Feminist SF & Fantasy – Classic & Contemporary
(and general sf reading list, all short stories, at conclusion)
Humor (my favorites)
“A Day in the Suburbs,” Evelyn E. Smith, 1950 — In the suburbs, women are socially stratified by the shape of their roofs (peaked, flat, rounded). Once in a certain class, they join up with mafia-like groups that engage in territorial battles and terrorize public spaces such as the grocery store.
“Savage Breasts,” Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 1988 — A woman buys an exerciser to increase the size of her breasts. Her decision has consequences, as her muscular breasts take to attacking men in the elevator.
“Boobs,” Suzy McKee Charnas, 1989 – A young girl goes through puberty. The added attention from boys is unwelcome, but the hostility and increased connection to nature results in her becoming a werewolf. She develops a taste for obnoxious teenagers.
“The Harmonic Conception,” Nona M. Caspers, 1989 — A lesbian is tapped on the shoulder for the next immaculate conception. Although this is troubling, she is more worried that her friends will think she had sex with a man.
“Even the Queen,” Connie Willis, 1992 — Willis’s humorous futuristic tale of a society profoundly changed by its technological solution to menstruation. The plot revolves around a rebellious daughter’s decision to join the Cyclists, who advocate a return to normal menstruation. Several generations of the family convene to hold an intervention.
“Big,” Leah A. Zelders, 2003 – A man self-conscious about the size of his penis receives spam email hawking a miraculous new penis-enlarging technique called “jelquing.” He tries it and experiences positive results, but the ad pitch escalates, as does the size of his penis.
“Just Do It,” Heather Lindsley, 2006 – A future in which advertisers hire snipers to shoot their prey with darts that produce cravings. A woman is shot in the face with the need to eat French fries.
Women Who Cannot Be Named or Known
“The Children’s Hour,” C. L. Moore, 1944. Clarissa’s male admirer cannot comprehend her being and is driven insane. References Through the Looking Glass.
“Ne déjà vu pas,” Josephine Saxton, 1967 – A paean to a female God, a creature of the Unknowingness–an extended metaphor of negative space, backwards language, and non-time experienced by the female, The Kitten.
“Abominable,” Carol Emhwiller, 1980 – (humor) Men in a paramilitary group track a mysterious creature known as “woman.”
“Forever Yours, Anna” – Kate Wilhelm, 1989 – A non-linear, time travel story about a handwriting analyst who believes he can “read” and thus possess a woman’s identity through an analysis of her handwriting.
Women Written Out of History
“Sur,” Ursula LeGuin, 1982 – A journal reveals the untold stories of female adventuresses written out of history.
The Invisible Woman
“Report to the Men’s Club,” Carol Emshwiller, 2002 — A woman (?) addresses the academy and alludes to the bizarre initiation ritual and mental separation from all that is female that she had to undergo in order to earn the privilege of entrance. A play on Kafka’s “Report to the Academy,” in which an ape addresses humanity.
“Food Farm,” Kit Reed, 1966 – A young woman obsessed with eating is sent to a fat farm by parents who are embarrassed by her weight. Eventually, the crooner Tommy Fango takes over the fat farm and the young woman fattens girls for him.
“Food Man,” Lisa Tuttle, 1994 (fantasy) — An anorexic girl hides her eating disorder by depositing her dinner under her bed each night. The food transforms into a male lover, whom she eats.
Beauty / Mediated Beauty
“Bright Illusion,” C. L. Moore, 1934 — A man is sent to an incomprehensibly alien world where only a veil of illusion will allow the aliens’ multiple genders to “resolve into two.” Despite his knowledge of the veil and the work it performs, he becomes infatuated with an alien that now looks and acts like a beautiful coquette.
“Baby Doll,” Johanna Sinisalo, 2002 (2007 Tr.) – (Finnish) Dystopian future in which girls as young as ten are expected to be sex-obsessed “glam” toys. The envious younger sister of an underwear model watches Welcome to the Dollhouse and embarks down a dark road.
“Liking What You See,” Ted Chiang, 2002 — University students are encouraged to adopt a visual-mediation technology (Spex) capable of altering perception such that everyone one encounters is beautiful (or, rather, not ugly). The effect is called calliagnosia or “calli,” a kind of associative agnosia that allows for recognition of identity but not an aesthetic reaction to what one sees. The argument is that calli will reduce incidents of “lookism,” or discrimination against the unattractive. Several university groups take positions for or against the proposed requirement. A young woman tries to have a relationship with and without Spex.
“Pots,” C. J. Cherryh (female), 1985 – A sophisticated, far-future culture arrives at the planet of its origin myth.
Woman in the Circuit
“Child of the Dead,” Liz Williams, 1997 — Grandma tells her granddaughter of the days when she was connected and could hear a thousand voices. “Put your trust in machines,” she says. Her granddaughter is faced with even newer, more invasive technology and the “job” of becoming a biotech computer, disconnected from the living–and yet, change sometimes offers new possibilities and ways of being.
“Have Not Have,” Geoff Ryman, 2001. Chung Mae’s life changes drastically after the internet (or Air, referred to by some as “television in your head”) arrives in her small Central Asian village. As technology disrupts traditional life and Mae’s ambitions as a local fashion expert and dress maker, she must decide what she will fight for and what she will give up. [This story served as the basis for Ryman’s novel, Air.]
AIDS / Disease / Contagion narratives
“Paul and Me,” Michael Blumlein, 1997 (fantasy) — A man has a sexual relationship with Paul Bunyan. Years later, after he’s gotten married, he learns that Paul’s lover has given Paul AIDS.
“Contagion,” Katherine MacLean, 1950 – Colonists land on a planet only to discover that it has already been colonized by humans. The “alien” humans are strangely altered, having adapted to the local environment by altering their biology. The colonists detect signs of plague, and it becomes clear that to leave the ship the newcomers must clone a native body, as the natives are resistant to the plague. This necessitates a choice between isolation on the ship and loss of physical identity, as they all must be transferred into clone bodies to survive outside. They chose to give up their former and individual identities.
“The Screwfly Solution,” Racoona Sheldon (Alice Sheldon, aka James Tiptree, Jr.), 1977 – A virus turns men into homicidal misogynists. [Was made into a film]
“Speech Sounds,” Octavia Butler, 1983 — Valerie Rye is one of the few not completely debilitated by the illness which seems to have robbed everyone of the power of speech.
“The Evening and the Morning and the Night,” Octavia Butler, 1987 — Lynn Mortimer is the daughter of two parents with Duryea-Gode disease, a disease which leads to bouts of violence and a desire to harm one’s self.
“Inertia,” Nancy Kress, 1989 — In the near future, victims of a disease that causes the skin to be covered in disfiguring scars are quarantined from society. Although their disease excites media attention and scientific study initially, societal unrest on the “outside” has left them nearly forgotten except by relatives and a few determined researchers.
“Virus Changes Skin,” Ekaterina Sedia, 2007 – A woman decides to undo the alterations of a race-changing virus her parents purchased for her as a child.
“The Ship Who Sang,” Anne McCaffrey, 1961 – A woman with severe disabilities is offered the chance to become a “shell person”—a human brain encased in a machine–after which she will work off her debt as a ship with a “soft person” pilot.
“False Dawn,” Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, 1972 – A Mute woman in a post-apocalyptic world meets Montague, who seems responsible for The Disaster.
“The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” James Tiptree Jr, 1973 — A young girl suffering from physical deformities is offered the chance to remotely operate the body of a decadent female celebrity constructed by the marketing industry to appeal to the teen market. She falls in love with the celebrity’s “co-star” but, when he discovers her real body, he is repulsed.
“The Persistence of Vision,” John Varley, 1978 — A man joins a commune of blind individuals who have discovered new forms of communication, ways of managing community, and of being intimate and active in the world.
Various Models of Gender (a few examples)
“Options,” John Varley, 1979 — A married couple copes when the wife decides to change gender. (gender–or sex?–as option, via technology)
“Congenital Agenesis of Gender Ideation,” Raphael Carter, 1998 — A fictional study examines the ability of certain subjects to identify as many as a dozen distinctly different genders by sight. (gender as species; natural but invisible except to those with perceptual defect) (The author, Carter, lives in Minneapolis.)
“Kapras of Many Voices,” Thoraiya Dyer, 2013 — A young dancer occupies the high social status of “woman,” a category not linked to biology. A cruel leader in the community is exposed as a murderer, declared a “man,” and sent to work the bogs. (gender as class pronouncement)
“The Triumphant Head,” Josephine Saxton, 1970 (fantasy) – A woman dresses herself before a mirror and then applies the face she will wear for her husband and the world.
“Pretty Boy Crossover,” Pat Cadigan (female writer), 1986 –The story of two “pretty boys” who share an infatuation with clubs, with being seen at clubs, and with being seen by each other. One boy has himself downloaded into club’s dance video screen so that he can be forever young and admired, and the other considers following.
The Female Author / The Poetess
“For the Sake of Grace,” Suzette Haden Elgin, 1969 — In a patriarchal society ruled by poets, the only female poet attempts to honor the memory of her aunt, who once aspired to the same status.
“Face Value,” Karen Joy Fowler, 1986 – A poet and her husband accept a mission to begin communication with an alien culture, but they can barely communicate with each other.
“The Rational Ship,” Caro Clarke, 1989 — A ship’s captain needs an erotic encounter with a Writer and her script in order to pilot his ship safely through space.
“Griots of the Galaxy,” Andrea Hairston, 2004 — A re-envisioning of the griot figure. In Hairston’s future, historians understand their subjects by possessing their bodies and then experiencing the full tumult of their lives. Only by this method can one tell another’s story.
The Female Astronaut / Soldier
“Survival Ship,” Judith Merril, 1961 — A crew of twenty women and four men is selected for a mission crucial to Earth’s survival. Women are favored because they are better suited for space (due to endurance, patience, etc.) and can bear children. The true composition of the crew is kept hidden from the public, as it the new social model it will engender will challenge the nuclear family model. The composition of the crew is also hidden from the reader, as the reader is encouraged to jump to two conclusions: first, that the crew is male and second, that the 20-4 ratio is based on sexist rather than pro-female principles. A story that relies on the twist ending as a pedagogical device.
“No Light in the Window,” Kate Wilhelm, 1963 — Hank and Connie are two candidates for positions on a space mission. They live under constant scrutiny while specialized observers analyze their behavior in order to determine their fitness for the mission. Only Connie is accepted.
“Dead in Irons,” Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (1976) — A tough, no-nonsense female spacer attempts to survive on a ship of violent, sexist men.
“Elbow Room,” Marion Zimmer Bradley, 1980 — A space station (or “lighthouse”) commander wonders if solipsism is at the root of her sexual and other fantasies.
The Female Scientist
“The Blue Laboratory,” L. T. Meade (Elizabeth ‘Lillie’ Thomasina Meade), 1897– A female science enthusiast and governess working in Russia defeats a (male) mad scientist who has taken an Englishman captive and tortured him in his quest to photograph thought.
“The Pyramid in the Desert,” Katherine MacLean, 1950 – A brilliant scientist experiments on herself.
