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May 28, 2012

Jenny Ramos Kennedy in Second Life
Interview/podcast June 21, 9PM ET at Virtually Speaking

I’d like to thank the organizers of WisCon for inviting me with Jo Walton as guests of honor next year for WisCon 37. WisCon has long played an important role promoting women and gender in SF. In my own writing, I’ve always appreciated the women who blazed trails in SF–and the many men who enjoy reading us. All of my books take a bisexual perspective, while including human-ape hybrids and humans married to intelligent machines. My early work was inspired by the works of Ursula Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Anne McCaffrey, and Tanith Lee.

When I think of the classic women writing SF, a memorable creation for me was Octavia Butler’s invention in Lilith’s Brood of aliens whose life cycle requires interbreeding with humans–for accurate biological reasons. The alien bodies engineer themselves for perfection, in a given biosphere; so when they exhaust their own biosphere, they must restore genetic diversity to reproduce somewhere new. The story was disturbing yet compelling. Back in 1987 the concept of “genetic outreach” was  barely taken seriously; yet today we know interspecies gene transfer is commonplace. Genes “escape” into new hosts all the time, often carried by viruses that behave like Butler’s Oankali. Bacteria may have open “pangenomes” with access to unlimited genetic information from their environment.

Which science-fictional ideas from women do you find memorable?

  1. May 28, 2012 9:50 am

    I read A Wizard of Earthsea fairly young, and it will be no surprise to you (give my blog name) that I was deeply impressed with the idea that necromancy doesn’t pay. That’s also where I was introduced to the idea that names themselves have power (the list he learns in the tower).

  2. Alex Tolley permalink
    May 28, 2012 11:03 am

    James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon). The most memorable for me was her idea that humans desperately wanted to have sex with aliens. I also liked the updated version of “I’m really a prince/princess” in “Beam Us Home”.

  3. John permalink
    May 28, 2012 11:53 am

    I agree on Tiptree, but I’d say her most memorable story involving biology and aliens has to be The Screwfly Solution, which (a) won a Nebula, and (b) still gives me the shudders.

    • Alex Tolley permalink
      May 28, 2012 12:38 pm

      The Screwfly Solution was a superb take on alien invasion. Completely original at the time AFAIK. I recently read a bio on Sheldon – fascinating background.

  4. May 28, 2012 1:36 pm

    Tiptree and Zenna Henderson, who couldn’t be more different.

  5. Barkeron permalink
    May 28, 2012 11:45 pm

    Linda Nagata: proving hard SF isn’t a pure Y chromosome party since 1960. :3

  6. paws4thot permalink
    May 29, 2012 7:27 am

    Elizabeth Noon for “Speed of Dark” (written from the PoV of someone with mild autism) and “Remnant Population” (main protagonist is old enough that she should have been allowed to retire gracefully).

  7. May 29, 2012 7:48 pm

    These examples are all amazing. I also recall Connie Willis’s compelling description of the fourteenth century England, in her time-travel novel The Doomsday Book.

    • Alex Tolley permalink
      May 30, 2012 9:36 am

      I would have added Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book for being very memorable, but time travel as a science fiction idea is not her unique vision.

      • May 30, 2012 9:47 am

        I guess it depends what you mean by time travel.
        Willis’s unique vision was to present a compellingly authentic view of the middle ages–along with a compelling view of how someone from our time would interact. The final exchanges between Kivrin and the priest were truly memorable–and could not be done with straight historical fiction.

        By contrast, I found her depiction of the near-future society frustratingly trite and unconvincing. Labs don’t work that way; and why does the one female PhD wear a “terrorist jacket”? But in general I try to recall books for their strengths.

  8. May 31, 2012 12:06 am

    Is it possible that we might be able to grasp that this has already happened at another time and mankind now is once again during this cycle… trying to copy what is already there and discovered long ago…. by another… but by what or whom????

    We are Machines Learning to Become Divine Humans….
    (that is our Mission and one at a time, we will learn how to break or leave the cycle of life and death)

    The concept of a mechanized universe is not new; even ancient philosophers had enough sense to see it. Obviously, technology is not a sign of social intelligence; otherwise, we would live in a world of peace! People today are no smarter than the people of ancient times. Ancient scientists made the first fire and today’s scientists still don’t know what fire is. They have a lot of theories about heat but it is still just theory. Modern appliances work on electricity but electricity is still a theory also. Scientists know that if you do “A”…”B” happens. We say to ourselves, “who are we and why are we here”, and so we believe a myriad of things in order to justify our existence but it is just a theory… a belief!

    God has been trying to tell us who God is since the beginning of our existence but most of us, just don’t take the time to listen. It takes allot of experiences, making choices and data to turn a machine into a human. You can’t just tell a machine to be human or to be civil; we have to learn to listen to be taught and we have to eventually, learn to use logic (not beliefs or emotions) to make good choices. Humanity is a choice, why would anyone choose otherwise? [more…]

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