A staff used in spinning. Of women and women’s work. An anthology of women’s stories woven through time and space.
In 2018 a crack team of women sci-fi writers, all members of the sffchronicles community forum, came together to write an anthology. Distaff is the result. Join us as we share stories of people, of science and exploration, and enjoy the words we weave.
"All in all, this anthology works wonderfully in showing that SF is still a genre which has a lot to say and has so many ways in which to say those things. Filled with great ideas and characters, Distaff is, hopefully, the first volume in what I hope will be an anthology series, and deserves to be widely read and enjoyed." Dave de Burgh, author of 'Betrayal's Shadow'
"I love good stories. Stories are as old as human relationships, They may be our most important invention. It’s impossible to understand human society without an understanding of the power of stories. Well told, they bring us face to face with ourselves, our fears, our hopes, and so much else that makes us human. Distaff is an anthology of well told stories by women for everyone. These stories make use of the unlimited settings available to Science Fiction writers. The women behind Distaff remind us of our humanity in entertaining and enjoyable ways." Douglas Van Aartsen
"An eclectic collection of tales, each standing out well from the others. The themes are varied and flow very well. I was in particularly enamoured with Kerry Buchanan’s story, a fine mix of space opera with a hint of Scandinavian folklore. While some of the themes are familiar to sci-fi fans none of the stories are predictable or boring. I had a great night drinking tea and reading them. Excellent reading for a commute to or from work, or a relaxing night with your feet up." - Steve Herron, Goodreads
An eclectic collection of tales, each standing out well from the others. The themes are varied and flow very well. I was in particularly enamoured with Kerry Buchanan’s story, a fine mix of space opera with a hint of Scandinavian folklore. While some of the themes are familiar to sci-fi fans none of the stories are predictable or boring. I had a great night drinking tea and reading them. Excellent reading for a commute to or from work, or a relaxing night with your feet up.
Great wee anthology. There's a very wide variety of Sci-Fi stories here - recognisable post-apocalypse, distant post-apocalypse, colony, Mil SciFi, exploration - and writing styles, but they all fit neatly together in the same collection. The result is nothing feels repetitive or boring; every story is good and fun. My favourite was The Ice Man, but I'd be hard pressed to name a second favourite. Definitely recommended.
Distaff: A Science Anthology by Female Authors Edited By: Samanda Primeau and Rosie Oliver Authors: Jane O’Reilly, Kerry Buchanan, Rosie Oliver, E.J. Tett, Juliana Spink Mills, Damaris Browne, Shellie Horst, Susan Bolton, Jo Zebedee.
The Broken Man, by Jane O’Reilly
Easily the strangest story I’ve read in ages! And yet… yet so very familiar.
This is the story – the only possible one – of our future. The future Mankind has created for himself. A world in which our wasteful, slovenly ways has changed the world, both for man, who lives Above, and those that evolved amidst man’s wastefulness, who live Below.
One lives in luxury, without need. The other lives in squalor, every day a struggle for survival. But who should envy who?
A tale so well told, I am convinced a Seer has written it!
And I fear I may be right…
Space Rocks, by Kerry Buchanan
Well, well, well. As though Earth doesn’t have its usual problems, here we are returning one we’d taken care of long ago!
An excellently told story, incorporating ancient legend with future science. Those who know me know if you mix fantasy and science fiction, it better be really good for me to like it. This, however, is better – treating myth as fact and presenting a reason to confront it – again! I’m totally pleased with the result.
However… now I’m worried. What else have we sent far away and forgotten, that still waits for a way to return?
The Ice Man, by Rosie Oliver
Oh, I love the ‘hardboiled’ feel to this one!
Skin grafts, lichens, healing compresses and bad guys with guns. It felt like I was a teen again, watching Mannix or The Rockford Files, only a hundred years or so in our future – and their weapons fitted for the times!
Police are still the police, and it can be difficult sorting out the bad guys from the good, but they get the job done, as always. An excellently paced story and a fun read.
Holo-Sweet, by E.J. Tett
Now this is a Story!
When I was finished reading it, the first adjective that came to mind was humanistic. When you read the story, you’ll realize how odd – and appropriate - that is!
This is a love story, appropriate for its time and the genre. It’s not a slutty tale, though. It is told cleanly, lovingly and – far more difficult, given the relationship – humanly logical.
Clearly, this was the most ‘relatable’ story in the collection. In fact, I think I lived this story, once upon a time!
A Cold Night in H3-II, by Juliana Spink Mills
Oh, this one’s dark!
Well, no darker than we would be, if the roles were reversed, I’m sure. I read a comment recently, ‘A society is judged on how they treat the least among them’. I took that to mean ‘poorest’, but the article was talking about criminals – prisoners.
What could be more imprisoning than being on a frozen rock, light years from and no contact with your home? How much less of a prisoner would you be, if you were reliant on what could be garnered in that hash environment, restricted to a few small buildings?
