Book Review: The Future is Female!

The Future is Female! cover

The Future is Female!

Edited by Lisa Yaszek

Read between November 12 and 24, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (Average Rating: 3.69)

Anthology Contents (courtesy ISFDB)

My Thoughts

Earlier this year I listened to an interview of the editor, Lisa Yaszek, via a Wired Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast (Episode 346), and I immediately added The Future is Female! to my TBR shelf. Months passed and I remembered to check the catalogs of the various libraries I patronize (recently increased to six cards with a trip to Lawrence last month). I was also recently challenged to increase the print materials circulation statistics of my closest library branch. A happy miracle occurred when I found The Future is Female! in the catalog of the Kansas City Public Library. A hold was placed and a few days later all eight requests, including this one, arrived at the Plaza branch for easy (translate that two ‘why did I forget my large tote bag at home?’) pickup.

I like reading anthologies; they are a great break for my usual longer epics. I can read a story or two a day, when I get up over my morning breakfast tea, or right before bedtime. Weekends, of course, I could squeeze in more stories. When I read a short story anthology, I post a GoodReads status update as soon as I finish it with a rating and any comments I have upon completion. Here’s an example status posted about “Space Episode” earlier this month:

Finished “Space Episode” (1941) by Leslie Perri (4 stars – very short but very impactful, almost gut wrenching) and “That Only a Mother” (1948) by Judith Merril (3 stars) — Nov 13, 2019 05:57PM

Jon Moss is on page 100 of 531

My Favorite Things

In the Contents listed above (thanks to the great community of editors at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB), I have added my rating in parenthesis with bold emphasis.

My top five stories from this anthology are:

  • C.L. Moore’s “The Black God’s Kiss(sword & sorcery & horror & adventure)
  • Baby, You Were Great” by Kate Wilhelm (this one really gets in your head, literally).
  • Andre Norton’s “All Cats Are Grey(space opera-ish but some hard SF)
  • Space Episode” by Leslie Perri (hard SF but with heart like only a woman can write it and experience it)
  • And a tie between Joanna Russ’ “The Barbarian(a nod to C.L. Moore’s Jirel with Russ’ Alyx – so more sword & sorcery & adventure but with some SF elements) and Doris Pitkin Buck’s “The Birth of a Gardener(beautiful hard SF – again as only a woman can relate it).

I had previously read “The Black God’s Kiss” and “The Last Flight of Dr. Ain” (by Tiptree). Surprisingly, the latter did not hold up as well to a second read. It had shock value (sort of) the first time I read it, but the luster was gone on a re-read. I was also disappointed in the last story included in the anthology by le Guin. Again, it was probably groundbreaking at the time, but just didn’t wow me like some of her work does.

Some of these stories were my first exposures to the writings of these women. But many of them I have read numerous books by. I’ve read all of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover novels and short stories. I’ve read most of Ursula K. le Guin’s novels – Earthsea, of course, but also many of her famous science fiction novels. I’ve read most of C.L. Moore’s fiction, at least what I can get my hands on. Also Leigh Brackett, but I like her work less than CLM’s writing, which is very hard to put down. Another one I try to read but is often hit-or-miss for me is James Tiptree, Jr.

I’ve read a few novels by Andre Norton, but since I don’t care of young adult fiction, I skip most of her canon. Kate Wilhelm I discovered last year, listening to her only science fiction novel Where the Late Spring Birds Sing. I found that book thanks to a recommendation I found in a review by Jo Walton of a book on clones (Never Let Me Go) I was reading for one of my many book clubs.

Ad Astra Per Aspera

I read most of the biographical notes and found that at the time of publication, three of these amazing authors were still alive. However, upon closer examination this morning, it grieves me to relate that Carol Emshwiller, author if the intriguing “Pelt” tale, passed away on February 2, 2019. Katherine Maclean, author of “Contagion,” very recently passed on September 1, 2019. Which leaves Juanita Coulson (pseudonym John Jay Wells above on the story “Another Rib” co-authored with Marion Zimmer Bradley) as the last woman standing from this august company of pioneers.