“Words,” Naomi Mitchison, 1985 — A journalist from the Arts is assigned to write about the work of Dr. Toni. Dr. Toni has invented a machine that allows the wearer to access the cells responsible for receiving incoming sensory perceptions and to bypass those which render them intelligible in words.
“Half-Life,” Paul Preuss, 1989 — Story of the death of Madame Curie.
“The Kidnapping of Baroness 5,” Katherine MacLean, 1995 — Lady Witch is a biotech (a biochemist and geneticist masquerading as a necromancer) who returns to her castle to find that a caravan of nomads has swept through her estate and carried off food, supplies, and her precious genetic experiments, two pigs carrying human children.
“Balinese Dancer,” Gwyneth Jones, 1997 — Anna, Jake, and their son Spence are driving through the French countryside on holiday, but the trip is overshadowed by the knowledge that Anna has recently been dismissed from her position as a biologist. Anna has advanced a theory that suggests that humanity is evolving toward a change in gender and has made the theory public. Her university dismisses her for creating a public scare. The devastating job loss affects her identity and she finds herself enjoying making herself up for Jake and ruminating at the same time about feminism.
“The Planners,” Kate Wilhelm, 1968 – A scientist’s experiment to increase the intelligence of a young man is failing, and he retreats into delusions centering on a mysterious girl. It is revealed that he has experimented on a convict and a disturbed boy in the course of his search for knowledge.
The Female Hacker
“(Learning About) Machine Sex,” Candas Jane Dorsey, 1988 — A naked woman, Angel, works at a computer in order to perfect her sex-simulation bioware program, which everyone around her seeks to steal.
Other Heroines / The Dissenting Woman / The Female Pirate
“Friend Island,” Francis Stevens, 1918 — A female pirate from a female-dominated society struggles to survive on a sentient island.
“The Dark Land,” C. L. Moore, 1936 – Jirel of Joiry is near death from a pike wound when a supernatural being rips her spirit from her body and takes her to the dark land where he intends for her to become his queen. In her fight with him, a wedding dress becomes of one her energy weapons.
“The Adventuress,” Joanna Russ, 1967 — Russ’s famous female swashbuckler, Alyx, on another adventure. Also see, “I Gave Her Sack and Sherry,” 1967.
“Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand,” Vonda N. McIntyre, 1973 – A healer named Snake attempts to save the life of a village boy in this feminist take on the wandering hero. She finds that the villagers’ irrational mistrust of the Other (in this cases, her snakes, who are both her tools and companions) interferes with the ability to heal.
“Standing Woman,” Tsutsui Yasutaka, 1974 (1981 Tr.) – A woman expresses discontent with the state and is forced to become a human-tree.
“Souls,” Joanna Russ, 1982 – “This is the tale of Abbess Radegunde and what happened when the Norsemen came.” Russ’s story about a remarkable nun with a different perspective on humanity.
“Killing Color,” Charlotte Watson Sherman, 1989 — (fantasy) A mysterious African American woman named Mavis shows up in Brownville, which has been dominated by old, white men. The narrator, an African American woman, and her boyfriend, Tad, both in their ’50’s, take a break from their flirtations to prove that Mavis isn’t responsible for the sudden disappearance of persons of influence, all white. They find that Mavis is a ghost on a mission to avenge her dead lover, who was killed by the missing men, all member of the Klan. (Dedicated to the memory of Beulah Mae Donald, who won a seven million dollar judgment against the Klan in 1988 for the murder of her son; Donald was given the Klan property in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.)
“The Missionary’s Child,” Marleen McHugh, 1992 — A cross-dressing sword for hire rescues a girl and is taken back to the girl’s land.
“Fool’s Errand,” Sarah Zettel, 1993 — Dobbs is the fool of a ship that suddenly finds itself under attack by a rogue AI. Under the wary eyes of her crewmates, who do not suspect that she is anything more than their fool, she contacts the mysterious Fools’ Guild and uses its strength and secret tech to join the AI in virtual space. She appeals to the AI to allow itself to be quarantined so that it might become a fool itself–an AI downloaded into a human body.
“Travels With the Snow Queen,” Kelly Link, 1996 — (fantasy) – A tale of powerful women. It deserves a better summary, but I read it once and a long time ago.
“The Elizabeth Complex,” Karen Joy Fowler, 1996 — Four famous Elizabeths–a queen, a suspected murderer, an early feminist, and a movie star–share a life as a composite character with a complicated father/daughter relationship.
“The Girl Hero’s Mirror Says He’s Not the One,” Justina Robson, 2007 – Words and guns are no longer the most effective means to change a person’s mind. “Mappaware” and “Mappacode” have become “attached to the genetic strands” of human beings, allowing them to be programmed with stock narratives. The Girl Hero is sent on a mission to kill a poet who is part of the Cartomancy. A witty, hyperbolic meditation on the future of role-playing/gaming.
The Women’s Movement
“Songs of War,” Kit Reed, 1974 – The women’s movement in a small town organizes a militant revolution. Women gradually join up, causing a tornado of indignation and bewilderment from husbands, children, and the government. However, the women’s commune is not as harmonious as some women expect and it eventually disbands, though not without making an impression on the narrator.
“Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled With Light!,” James Tiptree, Jr., 1976 — A feminist who has been locked up, forced to bear a child, and given shock therapy wanders the countryside in a delusional state, as she imagines that she’s a courier with an important message for her sisters.
“Womankind,” Rosaria Champagne, 1989 –(fantasy) A woman posing as a man is outed by a man on a train. Since it’s illegal for a woman to pose as a man, he threatens to exposes her unless she pleasures him orally; she makes as if to do so, but instead she snaps off his penis and jumps off the train. In the woods nearby, she finds a commune of women who have also stolen penises and fled the city. The penises are useless, except that sometimes the women use them to write. The woman takes out her penis and this sparks the leader to quip that perhaps she’s a man impersonating a woman. The narrator becomes defensive when she can’t answer the question, what does a woman have that a man doesn’t? She accuses the leader of being a man and succeeds in deposing her. However, she knows that with this lie, she’s poisoned the group. The members become ill and their fingers fall off. The narrator’s eyes fall out, but they can still see the green grass that envelops her. She dies not knowing where she is.
The Adventurer /Explorer (includes parodies)
“The Warlord of Saturn’s Moons,” Eleanor Arnason, 1974 — A pastiche of the sexy, red-haired warrior woman heroine of the pulps through the eyes of a weary, modern woman who barely has enough energy to write the tale. (Arnason lives in Minneapolis)
“The Leopard’s Garden,” Constance Ash, 1999 – Africa has been embargoed by the Real World Mind and surrounded by a force field. Sir Prescott, a modern aristocrat, travels to the Dark Continent to refresh his sense of self through a quest to recover the bones of similar men who have gone before him. With the help of his gender-switching guide, Erykasa, he discovers a hidden, technologically advanced matriarchy that is preparing for a world where males will be scarce.
“What I Didn’t See,” Karen Joy Fowler, 2002 — Set at the turn of the 20th century: The narrator and her husband, Eddie, a naturalist, are invited to attend an expedition. The organizer of the expedition seeks to discourage the hunting of gorillas by showing that even women can bring down a gorilla–thus, it is no true, masculine feat. [see Daughters of Earth, followed by a critical essay, “Something Rich and Strange: Karen Joy Fowler’s ‘What I Didn’t See'” (2006) by L. Timmel Duchamp, compares the story to Tiptree’s work and life]
“Licensed to Reclaim,” Laura Resnick, 2003 – The tale of international man of mystery, James Bind, who finds himself captured by Professor Phosphor and facing the threat of castration.
“Plotters and Shooters,” Kage Baker, 2007 – A pastiche of gaming/comic/fantasy culture. Two groups of thirty-something men on a space station are employed to protect a planet from asteroids–one group plots, the other shoots. All is well until the mysterious Charles arrives. Dissatisfied with the second-class status of the plotters, he challenges the leader of the shooters, Lord Deatlhok, to a virtual showdown.
“A Wife Manufactured to Order,” Alice W. Fuller, 1895 — A man orders a perfect wife from a local shop only to find that her lack of intellect and spontaneity bore him. He asks his opinionated ex-girlfriend to take him back.
“Wives,” Lisa Tuttle, 1979 — Susie is the wife of Jack, one of the human invaders who has forced her species to imitate human females. Every morning she slips into her skintight, which squeezes her body into a proper human female form. Everything seems to be fine, until one of her fellow wives expresses discontent.
“His Vegetable Wife,” Pat Murphy, 1985 — Fynn plants himself a vegetable wife, over which he’ll have absolute control.
“The Heat Death of the Universe,” Pamela Zoline, 1967 – A housewife attempts to hold on to her sanity while organizing the information of her household and its minutiae. She begins to break down as she simultaneously becomes more like a machine. (Entropy is the organizing metaphor)
“Chance,” Connie Willis, 1987 – (Novella) A housewife’s rash interpretation of an event during college has created a path for her life too alien to bear. She returns to the scene of the event and attempts to “re-walk” it at the cost of her physical and psychic integrity.
“Reiko’s Universe Box,” Kajio Shinji, 1981 (2007 Tr.) – A lonely housewife becomes obsessed with a mysterious wedding gift—a box containing a miniature universe.
Empathy / Empathic Beings
“Rescue Squad,” 1968, Katherine Maclean — A male empath tracks down a young, pregnant woman who is trapped and in pain.
“Echo,” Katherine MacLean, 1970 — A story about a world of living plants that are tortured by a spaceship that burns the ground upon arrival.
“Gather Blue Roses,” Pamela Sargent, 1971 – A story about a second generation Holocaust survivor with empathic tendencies. The pain of her parents is particularly difficult to bear.
“The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” Ursula LeGuin, 1973 –A joyful town holds a parade while an unnamed victim suffers in a basement. [Several other themes at work in this story, but I think it may also be placed under this heading]
“We Who Stole The Dream,” James Tiptree, Jr, 1978 — The Terrans have enslaved the peaceful, life-worshipping Joilani and taken them to another planet, where the Joilani lose touch with their roots. The Terrans are cruel masters; they verbally abuse the Joilani, keep them in servitude, and rape their “boys” and women, who are now so damaged by such attacks that they are forever infertile. The Terrans consider the drink called Star’s Tears a delicacy, and it is revealed that Star’s Tears is the excretion of an alien species that can only be gotten through torture.
“Schlossie,” Alice Laurance, 1978 — (fantasy) Eva Braun is reborn in a Jewish woman’s body.
“The Sidon in the Mirror,” Connie Willis, 1983 – A “copier” arrives at an inn at an outpost on the sun. He accidentally copies someone in the inn, but he isn’t sure whom he copies, the blind girl or the psychopath who seeks to murder her, as he feels both of their sets of feelings.
“Faded Roses,” Karen Joy Fowler, 1989 – (short short) Sixth graders visit a gorilla exhibit. The zoo guide tries in vain to interest them with stories of the gorillas’ upbringing and emotional lives.
“Small War,” Katherine MacLean, 1973 — Wars that are based on anything that isn’t a choice (such as country of origin or race) are outlawed, but issues of choice (such as saving the whales) may be warred over, provided one has permission from a governmental agency. The Coast Guard investigates a war between whalers and the Audobon society. Ends with a quote by Roger Lovin on the penis of the sperm whale and the mating practices of whales.
