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Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century
edited by Justine Larbalestier
Wesleyan University Press, 424 pages

Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century
Justine Larbalestier
Justine Larbalestier was born and raised in Sydney, Australia, with brief time spent in other parts of Australia including two small Aboriginal settlements in the Northern Territory. She and he husband, Scott Westerfeld, are based in Sydney, but travel a lot, most frequently to New York City.

Justine Larbalestier Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alma A. Hromic

Perhaps because of the baggage it does cart around with it like the proverbial albatross tied around its neck, if I was ever directly confronted with a question of whether I was a feminist or not I would deny that I was -- after all, I also chose to be in the SCA, and I actually LIKED people being courteous to me because I was a lady. I liked having doors held for me or seats offered to me. I liked being a girl.

But after a while I came to realise something -- the fact that I liked being a girl was not necessarily an impediment to calling myself a feminist. In fact, quite the opposite. I liked being female in the sense that I had never consciously considered myself any kind of an inferior product to the archetypical male, and that the small courtesies I liked to be offered to me were contextualised into the sort of courtesies that might have been rooted in the fact that I was the "lady" but whose flower was definitely something quite different -- it was a sense of courtesy between human beings, and being acknowledged as a female human being rather than a female as such.

Feminism as a philosophy, of course, has travelled quite a rocky road over the time frame covered by Daughters of Earth -- it is in fact debatable if it was anything like the same animal in the era from which the first story in the anthology dates, and the era of the final story (which, having been published in 2002, is barely within the scope of this book). That, in a way, is precisely why I found this particular anthology so interesting -- that, and the fact that the authors of the scholarly essays interleaving the stories had themselves chosen the stories to be included. This is a self-selected anthology, by the people from the trenches, as it were -- the people who work and live and learn and enrich this field of study by being writers, or by being insightful researchers who have read widely and well and know their material.

In the introduction to Daughters of Earth, the editor quotes Pamela Sargent (an earlier anthologist on the same topic) as having written in her own anthology published a decade ago:

"[Women of Wonder] was the first anthology of its kind: science fiction stories by women about women. For over two years I tried to find a publisher for Women of Wonder, and the reactions of editors were instructive. A few editors thought the idea was wonderful but decided not to do the book anyway. Some editors found the idea absurd, a couple doubted whether I could find enough stories to fill the book, and one editor didn't think there was a large enough audience."
I cannot begin to count the ways in which those reactions rankle -- from the patronizing to the ignorant by way of arrogance and denial. I am therefore particularly pleased to see that in the years since Sargent's experience the world has turned enough times on its axis for a anthology like Daughters of Earth to become possible. It is not a "Best of" volume; certainly a couple of the earlier stories I had never even encountered before, and a couple of the others I would have quibbled at a best-of tag being applied to them. But the importance in this anthology lies not in the intrinsic "goodness" of the chosen stories -- although, with authors like Octavia Butler and Karen Joy Fowler, one cannot very well cast far of that mark. The true value of Daughters of Earth lies in its search for truth and beauty in the worlds of feminist writing, then and now. It is that rare thing, a work of scholarship that is eminently readable and treasurable as and of itself, something which enriches the mind and imparts knowledge while at the same time making spirits lift and hearts feel full.

This is one of those books which might be considered an essential part of every thinking reader of speculative fiction.

Copyright © 2007 Alma A. Hromic

Alma A. Hromic, addicted (in random order) to coffee, chocolate and books, has a constant and chronic problem of "too many books, not enough bookshelves." When not collecting more books and avidly reading them (with a cup of coffee at hand), she keeps busy writing her own. Her international success, The Secrets of Jin Shei, has been translated into ten languages worldwide, and its follow-up, Embers of Heaven, is coming out in 2006. She is also the author of the fantasy duology The Hidden Queen and Changer of Days, and is currently working on a new YA trilogy to be released in the winter of 2006.

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