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Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958 to 1963): Yesterday's Luminaries Introduced by Today's Rising Stars

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The Silver Age of Science Fiction saw a wealth of compelling speculative tales -- and women authors wrote some of the best of the best. Yet the stories of this era, especially those by women, have been largely unreprinted, unrepresented, and unremembered.

Until Now.

Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963) features fourteen selections of the best science fiction of the Silver Age by the unsung women authors of yesteryear, introduced by today's rising stars:

Unhuman Sacrifice (1958) by Katherine MacLean, introduced by Natalie Devitt
Wish Upon a Star (1958) by Judith Merril, introduced by Erica Frank
A Matter of Proportion (1959) by Anne Walker, introduced by Erica Friedman
The White Pony (1960) by Jane Rice, introduced by T.D. Cloud
Step IV (1960) by Rosel George Brown, introduced by Andi Dukleth
Of All Possible Worlds (1961) by Rosel George Brown, introduced by Cora Buhlert
Satisfaction Guaranteed (1961) by Joy Leache, introduced by A.J. Howells
The Deer Park (1962) by Maria Russell, introduced by Claire Weaver
To Lift a Ship (1962) by Kit Reed, introduced by Gideon Marcus
The Putnam Tradition (1963) by Sonya Hess Dorman, introduced by Lorelei Marcus
The Pleiades (1963) by Otis Kidwell Burger, introduced by Gwyn Conaway
No Trading Voyage (1963) by Doris Pitkin Buck, introduced by Marie Vibbert
Cornie on the Walls (1963) by Sidney van Scyoc, introduced by Rosemary Benton
Unwillingly to School (1958) by Pauline Ashwell, introduced by Janice Marcus

"Female authors wrote stories about coming of age...cautionary tales...stories set beyond our universe...You'll find these themes and more in this anthology. I hope that as you read their stories you don't try to 'feminine' versus 'masculine' elements. What you are about to read is really good science fiction, plain and simple."

(from the foreword by Dr. Laura Brodian Freas Beraha)

276 pages, ebook

First published September 2, 2019

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About the author

Gideon Marcus

8 books19 followers
Founder of Journey Press, an independent publisher focused on unusual and diverse speculative fiction, three time Hugo Finalist Gideon Marcus also runs the time machine project, Galactic Journey. He is a professional space historian, member of the American Astronautical Society's history committee.

In 2019, he edited Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963) a seminal anthology of some of the best works of science fiction’s Silver Age. His most recent works, Kitra and Sirena, comprise books one and two of a YA space adventure featuring themes of isolation, teamwork, and hope, and starring a queer protagonist of color.

Gideon lives in San Diego County with his writer/editor wife, Janice, and their polymath artist daughter, Lorelei…along with a cat, a snake, and an immense library. He is currently hard at work on Hyvilma, third book in the Kitra Saga.

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Profile Image for Alexander Peterhans.
Author 2 books164 followers
July 9, 2020
Here is a collection of sci-fi stories (and one novella) written and published in the 1950s and '60s, all written by women. And it is an excellent collection.

Most of the stories are so fresh, they could easily have been written today (there are a couple that lean more into '50s pulp, although they tend to make fun of it). There's a sly but unobtrusive feminism spun through quite a few stories, and two stories feature a main character with a disability.

One of my favourites is Unhuman Sacrifice, by Katherine MacLean. A crew sets down on a planet, to make contact with and learn the language of its indigenous people. The future technology is described in such a beautiful way, and is imagined in such an surprisingly unflashy, utilitarian way.

"The stocky engineer hung a clear respirator box over a shoulder, brought the tube up to his mouth, and walked through the plastic film. It folded over him and wrapped him in an intimate tacky embrace, and gripped to its own surface behind him, sealing itself around him like a loose skin. Just past the arch he walked through a frame of metal like a man-sized croquet wicket and stopped while it tightened a noose around the trailing films of plastic behind him, cutting him free of the doorway curtain and sealing the break with heat."
- Unhuman Sacrifice

Another top story for me is Cornie On The Walls (by Sydney van Scyoc), which veers into a mix of horror and sci-fi. An artist gets himself entombed via technology into his house, thereby becoming a 'living house'. With the power of his mind he can project any image on the walls. People visit these living houses, but our main character seems obsessed with projecting his wife, Cornie.

