Women on the Edge, Part 2

With a little help from my friends, this column has been revisiting favorite authors from the ground-breaking days of women in spec lit. Here are two more.

Vonda N. McIntire

McIntire has garnered an impressive share of kudos and recognition for her work starting in the 1970s.

Her best known novel is probably the 1978 Dreamsnake, which won Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards.

The book is set on a post-apocalyptic earth. It is the story of a healer named Snake and her quest to replace Grass, her rare, beloved dreamsnake, an essential element in her healing ability.

My most loved

I tend to go for harder sci-fi, and McIntire does not disappoint. On my special bookshelf she was represented by:

  • Superluminal (1983), in which a young woman has her heart replaced with an artificial pump so that she can become an interstellar pilot.
  • The Exile Waiting, McIntire’s 1975 debut novel about a young mutant thief in a post-apocalyptic world.
  • Barbary (1986) is generally considered a YA novel, but that just makes me love it more. It’s a tale about a 12-year-old girl and her cat who move to a space station.

In an era when the most popular girls’ series featured well-scrubbed suburban baby sitters, McIntire shone at presenting courageous young women in challenging situations.

Other accomplishments

Pride of place on my bookshelf was held by the 1976 feminist sci-fi anthology Beyond Equality, co-edited by McIntyre, which includes the Nebula-winning “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” by James Tiptree, Jr., aka Alice Sheldon.

McIntire also wrote the novelizations for many of the Star Wars and Star Trek movies. And in reading her bio I discovered two fun things: she is a fellow Greater Seattleite, and she did graduate work in genetics.

McIntire’s work can be hard to find in print. Several of her books are available in audio format on Amazon, and like many of my recommendations from this period, they are good requests to make at your nearest used bookstore.

Tanith Lee

The great Tanith Lee, most likely known to LSQ readers, was a prolific British author of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror.

She penned over 90 novels, 300 short stories, and a variety of other works. Her first publication was The Dragon Hoard, a children’s book in 1971.

As widely known as her works are, I was surprised to find out that during the course of her career Lee often met with resistance from publishers.

Perhaps this was partly a result of the fact that Lee, like many of the authors I’ve been recollecting, often explored overtly feminist and sexual themes. That doesn’t sound so earth-shaking today, I know.

Sadly, Lee succumbed to breast cancer in 2015.

My fave

It’s difficult to find a consensus on Lee’s most successful and/or most popular work. But choosing my favorite is easy: The Silver Metal Lover (1981).

This is the story of Jane, a wealthy 16-year-old girl in an imaginary world who falls deeply in love with a silver-skinned android minstrel. Silver is more complex than the other robots, and Jane moves to the slums with him, giving up all her privileges for love.

As she does so she finds herself in a way that would never have happened in her prior life.

It’s a little sappier than most of my favorites, but then, I was a lot more sappy in my youth than I am in my cronedom. And–not that there’s anything wrong with romance novels–other issues are explored as well: the role of art in society. The haves vs. the have-nots.

Love and metal

Revisiting Silver got me thinking about the depiction of human-machine love in books, movies, and TV, and how it might differ in the eyes of male and female writers.

I asked my husband if he remembered any examples of this topic. He said, “Yeah. I remember how you wouldn’t shut up about the robot with the guitar.”

More about this next month, so stock up on Kleenex and WD40 .



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