The Environment / Endangered Species
“The Last Flight of Doctor Ain,” James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), 1974 – A biologist and an ominous, invisible woman travel the world on a mission to save the Earth from environmental destruction by human negligence.
Non-human Arts & Languages
“The Author of the Acacia Seeds and Other Extracts from the Journal of Thero-Linguinstics,” Ursula LeGuin, 1974 – Excerpts from fictional essays discussing the different interpretations of Ant in re: the Acacia Seed texts; the possible beauty of the Emperor Penguin art; the challenges posed by plant art; and the prospect of someday interpreting the language of the stones, if it is true that each stone is a “word” written by the universe.
“Peek-a-Boom,” Sonya Dorman, 1980 — short – An alien attempts to communicate with humans. Opening itself up and, confronted with the effluvium of human thought and its irredeemable banality, the alien explodes.
“Homelanding,” Margaret Atwood, 1990 — An alien catalogs itself, its “being,” and concludes, “I will never say take me to your leaders, I will say take me to your trees, your breakfasts, your sunsets, your bad dreams, your shoes, your nouns. Take me to your fingers, to your deaths. These are worth it. These are what I have come for.”
“Rachel in Love,” Pat Murphy, 1987 — Faced with the impending death of his young daughter, Rachel, a scientist transfers Rachel’s intelligence into the body of a chimpanzee. Rachel is taught sign language and raised in their home in the Painted Desert as if she were a human child. Eventually she no longer understands her difference from both humans and animals, which threatens her safety after her father dies and she’s captured and taken to a research lab.
The (Female, Alien) Other
Too many to list, especially if we employ broad criteria. The stories below provide a sampling.
“Death Between the Stars,” Marion Zimmer Bradley, 1956 – A human woman is forced to share a cabin with a telepathic alien on a long space voyage. She is wary, at first, then protective of the alien—who receives mistreatment from the staff—then disgusted at the humans’ bigoted behavior, which escalates to violence. Finally, she merges with the dying alien in order to transport its soul to its homeworld, where she becomes a powerful, hybridic being.
“Transfusion,” Joёlle Wintrebert, 1988 (2007 Tr.) – (French) A surreal story of a woman of “boundaries” who stares into the face of “the Other,” a demon in the mirror, and begins to dissolve.
“Identifying the Object,” Gwyneth Jones, 1990 – An expedition investigates a report of a crashed alien ship, causing Braemar, a woman whose life has been shaped by the aftermath of colonialism, to take extreme measures. A piece that explicitly discusses colonialism and the Other.
“Rachel,” Larissa Lai, 2004 — Rachel from Blade Runner is reimagined in order to demonstrate how the android body is, by default, imagined as white.
(sf by) Persons of color in sf
“The Comet,” W . E. B. Du Bois, 1920 — A comet destroys New York City, leaving an African-American man and white woman as the only survivors.
Black No More, George S. Schuyler, 1931 — New technology allows people of color to change their skin color. Max is one of the first to make the change and he sets off to explore the world of the white.
“Aye, and Gomorrah,” Samuel Delany, 1967 — An androgynous spacer attempts to understand the desire of the frelk who is attracted to his “dead” body.
“Bloodchild,” Octavia Butler, 1984 — Humans have become the pets and reproductive hosts for an alien species. Loyalties within the human protagonist’s family are strained by a disturbing but seemingly inescapable dependence on the aliens, who control all aspects of their lives.
“Gimmile’s Songs,” Charles R. Saunders, 1984 — Sanders’s capable heroine, Dossouye, travels on her steed, Gbo, through a land of danger. After defeating a daju, she encounters the seductive song-teller, Gimmile, who is not what he seems.
“The Space Traders,” Derrick Bell, 1992 — Aliens arrive on Earth and make a proposition to the U.S. government: Hand over all the African Americans living in the United States and you will be rewarded with gold, fossil fuels, and superior technology. A national debate ensues. Some African Americans fear refusal, as they expect to be blamed for the nation’s deteriorating economic health if they remain. An amendment is proposed to the Constitution, which is then heard by the Supreme Court. Eventually, it’s decided by legislative edict that the trade will occur. On Martin Luther King Day, African Americans are presented to the aliens. They are stripped of their clothes, herded into a dark hold, and taken away.
“Sister Lilith,” Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, 2000 – (fantasy) A re-telling of the tale of Lilith.
“Separation Anxiety,” Evie Shockley, 2000 — A talented young dancer living in the ghetto–a restricted area that is protected by the government from cultural contamination by whites–must choose between remaining within the ghetto and performing for the world.
“At the Hands of Ajala,” Nisi Shawl, 2000 — Loanna finds that having “the sight” requires her to master what she sees in two worlds rather than the one.
“The Woman in the Wall,” Steven Barnes, 2000 — Shawna Littleton is an American trapped in the middle of a violent revolution in disease-ravaged Africa. With her is her step-daughter and her husband, who is killed. Abandoned by the Red Cross and unable to escape unless she leaves her step-daughter, Shawna finds that the only way to ensure her step-daughter’s safety is to become a prostitute.
“Like Daughter,” Tananarive Due, 2000 — Paige’s closest friend from childhood is Denise, whose childhood was brutal. When Denise has herself cloned so that she can give herself/her daughter a better childhood, she finds it too much psychologically and asks Paige to raise her daughter.
“Greedy Choke Puppy,” Nalo Hopkinson, 2000 — The neighborhood is under threat from a soucouyant, or vampire. Granny has read the signs and must decide whether or not to make a hard choice.
Indigenous Futurism – a few new favorites – only began reading in this subgenre recently
Almanac of the Dead, Leslie Marmon Silko, 1991 — An alternate history that rewrites the history of the Americas and predicts a revolution based on tribal internationalism.
“When This World is All on Fire,” William Sanders, 2001 — In a post-apocalyptic world, Native peoples possess viable land and must protect it from white encroachment.
Refugees, Celu Amberstone, 2004 — In the far future, aliens transport humans from a war-torn, polluted earth to an isolated planet where they can maintain their “cultural practices.” However, the benevolence of this practice is questioned by the most recent group of refugees.
“Terminal Avenue,” Eden Robinson, 2004 — In a near future in which Native peoples are once again prohibited from practicing Native ceremonies in public, a man flips in time from a moment in childhood when police are about to stop his family at a road check and his time as an adult as an exotic, Native body that is tortured by bored, privileged whites at a sadistic sex club.
Postcolonial SF – see So Long Been Dreaming
“Delhi,” Vandana Singh, 2004 — A man has visions of multiple Delhis, past, present, and future.
“Native Aliens,” Greg van Eekhout, 2004 — The narrator flips in time from the 1940’s, when his father experiences discrimination in Indonesia, to his life in California in the 1960’s, to his life in the 23rd century, after humans have left Earth, become water-dwelling, and must modify their bodies in order to reacclimatize to life on Earth.
“Trade Winds,” devorah major, 2004 — Aliens who believe they are “always home” kidnap a translator from Earth who fails to understand the meaning of this expression.
“Lingua Franca,” Carole McDonnell, 2004 — Humans arrive on Mist’s planet. As a member of the older generation, she is saddened to find that the children of her planet are willing to give up their gesture-based language and submit to surgeries which will give them vocal cords so that they can speak like the Earthers.
Matriarchies / All-female Societies
“The Sultana’s Dream,” Roquia Sakhawat Hossein, 1905 — In Ladyland, which is free from sin and harm and ruled by a science-loving Queen in possession of weapons of concentrated light, men are timid and kept in seclusion. ttp://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/sultana/dream/dream.html
“The Conquest of Gola,” Leslie Stone, 1931 — Male, militaristic, resource-hungry forces from Earth attempt to invade the matriarchy of Gola. They are soundly rebuffed.
“When It Changed,” Joanna Russ, 1972 – A matriarchal colony is stunned when men from a long-forgotten Earth offer to “save” them by re-introducing males into their culture. [Related to the novel, The Female Man.]
“Oath of the Free Amazons,” Marion Zimmer Bradley, 1976 – (excerpt from The Shattered Chain) A possible oath for newly freed Amazons.
“Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” James Tiptree, Jr., 1976 — Three male astronauts–one cerebral, one religious, one macho-aggressive–return from a year-long mission to discover that they’ve been transported forward in time. The men eventually discover that all men have been wiped out and that the surviving humans have no intention of letting them reintroduce those things they associate with males–dominance, hierarchy, and aggression–into humanity.
“When Scarabs Multiply,” Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, 2004 — The narrator, a young girl named Ejii, finds Kwàmfà a pleasant place to live due to the governance of its larger-than-life leader, Jaa. When Jaa leaves, Ejii’s father declares her dead. He takes over the town and establishes a government much less congenial to women. When Jaa returns, she is just as powerful and commanding as ever. She beheads the narrator’s father, which causes Ejii some sorrow, but five years’ later Ejii chooses to follow Jaa the next time she leaves.
“Nine Lives,” Ursula LeGuin, 1969 – A communal being composed of nine specialized clones travels off-world to excavate a mine. The clones share an intimate relationship that crosses conventional boundaries regarding incest and heterosexuality. When eight of the clones die in a cave in, two men try to help the lone survivor cope with a trauma they can’t comprehend.
“Nobody’s Home,” Joanna Russ, 1972 – Russ’s vision of the extended, over-stimulated, highly cerebral “family” of the future. A discussion of what it means to act like a family, particularly when the highest cultural values are intelligence, taste, and social status.
“Beatnik Bayou,” John Varley, 1980 — A young boy petitions his mother to allow him to change his sex so he can pursue his relationship with his permanently young teacher. When his best friend beats him to it by changing first, he decides to remain male.
Children of the Future
“The Anything Box,” Zenna Henderson, 1956 – A schoolteacher observes a quiet young student who appears to be lost in staring at an “anything box,” an invisible box she holds cupped in her hands. Another teacher rashly categorizes the girl as deviant, perhaps even psychotic.
“Sleep No More,” James H. Schmitz, 1965 — Story about a young, female telepath (Telzey Amberdon) who takes down a sociopath (Robane) hunting humans in a park, then takes down the sociopath’s alien telepath partners and their “dog.” (Telzey was popular with fans and there are several Telzey adventures.)
“The J-Line to Nowhere,” Zenna Henderson, 1969 – A girl named Twixt bemoans her modern environment—distant, hard, big, disconnected, inorganic—and her family of non-conforms. After committing minor vandalism at school, she flees on the J-line and is “jerked” to a mysterious location with greenery and flowers.
“X: A Fabulous Child’s Story,” Lois Gould, 1972 — The government enlists a couple to raise a child, X, without a recognized gender. The story chronicles the challenges the parents face in this task, from refraining from use of gendered pronouns to shopping for books and toys.
“Mommies and Daddies,” Leigh Brackett, 1974 — Children in a post-apocalyptic future roam an abandoned city. Drug-addicted children (Junkies), healthy Wild Ones, and Foundlings (orphans) make up a three-tiered society in which children are treated as junk. Ends with a tribe of children attacking copulating adults in revenge for their existence.