Book Review: Bible Stories for Adults by Morrow (3.3 Stars)

Bible Stories for Adults by James K. Morrow

3.3 out of 5 stars

Read in January 2014

Anthology Synopsis:

Morrow unabashedly delves into matters both sacred and secular in this collection of short stories buoyed by his deliciously irreverent wit. Among the dozen selections is the Nebula Award-winning “Bible Stories for Adults, No. 17: The Deluge.”


Bible Stories for Adults, No. 17: The Deluge (1988)

Daughter Earth (1991)

Known but to God and Wilbur Hines (1991)

Bible Stories for Adults, No. 20: The Tower (1994)

Spelling God with the Wrong Blocks (1987)

The Assemblage of Kristin (1984)

Bible Stories for Adults, No. 31: The Covenant (1989)

Abe Lincoln in McDonald’s (1989)

The Confessions of Ebenezer Scrooge (1989)

Bible Stories for Adults No. 46: The Soap Opera (1994)

Diary of a Mad Deity (1988)

Arms and the Woman (1991)

My Thoughts:

Continue reading “Book Review: Bible Stories for Adults by Morrow (3.3 Stars)”

Book Review (Anthology): I, Robot by Asimov (4 Stars)

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

4 out of 5 stars

Last read in March 2009

I re-read this classic science fiction anthology for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club at GoodReads (in March 2009). Here is a link to the discussion on the Three Laws and another for readers to post their favorites.  My favorite stories include “Runaround,” “Liar!” and “Escape!”

Below you will find my mini-reviews of each story (Spoiler Warning)

March 29, 2009: Re-reading this for a book club at GoodReads. I’m slightly annoyed with the library because they held the wrong version of this book for me. It’s the shorter version re-released at the same time as the Will Smith movie.

On “Robbie” . . . A demonstration of the First Law – Robbie, a non-speaking robot assigned as a nursemaid to a six-year old girl. The mother cracks under the mounting social pressure against robots and convinces her husband to have Robbie removed. The girl is devastated and doesn’t give up looking for Robbie until she finds him on a tour of a US Robots facility.  The family dynamics are very dated (they scream 1950s) but otherwise it’s a good story, especially the relationship between Robbie and the girl.

On “Runaround” . . . It’s always a good idea to be precise when giving instructions to a robot. This story demonstrates the irratic and irrational robotic behavior that can occur when the Second Rule and the Third Rule are in balance. It took two “brilliant” scientists several hours to reason out that only the First Law would break the cycle.

On “Reason” . . . Reason reunited us with the same two “brilliant” scientists from the Mercury mining mission in Runaround. This time Powell and Donovan are running a Solar Station #5 that beams solar energy to Earth. They have just assembled a new robot, designation QT-1, “Cutie” colloquially. The hope for this new model series was to replace the executive level humans on the Solar Stations (i.e. Powell and Donovan) so that humans were only required to visit the stations to make repairs. Cutie waxes philosophical and culminates his own theology, evangelizing the other robots. Donovan and Powell struggle to break the obsession but eventually come to terms with it’s potential.  This story reminded me of Cylons but without the darkness, danger and threat to humans.

On “Catch That Rabbit” . . . This story was entertaining but a bit weak on the “what if” premise. Donavon and Powell are back at a mining facility, testing a new model of robot – a multirobot – a master robot with six subsidiaries. As long as the robot(s) are watched by the humans (and the robots know they are being watched), they perform flawlessly. But when they are unwatched, they appear to go bonkers, losing track of time, unresponsive to radio hails, etc. Powell and Donavon eventually “catch the rabbit” i.e. the trigger point for the breakdown, but it just doesn’t have the impact of the other two stories.

