Monday, February 27, 2023

Joanna Russ's Mainstream Masterwork


The latest book I have been knocked flat and wowed by (they come less frequently with age, so read fast, young people) is On Strike Against God by Joanna Russ. She being one of the crown gems of science fiction, you'd expect it to be genre. But it's not. It's mainstream. It's subtitled A Lesbian Love Story. And if you had to fit it into a subgenre, it would be Feminist Fiction.

Strike three, you'd think, for a guy who's rapidly heading toward the category of Dead White Male. But no, Joanna managed the near-miraculous feat of writing prose that was simultaneously white-hot with anger and laugh-out-loud funny. Here, from a description of the protagonist's conversation with a male academic whose attentions she does not want:

[...] He said, leaning forward:

"You're strange animals, you women intellectuals. Tell me: What's it like to be a woman?"

I took my rifle from behind my chair and shot him dead. "It's like that," I said." No, of course I didn't.

I inadvertently sold two copies of the book at Boskone by quoting that passage. Women, it seems, still have reason to be angry, and find it hilarious.

The anger-humor is the best part of the book, followed closely by the descriptions of first almost-sex and first actual sex with someone you love with all your heart. These scenes are so specifically and particularly described that you'd be tempted to think them autobiographical. However, Esther (that's the protagonist's name, though you have to read deep into the text to find it) at one point reflects on the meaning of her mother's name. It is Joan and that is proof positive to this former English major that Joanna is signaling that Esther is her daughter, which is to say her creation, and therefore not to be mistaken for her.

I am not wrong on this.

There is a great more to be said about the virtues of this slim (107 pages) book. Including its strange and whimsical ending. But I will content myself by mentioning that Samuel R. Delany, who conducted what he called "a correspondence of Victorian dimensions" with her, told me that he considers it her best book.

As for me, I would have to reread everything Joanna wrote several times before making so definite a claim. But it's possible. It's definitely possible.

This book, as I said, knocked me flat. Wow.


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

My Boskone Schedule



Boskone is this weekend and as you can see, Lady Hypatia of Alexandria has already packed herself in the bag, thinking that this time it will surely work. Hypatia is an optimist.

As am I! I think that even though the weather threatens to not deliver the traditional Boskone Sunday Blizzard, Marianne and I will have a great time.

 Here's my schedule:


Start Time      Duration            Room Name          Session ID                      Title
Fri 7:00 PM    1 Hr          Marina 3                  191        The Long and the Short of it: A Debate
Sat 11:30 AM  1 Hr          Marina 2                  62          Fantasy's One-Volume Wonders     
Sat 2:30 PM    1 Hr          Marina 3                  98          The Romantics and their Influence on SFFH  
Sun 11:30 AM  1 Hr          Galleria - Kaffeeklatsch  295        Kaffeeklatsch 1: Michael Swanwick               
Sun 1:00 PM    1 Hr          Harbor 1 - Hybrid          138        HYBRID: The Magic of Magical Realism      

If you attend, be sure to say hi. I'd like that.