“Emergence,” David R. Palmer, 1980 — Humans have destroyed the world through biological and nuclear warfare. A young girl is homo superior, and she must find her kind in the post-apocalypse world. The protagonist is a delightful young woman, very capable, intelligent, creative, loving, humorous.
“Grownups,” Ian R. MacLeod, 1992 — A child anxiously awaits the changes his body will go through in a future in which puberty does not resemble that of the (heteronormative) present.
“That Only a Mother,” Judith Merril, 1948 – A woman proudly presents her new baby to its father, who has recently returned from the war that has caused genetic mutations worldwide. What the mother sees as a human child worthy of love, the father sees as a grotesque worm and proof that his wife has gone mad.
“Created He Them,” Alice Eleanor Jones, 1955 — Ann Crothers and her abusive husband are two citizens in a post-apocalyptic future who are capable of producing viable children for the state. Any children they have will be taken away at the age of three.
“Woman on the Edge of Time,” Marge Piercy, 1976 — (novelette) An incarcerated woman is able to commune with a future society in which race and gender relations, as well as parenting models, are vastly altered. During such contact, she is exposed to other ways to live life and dreams of one day being reunited with her child, who has been taken away by the state.
“Motherbeast,” Kathleen Sky, 1978 –An alien mother jumps into her daughter’s body even though the child is alive and has been outside her for one month. This breaks several taboos, including the one that prohibits one from inhabiting one’s own kind, and endangers her daughter’s life.
“Bouncing Babies,” Kara Dalkey, 1999 — Fertile women are able to sell their reproductive services to the bank, which deals in a high demand baby trade. With the new income, women tend to choose one of four paths, the Mallies (partying and consumption), the Mommies (state parental clearance to raise kids), the Madonnas (social causes), and the Mavens (education). Young Ms. Goodwin learns that her reproductive services are no longer in demand and that the cushy income she’d been counting on has disappeared.
“Sins of the Mother,” S. N. Dyer, 1997 – (Sharon N. Farber) The former Shirley O’Malley, now well into middle-age, is tracked down by her son, Evan, whom she gave up when she was sixteen. The son is now a rock star, but his health is failing. He offers her 50K for her eggs, so he can grow a clone to save his life. She not only provides the eggs, but also carries the child to term, sparking a media frenzy.
“A Birthday,” Esther M. Friesner, 1995 — In the future, women who have abortions must visit a simulation of the “lost” child on its birthday every year at an ATM-like device. Linda, who is struggling with an urge to suicide, is about to hold a birthday party for Tessa, her daughter, whose projected “personality” is stored in the data bank.
“Short in the Chest,” Idris Seabright (Margaret St. Clair), 1954 – A young female Marine consults a huxley as to the nature of her “dighting” problem.
“And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side,” James Tiptree, Jr., 1972 — A human reporter encounters another human on the spaceport Big Junction. While the man waits for his “loving wife,” he bitterly recounts his first meeting with the aliens that the newsman so desperately wants to interview. He tries to warn the newsman that it is the fate of all humans to become sexually obsessed with the aliens, to their disadvantage. The aliens, he explains, have no desire to have sex with “the Other,” but human beings cannot turn off the instinct, even if it kills them.
“Love is the Plan and the Plan is Death,” Tiptree, 1973 — Moggadeet and Lilli are spider-like aliens caught up in an increasingly violent mating cycle.
“O’s Story,” L. Timmel Duchamp, 1989 — A female space captain in a far future listens in horror as a woman who has been mind-wiped explains that she was wiped by her government because she has engaged in primitive and obsessive behaviors, such as murder, rape, and incest. Despite the loss of her memories, she knows what the government tells her about her past is true, and she retains her sense of herself.
“The Catgirl Manifesto,” Christina Flock, 1993 — In an alternate universe, the Catgirls reveal their manifesto and agitate for more public acts of transgressive female sexuality.
Eugenics and Sex Selection
“Fears,” Pamela Sargent, 1984 — A woman living in the mountains passes as a man in order to visit town and collect supplies for herself and her lesbian lover. It is revealed that the ability to choose the sex of one’s child has created a violent, woman-hating, nearly all-male world. To replace women, some men dress as women, although it is dangerous and illegal for women to attempt to pass for men.
“The Brains of Rats,” Michael Blumlein, 1986 — A biologist has discovered how to pre-select the sex of unborn children. He begins to meditate on everything he thinks he knows about gender, from the value of sexual difference to the claim that Joan of Arc was a man.
Reproduction/Birth (as Labor)
“Piecework,” David Brin, 1990 – In the near future, women living in poverty find that there’s a market for their wombs. Corporations pay them to give birth to a gruesome brood of mechanical parts. “Labor” taken literally. [Warning: disturbing–I’m not certain everyone would recommend this, but it makes its point.]
“The Mountains of Sunset, the Mountains of Dawn,” Vonda N. Mcintyre, 1974 — The story of an old alien on a spaceship who wants to fly in an atmosphere one more time before passing. As she prepares for her last trip outside the ship, she is approached by a young male who wants her to take his virginity.
“Big Operation on Altair Three,” Josephine Saxton, 1985 – The aging protagonist debates whether or not she can risk leaving her job for a career change due to her age. The protagonist works in advertising and is troubled by ads such as the latest Ice Cream girl ad, in which a woman has a hysterectomy in the back of a speeding car.
“Sins of the Mother,” S. N. Dyer, 1997 – (Sharon N. Farber) The former Shirley O’Malley, now well into middle-age, is tracked down by her son, Evan, whom she gave up when she was sixteen. The son is now a rock star, but his health is failing. He offers her 50K for her eggs, so he can grow a clone to save his life. She not only provides the eggs, but also carries the child to term, sparking a media frenzy.
Consumerism / Labor
“One Day at Central Convenience Mall,” Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 1999 — In the future, the lower classes must submit to programming and prepackaged identities commensurate with their professions. They are also able to be copied. The protagonist, Bookstore Me, watches as Dress Shop Me commits a small act of rebellion by downloading from a “dirty jack,” then breaks down. Mall Security Tad appears to restore order, and Dress Shop Me is taken away, while a crowd of Me’s watch in fascination. A pack of privileged young brokemolds (unique identities) consumes the spectacle.
Labor / Corporate America
“Stable Strategies for Middle Management,” Eileen Gunn, 1988 — While she’s sleeping, the Bioengineering Department turns Margaret into an insectoid with a proboscis in order to make her a better executive.
“The Pearl Diver,” Caitlin R. Kiernan, 2005 – A painting of a pearl diver, lines from The Waste Land, and an enigmatic email entitled “Invitation Transcend” merge to become a catalyst in the life of a woman who has just become a “ghost” due to unemployment.
“Driftglass,” Samuel Delany, 1971 – A man who has been altered for underwater work visits an old friend in a tiny fishing village. The friend is faced with a problem: allow his children to be altered so that they can work for a corporation in order to ensure their financial security, or encourage them to remain “natural.”
“Interlocking Pieces,” Molly Gloss, 1984 –While in the hospital, Minister Teo walks to the room of Dhavir Stahl, the dying man who will give her his cerebellum and thus his motor skills in order to save her life and restore her ability to move. They talk about what effect the donation might have on her sense of self, whether the cerebellum will have any “donor consciousness.” Teo wonders if the transfer of a crucial part of the brain from man to woman will have any effects; she also notes that they are of different races. It is also not clear if Stahl will survive as himself. Although they will share the experience of this bodily part, the connection ends there (?), and Teo returns to her room.
“Morality Meat,” Racoona Sheldon, 1985 — A young, poor, black woman gives up her child to an adoption agency not knowing that, despite the watchful eye of the local morality group (of privileged whites), the babies of the poor are being turned into food for the rich, who have been inconvenienced by a meat shortage. [Another light-hearted tale from Tiptree.]
“Signs of Life,” Barbara Kransoff, 1989 — Fran is a Starlight addict working in a tourist trap as a pastit. Wealthy cutomers who want a taste of the danger of the city and its poor visit the bar in order to watch pastits and prostis simulate the lives of prostitutes. Since Fran is an authentic addict–addicted to coasting the universe on starlight–she’s even more alluring and is paid more. When Fran is suddenly cut off from her supply, she’s approached by the captain of a Deaf Ship and offered a new job.
Musicians, Dancers, Performers
“Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones,” Samuel R. Delany, 1968 — The story of a thief who befriends the ultra-idolized Singers. The songs of the Singers bring calm and comfort to the populace, reduce the crime rate, minister to grief, and create instant communities of listeners.
“Rock On,” Pat Cadigan, 1984 — Story of an aging human synthesizer (sinner, synner) who is fought over by two rock bands, one new and one old.
“Winter Market,” William Gibson, 1986 –The male narrator tells the story of Lise, a disabled, self-destructive, tech-encased woman living in a discard-laden subculture. Lise gains fame and fortune by singing of her pain, which is considered an “authentic,” otherwise inaccessible experience by the privileged who consume her music. She uses the money to have her body cremated and her mind transferred to a place where she can no longer be “touched.” [not usually placed in the feminist SF tradition, though I do see references to it in feminist SF criticism]
“And Salome Danced,” Kelly Eskridge, 1994 — A gender-switching dancer tries out for the part of Salome as both a man and a woman.
“p dolce,” Louise Marley, 2007 – Two musicologists fight for the right to insert themselves into Brahms’s time period in order to discover the true meaning of the “p dolce” notation. [this might be general SF, but I include it due to the class’s interest in musicology]
Actresses / Women as Media
“Baby, You Were Great,” Kate Wilhelm, 1967 – A television producer auditions women in order to replace his star actress, to whom the audience “tunes in” as she lives her life. The actress, who has an implant that can transmit her emotions, is looking for a way out of the business—fortunately for the producer, her desire to escape makes her wonderfully and tragically emotional.
Other Performing Bodies / Passing / Drag
“When I Was Miss Dow,” Sonya Dorman Hess, 1966 – “Protean” beings who are not like the “mother-hungry” humans who have recently landed on their planet, infiltrate the human invaders by growing and adopting human patterns in tanks.
“Listening to Brahms,” Suzy McKee Charnas, 1989 – Humanity destroys itself and a handful of survivors are saved by a race of “snakes,” who learn to imitate Earth culture, including their clothing, expressions, and music.
Notions of Time and History
Arguably, a broad category and perhaps not very useful except as a heading for these stories.
“The Power of Time,” Josephine Saxton, 1971 – A woman in the future plans to move Manhattan to England with the help of Flying Spider, owner of the island; her counterpart in the past wins a trip to New York and falls for her escort, a Mohawk.
“The Slow and Gentle Progress of Trainee Bell-Ringers,” Barbara Paul, 1978 — A story about a woman who travels back to study/inhabit Elizabeth. She’s there when Elizabeth dies, which shouldn’t be possible, as travelers are only able to inhabit living bodies. This forces the time traveler’s society to confront the possibility that all of the great figures died at various, unrecorded points and are kept animated by persons from their future.
“Cassandra,” C. J. Cherryh, 1978 — Crazy Alis can see the aftermath of the strike that’s about to hit the city. Everyone is a ghost, until she encounters a man who is solid. When the strike happens, she’s unable to prevent his death. [An example of the many myths and mythic figures that are re-envisioned and rewritten in feminist SF.]
