This is a mishmash collection of essays from the scholar, critic, and science fiction writer Joanna Russ, most famous for her novels, especially The Female Man. This collection was published in 1995, and mostly essays from professional and academic journals from the 1970s. There’s a more or less common drift to many of these essays usually falling on the lines of considerations on critical readings of science fiction as a subject and the women’s writing (women writers) and the confluence of both of these.
Some of the essays stand out in very interesting ways, especially in the early essay proposing various considerations in the reading of science fiction as a critical subject and how it might stand separate from what she calls “realistic fiction”. Another in this direction is an essay about subjunctive narrative theory in science fiction as well. One thing that I found interesting is the categorization of both realistic fiction and science fiction as “what if” narrative, while fantasy is something that never happened and never would happen.
There’s some essays that I find to be overly churlish in their tone and approach, such as the critical differences between Star Trek and Star Wars, both of which were in their infancy in the late 1970s/early 1980s and was probably a too early venture into the subject, in addition to the fact that the laudatory nature of the Star Trek sections completely ignores the misogyny of the original Star Trek while also promoting the show where so many friends and colleagues of Russ would have worked.
I am more troubled (in a good way) by my aversion to a later of her pieces about women’s writing because it was challenging, and of course means I should go back and reread more carefully when I am more into thinking through how she talks about women’s writing.
I was not troubled so much as annoyed by an essay that starts with Ursula Leguin officiously rebutting a critic’s essay on one of her novels. I wish there was more exploration in this essay about the tension between someone who is both a scholar and a fiction writer, but I do not privilege the author as a critical voice nearly as much as author’s tend to privilege their own voice. I find them to be additional and interesting avenues but not necessarily authorities.