On “Liar!” . . . I like this story because it is very emotionally charged and for the “what if” of what the definition of harm is.

On “Little Lost Robot” . . . This story changed the rules, literally. The “what if” deals with a modified First Law that contained only the positive aspect of the Law – “No robot may harm a human being” – leaving off the latter portion – “or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” The scientists involved in the Hyperatomic Drive project felt they needed robots with a modified First Law because they were constantly putting themselves in harm’s way, which forced the non-modified robots to “save” them. Dr. Calvin eventually convinced them of consequences.

On “Escape!” . . . This was another test of the First Law. Dr. Calvin also inadvertently made matters worse by trying to help the engineers solve the interstellar jump problem but also protect The Brain from destroying itself with a dilemma.

On “Evidence” . . . This story dealt with the “what if” a robot looked and acted exactly like a human. Reminded me of the “skin job” references in Battlestar Galactica (reimagined) but with less violence. A politician is accused of being a robot and refuses to submit to testing. The argument is raised that if a human follows the Golden Rule, he basically also follows the Three Laws. So without physical examination to prove otherwise, a good decent human could not be disproven a robot.

On “The Evitable Conflict” . . . This story finally gets to the crux of the matter in the evolution of the Three Laws. It’s an expansion of the First Law by the Machines (large super brain robots that shepherd the four Regions of Earth) as articulated by Dr. Susan Calvin: “A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.” It is commonly referred to as the Zeroth Law of Robotics.

Book Review (Anthology): 50 Short Science Fiction Tales by Asimov (4 Stars)

50ShortSFtalesAsimovcover50 Short Science Fiction Tales
Edited by Isaac Asimov and Groff Conklin

3 out of 5 stars

Read in October 2008

The Fun They Had by Isaac Asimov — three stars (***) — stories featuring PoV from children rarely appeal to me so this was a cute story more than a good one.

Men Are Different by Alan Bloch — four stars (****) — Amazing for such a short (1-2 pages) story

The Ambassadors by Anthony Coucher — three stars (***) — Ironic paranormal plot

The Weapon by Fredric Brown — two stars (**)

Random Sample by T.P. Caravan — three stars (***) — PoV from a spoiled child who definitely needed a lot of discipline

Oscar by Cleve Cartmill — two stars (**)

The Mist by Peter Cartur — three stars (***)

Teething Ring by James Causey – four stars (****) — ; desperate house wife/traveling salesman but not your normal results

The Haunted Space Suit by Arthur C. Clarke — four stars (****) — this story will bring a smile to your face with the last sentence.

Stair Trick by Mildred Clingerman — two stars (**) — I may have to read this one again as it was a bit odd

Unwelcome Tenant by Roger Dee — three stars (***) — Interesting premises regarding human intelligence/progress or lack there of, but the ending was predictable.

The Mathematicians by Arthur Feldman — four stars (****) — sort of an alternate history told from the point of view of those who usually write history and as a father telling a bedtime story to his daughter.

The Third Level by Jack Finney — three stars (***) — somewhat ironic and humorous ending

Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful by Stuart Friedman — two stars (**) — utopia rejected and de-evolved

The Figure by Edward Gendon — three stars (***) — a time machine tale with a twist and a poke of human arrogance

The Rag Thing by David Grinnel — three stars (***) — sci-fi horror in a boarding house

The Good Provider by Marion Gross — three stars (***) — time travel expediency

Columbus Was a Dope by Robert A. Heinlein — four stars (****) — bar tending and philosophy but not in your normal tavern

Texas Week by Albert Hernhuter — four stars (****) — what is real? The backyard you see or envision?