“The Lincoln Train,” Maureen F. McHugh, 1995 — Brilliant, short alternate history from McHugh. Included because it’s a good read.
GENERAL SF: A SAMPLING
Not necessarily feminist SF or SF–and some are problematic for various reasons–but perhaps of interest to some due to research interests. This list demonstrates the variety of themes within the genre (albeit, after being filtered by my research and reading preferences).
“Mellonta Tauta,” Edgar Allan Poe, 1848 – The narrator travels at dizzying speed in a balloon while waxing philosophically—but incorrectly–about the past.
“The Damned Thing,” Ambrose Bierce, 1898 – A journalist testifies at a coroner’s inquest as to what he saw of another man’s death by a “thing” in the woods.
“Young Archimedes,” Aldous Huxley, 1924 — An English couple is on extended holiday in Italy, where they meet the child, Guido, who is revealed to be a musical and mathematical genius.
“The Cubic City,” Rev. Louis Tucker, D.D., 1929 – A man thinks himself into the future, where he finds that New York has become a cubic city, and problems such as noise, disorder, garbage, insane, criminals, and the rude have been eliminated by the new code of Urbanity.
“The Gostak and the Doshes,” Miles J. Breuer, 1930 – A story exploring the crossover between the relativity of language and that of physical reality.
“Pilgrimage,” Nelson Bond, 1939 – An ambitious young girl in a matriarchal society rejects the three career options of warrior, mother, and worker and demands that she be trained as the next leader. However, this requires her to make a pilgrimage through dangerous man-filled woods to view something we know as “Mt. Rushmore.”
“Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” Jorges Luis Borges, 1940; English ver. 1961 – A story that begins with a mirror and a fictitious encyclopedia article; challenges notions of history, language, and reality.
“The Library of Babel,” Jorge Luis Borges, 1941 – The universe is conceived as an infinite series of hexagonal rooms containing a limitless number of books.
“Nightfall,” Isaac Asimov, 1941 – A culture that has never seen the night due to the presence of six suns experiences nightfall for the first time.
“Mimsy Were the Borogoves,” Lewis Padgett (Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore), 1943 – Children stumble upon a bag of toys from the future.
“The Cave,” P. Schuyler Miller, 1943 – A human and alien take shelter in the same cave, leading to a crisis of communication. One of the two makes the wrong “sign” and is killed.
“The Storm,” A. E. van Vogt, 1943 – “Mixed Men” descended from robots are of “two minds.” They must defend their culture, and that of another cybernetic mixing, from the imperialist humans.
“The Great Fog,” H F Heard, 1944 – Biologists and metereologists learn that a slight change in humidity has a given a mold a growth spurt. The mold is capable of producing its own humid climate. It eventually covers the world, engendering revolutions in art, music, economics, and every aspect of day to day life. Oral tradition flourishes, life slows down and becomes more immediate and pictorial, and written texts molder.
“Kindness,” Lester del Rey, 1944 – A “normal” man finds himself pitied by homo superior; they seem to be able to read his mind, but it’s the simplicity of his desires, the unscreened “data” of his body, and his reliance on familiar narratives (comic books) which make him, and his plans to escape, adorably predictable.
“City,” Clifford Simak, 1944 – New forms of transportation lead to urban flight, literally. The only way to save “the city” for Grandpa is to turn it into a memorial/museum/park for the people of the future.
“Nightmare Number Four,” Robert Bloch, 1945 — Poem about permanent advertisements in the air; media saturation.
“Vintage Season,” C. L. Moore, 1946 – Time travelers who consume “catastrophe” as an aesthetic experience visit a city about to be destroyed by an asteroid. With them is a composer who will memorialize the event through a 3D, operatic collage.
“Scanners Live in Vain,” Cordwainer Smith (Paul Linebarger), 1948 – The story of a cyborg-pilot whose senses have been reduced to sight to better suit him for space travel. He uses a mirror to read his own instruments and a writing pad to communicate.
“The Only Thing We Learn,” Cyril M. Kornbluth, 1949 – Young gentlemen studying epic poetry in “Archeo-Literature 203” try to reconstruct the past in order to sympathize with those on the wrong side of a war.
“The Veldt,” Ray Bradbury, 1950 – Two children use a VR playroom to deal with their inconvenient parents.
“Coming Attraction,” Fritz Leiber, 1950 – A satire of American culture, particularly its gender relations, told by a man who falls for the girlfriend of a wrestling star.
“With These Hands,” Cyril Kornbluth, 1951 – A sculptor finds he is out of work due to new tech (the esthetikon).
“The Quest for St. Aquin,” Anthony Boucher, 1951 – A monk makes a pilgrimage to the body of his saint, only to find that the “body” belongs to different kind of faith.
“The Pedestrian,” Ray Bradbury, 1951 – Society’s norm is the nuclear family unit and its preferred activity is watching tv. The protagonist is arrested for taking a walk.
“Cost of Living,” Robert Sheckley, 1952 – A man sells his son’s future in exchange for modern conveniences he can enjoy during his own lifetime.
“Sail on! Sail on!,” Jose Philip Farmer, 1952 – Monks who follow a religion based on science sail off the edge of a flat world.
“What’s It Like Out There,” Edmond Hamilton, 1952 — A soldier returning from war in space is asked to deliver letters from dead soldiers to their families, but none of the families can be told the truth because of their need to believe in heroes.
“Worlds of the Imperium,” Keith Laumer, 1952 — (excerpt) A man stands in a field, and his body morphs and rides the time tide.
“The Custodian,” William Tenn, 1953 – The sun will go nova in a year and earth’s populace has divided into Affirmers (of life) and Custodians (of museums). The last Custodian on Earth waits for the nova, spending his days traveling to museums and resenting the time used up by survival.
“A Bad Day for Sales,” Fritz Leiber, 1953 – Robie the robot, the first robotic vending machine, tries to peddle his wares minutes after a nuclear explosion in the city.
“The Night He Cried,” Fritz Lieber, 1953 –A tentacled “woman” from Galaxy Center teaches a violent chauvinist a thing or two. (satire of Mickey Spillane)
“Disappearing Act,” Alfred Bester, 1953 – Mysterious Ward T at St. Albans hosts dreaming people who leave this world for other time periods. The General wants to militarize this ability. It’s determined that only a poet can communicate with the dreamers, but the last poet died in prison years ago. The only people remaining are specialists with value to the military.
“Mr Costello, Hero,” Theodore Sturgeon, 1953 — Costello is able to inspire suspicion and paranoia wherever he goes. He creates crisis and enemies and steps in to offer a solution to the chaos. (Satire of McCarthyism.)
“The Chapter Ends,” Poul Anderson, 1953 — A post-human captain tries to convince a traditionalist to leave earth. Aliens have made a compact with “humans” (many forms) to vacate Earth and reside elsewhere. Stubborn man becomes last man on earth; once left, his “connection” to the soil isn’t enough to assuage the sudden horror of complete isolation from the “human” community.
“Second Variety,” Philip K. Dick, 1953 – A soldier discovers that his mechanical enemies have discovered a new form of camouflage—imitating human beings.
“The Cold Green Eye,” Jack Williamson, 1953 — A boy is left with Tibetan monks by his parents, and there he livesa simple life, in harmony, sequestered from consumerism and Western convention. His aunt tracks him down and insists he live with her. She tries to crush his individuality and calls his interest in the sacred texts heathenism. He uses the texts to turn her into a fly.
“Down Among the Dead Men,” William Tenn (Philip Klass), 1954 – Soldiers are grown or fitted together from parts to feed the war machine of a desperate, reproduction-obsessed society. A military commander must lead a troupe of new recruits, all replicated from the bodies of a few long-dead heroes. A story of “male reproduction” through tech.
“Crucifixus Etiam,” Walter M. Miller, Jr., 1954– A man decides to work off-world for an extended period of time to secure his future on Earth. However, the air on the planet is such that he will never have full lung capacity again and won’t be able to return
“Memento Homo,” Walter M. Miller, Jr., 1954 – A spacer is attended by his wife on his death bed while his children avoid/disappoint him and his wealthy neighbor has a party
“A Master of Babylon,” Edgar Pangborn, 1954 – An aging musician believes himself to be the last surviving human as he quietly teeters toward madness in the ruins of New York.
“The Midas Plague,” Frederik Pohl, 1954 — Morey and Cherry Fry have just been married in an extravagant ceremony. It’s revealed that in this future, citizens have a consumption requirement, and Cherry’s “poor” parents are actually the elite.
“The Father-Thing,” Philip K. Dick, 1954 – A boy’s father is somehow replicated and replaced by some “thing.”
“Bulkhead,” Theodore Sturgeon, 1955 – A cadet in training to be a space captain endures a “test run” with a young boy trapped in the bulkhead. It’s revealed that the government has made the cadet schizophrenic in order to make him more suited to the long, lonely mission.
“The Public Hating,” Steve Allen, 1955 — A crowd gathers in a stadium and in their homes before their televisions to “hate” a political prisoner, Professor Arthur Ketteridge, to death for treason.
“The Star,” Arthur C. Clarke, 1955 — Three thousand light-years away from the Vatican, a Jesuit astrophysicist comments on the depression of the crew, now that they know the truth about the Star of Bethlehem.
“The Census Takers,” Frederik Pohl, 1955 — A rather brutal Area Boss oversees a census which means life or death to the residents of his ward.
“The First Canticle,” Walter M. Miller, Jr, 1955 — The first story of three, serialized in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, which later became A Canticle for Leibowitz. (Road to SF: 4)
“The Tunnel under the World,” Frederik Pohl, 1955 – Advertisements intrude everywhere, dominating everything from the home, to the body, to reality.
“The Game of Rat and Dragon,” Cordwainer Smith, 1955 – A story of “pinlighting” through space using a human and animal mind interface.
“Autofac,” Philip K. Dick, 1955 – Humans attempt to turn off machines that endlessly produce a set of items that a long-gone bureaucracy has determined are essential to their lives.
“Watershed,” James Blish, 1955 — An Adapted Man and the seal-man Hoqqueah argue over the idea of a “primary type” for human kind. The basic human type can no longer inhabit Earth.
“Fair,” John Brunner, 1956 — Speeding escalators rush consumers from exhibit to exhibit.
“The Dead Past,” Isaac Asimov, 1956 – Arnold Potterley, PhD, a historian of Carthage begs the powers that be to allow him to use the government’s chronoscope in order to exonerate Carthage.
“A Work of Art,” James Blish, 1956 – Richard Strauss is resurrected in the far future and tasked with making music for a modern audience; great twist ending. [Compare with “Gianni.”]
“Bad Medicine,” Robert Sheckley, 1956 – Caswell seeks a Rex Regenerator to help rid him of his homicidal impulse, before he can kill his nemesis, Magnessen. The model he buys is the floor model, which is tuned for a Martian. Since homicide is unknown on Mars, it attempts to cure him of a Martian psychosis.
