Sci-Fi November

Today’s post for Sci-Fi Month is by fantasy and science fiction author Martha Wells. She’s written the Nebula-nominated novel The Death of the Necromancer, Wheel of the Infinite, Star Wars: Razor’s Edge, Stargate Atlantis: Reliquary, Stargate Atlantis: Entanglement, and much more. My introduction to her work was the first of the Books of the Raksura, The Cloud Roads, and I was immediately drawn in by the story of Moon, a young shapeshifter separated from the rest of his people. The Raksura society is fascinating, the characters are interesting and likable, and the books are difficult to put down! My favorite is the third book, The Siren Depths, but I haven’t yet read her latest book about the Raksura, the recently-released Stories of the Raksura: Volume One. As a fan of her books, I’m thrilled she’s here today to recommend some older science fiction books!

Stories of the Raksura: Volume One by Martha Wells Star Wars: Razor's Edge by Martha Wells Stargate Atlantis: Reliquary by Martha Wells

For SF month I wanted to recommend some older SF, a few books that were a big influence on me.

Zelde M'Tana by F.M. Busby
Biting the Sun by Tanith Lee
(Omnibus Edition)

Zelde M’tana by F.M. Busby was published in 1980.  It’s set in the future, and is the story of Zelde, the daughter of a diplomat from an African country.  She is orphaned when the repressive corporation that now acts as the government for a large portion of earth has her family imprisoned.  Zelde escapes, grows up in a street gang, is captured and shipped out on a spaceship as slave labor, helps the crew mutiny and becomes a space pirate, and eventually captain of the ship.  I read this when I was sixteen, and was probably way too young for it.  It’s gritty and raw, it depicts sexual violence, as well as every other kind of violence.  But as a kid who had been told all her life that girls just can’t be fighters, can’t captain spaceships, can’t do this, can’t do that, just can’t, it was important to me to read a book where they could.  Maybe it was even more important that it was written by a man, and he clearly thought girls could too.

Don’t Bite the Sun/Drinking Sapphire Wine by Tanith Lee, was published in 1976-1977.  These two short novels work best when read as one long work.  They’re set in the far future, among a culture of pleasure-seeking gender-switching young adults in a utopian society on what seems at first to be a deserted, dying world. Their technology allows people who are killed (or who commit suicide) to be instantly restored, so there are nearly no consequences to their actions, and the narrator’s peer group is mostly interested in sex and causing trouble.  The narrator starts to search for meaning, or at least something meaningful to do, and begins to discover just how repressive her society is.  In the second book she ends up exiled outside the domes, and is startled to realize she can actually build a life there.  These books are funny and touching, and the narrator is deeply sympathetic, despite the strangeness of life in her world.

A Judgment of Dragons by Phyllis Gotlieb
Mirabile by Janet Kagan

A Judgment of Dragons, by Phyllis Gotlieb, was published in 1980.  The book is a collection of related stories from the perspective of two cat-like aliens who have become agents for a galactic federation.  I absolutely loved these stories, and I know they were a big influence on my writing, and on trying to write from an alien perspective.  In the first story, the characters accidentally time travel back to 19th century earth and have to prevent a pogrom against the Jewish residents of a Polish village that has fallen under an alien influence.  In later stories there’s a murder mystery, and a visit to the main characters’ home planet.  All the stories explore the differences between alien and human culture, and they’re engaging and gripping stories.

Mirabile by Janet Kagan, published in 1992 is another series of linked stories.  It’s about the descendants of a terraforming colony ship, who successfully managed to land and settle on an alien planet, but accidents while in transit have disrupted their terraforming database.  This has resulted in occasional bizarre genetic mutations of plants and animals, sometimes harmless and sometimes dangerous.  The main character is a woman who is in charge of the response group who deals with the mutations, and the stories are basically problem-solving mysteries dealing with genetics and biology.  This is one of those books that you read and then run out looking for the rest of the series, and are disappointed to find out that this is it.  I think it would be a great book for anybody, in particular a YA audience.