October 3, 2015

Review: Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology

Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology by Ann VanderMeer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's a nice trend on Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites, of crowdfunding anthologies based around specific themes that might not find a home in traditional publishing. This book is a good example. I participated in its Kickstarter, and I'm proud that my money helped this book find a home in the world.

It's a very professional effort, as would be expected from the editing team of Jeff and Ann VanderMeer. Unfortunately, all the stories are from years past and cannot be considered for this year's awards, although the anthology itself could be nominated for, say, the Locus Awards. It would make a worthy nominee, as far as I'm concerned.

Some of my favorites:

"The Forbidden Words of Margaret A.," L. Timmell Duchamp--Margaret A. is so feared by the US government that the Constitution is amended to silence her, and she is held in a one-person concentration camp with no contact with the outside world, save for a monthly visit from a journalist. We never find out exactly what she says, and that's not the point. (It is mentioned, though, that Margaret A. is a black woman, which is rather telling, even more so now than when the story was written.) The story is not really about Margaret A., but rather the journalist who speaks with her, and who discovers she cannot live with the status quo any longer.

"The Grammarian's Five Daughters," Eleanor Arnason--a delightful, beautifully written fantasy about the power of words (quite literally the parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and prepositions) and the women who wield them.

"The Screwfly Solution," James Tiptree, Jr (aka Alice Sheldon)--a classic of the genre, just as disturbing now as it was nearly forty years ago.

"The Evening and the Morning and the Night," Octavia E. Butler--I've read a lot of Butler's stuff, but somehow I missed this story. It's tremendous.

"Tales from the Breast," Hiromi Goto--the premise of this story sounds absurd, but man, the ending bites.

"Northern Chess," Tanith Lee--a lush fantasy story that hinges on a similar reveal to Eowyn's "I am no man!" from The Return of the King.

But my favorite of the bunch, as dark and depressing as it is, is Susan Palwick's "Gestella," which asks a simple question: what happens when a female werewolf, with canine aging patterns, falls in love with a human? For modern sensibilities, the beginning is a bit squicky, but the story is a powerful treatise on how women are often used and discarded as they age. And the ending is just...oh my God.

There were a couple of stories I liked less, but the general quality is quite high. You won't go wrong with this collection.

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