Would the wardens take good care of you? Or, would they torture you, study you for their own enjoyment? The Nazis experimented on their prisoners. Would we treat aliens any better?
Would they treat us better? Would we even be able to recognize them?
The Colour of Silence, by Damaris Browne
This one was the hardest to read of the collection.
It was, like all of them, well written. Well-paced, excellent characterizations. But the story…!
Can you imagine being the Leader of your people – but cannot save any of the children? A doctor, watching your own son dying? Humans are a strong race, able to overcome the greatest obstacles – but the loss of the children… how can even the adults overcome that!
Will an alien world provide the answer to humanity’s survival? How ironic, a xenophobic people having their prayers answered this way. Pray we have learned something from these glorious new friends!
My Little Mecha, by Shellie Horst
This was a hard one for me to keep up with. I’m not alone, I guess, since it was just as hard for the characters!
Some hard SF with the feel of a fantasy. And a warning… The generation of our offspring is almost always more advanced than our own. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because of their youth.
Ab Initio, by Susan Boulton
When the world tips over into hell, but you realize you are going to be among the precious few survivors… what will you decide to keep – to save from the looters? What would you be willing to do to ensure that part of the past survives?
I don’t believe the story’s Protagonist chose wrong… but his actions have soured him on the very long future he now faces. I don’t know that I could have chosen – or done better.
Could you have?
The Shadows Are Us and They Are the Shadows, by Jo Zebedee
This amazing vision of our future left tears in my eyes.
Not for sadness over our failure, but for the hope that was created for the earth, even as humans tried to flee it. For the thought that the work of a few – or even one – might be the salvation for the planet we are destroying.
Human spirit – no matter the body it inhabits – is our salvation.
Distaff: A Science Anthology by Female Authors, by Various
As a member of the Chrons (The SFF Chronicles Science Fiction & Fantasy) Community, of which most (all?) of these authors are members, I was afraid any review I did on this collection would be viewed with skepticism. Thus, though I’m loath to admit it, I was (sort’a) hoping there would be at least one story I didn’t like; one I could say something... bad?... about.
No such ‘luck’. I couldn’t even find more than one misspelling in the entire tome (and in any book this size, that’s incredible)! These stories, each of them so unique, are all written by the finest authors I have ever had the privilege to read.
I’m not going to use the over-used superlatives like, A Must Read! But, if you’re a Sci-Fi fan and choose not to read this anthology, you’re a nutter!
Cathbad – Five of Five Stars… because that’s all they allow me.
A short collection of short stories by women, a number of which ended up on the BSFA long list last month, so I expected value for money - and got it. I must say the knockout story of the lot is co-editor Rosie Oliver's “The Ice Man”, which takes the Scandinavian noir sub-genre and adds a very well crafted sfnal tweak to it. But they were all good.
One bias against the authors is that I had just read several of the 2019 Hugo nominees for Short Story, and these stories didn't measure up in comparison. It wasn't really the authors' fault (there's certainly nothing they could have done to fix it), but it was definitely a factor.
The Broken Man by Jane O'Reilly: I didn't feel an emotional connection with the characters, didn't really care about the revolution.
Space Rocks by Kerry Buchanan: Characters seemed realer than in the Broken Man, but I didn't understand why quarantine seemed like a death threat, and I didn't understand the threat introduced at the end. Maybe I need to read more Norse mythology?
The Ice Man by Rose Oliver: An interesting idea, but the sympathetic characters seemed...choppy. And I didn't understand the full depth of why some of the sympathetic characters were so helpful.
Holo-Sweet by E. J. Tett: I guess it got the point across, maybe just too mundane to interest me.
A Cold Night in H3-II by Juliana Spink Mills: the best one yet. The only part I didn't understand is why they were so cut off. I guess the answer was implied by the end?
The Colour of Silence by Damaris Browne: President's wife felt really cliched. Hard to keep speakers straight in dialogue. Maybe it would be more emotional if I had children?
My Little Mecha by Shellie Horst: It was fine.
Ab Initio by Susan Boulton: I had more grammar problems here than other stories. The tense shifting really got to me, too. Author also doesn't know how whiskey ages. I did not enjoy Trent's POV.
The Shadows Are Us and They Are the Shadows by Jo Zebedee: Kinda like Horizon Zero Dawn and WALL-E. Seemed like a slight slavery aspect of it too, but I didn't really see the point of the ending.
Interesting that all of the beginning stories had female POVs, and it was all non-female POVs by the end.
Additionally, a Kindle mobile formatting issue: there are links to the new chapters/stories, but the title isn't given in the sidebar.
This was fun. A series of short sci fistories self published by a group of women who hung out on sffchronicles, (and seem to be predominantly from Yorkshire!). Personal faves were the broken man, Holo Sweet, and My Little Mecha, but I enjoyed all the stories tbh, no glaring weak spots even if I have a least fave.