Souls/Houston, Houston, Do You Read? (Tor Double 11)Souls/Houston, Houston, Do You Read? by Joanna Russ

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

tiptree and russ literally back-to-back… awesome.

hey! publishers! publishers! are you listening? why don’t you publish novellas like this any more? this back-to-back thing. i really miss this. ok? just for me? thanks.

back in the day they were some of the best writers of feminist sf–russ most in-your-facedly–and it’s kind of hard to discover that i am no longer in the least shocked by it. i liked being shocked by it–by using her work to push out the boundaries of my cage.

it reminds me how much of the cage has been dismantled in the intervening years. that’s all to the good, of course. but i miss that feeling of sudden stretch, of finding i can move in a way i had not even imagined before.

so! nostalgia for chauvinist piggery aside–

russ’ half of this book is all about who that astonishingly brave abbess confronting the raping, pillaging viking is. it’s a kind of squirm-inducing read, absorbing how a woman must placate, divert, deflect, amuse, flatter a man who arrives bristling with weaponry. i am unspeakably glad this is no part of my life at present, but i am also dishearteningly sure that this degrading two-step is still the norm for uncountable women worldwide.

tiptree’s half feels like a more polished story. it’s about the changes a bunch of chauvinist pigs must go through when they find themselves uprooted to to a remarkably feminine future. the structure of it follows a drugged man wandering in and out of lucidity, conflating the past and present. tiptree did an amazing job of that–it’s a hard trick to pull off, and she does it without slipping up. alas, her speculations on what a feminist future might look like feel a little dated. only to be expected, i suppose.

of the two, it’s not surprising that russ can still deliver a gut-punch, and that tiptree’s sheer craft still shines.