“A Man of Talent,” Robert Silverberg, 1956 rev 1966 for this anthology – A poet flees the “knowing claque” on earth for a planet as far away as possible, only to discover that its residents are omniartistic. He is considered a mere poet, and not a very good one, and he’s valued solely for his ability to serve as an audience. He decides to remain on the planet and write poetry for himself.
“Now Let Us Sleep,” Avram Davidson, 1957 – Explorers survey a planet populated by “primitives,” whom they eventually murder, rape, and use for experiments. When a group of them are taken aboard for transport back to Earth, a scientist argues for their protection. Unsuccessful, he sees no other option but to euthanize them all, including himself.
“Tunesmith,” Lloyd Biggle Jr, 1957 – An elderly man, Baque, stands in the museum of the future and recalls how his “empathic” music saved civilization from jingles.
“Unit,” J. T. McIntosh, 1957 — Edgar agrees to become a Unit Father for a group of social misfits and malcontents who wish to have their identities erased, such that they might be retrained as a new entity with no memory of the past.
“Vengeance for Nikolai,” Walter M. Miller, Jr, 1957 — A young Russian woman is asked by a Russian general to assassinate the brilliant American leader who is routing their troops.
“Build-up,” J.G. Ballard, 1957 – Over-population in the future has led to such building density that an aspiring aircraft designer, M., can’t find enough space to “re-discover” flight.
“Call Me Joe,” Poul Anderson, 1957 – A psychologist watches on in alarm as a disabled scientist is asked to explore the surface of Jupiter via the mind of a genetically-engineered animal.
“Thirty Days Had September,” Robert F. Young, 1957 – A man, in a fit of nostalgia, purchases a “real” schoolteacher (an android) so that his son, who is educated solely through “educational” programs sponsored by cereal companies, can experience a “real” education.
“Who Can Replace a Man?” Brian Aldiss, 1958 – Humanity has destroyed itself and machines form a social order based on a hierarchy of intelligence.
“The Hated,” Paul Flehr, 1958 — A former astronaut has returned from mission. Part of his pension agreement stipulates that he must stay out of geographical regions afforded to former fellow astronauts, as close quarters drove them to hate each other.
“Theory of Rocketry,” Cyril M. Kornbluth, 1958 – An English teacher of the future must submit to psych exams, televised teaching, lackluster pupils—until he meets Foster, the one pupil that might make something of himself.
“Casey Agonistes,” Richard McKenna, 1958 – Veterans left to die in hospital beds take the only recourse available—hallucinating a gorilla.
“Unhuman Sacrifice,” Katherine MacLean, 1958 — An obnoxious missionary and two crewman land on an uncolonized planet. The crewman find the man relentless, assume his order sent him here to get rid of him, while he thinks he’s been given an honor. He begins preaching through a box that only transmits a few, simple words. The crewman are concerned about cultural contamination and the misunderstandings that might occur.
“Judas Danced,” Brian Aldiss, 1958 – Alex Abel Crowe (a wit, a provocateur, a dandy) murders Parowen Scryban for the second time.
“The Advent on Channel Twelve,” C. M. Kornbluth, 1958 – (short short) A biblical recounting of how Poopy Panda did come to build his media empire and rule over all the land.
“The Handler,” Damon Knight, 1960 — Pete, the big, popular man of the hour and famous television star, arrives at a party where everyone wants to bask in his good looks and charisma. Suddenly, the little person inside Pete opens up the hatch and climbs out to chat. The party-goers are disinterested, wander away. The little man is saddened, but he climbs back in the man and revives the party. [I wouldn’t call Knight a feminist by any means, but this is a particularly good story with thematic overlap with feminist SF.]
“The Sound Sweep,” J. G. Ballard, 1960 — Sound can be retained in walls and sound sweeps are needed to clean public spaces. Ultrasonic music is the new fashion, phonographs and live singing dead. Madame Gioconda, the aging and discarded opera star, and Mangon, the mute sound sweep for an unlikely friendship, that is indeed one-sided.
“Alpha Ralpha Boulevard,” Cordwainer Smith, 1961 — In the “first years of the Rediscovery of Man, when the Instrumentality dug deep in the treasury, reconstructing the old cultures, the old languages, and even the old troubles,” Paul and Virginia, are friends and tourists of the “ancient civilizations” now “rising like great land masses out of the sea of the past.”
“My Object All Sublime…,” Poul Anderson, 1961 – A man listens to his new friend explain how criminals of the future are punished by exile to the “alien” past.
“Billenium,” J. G. Ballard, 1961 – Overpopulation has sensitized everyone to space, including Ward, who measures his ceiling to make sure the upstairs neighbor isn’t pulling a fast one.
“The Moon Moth,” Jack Vance, 1961 – A new ambassador arrives to a highly organized culture with two peculiarities: hierarchical “character” masks used in lieu of personal identity and a language spoken through musical instruments.
“Mother Hittun’s Littul Kittons,” Cordwainer Smith, 1961 – A criminal from a marginalized world attempts to become a hero to his people by stealing from the wealthy, but fails due to precautions they’ve taken to identify outsiders, including an innocuous shibboleth.
“Thought Control,” Herbert W. Franke, 1961 – (short short) A human is imprisoned in a cage by an alien machine which can’t distinguish between him and his gear.
“Requiem,” Edmond Hamilton, 1962 — A world-weary captain presides over the group of reporters and “sentimentalists” gathered to witness the last moments of Earth.
“A Rose for Ecclesiastes,” Roger Zelazny, 1963 – A poet/translator is given the privilege of viewing the sacred texts of an alien culture.
“The Subliminal Man,” J G Ballard, 1963 – A man’s futile efforts to stop giant billboards and consumerism from taking over society.
“Not Counting Bridges,” Robert L. Fish, 1963 – (short short) A man learns of America’s frightening future as a concrete wasteland devoted to providing space for cars.
“A Time for Revolution,” Hirai Kazumasa, 1963 (2007 Tr.) – Poets and artists from a dystopian future travel back in time to possess the bodies of today’s thugs.
“Portrait of the Artist,” Harry Harrison, 1964 – A comic book illustrator is replaced by a machine. He draws his last panel for his ex-boss, of his suicide.
“Gas Mask,” James D. Houston, 1964 – Charlie Bates’s car has become enmired in a traffic jam that is projected to last at least two days.
“Slow Tuesday Night,” R. A. Lafferty, 1965, Galaxy – People regularly live entire lifetimes in one evening and begin again the next day, with radical consequences for human intimacy; people become stock characters and fall into patterns.
“Repent Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman,” Harlan Ellison, 1965 – A mysterious provocateur commits acts of civil disobedience in an attempt to shake society out of its time-based routines.
“Day Million,” Frederic Pohl, 1966 – A “boy meets girl story” with a twist–it’s the far future, he’s evolved past the “rape instinct,” and she’s male according to her chromosomes; neither believes they are “performing,” they just “are.” Described by Joe Haldeman as a story full of “sly, self-referentiality.” Some in feminist SF see this story as progressive, others disagree.
“Light of Other Days,” Bob Shaw, 1966 – A husband and wife driving in the country come across a vendor selling “slow glass,” a substance which can record and project light from the past.
“The Flower’s Life is Short,” Fukushima Masami, 1967 (2007 Tr.) – A designer of holographic flower arrangements realizes that she’s accidentally designed an image of a lost lover.
“Problems in Creativeness,” Thomas Disch, 1967. A young boy struggles to pass his IQ test so that the state will allow him to reproduce (and marry his sweetheart).
“The Worm that Flies,” Brian Aldiss, 1968 – In a surreal far future, a descendent of humanity on a dying Earth ponders the meaning of form, forgetting, change, and motion so that he can communicate with a higher reality.
“The Time Machine,” Langdon Jones, 1969 – A prisoner’s slowly disintegrating sense of time is contrasted with the graphic detail of a photograph–which may be what allows him to time travel.
“After the Myths Went Home,” Silverberg, 1969 — The curator of the Hall of Man assists as mythological figures (including Adam and Eve, and later the gods of science) are resurrected for the amusement of the dilletantes of the future.
“Jamboree,” Jack Williamson, 1969 — In a post-apocalyptic world, a mechanical scoutmaster keeps his human charges in a permanent state of scouthood.
“The Schematic Man,” Frederik Pohl, 1969 – A man is able to “type himself in” to a computer, i.e. he forms a mathematical “model” of himself using demographic data.
“The Man Inside,” Bruce McAllister, 1969 – (short short) A boy watches as doctors perform an experiment to test “personality symmetry” on his father, who is a catatonic schizophrenic.
“The Big Flash,” Norman Spinrad, 1969 – The military uses a rock band to spread propaganda advocating the use of nuclear weapons.
“Another Prince of Wales,” Toyota Aritsuné, 1970 (2007 Tr.) – (Japanese) A U.N War Supervisor oversees a war between Japan and England (his parents’ home countries) in order to ensure that the combatants adhere to the rule to fight with anachronistic technology appropriate to the time period in which the national conflict originated.
“How the Whip Came Back,” Gene Wolfe, 1970 – The pope and a wealthy activist meet in Geneva to discuss whether they will oppose the movement to force all criminals into labor camps.
“Good News from the Vatican,” Robert Silverburg, 1971 – The faithful wait to learn if a robot will be chosen as the next pope.
“Angouleme,” Thomas Disch, 1971 – Children in a bleak future spy on and eventually attack the weaker members of society. They name their first victim after a character in literature (Raskolnikov’s victim) and use historical facts/scenarios to justify the act. Part of Disch’s 334 novel.
“Report on the Threatened City,” Doris Lessing, 1971 – Aliens try to convince the humans of a threatened city that they are about to be destroyed. The humans respond in every possible way except the “logical” one.
“The Fifth Head of Cerberus,” Gene Wolfe, 1972 – (Novella) Wolfe’s brilliant novella about the son of a reclusive inventor; situated in a colony that has annihilated the indigenous culture, the novella incorporates numerous elements–prostitution, colonization, libraries, artifacts, class divisions, “civilized” exteriors, anthropology, prosthetics, and cyborgs–into an engrossing tale of boy who begins to doubt the authenticity of everything, including himself.
“Weihnachtsabend,” Keith Roberts, 1972 – An alternate history in which the Nazis win WWII; a British man working for the Nazis begins to hallucinate in response to the strain.
“Latest Feature,” Maggie Nadler, 1972 – (short short) A woman purchases a television set which allows her to spy on others. She doesn’t realize that the camera is filming her life every time it’s turned off.
“A Thing of Beauty,” Norman Spinrad, 1973 – A salesman escorts a Japanese man around a deserted and dilapidated New York with the hope of selling off the famous buildings that are in his territory.
“Closed Sicilian,” Barry N. Malzberg, 1973 — The story of a detached, obsessed chess master playing for the galaxy against a life-long opponent who has been captured by the enemy.
“The Valley of Echoes,” Gerard Klein, 1973 – A collection of echoes trapped in a valley are the only artifact of a dead alien culture.
“The Proust Syndrome,” Howard Goldsmith, 1974 — Jason Turner is the director of nostalgia control. America has become a futureless society, threatened by its inability to appreciate the present and not future-oriented.
“Triceratops,” Kono Tensei, 1974 – A father and son try to co-exist with visions of gigantic dinosaurs strolling through the city.
