“Scientific Romance”Review from Michael Dirda

I am a true sci-fi geek at heart. I know, I know, I write romance and erotica but one day my worldly thoughts and revelations of a utopian society will come to fruition but in the meantime I love reading, watching and learning more about the genre.

I ran into this article, Michael Dirda on the Evolution of Science Fiction,  by Michael Dirda of The Washington Post where he highlights a term I wasn’t familiar with—Scientific Romance.

The term was used prior to World War I by pioneering authors like Lisa Yaszek and Patrick B. Sharp of “Sisters of Tomorrow”. I haven’t read that one but it’s now on my Goodreads bookshelf.

Here’s and except from Dirda’s article:


“The stories included in “Scientific Romance”— and there are a dozen others — all first appeared before World War I. “Sisters of Tomorrow,” edited by Lisa Yaszek and Patrick B. Sharp, focuses on the contribution of women to American science fiction during the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. Like Stableford’s book, this excellent anthology — which first appeared last year — is an important work of rediscovery and reclamation.

Many of these pioneering women are relatively obscure today. But not all. C.L. Moore, one of the giants of the field, is represented by “Shambleau,” the first of her thrilling tales of Northwest Smith, in which the Indiana Jones of the spaceways encounters a most seductive alien. The editors include three evocative poems by Leah Bodine Drake, whose 1950 collection “A Hornbook for Witches ” is among the most sought-after titles published by specialty press Arkham House. In one poem, the female narrator runs with the werewolves; in another, Bodine describes a witchy woman, “a bit more than human/ And far less than good,” who ensorcells a young squire with her red hair and green eyes. This Wesleyan anthology also reprints editorials by Mary Gnaedinger, who oversaw the influential reprint magazine Famous Fantastic Mysteries, and Dorothy Stevens McIlwraith, who ran the even more famous Weird Tales.

“Sisters of Tomorrow: The First Woman of Science Fiction,” by Lisa Yaszek and Patrick B. Sharp (Wesleyan)

Though “Sisters of Tomorrow,” naturally enough, looks for signs of female empowerment throughout the period’s sf, it’s hard to view Dorothy Quick’s “Strange Orchids” as anything but an effective weird-menace shocker about a mad scientist with Svengali-like powers. Likewise, Margaret Johnson Brundage’s cover paintings for Weird Tales may sometimes portray women as “strong and fearless, even in harrowing situations,” but their overall aim is sexual titillation. Brundage generally depicts scenes of sadism, bondage and submission, sometimes tinged with lesbianism. For a general circulation magazine her art was remarkably transgressive.

“Sisters of Tomorrow” concludes with a strongly argued essay by Kathleen Ann Goonan, who teaches writing at Georgia Tech. “Challenging the Narrative, Or, Women Take Back Science Fiction” attacks residual sexism in the field while also praising the groundbreaking iconoclasm of writers such as Joanna Russ, author of “The Female Man,” and the important contribution of contemporary editors Ellen Datlow, anthologist extraordinaire, and Sheila Williams, who oversees Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. Still, what really matters is, of course, the future.”

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