The feminist superstars of science fiction, fantasy, and horror dismantle and reassemble gender’s many implications and iterations in the newest anthology edited by the VanderMeers (The Time Traveler’s Almanac, 2014, etc.).
There is probably no better time for this anthology to emerge, as the SF/F world is rocked by a clash over the value of diverse voices. While the original dates of publication of these stories range from the 1970s to the current decade, and include both stalwarts of their respective genres and relative newcomers, they all feel fresh as ever. Touching on issues from surveillance, misogyny, and marriage to queerness, family dynamics, and gender fluidity, it’s hard to say if this anthology’s aggressive relevance is encouraging or depressing—that feminism remains at the cutting edge of contemporary problems or that the same ideas turned over by writers as long as four decades ago continue to haunt society unaltered. Either way, these stories, coming from a variety of genres, subgenres, and nonrealist traditions, are timeless and breathtaking in scope and power. L. Timmel Duchamp’s “The Forbidden Words of Margaret A.,” about a woman whose words are so dangerous her free speech has been rescinded in the Constitution, will crackle and spark given the current discussion about government overreach. Nalo Hopkinson’s “The Glass Bottle Trick” is a gorgeous retelling of Bluebeard and an exploration of domestic violence. Susan Palwick’s “Gestella,” about a werewolf who marries a human man, is a chilling reminder of the banality of evil; and there is probably no way to top the enduring horror of James Tiptree Jr.’s “The Screwfly Solution.” In the introduction, the editors mention that anthologies of this type can never be truly complete—the canon is always expanding through time, discovery, and translation—but this book will undeniably become part of the ongoing conversation.
A necessary, well-curated anthology that shows the singular political power of speculative fiction.