“The Green Hills of Earth,” Robert Heinlein, 1974 – A newly-blind spacer who has been left to fend for himself by the government finds a way to make himself useful by re-remembering his military experiences and transforming them into national poetry.
“A Sinister Metamorphisis,” Russell Baker, 1975 – (short short, humor) Bureaucratic workers begin to develop “machine envy,” longing to be as emotionally unresponsive and immune to abuse as their mechanized counterparts when in the presence of enraged human customers.
“Doing Lennon,” Greg Benford, 1976 – A man is cryogenically frozen so that he can awaken in the future and impersonate John Lennon; unfortunately, Paul shows up.
“The Lens,” Annemarie Van Ewyck, 1977 – An interplanetary liaison shaken by the recent death of a friend walks through ruins and tourists toward her final destination: an alien temple where she will attempt to connect with the cosmic mind.
“The Way of Cross and Dragon,” George R. R. Martin, 1977 – A Knight Inquisitor must investigate a heretical hotbed off-world. It seems that someone has made Judas a saint and the story of his adventures is terrific.
“Creator,” David Lake, 1978 — Jay Crystal is a citizen of Olympia. Like all bored immortals, he becomes a client of Creation Corporation and the god of a fictional world.
“Night-Rise,” Katherine Maclean, 1979 — A reporter, Thomas Barlan, investigates a new death cult, Thuggee, the source of which is Haran, an Indian boy. [Problematic for various reasons, but still interesting]
“Sandkings,” George R. R. Martin, 1979 – (Novelette) A man who regards everyone else as expendable plays god with an alien species, pitting them against each other in battles for food.
“The Word Sweep,” George Zebrowski, 1979 – An example of literalized metaphor—in this case, materialized words; human are revealed to be held back by their desire to describe infinitude with finitude.
“Halfjack,” Roger Zelazny, 1979 – A halfjack takes off his skin to show his lover his half metal body, which she finds erotic.
“Chronopolis,” J.G. Ballard, 1979 – A boy living in a world that has banished clocks becomes obsessed with the prospect of marking time.
“The Finger,” Naomi Mitchison, 1980 – (fantasy) A boy runs away from his mother and the Good Man to start a new life in another town.
“Falling,” Raylyn Moore, 1980 — A woman lives beneath the specter of a great obelisk (?) that is in a state of falling.
“The World Science Fiction Convention of 2080,” Ian Watson, 1980 – Science has become myth, and SF writers retreat into the attitudes and methods of the past.
“Ugly Chickens,” Howard Waldrop, 1980 — The classic about the disappearance of the dodo.
“Variation on a Theme from Beethoven,” Pamela Webb, 1980 — A young boy among immortals is given the choice of mortality on Renascence, in the belief that mortality is essential for the drive which creates art.
“The Gernsback Continuum,” William Gibson, 1981 — Disneyland, Nazi aesthetics, architecture, campy art, pulp dreams–everything. A classic critique of the Gernsback years and a must read.
“True Names,” Vernor Vinge, 1981 – An unscrupulous hacker enters a virtual reality cabal in order to discover the identity of another dangerous hacker called The Mailman; considered one of his most influential stories.
“Tauf Aleph,” Phylis Gottlieb, 1981 – A robot is programmed with Jewish history and customs and sent to oversee the funeral of the last Jew.
“Interstellar Pigeon,” Donald Westlake, 1982 – An affectionate pastiche of Star Trek.
“The Byrds,” Michael G. Coney, 1982 — A comedy in which Gran takes off her clothes and takes roost in a nearby tree, horrifying her family.
“Schroedinger’s Plague,” Greg Bear, 1982 — Scientists debate whether or not their belief that a plague has been released by a broken seal will result in the plague being released, as they are uncertain whether or not their own uncertainty has created the threat of plague.
“Blood Music,” Greg Bear, 1982 – A scientist plays God and is infected by nanites which transform his body into a plant-like base which will cover the world. [Often referenced by feminist SF scholars as a text that points to the male desire for an impermeable, intact, isolated body]
“Gianni,” Robert Silverberg, 1982 – Giovanni Pergolesi is resurrected in the near future and tasked with making music for a modern audience.
“The Golem,” Avram Davidson, 1983 – (Humor) A golem attempts to terrorize an elderly Jewish couple, but they’re not having it.
“The Life of Anybody,” Robert Sheckley, 1984 — “The Life of Anybody” crew comes into the protagonist’s home while he’s watching “The Late Show,” and he imagines how bored the audience must be, watching another guy watching tv.
“The Lucky Strike,” Kim Stanley Robinson, 1984 — Alternate history of Frank January, the man tasked with dropping the atom bomb. He gives his story to the priest, Getty. He refused to drop the bomb, pretending equipment failure and is executed for it, but his act has an effect on the people, and they form the January Society. He goes to his death at peace.
“Tourists,” Lisa Goldstein, 1985 – A man on holiday visits ruins and is separated from his tour group. He meets mysterious card-dealers who seem to have an eerie knowledge of his predicament.
“The Bob Dylan…Consortium, Ltd.,” Michael Bishop, 1985 — Bob Dylan gives up his singing career to become a computer software impresario, catching popular culture off-guard, although his software of spiritual discovery is a hit with the public.
“Love Alters,” Tanith Lee, 1985 – Reproduction is handled by machine. Only same-sex couples are given children of that sex in order to prevent children from being mentally abused. Genders have divided into male-men, girly-men, and feminine/masculine-identified women. Heterosexuality is considered perverse. The woman married to Jenny contemplates having an affair with a man, Druse.
“Heirs of the Perisphere,” Howard Waldrop, 1985 – Self-aware simulacra at Disneyland survive an apocalypse and consider helping humanity rebuild.
“Snow,” John Crowley, 1985 – A grieving man visits the tomb of his dead lover, who had contracted early in her life to be “recorded” (filmed) so that she could be appreciated after death.
“Just One Summer,” Carl Amery, 1985 – Two citizens living in a bureaucratized, fragmented, randomly televised reality are embroiled in an abduction scheme.
“Stone Lives,” Paul Di Filipo, 1985 — Stone is a blind man who is living at the lowest rung of this ultra-stratified society. He’s plucked from his life and given the opportunity to receive prosthetic eyes by the mysterious tycoon, Cytrine. He must use his new eyes and enhanced memory to study an unnamed something and report back to Cirtrine. What she really wants is commentary on what she’s made of society from her son, whom she abandoned to poverty as a learning experience.
“Sen Yen Babbo & The Heavenly Host,” Chet Williamson, 1987 – Evangelical wrestling is all the rage and a ruthless promoter finds just the right patsy to fight The Heavenly Host.
“The Sun Spider,” Lucius Shepard, 1987 – A solar scientist arrives on a space station with his estranged wife in order to study the possibility of intelligent life in the sun.
“Yoo Retoont, Sneogg. Ay Noo,” Marek S. Huberath, 1987 (2007 Tr.) — (Polish) After nuclear holocaust, only one-tenth of all births are live, and those who survive to adulthood are mentally and physically deformed. Snorgg learns that his bodily proportions and intelligence qualify him for personhood, and he is removed from his group home, a clearinghouse for those who will either become persons or organ donors.
“Fire Zone Emerald,” Lucius Shepherd, 1988 – A soldier is stranded in the jungle, where he encounters a mysterious woman among his constant hallucinations. Inspired by a Henry Rousseau painting and concerned with themes of war, perception, suffering, alienation, brutality, and reality.
“Foresight,” Michael Swanwick, 1988 — A non-linear story of a romance between two people experiencing all moments at once, including an eventual betrayal and murder.
“Schrödinger’s Kitten,” George Alec Effinger, 1988 – A Muslim woman who perceives multiple visions of her future is saved from beheading by Hilbert. She then becomes Heisenberg’s assistant, staying with him during his time in Göttingen and also while he works on the bomb.
“Karl and the Ogre,”Paul J. McAuley, 1988 – What seems like a child’s fantasy turns out to be real when it is revealed that a child’s imagination has become a powerful, material force.
“A Birch Tree, A White Fox,” Elena Arsenieva, 1989 (2007 Tr.) – Russian sf. Astronauts are stranded on a planet where the spoken word causes instant death.
“The Third Sex,” Alan Brennert, 1989 — An androgyne attempts to cope in a gendered world.
“We See Things Differently,” Bruce Sterling, 1989 – An account of an economically impoverished future America by a Muslim journalist assigned to interview the famous rock star, Tom Boston.
“Dori Bangs,” Bruce Sterling, 1989 – An alternate history of music critic Lester Bangs’s life.
“The Edge of the World,” Michael Swanwick, 1989 – Three children on the periphery of the adult world travel to the edge of the actual world, where they find historical artifacts such as skulls and junk, and a mystical staircase that grants wishes.
“Illusions in Relief,” Kathe Koja, 1990 — Joseph obsessively creates collages from the artifacts of misery left at his door by the desperate and isolated.
“Bear Discovers Fire,” Terry Bisson, 1990 – (Humor) A piece juxtaposing simple worlds and complex, the elderly and the young, bears and fire.
“Learning to Be Me,” Greg Egan, 1990 – A story about a crisis of identity and authenticity caused by a memory implant that promises immortality.
“Jamais Vu,” Geoffrey A. Landis, 1991 — A researcher cannot cure Alzheimer’s but does find a way to mimic one symptom. He chooses to lose his short-term memory so he can live in a stream of pleasant experiences from the past.
“The Sculptor,” Garry Kilworth, 1992 — Niccolo is a sculptor on his way through the desert to present 333 perfect figurines to the High Priest as tribute. When he arrives, he presents them to Leonardo da Vinci, who is entranced, as three is perfect harmony. However, the sculptor is Leonardo’s bastard son, whom Leonardo abandoned. The son has deliberately defaced one of the statues, knowing the effect it will have on his father. An alternate reality tale.
“The Message from Mars,” J G Ballard, 1992 — Astronauts return from Mars and refuse to get out of the spacecraft.
“Eat Reecebread,” Graham Joyce and Peter F. Hamilton, 1994 — A group of activists ensure that everyone is transformed into an intersexual (?) by a virus.
“A Letter from the Other Side,” Peter Schattschneider, 1994 – A man in an information-driven society joins a counter-culture group and destroys all of his ID and communications “macros.”
“Mitochondrial Eve,” Greg Egan, 1995 – A man is dragged by his lover, Lena, to the Children of Eve to get mitotyped so that he can find his place in the human family on the Great Tree.
“First Tuesday,” Robert Reed, 1995 — President Perez visits with citizens in their homes where he has conversations with them about their lives. This is possible due to a new technology that allows for the remote projection of personality and image. Little Stefan and his family interview the new president.
“Mortimer Gray’s History of Death,” Brian Stableford, 1995 — Fantastic novella on the theme of death. Deserves a better description, but time does not allow.
“Partners for Life,” Wolfgang Jeschke, 1996 – (German) An old man’s body is deteriorating and his Fourth World organ donor, who has been paid in advance for taking on this risk, is harvested first for a few brain cells and then an eye. The old man gains “phantom vision” and his story seems to merge with that of his “partner.” [Compare with “Interlocking Pieces”]
“Gone,” John Crowley, 1996 — The Elmers arrive and present humanity with the option of accepting their “Goodwill Tickets.”
