In Response: 5 (More) Nonfiction Books About Science Fiction contains a few amazing books by women to address how there was only one listed in 5 Nonfiction Books About Science Fiction. I liked Letters to Tiptree and can’t wait to pick up The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley. On the same thread, I thought I’d share some non-fiction books about science fiction that are on my radar to read in the future.
Recently, I started looking for slightly older SFF books written by women, which led me to some incredible writers. Octavia E. Butler was one of them. I read Parable of the Sower and became even more interested in reading her work and her thoughts on science fiction too.
Conversations with Octavia Butler by Conseula Francis
“Octavia Butler (1947-2006) spent the majority of her prolific career as the only major black female author of science fiction. Winner of both the Nebula and Hugo Awards as well as a MacArthur “genius” grant, the first for a science fiction writer, Butler created worlds that challenged notions of race, sex, gender, and humanity. Whether in the postapocalyptic future of the Parable stories, in the human inability to assimilate change and difference in the Xenogenesis books, or in the destructive sense of superiority in the Patternist series, Butler held up a mirror, reflecting what is beautiful, corrupt, worthwhile, and damning about the world we inhabit.
In interviews ranging from 1980 until just before her sudden death in 2006, “Conversations with Octavia Butler” reveals a writer very much aware of herself as the “rare bird” of science fiction even as she shows frustration with the constant question,”How does it feel to be the only one?” Whether discussing humanity’s biological imperatives or the difference between science fiction and fantasy or the plight of the working poor in America, Butler emerges in these interviews as funny, intelligent, complicated, and intensely original.”
Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century Edited by Justine Larbalestier
Women’s contributions to science fiction over the past century have been lasting and important, but critical work in the field has only just begun to explore its full range. Justine Larbalestier has collected 11 key stories–many of them not easily found, and all of them powerful and provocative–and sets them alongside 11 new essays, written by top scholars and critics, that explore the stories’ contexts, meanings, and theoretical implications. The resulting dialogue is one of enormous significance to critical scholarship in science fiction, and to understanding the role of feminism in its development. Organized chronologically, this anthology creates a new canon of feminist science fiction and examines the theory that addresses it. Daughters of Earth is an ideal overview for students and general readers.
I also read some great essays about SFF decolonalization and Feminism in Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany by Nisi Shawl Bill Campbell
Conversations with Samuel R. Delany by Samuel R. Delany, Carl Freedman
A key figure in modern science fiction and fantasy, Samuel R. Delany (b. 1942) is also one of the most acclaimed figures in contemporary literary theory and gay/lesbian literature. As a gay African American writer, Delany’s cerebral, experimental prose crosses lines of genre, gender, sexuality, and class. Several of his works–“Dhalgren, The Einstein Intersection, Babel-17, Stars in My Pocket like Grains of Sand,” and the Neveryon quartet are considered landmarks of “new wave” science fiction. His essays and critical works approach a wide variety of subjects from a perspective that is both resolutely philosophical and deeply provocative. “Conversations with Samuel R. Delany” collects interviews with the writer from 1980 to 2007.
Born in New York City’s black ghetto Harlem at the start of World War II, Samuel R. Delany married white poet Marilyn Hacker right out of high school. The interracial couple moved into the city’s new bohemian quarter, the Lower East Side, in summer 1961. Through the decade’s opening years, new art, new sexual practices, new music, and new political awareness burgeoned among the crowded streets and cheap railroad apartments. Beautifully, vividly, insightfully, Delany calls up this era of exploration and adventure as he details his development as a black gay writer in an open marriage, with tertiary walk-ons by Bob Dylan, Stokely Carmichael, W. H. Auden, and James Baldwin, and a panoply of brilliantly drawn secondary characters. Winner of the 1989 Hugo Award for Non-fiction.
Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places by Ursula K. Le Guin
“I have decided that the trouble with print is, it never changes its mind,” writes Ursula Le Guin in her introduction to Dancing at the Edge of the World. But she has, and here is the record of that change in the decade since the publication of her last nonfiction collection, The Language of the Night. And what a mind — strong, supple, disciplined, playful, ranging over the whole field of its concerns, from modern literature to menopause, from utopian thought to rodeos, with an eloquence, wit, and precision that makes for exhilarating reading.