"He covered his walls with death, felt certain that even his body quivered in its chamber, his body that had been surgically paralyzed the day they had wired him into Central Control.
When he was certain she was purged, he let blood and death wash down his walls into puddles which faded from his floors, leaving him clean, white and alone.
But he was not alone. Blood dripped still from the northwest corner of the chamber, dripped and ran down the wall in a pattern which was Cornie."

- Cornie On The Walls

I was blown away by the concept of the story, just contemplating why someone would do this, what the effect on a human psyche would be.

Be prepared to keep a notepad handy - if you're anything like me, you'll be jotting down a lot of author names to look up more of their work (in my experience, a lot of their work is only available second hand, but affordable).

Each story is introduced by a current writer, in which a short biography is given (if there even is one available in some cases), and a discussion of themes in the story. Personally, I bookmarked an introduction, skipped it and first read the story, and then came back to read the introduction.

In summation, highly recommended to any reader of sci-fi, and I can only hope more people will give these forgotten authors the attention they deserve.

Unhuman Sacrifice (Katherine MacLean) - 5 stars
Wish Upon A Star (Judith Merril) - 4 stars
A Matter Of Proportion (Anne Walker) - 3.5 stars
The White Pony (Jane Rice) - 4 stars
Step IV (Rosel George Brown) - 4 stars
Of All Possible Worlds (Rosel George Brown)
- 5 stars
Satisfaction Guaranteed (Joy Leache) - 3 stars
The Deer Park (Maria Russell) - 4 stars
To Lift A Ship (Kit Reed) - 3.5 stars
The Putnam Tradition (Sonya Hess Dorman)
- 3.5 stars
The Pleiades (Otis Kidwell Burger) - 4 stars
No Trading Voyage (Doris Pitkin Buck) - 3.5 stars
Cornie On The Walls (Sydney van Scyoc) - 5 stars
Unwillingly To School (Pauline Ashwell) - 4 stars

(Kindly received an ARC from Journey Press through NetGalley)
Profile Image for Mike.
378 reviews92 followers
September 17, 2020
Marie Brennan’s excellent new book Driftwood got me thinking a lot about forgotten stories. You know you’re an /r/Fantasy-ian when you find your ever-growing personal Mount Readmore a source of significant anxiety, but you can’t stop adding titles anyway. We all know the Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough at Last,” even if only for the last bit where his glasses break. We get that guy. And, at least in my case, that’s really only looking at all the great new stuff coming out nearly every day in the SF/F world. It doesn’t even touch on the backlog.

Things like self-publishing and the rise of small press publications also get me thinking (and this is where Driftwood really got to me) of all the wonderful things that will never be read. More casual readers might not know this, but /r/Fantasy favorites like Senlin Ascends and Riyria Revelations started out as self-published because no publisher wanted them. So Josiah Bancroft and Michael J. Sullivan, like many others, self-published, and their books were able to find an audience and take off.

Go back 10 years, maybe 15 at most, and that. Could. Not. Have. Happened. Wonderful books like Riyria and Senlin would have been forgotten. Not even forgotten: never given the chance to live at all. They would have only ever been a thing in the author’s imagination. Say what you will about Amazon (and I’ll say a lot about Amazon), I’m eternally grateful for the role they’ve played in letting all these books come into being.

This is getting a bit afield from my review of Rediscovery, but when I think of all the wonderful writing talent that could have flourished over the decades and centuries and never got the chance, it makes me want to cry. So many worlds withered on the vine, so many lives unmoved that might have been. This is especially true of women authors and authors of color. Publishing was a man’s world, and generally a white man’s world. Women and people of color got published, but they were exceptions (and, as such, exceptional). These are huge populations of potential talent that were largely untapped. Rediscovery is a conscious attempt to push back against that.

