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Vick's Vultures

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Dark Beyond the Stars and Women in Science Fiction

I was recently involved in a discussion regarding the recent controversy surround a review of the Dark Beyond the Stars, a science fiction anthology by an all-female cast of authors.

The controversy revolved around a low-scoring review posted for the anthology that amounted to "Women can't and shouldn't write science fiction or space opera". The perpetrator of this controversy shall remain nameless, and I'd discourage anyone reading this from further investigating his identity, because quite frankly he doesn't deserve the attention, and invariably any publicity is good publicity(So why indulge him?).

Still, knowing my own personal bias trending towards reading male authors, I decided to tackle the anthology myself. I wanted to decide whether or not the low score was justified, even if the anti-women rant was certainly not. After all, a collection written by a group of women does not automatically mean that it will be good, and the same applies to an all-male authored anthology. Amazon tends to be an echo chamber of reviews, readers tend to only buy the books they are certain to enjoy, and are more likely to review one they either really liked or disliked.

With the review in the back of my mind I began reading a story a night until I'd conquered the whole anthology. I found a wildly varried approach to science fiction, no two stories alike or touching on exactly the same themes. In my opinion, a few of the stories were lacking in quality, or felt more like first chapters or pitches than fully contained shorts. The anthology classifies itself as space opera, which in my opinion the majority of it is not. Space opera has always been a nebulous description, with everyone holding a slightly different definition.

Despite its faults, over half of the stories were captivating and entertaining, which is all you can really ask. One or two were downright amazing, especially the first which set a high bar. Together these stories explore the concepts of sentience, self-discovery, loss, determination, perserverence, greed, hopelessness, change, motherhood, and strife. So to answer the question, can women write science fiction? Well, these particular women can, I can't speak for the ones I haven't read.

But I definitely can, in good conscience, recommend the Dark Beyond the Stars to sci-fi fans. Even if every story in it is not for you (as many were not to my personal taste) the themes and subjects are so varied that you're sure to find something you'll enjoy.

-Scott Warren