“A Night on the Edge of the Empire,” Joao Barreiros, 1996 (2007 Tr.) – (Portuguese) VibrantSong, a Cultural Ambassador from a world where avians are sophonts, visits Earth. He brings along his chirptic slave, who helps him fill out paperwork at the airport and talk to a cab driver, whom he refers to as his “opposable thumb.”
“Nevermore,” Ian R. MacLeod, 1997 – It’s the Paris of the future and art is “real” due to “reality engines.” A floundering artist must decide in what sense his dead lover, who has access to these engines and appears to be living within them, is still authentic.
“The Firefly Tree,” Jack Williamson, 1997 — A young boy discovers an alien plant in his parents’ marijuana crop and comes to love the tree that promises entry into a universal civilization. The police eventually discover the field and burn the alien in the process.
“All the Birds of Hell,” Tanith Lee, 1998 — (fantasy) A love story covered in ice. Also deserves a better description.
“Ancient Engines,” Michael Swanwick, 1998 – A perfectly designed, immortal body/consciousness is confronted by the reality that everything is going to be destroyed by entropy anyway.
“Mereki Neko,” Bruce Sterling, 1998 – Tsuyoshi Shimizu tries to comfort his older brother, who is worn out by the “modern world” and his work for a big corporation. He thinks of renouncing the world and taking the vows at a monastery that allows no modern devices. He eventually discovers that there exists a secret underground of followers of a benevolent AI who looks after everyone. (Reminds me a bit of Person of Interest but less sinister–more like a world-soul advocating for connectedness)
“The Purchase of Earth,” Jack Williamson, 1998 — A Cherokee woman is altered by aliens and given the task of explaining to the “whites” that Earth is about to be colonized and its population enslaved.
“Daddy’s World,” Walter Jon Williams, 1999 – A father is determined to save his son’s life and arranges for him to be downloaded into a virtual environment with tutors, amusement parks, and fictional figures, such as Don Quixote.
“Border Guards,” Greg Egan, 1999 – While playing quantum soccer, Jalim encounters a mysterious woman who tells him of acts of violence against her body during the time before the “jewel,” a device which immortalizes consciousness.
“Rosetta Stone,” Fred Lerner, 1999 – An information scientist must try to learn what he can from an alien library stocked entirely with human books.
“Doppels,” Richard Parks, 1999 — The aging actor, Kent, learns that his studio has assigned a younger-looking doppel to him and that he’s being phased out. Although simulation tech exists that is capable of modifying his image on-screen so that he looks younger, the studios have learned that the public wants a real live figure with a presence to lust after, but they don’t necessarily care if it’s the original person. Kent learns that his female co-star is dying and has arranged for a doppel to live out her life with her oblivious husband.
“People Came From Earth,” Stephan Baxter, 1999 – A young boy experiences a profound connection with Leonardo da Vinci before harsh living conditions on the moon claim his life.
“The Sky-Green Blues,” Tanith Lee, 1999 – A female journalist interviews an alien author whose village is about to invaded by “the enemy.” She offers to help the author escape, only to find out that the author has contempt for her as an “amateur at life” and much more profound concerns.
“Shiva,” Barry N. Malzberg, 1999 – A bewildered technician is forced to travel back in time to try to persuade historical figures to change course. He begins with a passionate appeal to Pol Pot and Charles de Gaulle at a Parisian café.
“100 Candles,” Curt Wohleber, 1999 – A brisk story of a woman’s decision to terminate her husband’s life before he can be downloaded into a robotic body, on the grounds that his soul is connected to his embodiment.
“Lifework,” Mary Soon Lee, 1999 – A woman in a state-controlled future resists as the overly-helpful state–which doesn’t believe in life-long marriage–pressures her to get a divorce.
“Evermore,” Sean Williams, 1999 – Disembodied minds consider suicide after a thousand years without change due to the strictness of their “identity” parameters, which were based on their long-dead originals.
“Written in Blood,” Chris Lawson, 1999 – A Muslim father and daughter on pilgrimage encounter a geneticist with a virus that can write the Qur’an into the blood.
“Macs,” Terry Bisson, 1999 – As part of a new Victims Rights Act, victims are offered the chance to kill clones of a terrorist in order to gain Closure. One of the clones is purported to be the Real McCoy (McVeigh).
“Valour,” Chris Beckett, 1999 – A young Englishman’s trip to New Berlin is disrupted by an old German philosopher who entreats him to study an alien culture in which dichotomies do not exist due to their triploid biology.
“Everywhere,” Geoff Ryman, 1999 – Technology has transformed life into a playground, particularly for children and the elderly. A boy’s Granddad dies and has his soul uploaded to the Angel of the North. Since the soul is just the “story” we leave behind in other dimensions, the boy’s Granddad is now everywhere, and the boy will soon be able to talk to him, as he does with dolphins, through his wonderful watch.
“Visit the Sins,” Cory Doctorow, 1999 – A chip replaces Ritalin as the fashionable new treatment for ADHD. Children whose attention dips simply “switch off” until their interest is reawakened. While off, they are “away,” zombies running “maintenance programs” that are able to ape the more banal forms of human interaction. Years later, a student confronts both grandfather and father in order to understand what the chip has—and hasn’t–done to their family.
“Seventy-Two Letters,” Ted Chiang, 2000 – (novella) A rational approach to a fantastic alternate reality in which the supernatural does exist and (discredited) scientific theories have merit.
“Mogera Wogura,” Kawakami Hiromi, 2002 (2005 Tr.) – A Japanese mole cares for lost humans who need a respite from the human world; meanwhile, the mole lives with his wife and holds down an office job.
“Kingdom Come,” Kay Kenyon, 2003 – A jungle is coming to Old Jacob’s nursing home. The unstoppable growth is the result of the foolishness of a corporation that brought seeds back from Niang’s Planet in its search for biodiversity to refresh Earth ecosystems. Old Jacob, a retired spacer, prepares for the experience with good cheer, although he knows the jungle will kill him. To him, the lush jungle is not destroying anything particularly important, but re-writing the landscape.
“Diving After Reflected Woman,” Terry McGarry, 2003 – A state videographer takes the confession of a woman who has had her vagina modified with an “iris of razors” so that she may defend herself from rapists. His job as a state videographer is to make her appear as gruesome and guilty as possible, but he balks.
“Jesus Freaks,” Jennifer Roberson, 2003 – Mike (Michael) beams Jesus into a gritty future where he meets a Mary Magdalene figure and takes on the Bakerites and Swaggerts that run the world.
“The Engines of Acadia,” Sean McMullen, 2005 – An extended metaphor regarding (a future?) society’s desire to sustain a one-dimensional “image” of a medieval past, so that it remains in stasis.
“Man You Gotta Go,” Adam Roberts, 2005 – Greensilk is an AI tasked with the problem of Fermi’s paradox. It spends the next 500 years observing and interacting with humanity as it tries to solve it.
“The Man Who Knew Too Much,” Alan Dean Foster, 2005 – A data junkie consumes facts and text to feel the rush of “knowing.”
“Finding Sajessarian,” Matthew Hughes, 2005 – (Humor) Henghis Hapthorn, Old Earth’s most famous “discriminator,” is the new Sherlock Holmes in this witty SF/detective series.
“Kansas, She Says, Is the Name of the Star,” R. Garcia y Robertson, 2006 – Amy is the bizarre new Dorothy in this Wizard of Oz update.
“Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter ,” Geoff Ryman, 2006 – (Novelette, fantasy) An alternate universe story about Cambodia and a daughter that it never had. Estranged from everyone, she shops.
“The Software Soul,” Brian Plante, 2006 – All of the humans have disappeared and an AI priest gives endless sermons to an empty chapel.
“The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change,” Kij Johnson, 2007 – Exactly what the title promises.
“Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse,” Andy Duncan, 2007 – A priest is called in to counsel a young girl (Flannery O’Connor?) who believes that a frizzled chicken is Jesus Christ.
“Always,” Karen Joy Fowler, 2007 – In California, 1938, a young man and woman join Brother Porter’s “Always” commune. Porter promises them immortality, but provides no proof other than his assurance that they are now immortal. Based on the story of a real commune from this time period.
“Perfect Violet,” Will McIntosh, 2007 – A woman sells an old memory of a first date in order to pay her rent. When she runs an Internet search to help her recall the man’s face, he wonders why and learns the truth. The man, still in love with her, gives her his memory of the date. [A twist on an old story]
“Vectoring,” Geoffrey Landis, 2007 – (Short short) A virus copies “information” from the brain of a researcher named Amanda; as a result, we are all destined to become her.
“The Skysailor’s Tale,” Michael Swanwick, 2007– A man tells his son the story of his life in Post-Revolutionary Philadelphia, where he served on the airship, Empire, and met the boy’s mother, a cross-dressing pirate.
YFL-500,” Robert Charles Wilson, 2007 – A “transrepresentational” artist gains moderate fame after using the data from the dream of a Doletown gypsy to create a work of art. When he can’t find an alternate data source, he befriends the woman in the hope of stealing more dreams.
“Jesus Christ, Reanimator,” Ken MacLeod, 2007 – Jesus Christ returns in the Second Coming, but the theologians think he’s a robot and the fundamentalists think he’s the Antichrist.
“Sanjeev and Robotwallah,” Ian McDonald, 2007 – A young boy named Sanjeev falls under the spell of the Robotwallahs, the “sexy dangerous” teen warriors who happily control killing machines for the government until they are abruptly made obsolete by peace.
“No More Stories,” Stephen Baxter, 2007 – A man visits his ailing mother only to realize that her life has been a simulation inside the world-mind of a far future Earth. All individual lives and stories are now treated as historical artifacts, resurrected occasionally due to the sense that something lost should be mourned. As he is a minor character in her life, when she dies, so will he.
“The Beethoven Project,” Donald Moffitt, 2008 – Ludwig von Beethoven is resurrected in the near future and tasked with making music for a modern audience. (Compare with “A Work of Art,” “Gianni,” and “p dolce”)
“The Elephant Ironclads,” Jason Stoddard, 2008 — An alternate history in which Niyol Chavez and Wallace offer to carry the bags for two foreigners, Frans the Dutchman and Herbert, who are looking for uranium, which is abundant in Dinetah. The two men explain that they’re conducting a radiographic survey. The boys object to tearing out the heart of the gods from the soil and are taken to their own leader, Benjamin Hatathlie. He explains that once they were a respected tribe, the most powerful on the continent , even the Hopi and Apache respected them. Then the First Ones sent the elephants–or maybe the Coyote–to trick them into losing their souls.
“Loser,” Chuck Palahniuk, 2010 — A Zeta Delt fraternity member on acid goes to a game show (The Price is Right) and meditates crazily on consumer society and the disconnect between the outlandish, impractical prizes and what’s considered common consumer knowledge. [Not genre fiction, but it ties in nicely with genre critiques of consumerism]
“A Life in Fictions,” Kat Howard, 2010 — A woman loses her identity as her ex-boyfriend “writes” his image of her into his texts. [Perhaps read with “Forever Yours, Anna”]