The editors here looked, specifically, for short stories written by women and published in the 50s and 60s. They include a bit about each author, written by a current writer, talking about their lives and bibliographies. They were all published in well-known magazines such as Astounding Science Fiction and Amazing Stories and the like. Often they wrote under male pen names, or gender-neutral ones, or just used their initials to make things easier. (Still happens today - it was at the publisher’s insistence that Harry Potter got published with “J.K. Rowling” on the cover instead of “Joan Rowling.” And about once a week at /r/Fantasy we get someone who is surprised to learn that Robin Hobb is actually a woman named Megan Lindholm.)

The stories themselves are fairly typical of Silver Age science fiction. They differ from most stuff of the era in that they are definitely more progressive in their views of gender, race, and colonialism than one might expect. No Robert A. Heinlein-ish sexism (or at least, no Robert A. Heinlein-ish sexism without a hearty eye-roll or three thrown in).

Some favorite stories:

Of All Possible Worlds by Rosel George Brown tells the story of an anthropologist spending five years among an alien society. Enjoyable story of someone going native in a very alien society.

Satisfaction Guaranteed by Joy Leache. A planet inhabited by people who look an awful lot like leprechauns wants to join the Galactic Federation. They need to demonstrate that they won’t be a burden on the Federation, though, and hire a consultant to help them figure out something they can successfully sell on the galactic market.

The Pleiades by Otis Kidwell Burger. Short story set in a society that has achieved immortality. When everyone lives forever, in perfect health, the pleasures of the flesh become relatively unimportant. So what’s the appeal of a burlesque show in such a society? Read and find out!

Unwillingly to School by Pauline Ashwell. This one was probably my favorite. It starts with a young woman on a frontier planet getting her father to the hospital in a rough mining town for medical care. Angry and frustrated over her father’s injury and the patronizing doctors, she deliberately goes into the roughest bar in town looking for a fight and instead manages to trigger the protective instincts of all the hard-bitten prospectors in the place. Eventually she is semi-unwillingly sent back to Earth for college. A first person story, I really appreciate how the grammar and vocabulary got steadily better as she got more and more educated.

All in all a rewarding and interesting read. Thanks to Journey Press and NetGalley for the ARC.
Profile Image for Eric.
359 reviews5 followers
November 20, 2019
Fascinating collection of female-written science fiction from the late 50s an early 60s that is often quite groundbreaking and always interesting. Plan on tracking down some of these writers in more depth.
Profile Image for Jacob Williams.
422 reviews7 followers
October 19, 2022
Several great stories here.

Katherine MacLean's "Unhuman Sacrifice" is a first-contact tale featuring an obnoxious missionary and a delicious ending.

Joy Leache's whimsical "Satisfaction Guaranteed" follows a smart secretary and her bumbling boss as they try to save a backwoods planet from economic uselessness. It's a lot of fun.

"Cornie on the Walls" by Sydney van Scyoc is a very creepy sci-fi take on haunted houses.

In "The Pleiades", Otis Kidwell Burger depicts a traveling show of seven special women. Imagining life from their perspective is... heavy.

Pauline Ashwell's novella "Unwillingly to School" is largely predictable but quite fun to read. As an aside: the device she describes that feeds words into your eyes as quickly as you're able to absorb them sounds like an absolute nightmare.

Anne Walker's "A Matter of Proportion" draws a parallel between two physically demanding feats in one man's life: one as a soldier on a dangerous mission; one as a disabled man trying to accomplish ordinary tasks in a world not built with him in mind. The disdain for inept would-be helpers (e.g. "nobody's secretary...had scurried to helpfully knock him down with the door") reminds me of some of the difficulties Rebekah Taussig discusses in Sitting Pretty (review); this must be a common frustration for people with disabilities.

There are two stories by Rosel George Brown. "Step IV" was ruined for me by lousy dialog; I also don't appreciate "Of All Possible Worlds", on the other hand, is a quality example of the angsty-explorer-encounters-simple-but-content-society trope; I enjoyed

Maria Russell's "The Deer Park" didn't resonate with me. Stories about how awful it would be to have things too nice rarely do. (The heroine declares: "Security is a disease." OK, but you know what's a worse disease? Disease. Also war, poverty, depression...) I did like the fanciful and essentially godlike technology present in the story, though. Often I feel like older sci-fi had somewhat limited dreams of what technology could eventually accomplish, but that's certainly not the case here.

