course Yaszek was able to choose from a large body of work, work that the previous anthologies had not exhausted.

Please comment here.

The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories By Women, From Pulp Pioneers To Ursula K. Le Guin is available here (Amazon) and here (Chapters-Indigo).


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