Hilda by H.B. Hickey — four stars (****) — observation does not always reveal the whole experience

The Choice by W. Hilton-Young — two stars (**) — A very short time travel yarn that tries to be more expansive than it is

Not with a Bang by Damon Knight — four stars (****) — the last man on Earth finds the last woman and gets his just desserts

The Altar at Midnight by C.M. Kornbluth — four stars (****) — consequences of space travel and the penances of the inventor

A Bad Day for Sales by Fritz Leiber — three stars (***) — first mobile sales robot not programmed to deal with an apocalypse

Who’s Cribbing? by Jack Lewis — three stars (***) — frustrated author rejected for plagiarism repeatedly for his original works of scifi

Spectator Sport by John D. MacDonald — three stars (***) — a creepy time travel tale

The Cricket Ball by Avro Manhattan — four stars (****) — a delightful story of a professor/scientist’s experiment gone haywire with some British humor thrown in.

Double-Take by Winston K. Marks — two stars (**) — a technology tale about a new way to film and view movies

Prolog by John P. McKnight — one star (*) — Neanderthal man learning to speak

The Available Data on the Worp Reaction by Lion Miller — two stars (**) — Could be an early autism-like story, about a boy who creates a wondrous contraption out of junk but no one can communicate with him

Narapoia by Alan Nelson — two stars (**) — The science is that of psychology, with a twist, so not you’re typical tech heavy tale.

Tiger by the Tail by Alan E. Nourse — four stars (****) — Curiosity caught the quantum physicists, after the hypnotized housewife though.

Counter Charm by Peter Phillips — two stars (**) — Perhaps I’m just dense, but I don’t get this very short story. Perhaps I needed to live in the atomic crazed fifties to understand.

The Fly by Arthur Porges — four stars (****) — Riveting recall of a minature visitor in disguise

The Business, As Usual by Mack Reynolds — four stars (****) — Time traveller swindled by jaded gregarious future con man

Two Weeks in August by Frank M. Robinson — four stars (****) — Imaginary off-world vacations, or not? Cute story that will brighten your day.

See? by Edward G. Robles, Jr. — four stars (****) — Very imaginative alien invasion idea thwarted by the homeless.

Appointment at Noon by Eric Frank Russell — three stars (***) — Not sure this actually qualifies as a science fiction tale, but it definitely had punch.

We Don’t Want Any Trouble by James H. Schmitz — four stars (****) — This is the second short story I’ve read by Schmitz recently and he’s definitely a great writer. This short story is similar to the Thing but even more insidious.

Built Down Logicially by Howard Schoenfeld — four stars (****) — Very short, cute and crisp.

An Egg a Month from All Over by Idres Seabright — three stars (***) — Sort of creepy

The Perfect Woman by Robert Sheckley — three stars (***) — Future domestic bliss tarnished

The Hunters by Walt Sheldon — three stars (***) — People hunted to extinction with a twist

The Martian and the Magician by Evelyn E. Smith — four stars (****) — Son doesn’t want to inherit father’s magic shop and ends up inheriting much more

Barney by Will Stanton — two stars (**) — Scientist’s diary tracking his experiments successes and failures

Talent by Theodore Sturgeon — four stars (****) — Absolute power corrupts absolutely, unless it’s absolutely arrogant to the point of stupidity.

Project Hush by William Tenn — four stars (****) — Secret space race to the moon

The Great Judge by A.E. Van Vogt — three stars (***) — Definitely a warning to all scientists to take an ethics class

Emergency Landing by Ralph Wililams — three stars (***) — The night shift is either very dull or very weird.

Obviously Suicide by S. Fowler Wright — three stars (***) — And ending the anthology on a pratical note, leave it to the women to do the right thing and make the big decisions.

Cumlative rating averaged for all stories : 3.16

Book Review (Anthology): The Best of Robert E. Howard: Grim Lands (4 Stars)

The Best of Robert E. Howard
Grim Lands
(Volume 2)

Edited by Rusty Burke
Illustrated by Jim & Ruth Keegan

4 out of 5 stars

Read in December 2008

My personal favorites from this collection would be “By This Axe I Rule!” a Kull kingship tale; “Red Nails” a Conan tale where we meet Valeria and “The Bull Dog Breed” another gritty and humorous boxing exploit of Steve Costigan.