Judith Merril's "Wish Upon a Star" is a generation-ship story with what I find to be a pretty depressing take on gender roles.

"The White Pony" by Jane Rice is about... the importance of giving up on your dreams? Or more charitably: the beauty of an ordinary life. I wasn't fond of this story, but it does feature a restaurant named "the Hasty-Tasty" and I really really want someone to make that a reality.

(crossposted from https://brokensandals.net/reviews/202...)
Profile Image for Annie.
3,394 reviews62 followers
June 23, 2020
Originally published on my blog: Nonstop Reader.

Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963) is an anthology of silver age SF written by women. Released 16th Aug 2019 by Journey Press, it's 276 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a varied collection, only a couple were previously familiar to me and all were enjoyable. One reason I prefer collections and anthologies is that short fiction is really challenging. It's spare and the author doesn't have a wealth of wordage to develop characters or the plotting. Well written short fiction is a delight. I also love anthologies because if one story doesn't really grab me, there's another story just a few pages away. Each of these stories are introduced by modern day authors with background info and the intros include interesting tidbits about the authors and their works. Attributions are included in the headers with publication info.

The stories are a varied bunch but all are enjoyable high quality silver age SF and all are 3-5 stars. The styles are reminiscent of a stroll through back issues of Astounding and F&SF (when my young and non-jaded self couldn't *wait* for the new issues to hit the stands). The book also includes an erudite and well written foreword and introduction by Laura Brodian Freas Beraha and Gideon Marcus respectively. I don't recommend that readers go into this anthology searching for feminist themes and righteous indignation because they won't find it. These are classic silver age stories written in classic style by competent authors who happened to be female. There are 14 stories included and, at the very end, a facsimile mimeographed copy of the 1958 Hugo award voting ballot which really made me smile.

Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
Profile Image for Jersy.
729 reviews58 followers
July 8, 2020
* I received an ARC from netgalley for a free and honest review*
Creating a collection entirely out of classic SF stories by women is an interesting idea, mainly because it leaves so much room to have very different short stories while also having the readers look for a common theme. All of this, of course, sidelined to just raising awareness for these forgotten authors.

I think just as a collection, it very much succeeds: The stories vary immensely in style, theme and premises, one entry is even in poetry form. Some them are connected by overall themes of (power) dynamics between women and men, identity and relationships, as well as interacting with alien planets and cultures, although they all handle the subjects in different ways.

On a story to story level, the collection was a less successful experience for me. I think they are all well written, a good share of them had a pretty modern writing style, and like I said, there are good and interesting topics in there, but I connected with very few of them and only one really blew me away in its execution. There is an interesting introduction to every author and story, however must of them include some kind of spoiler and it boggles me that this wasn’t noticed and subsequent decided to put this text at the end of each story.

I don´t want to get into the individual texts, but in general, a lot of them did not manage to draw me in or create much of a response. There was a good share were the moral or outcome was predictable, one story had a really unsatisfying ending, one was downright depressing. It´s more of a personal thing and I think the collection is worth giving a try, but I do have to mention that.

I did like that a lot of the stories include relatable or likable characters, even for a modern sensibility, and that sometimes expectations one would normally have are subverted or played with.

I feel the need to mention that one of the stories has the potential to be interpreted in a way that might perpetuate or suggest the harmful narrative that all men are bad or even rapists I have seen going around the internet. The text itself is effective in creating an atmosphere and emotional response, so maybe it deserves the attention it gets by being republished, however I don´t know how I feel it being included in this collection with the current climate going on.

Rating as collection: 4 stars
Rating of the stories: 3 stars
Profile Image for Jersy.
729 reviews58 followers
July 8, 2020
Creating a collection entirely out of classic SF stories by women is an interesting idea, mainly because it leaves so much room to have very different short stories while also having the readers look for a common theme. All of this, of course, sidelined to just raising awareness for these forgotten authors.

