Daughters of Earth:
Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century

Justine Larbalestier (editor)

Wesleyan University Press 2006
A book review by Danny Yee © 2006 http://dannyreviews.com/
Daughters of Earth contains eleven short stories, in chronological order from 1927 through to 2002, each accompanied by a critical essay. It doesn't manage to be the "complete introduction to twentieth-century feminist science fiction" promised by Justine Larbalestier's brief introduction — which itself notes the absence of stories by Suzy McKee Charnas, Joanna Russ, and Ursula Le Guin — and a claim that it "creates a new canon of feminist science fiction" seems hyperbolic, but it does offer a nice overview of the area.

The selection includes some stories that are well known and have been widely anthologized, but others will be new to most readers. The eleven pieces are "The Fate of the Poseidonia" (Clare Winger Harris, 1926), "The Conquest of Gola" (Leslie F. Stone, 1932), "Created He Them" (Alice Eleanor Jones, 1955), "No Light in the Window" (Kate Wilhelm, 1963), "The Heat Death of the Universe" (Pamela Zoline, 1967), "And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill Side" (James Tiptree Jr., 1972), "Wives" (Lisa Tuttle, 1976), "Rachel in Love" (Pat Murphy, 1987), "The Evening and the Morning and the Night" (Octavia E. Butler, 1987), "Balinese Dancer" (Gwyneth Jones, 1997), and "What I Didn't See" (Karen Joy Fowler, 2002). This is a great selection of stories, which would have made up a decent anthology by themselves.

Taking up a little more space than the stories, the critical essays place them in their historical contexts and provide background on their authors and their broader contexts. With some of the stories this is critical to understanding them as feminist works; with others this helps to connect them to broad trends in science fiction and in feminism.

The essays sometimes enter into critical and theoretical debates, but they can be read without a background in literary criticism. They don't belabour minor points or get stuck in narrow frameworks, maintaining a broad perspective and offering a variety of approaches. They're not as much fun as the stories themselves, but they are easy to read and never drag. Daughters of Earth will be a key work for scholars in the field — though they may find the absence of an index frustrating — but it should command a much broader audience.

July 2006

External links:
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
- information from Justine Larbalestier
Related reviews:
- Justine Larbalestier - The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction
- books about women + feminism
- more literary criticism
- more science fiction
- more short fiction
- books published by Wesleyan University Press
%T Daughters of Earth
%S Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century
%E Larbalestier, Justine
%I Wesleyan University Press
%D 2006
%O paperback, references
%G ISBN 0819566764
%P 397pp