24 Following


Currently reading

A Creature of Moonlight
Rebecca Hahn
Saffron And Brimstone: Strange Stories
Elizabeth Hand
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance
Lois McMaster Bujold
Snow in May: Stories
Kseniya Melnik
The Dreaming Sex: Early Tales of Scientific Imagination by Women - Mike Ashley, L.T. Meade, Mary Shelley, Harriet Prescott Spofford, Alice W. Fuller, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, G.M. Barrows, Roquia Sakhawat Hossein, E. Nesbit, Clotilde Graves, Muriel Pollexfen, Greye La Spina, Clare Winger Harris, Adeline Knapp I really enjoyed this collection of 19th- and early 20th-century short stories by women. The phrase "tales of scientific imagination" is definitely more accurate than 'science fiction' - many of these deal with invention and discovery. It's great to explore the work of authors whose work has often fallen by the wayside, even though it may have been popular in its day, and to gain perspective on the attitudes of the time. Plus, many of these stories are just purely enjoyable!

The Blue Laboratory by L.T. Meade (1897): This is a classic 'mad scientist' story! A young governess is asked to assist her employer in his experiments, but her young charge lets her know that untoward things are happening in the laboratory. Her investigation leads her into danger...

The Mortal Immortal by Mary Shelley (1834): Hey, Frankenstein-lady! This short story by Shelley also explores her themes of the nature of life and humanity. An alchemist's assistant accidentally receives the elixir intended for his master, but the extended life he has received has brought him no pleasure...

The Moonstone Mass by Harriet Prescott Spofford (1868): An explorer lost in the Arctic encounters untold treasure, and nearly finds his death... Very similar in flavor to Lovecraft's 'At the Mountains of Madness,' but although this story is not as well-crafted, it did come first.

A Wife Manufactured to Order by Alice W. Fuller (1895): One of the most explicitly feminist of these stories, and also one of the more 'science-fictional' of the collection. A man discovers an inventor hawking feminine robots as 'wives,' advertising their beauty, courtesy and inability to talk back (as they only 'speak' in prerecorded phrases.) The guy in question thinks this is a great idea... until he realizes that his old girlfriend (an independent woman with a mind of her own) actually has far more to offer than a clockwork-and-wax figure.

Good Lady Ducayne by Mary Elzabeth Braddon (1896): The only one of this collection that I'd previously read. I'd read it in a vampire-themed anthology. It is neither a vampire story nor a science fiction story. It is a very well-crafted, dark and gothic tale. Worth the re-read.

The Hall Bedroom by Mary Wilkins Freeman (1903): I'm back to being reminded of Lovecraft! This story is very similar in feel and theme to 'Dreams in the Witch House.' I have to say, again, that this story is not quite as good - but it was written first. A woman entrepreneur starts a rooming house - but one of her lodgers disappears... and he's not the first to have disappeared from that room.

The Curious Experience of Thomas Dunbar by G.M. Barrows (1904): A man awakes after an industrial accident - with super-strength! Unfortunately, that's it. It reads more like the beginning of a story than a finished piece.

The Sultana's Dream by Roquia Sakhawat Hossain (1905): Almost more of an essay than a story, this piece by an Indian woman is explicitly feminist, talks about the repressive treatment of women in traditional Indian society, and offers a utopian(?) view of a society in which the position of the genders is reversed. Not really a great 'story,' but very interesting to read, especially in the context of the body of science fiction published much later which posited sex-segregated future societies.

The Five Senses by Edith Nesbit (1909): I expected to like this one a bit more than I did. Good ideas, but it got a little repetitive in execution. A young scientist is conflicted by his fiancee's strong opposition to vivisection - on which his career depends. The animal-lover eventually gives him an ultimatum, and he moves on to experimenting on himself...

Lady Clanbevan's Baby by Clotilde Graves (1915): A horror story with similar themes to that of Shelley's - focusing on the unnatural and terrible aspects of an artificially extended life and youth...

Monsieur Fly-by-Night by Muriel Pollexfen (1915): The author's surname, combined with the fact that this is an adventure tale, reminded me of the character Mrs Pollifax. Coincidence? Probably. Anyway, this story of a daring rescue of a princess by a flying ace, combined with a political coup, somehow seemed like it ought to be more exciting than it was. My attention kept wandering. Maybe my fault.

The Ultimate Ingredient by Greye La Spina (1919): A mad scientist becomes the Invisible Man (though this story does not pre-date Wells' Invisible Man) - and has psychopathic murder on his mind, in order to continue his dastardly experiments. A well-crafted pulp adventure.

The Miracle of the Lily by Clare Winger Harris (1928): OK, this one is a bona fide science fiction story (and remarkably modern-feeling). Set in the thirtieth century, we see a barren earth, destroyed by plagues of insects. The insects have been defeated, but humanity is dependent on artificial oxygen manufactories. However, audio communication with the natives of Venus reveal that they are currently facing a similar plague. The Venusians hope that Earth can counsel them on how to survive... I won't give away the ending, but this is an excellent story, on a par with some of the best classic sci-fi shorts.

The Earth Slept: A Vision by Adeline Knapp: A short and optimistic view of the passage of time...