I think just as a collection, it very much succeeds: The stories vary immensely in style, theme and premises, one entry is even in poetry form. Some them are connected by overall themes of (power) dynamics between women and men, identity and relationships, as well as interacting with alien planets and cultures, although they all handle the subjects in different ways.

On a story to story level, the collection was a less successful experience for me. I think they are all well written, a good share of them had a pretty modern writing style, and like I said, there are good and interesting topics in there, but I connected with very few of them and only one really blew me away in its execution. There is an interesting introduction to every author and story, however must of them include some kind of spoiler and it boggles me that this wasn’t noticed and subsequent decided to put this text at the end of each story.

I don´t want to get into the individual texts, but in general, a lot of them did not manage to draw me in or create much of a response. There was a good share were the moral or outcome was predictable, one story had a really unsatisfying ending, one was downright depressing. It´s more of a personal thing and I think the collection is worth giving a try, but I do have to mention that.

I did like that a lot of the stories include relatable or likable characters, even for a modern sensibility, and that sometimes expectations one would normally have are subverted or played with.

I feel the need to mention that one of the stories has the potential to be interpreted in a way that might perpetuate or suggest the harmful narrative that all men are bad or even rapists I have seen going around the internet. The text itself is effective in creating an atmosphere and emotional response, so maybe it deserves the attention it gets by being republished, however I don´t know how I feel it being included in this collection with the current climate going on.

Rating as collection: 4 stars
Rating of the stories: 3 stars
Profile Image for Adjectiveplusnoun.
123 reviews21 followers
August 9, 2020
Review: Rediscovery: SF by Women by Gideon Marcus
If you enjoy this review, please consider visiting my blog for more
NB—I received this book in exchange for an honest review via Netgalley, all opinions are my own

I hadn’t read much old science fiction before reading the anthology, and I wasn’t sure I’d like it. As someone who follows a number of women who write on social media, however, I am aware of how much discrimination women still face today—in writing in general, but also science fiction and fantasy specifically. When I found this anthology on Netgalley, I was immediately intrigued, because I think of the 50s and 60s as somewhat of a dark age in terms of women’s rights. This anthology was a great reminder that women always have, and always will, persevere, even in the face of discrimination.

Straight off the bat I loved that the anthology pointed out that science fiction struggles with diversity. It is pointed out that the genre is becoming more diverse, but sci fi (even more than most other genres) has been overwhelmingly dominated by straight, white, male authors. Anthologies like Rediscovery are thus important not just to showcase great fiction that may not have received enough acclaim in its time, but to shift the perception of the genre as a whole and make more room for diverse works, to enliven science fiction as a whole.

Unhuman Sacrifice by Katherine MacLean was a great start to the anthology, and I loved the Pratchett-esque banter and irony present throughout the story. The switches to the perspective of Spet also provided touches of humour, and allowed the messages of colonialism to hit home even harder. The story was an entertaining look at the arrogance involved in interfering in a way of life you do not understand, the way everyone tends to project their own experiences, and also provided an interesting look at the fear of—and futility of fighting—the natural aging process.

Judith Merrel’s Wish Upon a Star had some interesting gender commentary, and I was glad that she didn’t shy away from having unlikeable characters present in both the men and women in the story, and likewise with level-headed, nurturing characters. Sheik (the main character) is a boy who resents the injustice of being denied leadership on the basis of his gender, and this set-up is probably far more likely (even today, but probably especially so in the 50s and 60s) to gently show men how unfair the situations are in which women often find themselves. I wish the story had resolved more fully, and I found it hard to sympathise with a male character essentially wishing that women were more subservient so that he might benefit, but I appreciated the aim of the story and may seek out more work by the author to see how themes of gender are explored in her other works.

A Matter of Proportion by Anne Walker Gutterman stood out for a few reasons. One being that characters with disabilities are rare in all fiction, especially science fiction where it might seem reasonable for any such differences to be ‘fixed’ with technology of some kind. The other was the odd structure of the story, with the majority of the life-or-death tension up front, and the latter part of the story dealing with a more social/emotional goal, with equivalent stakes; the outcome of which is also known. I enjoyed the story, and appreciated the classically science fiction chance to see through the eyes of a character whose life is very different to mine, and I believe—strange structure aside—that A Matter of Proportion made a strong addition to the Rediscovery anthology.

