Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal
As a concept goes, “pregnant teenage girl on a spaceship” is a pretty arresting one. Young adult speculative fiction is an exciting and developing field (hint, hint, Hugo!), but I haven’t really seen any depictions of teen pregnancy, let alone a mostly positive one. This might reflect more on my personal experience with the genre, but I’ve only seen the young adult speculative heroine stave it off, if it comes up at all. (Recommendations, as always, are welcome.) So a novel very much about a young pregnant woman was quite welcome. It also helps that the paperback edition features the hideous pun “Resistance is fertile,” which practically made me swoon.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
read by Cori Samuel
Recently, the leadership in my ladies only sf book club opened up. Naturally, because attempting to navigate adult life, working two gigs, and garner funding for Operation New York isn’t enough of a challenge, I decided to take on the responsibility. To be fair, it’s a lovely gig—running discussion, organizing our monthly meetings, and thinking about fun field trips for a pack of literary-minded lady nerds. (Oh my goodness, we should totally all go see Her before it leaves theaters! Good idea, me!) To mark a new era of our book club, I decided that we needed to start at the beginning, when the eighteen-year-old Mary Shelley created science fiction, to significantly better results than her protagonist.
Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel
During my last two years of college, I discovered Fanny Burney. While, shamefully, I have yet to pick up the rest of her delightful canon, I heartily enjoyed Evelina. It was so fresh and fun. After examining recent YA-packaged editions of the Burney-inspired Jane Austen, I wondered why eighteenth century coming of age novels featuring actual young adults (only Northanger Abbey features a teenager) weren’t given the same treatment.
Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi
When Ascension was announced early last year, my Internet circles were all abuzz. (Or should that be all atwitter?) The growing diversity of speculative fiction is something to be celebrated, even if the process can seem delayed by the last remnants of the old guard. And Ascension offers much more than baby steps in that department— women, people of color, queer folk, poly people, disabled people… I can imagine it might be a bit shocking for some readers to finish Ascension and realize that there was only one male character in the entire novel. Given how often I find myself faced with the Smurfette principle in speculative fiction, getting my heads on something so
Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
While I don’t particularly believe in age restrictions (although I will admit to being completely shocked that I could rent the NC-17 film Shame from the public library without someone checking my ID; I suppose acne scars technically prove that I’m past adolescence), there are some texts that come to us at exactly the right time. For instance, my first viewing of The Fellowship of the Ring at age ten revealed to me my fannish destiny. But there are also texts that we encounter later that we could have used earlier. As Renay and I make our way through Xena: Warrior Princess, I can’t help but having the sneaking suspicion that I might have twigged onto both the “queer as a three dollar bill” and “tall dark femmes” things a lot earlier if I’d been watching that as it aired.
My Education by Susan Choi
At the store, we have several displays recommending books—staff picks, publisher hot boxes, and a shelf featuring books recommended on NPR. (You wouldn’t believe how many people come into the store knowing only that a book they were interested in was featured on NPR recently. Thank goodness fandom has given me incredible Googling skills, which I have actually called “Internet detectivey” in front of customers in the past.) Susan Choi’s My Education loomed large on that display, but it didn’t seem like anything I’d be interested in—a female graduate student embarks an affair with her male professor. Yawn.
The Last Days of California by Mary Miller
“As you have undoubtedly noticed in your careers as my parents, I am a homebody of the highest order. I don’t enjoy traveling,” I recently wrote to my parents in an e-mail. (I was outlining Operation New York and trying to differentiate my homing instinct from their wanderlust.) I know I don’t like to travel (oh, how silly that I feel like I have to validate my own likes and dislikes!) because I’m an anxious introvert whose calm depends on repetition and routine, and because I’ve been privileged enough to do so. I’ll never be sure how much (between my shoddy memory and utter disinclination to fact-check with my family), but, over the years, it’s knit itself into one contiguous memory of waiting.
Heiresses of Russ 2013 edited by Tenea D. Johnson and Steve Berman
Among the many hideous tactics Joanna Russ outlines in How to Suppress Women’s Writing, isolation is perhaps one of the most insidious, severing creators from their own community. For instance, Jane Austen is often people’s go-to classic female author, but when was the last time you heard about Jane Austen being influenced and inspired by the works of Fanny Burney? Once you start looking at Austen in the context of her contemporaries and influences, you suddenly realize that she’s not an Excepto-girl—she’s an heiress.
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
read by Paul Adams, Mike Pelton, Richard Kilmer, and James K. White
The dawn of the new millennium found my preteen self stunned by our fannish destiny, revealed in a screening of The Lord of the Rings. I’d been a speculative fiction fan since I was old enough to watch my brother play Warcraft II (“Where are all the female units?” I asked myself, squatting on a medicine ball), but being almost entirely cut off from television meant that I’d never seen the kind of things that I was into. Seeing speculative fiction on the big screen felt like validation, despite my total lack of knowledge about the genre, so I was a sucker for any speculative fiction film that came my way. (This is how the McBrides went to go see The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen without anyone knowing who Alan Moore was.)
Defy by Sara B. Larson
Out of the narrative ingredients available to a writer, the love triangle is an especially potent and attractive one. It’s an instantly relatable situation that generates tension and conflict in spades. Wielded wisely, it can flavor a story, emphasize a theme, or even be a story on its own. I submit for your examination A Midsummer’s Night Dream, where yon Billy Shakespeare makes merriment for all by playing merry hell with a love quadrangle. Wielded poorly, it can feel bland, unnecessary, or worse—shoehorned into a narrative that didn’t need it. And when that last one means that the love triangle devours the narrative from which it was born, you’re in trouble.