June 19, 2021

From Gerald R. Lucas

Summer of Women in Science Fiction

Having just finished Martha WellsAll Systems Red (maybe a feminist take on the robot/human(ity) theme), I decided officially to make this my summer of women in science fiction. My summer reading began with Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, then Iain M. Banks’ Culture novel Surface Detail. I know, these are both written by men, but their respective protagonists are women. OK, that might be a stretch, but I’m leaning into it. After these first two—which I liked very much—I’ll stick with women writers. Next up: Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. I’m going to try to get back to The Handmaid's Tale, too; I left off after the first episode of season two: it seemed to be recycling—starting over where the first season began. Maybe they should have left it with only one season? We would have needed the epilogue then... Well, I’ll see where it goes.

Wells’ novel was fun, but I’m not sure I liked it as much as others did. The novella has great ratings on GoodReads. I guess the most interesting aspect of the novella is that the unnamed SecUnit resists being human—calling itself[1] “Murderbot” and finding human interaction practically intolerable in real life, but fascinated by human drama on popular media feeds that it downloads and watches regularly. The idea of humans is much more tolerable—even desirable—than the reality of humans is. Man, I can sympathize with that. While the story pushes Murderbot closer to the humans it has been hired to protect, ultimately it resists the humans’ attempts to humanize it. I may go back to this series later to see how Murderbot evolves.

Some possible reads for this summer:


  1. Why do I want to write “herself”? Is it because Wells is a woman, or is there something feminine about the protagonist? This question by itself deserves further consideration.