Jane Rice’s The White Pony is one of the strongest stories in the collection, in my opinion, and I loved the humour interwoven with seamless world building and foreshadowed hints of the story to come. The jabs at the artistic, unconventional life people assume writers lead was an entertaining way to develop the main character, and I loved the way Bill fell in love with Margie in part for her way with words. The descriptive language in this short story is incredible, equal parts relaying factual information and giving an impression of a person or situation that gives much more of a sense, The White Pony is nearly poetic in its ability to quickly convey complex sentiments in a few descriptive phrases. The ending is surprising and touching and wise, all at once, and I feel the need to share this quote from the work, as I feel it neatly sums up the appeal of The White Pony
“I saw it was the day-to-day stuff that was the challenge and required the most bravery and made the best story in the long run.”
In terms of subtly unusual, thoroughly engrossing day-to-day stuff, it would be hard to beat Jane Rice.

Step IV by Rosel George Brown was a conflicting story for me, because while I found the set-up and some of the commentary fascinating, I felt like the main character’s motivations weren’t adequately fleshed out. Men and women were cast as two rigidly defined groups, and while this was done for reason of commentary, I feel it made the ending rather pessimistic, as though equality is a child’s dream rather than a goal worth working towards. I did enjoy this story, but I wish Juba’s motivations had been a little more clearly motivated.

Rosel George Brown was also the author of the next entry in the anthology, Of All Possible Worlds. I loved the idea of an explorer who not only didn’t, but couldn’t bargain, threaten or otherwise persuade foreign cultures to accommodate them. In Rosel George Brown’s words: “You have nothing to offer but yourself. So you try to make that good.” Words to live by.
I also liked the way prejudice didn’t magically not exist in the main character, but rather it was something he had to actively fight against within himself, the message is as timely now as it was in the 50s or 60s. This story had no firm message to it, and the ending, while haunting, was rather ambiguous. Of All Possible Worlds does not so much tell readers what to do or think, but rather expand one part of life so thoroughly but you can’t help but notice it, any change you wish to see you are then responsible for making. I enjoyed the short story, and the haunting ending, but those wishing a more conclusive finale may be disappointed.

One of the highlights of this anthology is the sheer range of genres, tones and styles of writing which it includes, even given the rather narrow scope of the stories (science fiction, written by women, in the years 1958-1963). Satisfaction Guaranteed by Joy Leache is a great example of this, as the writing style is reminiscent somehow of a cartoon strip, or an old-timey sit com. I’m reminded once more of Terry Pratchett’s writing by this story, and perhaps if Pratchett wrote Mad Men it would’ve been a little like Satisfaction Guaranteed. I enjoyed this story, and the clever ways Miss Featherpenny got around them. The characters of this story, though hastily presented (as is standard in short stories with more than two characters) were entertaining, familiar, and sympathetic—though I still think Miss Featherpenny could have aimed higher. The setting was whimsical without being ridiculous, and the commentary on gender politics, consumerism and the dehumanisation of entertainers is timeless.

Maria Russel’s The Deer Park was a beautifully written, somewhat disturbing look at the ultimate emptiness of a controlled, perfect life that so many people ostensibly strive for. I absolutely loved the character of Ronde, and the reflection of Vwal and the fantasy world that she lived in that both she and the Envoy provided, though with opposing viewpoints on the life that Vwal himself was living.

To Lift a Ship by Kit Reed was a great mix of 60s technology (black and white films!) and the presumed technology that was soon to be developed. This contradiction made for an interesting story, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way this story ended.

The Putnam Tradition by Sonya Hess Dorman sets up a world that I would gladly read a book or series about, and I loved the almost urban-fantasy feel of it. I loved the different presentations of women present in the novel, and the focus on family that allowed for both character development and backstory in one. I loved the challenging of traditional values based on fear, and I always appreciate an antagonist that is not a villain. The touches of humour are a lovely addition to the story, and The Putnam Tradition was certainly a stand out for me from this anthology.

