A former colleague of mine gave me a copy of a science fiction book the other day. He’s slowly clearing out his shelves–I think he’s afraid that he’s getting old and doesn’t want to leave behind so many things. It’s got me thinking about science fiction and the way we often think of it in…what? Dorky terms? I mean, the ray guns and laser beams and aliens. But there is some beautiful science fiction out there, too, stuff that fascinates and even scares me. When you think about it, even zombie stories are science fiction (the virus/rage had to come from somewhere), though we lump them in post-apocalyptic.
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. I’m sure you all know it as the tale of a monster, one whom we mistakenly call Frankenstein. How many of you had to read this book in high school or college? Did your teacher focus on the “science” of this science fiction classic?
Judith Merril’s short story “That Only a Mother” is one of those terrifying tales about nuclear war that hits closer to home that one woman even realizes.
A story that I love to teach my students for its varied messages is “Cavemen in the Hedges” by Stacey Richter. Meet a woman who has been dating her boyfriend for a long time. They’ve developed from punks to grown ups, but that all changes when cavemen enter the landscape through a portal and take over the city.
Yesterday, I discussed the science fiction pioneer Octavia Butler.
Half Life by Shelley Jackson is a really tough read, but it is a novel of amazing effort. I did finish, but the story can get confusing, so here is a clear description: “The novel presupposes an alternate history in which the atomic bomb resulted in a genetic preponderance of conjoined twins, who eventually become a minority subculture” (Wikipedia). I do remember that the book follows conjoined twins. One of them has fallen asleep into a coma-like state, and the other plans to kill her sleeping sibling.
What about you, reader? What are your favorite science fiction stories and novels? How many are by women? Do you ever feel “shame” when you read science fiction instead of “proper literature”?