Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Thoughts on No Man's Land

The No Man's Land anthology is out at last, and I've been reading the other stories appearing along with my "Falling to Eternity." It is interesting to note how many ways there are to take "military science fiction with women protagonists" as a theme. All the stories I've read thus far are action-oriented (not unexpected) but there is a rich mix of occupations and settings and underlying technology. And there is a distinctly different flavor to the outcomes.

SF has been such a "man's world" for so long that one wonders if there will ever be a true equality in the reader's mind, or if women will stop debating early in their careers whether to publish under their initials or just go for broke and put a female name on the cover. It is unfortunate that the bias is still there, no matter how enlightened we think we are. Yet I wonder how many readers are shocked--shocked!--to discover that Andre Norton, C.J. Cherryh, Leigh Brackett, D.C. Fontana (of so many wonderful Star Trek episodes), James Tiptree, and so many other "male" SF writers are really women.

Why do we even have to go to such lengths to have our work judged fairly on its merits? I know that to many, the name doesn't matter, yet there are those to whom it does, and I wonder where such expectations of lower quality or foofoo stories come from. And I wonder if women think they must inevitably use a "kickass" female heroine to overcome these notions. Most women (and men) are neither action heroes nor crybabies, but that middle-of-the-road ordinary Jane and Joe who somehow rise to the occasion. They react differently in bad moments, is all, and their creative solutions to problems may be profoundly different to counteract physical limitations or to accommodate the normal male/female differences in worldview.

To me, that makes for interesting stories. To others, it may wave red flags emblazoned with "Tears and bitching ahead!" Personally, I like stoic, stiff-upper lip heroes . . . but I also like the ones who scream and throw things and have private meltdowns--and then get on with the job.

Thank you, Dark Quest Books and Mike McPhail for publishing such a bold anthology, and many thanks to David Weber for the kind and thoughtful introduction to it. He's right. All of these stores are worth reading. I hope a whole lotta people actually do.


Ann Wilkes said...

Great post, Sue! Can't wait to get my copies! You'll have to call me and read me David Weber's intro. :)

Works of S. A. Bolich said...

Hey, Ann, I'm in the middle of Immunity Project right now... What was your inspiration for this?