The collection also includes many Westerns, a pirate tale told mostly on land and a few much grimmer horror tales. His poetry is also interspersed among the stories.

I definitely recommend this anthology (both volumes actually) to anyone who enjoys epic tales, high adventure and grim determination.

Book Review (Anthology): The Best of Robert E. Howard: Crimson Shadows (4 Stars)

The Best of Robert E. Howard:
Crimson Shadows
(Volume 1)

Edited by Rusty Burke
Illustrated by Jim and Ruth Keegan

4 out of 5 stars

Read in November/December 2008

I was impressed with Robert E. Howard’s ability to captivate my interest and thrill me with his adventures. I especially liked his heroic battles (large and small-scale); they were some of the best and most riveting reading I’ve experienced in ages. He not only invented the sword and sorcery genre, he was the definitive master of it.

Some of my favorites include “The People of the Black Circle” (one of only two Conan stories included in this first volume of short stories); “The Fighten’st Pair” (the funniest tale I’ve read in years involving a boxer and his kidnapped dog); “The Worms of the Earth” (epic battle and struggle between Rome and the Picts); and, “The Grey God Passes.” “Sharp’s Gun Serenade” was also a hilarious romp through the Old West.

Howard’s poetry is dark and primeval most of the time, but a few poignant gems can be found like “The Song of the Last Briton”; “An Echo from the Iron Harp” and ending with the last poem, printed posthumously, the name of which escapes me.

I recommend this anthology to any fan of action adventure, sword and sorcery or pre-World War II pulp fiction that rises above the stigma that name implies.

Book Review (Anthology): The Best of John W. Campbell (4 Stars)

The Best of John W. Campbell
Edited by Lester del Rey

4 out of 5 stars

Read in November 2008

This collection was well worth perusing. If nothing else, reading “Who Goes There?” was a thrill, especially considering it was written originally in 1938.  Kudos to anyone who knows what movie (and several remakes) have been spawned from this exceptional story.

“Elimination” was one of the best time travel theory stories I’ve ever read. I highly recommend that one as well.

“Twilight” was chosen in 1970 by the Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the great classics of the genre – and it definitely is that. It’s the story of a time traveler from 3059, plopped down in 1930s America after returning from the Earth of seven millions years in the future. The Earth, and the remnants of mankind and their legacy, of that far distant future left me feeling sad, lonely and full of regret. The time traveler did leave a spark of hope behind before he returned but we are left without knowing if he was successful.

“Forgetfulness” was an interesting tale of man reaching out to colonize what appears to be a planet abandoned by a very advanced civilization. The current inhabitants seem to be peaceful and non-technological (reminded me of the Nox in Stargate SG1). They knew of the ancient civilization but nothing of the technology. It asks the question: Do you remember how to make a fire without matches or a light? Do you remember how to make a stone (flint) tool?

The rest of the collection is good as well. See my updates and comments for further thoughts on the best works of John W. Campbell.

Book Review: The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian

The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (Conan of Cimmeria, Book 1)The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Average Rating Across All Stories: 3.5 stars

The two best stories are “The Phoenix on the Sword” and “The Queen of the Black Coast”; otherwise, the first half of this anthology holds the best of the bunch, gradually dwindling down to my least favorite two stories: “The Vale of Lost Women” and “Rogues in the House.” The final story almost redeemed the second half, but didn’t quite pack the punch necessary to overcome the duds immediately prior to it.

The anthology includes referential material (over 100 pages worth in the back and a 25 page introduction), including original drafts by Howard, unpublished drafts, and Hyborian Age information, maps, and chronologies.

I enjoy reading Howard’s fast paced fiction, especially to spice up my lunch hour during the work week. I highly recommend this collection to all fans of the original one-of-a-kind blue-eyed-blazing barbarian from Cimmeria.

View all my reviews