Otis Kidwell Burger’s The Pleiades is possibly my favourite story in this anthology, and one that I believe will stick with many readers of it. The novelty carnival setting is a great counterpoint to the morbid themes of the story, and without spoiling the magnificent twist ending of this story—magnificently foreshadowed in the rich world-building that precedes it—the message is similar to that of The Deer Park, a criticism of empty, manufactured perfectionism.

Doris Pitkin Buck’s No Trading Voyage was odd, I enjoyed the writing style of the story, but fond the ultimate message a bit unclear. The obstacles that drove the plot also felt a little hollow because of the impersonal way they were described, though again, I did enjoy the story.

Cornie on the Walls by Sydney van Sycoc was another favourite of mine within the anthology, and was a little reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe at times. I was also reminded of Anne McCaffrey’s Ship Who Sang and Robin Hobb’s Liveship series’, and the supposed blending of man and machine is certainly an intriguing one. Cornie on the Walls also deals with the control men at the time had over their partner’s lives, and themes of mental health and grief in a way that is disturbing and intriguing in equal parts.

Unwillingly to School by Pauline Ashwell was yet another of my favourites, though when I began reading it I didn’t realise it was the last story, as it was far longer than I anticipated. The story it tells is surprisingly nuanced, and I loved the determination the main character had without impinging on how entertaining it was to read of her exploits. This story is funny, and tackles serious subjects like health, wealth and disabilities without making light of any of them, and for that reason alone would be worth reading. However, Unwillingly to School also has great characterisation, and a touching reminder of the benefit of asking for help and sharing ideas.

A theme that had become obvious throughout the anthology was the restricted role women played in society at the time these works were written, and much as Kit Reed wrote of psychic craft but did not assume that films would play in colour, while the women in these stories are strong, resourceful and nuanced, they often still take a backseat to the men in the story. Rediscovery is not just a collection of amazing science fiction, it’s a reminder of the need to seek out and lift up diverse voices, not just to enjoy what they have to say, but to create an environment where everyone feels free to share ideas, for the benefit of all.

There’s such a diversity of tone among the works in this anthology that I can make no sweeping recommendations as to who might enjoy this work, but I believe anyone who enjoys science fiction will find something to enjoy in Rediscovery: SF by Women. This title will release on September 2nd, 2020.
Profile Image for Rachel.
Author 6 books8 followers
March 29, 2021
Before I start, I want to note that I haven’t read the entire Rediscovery collection (a total of 14 stories), but I will be reviewing a selection of four pieces from the anthology instead (as suggested by the publisher when they offered me the ARC to review).

Overall, I get the feeling that this book is important for the history of Science Fiction. I can see this being a great education resource for anyone studying the topic or interested in women’s history. Each story is introduced by an informative introduction that tells us about each author, gives us context of the time the story was written in and information on the piece’s place in history. (Just a warning though, the introductions do give some spoilers to the story before you read them, so it might be better to read them at the end of the story instead of the start).

However, if you are looking to read this book purely for entertainment it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Each story is historically interesting, and most of them are surprisingly modern for the time they were written in. But I didn’t feel that these stories were escapist enough for me to really enjoy reading them. I didn’t get sucked into the worlds and the characters didn’t always win me over either.

The first story that I read was Unhuman Sacrifice by Katherine MacLean. I really enjoyed this story, it was slow to start but the world Katherine created was fascinating. It really did remind me of a classic science fiction story, but the ideas that it covered were modern and the characters are diverse. My favourite part of this story was the way we got to see the humans from the point of view of one of the aliens, which was very interesting a lot of fun. The only drawback for me was the abrupt ending, but I have found recently that a lot of sci-fi short stories seem to have this. This was my favourite story out of the four that I read in the anthology.

Next, I read Wish Upon a Star by Judith Merril. This story was really promising, I loved the political feminist message, and the characters were interesting. I was excited to find out what happened and got quite invested in the story. But then it just suddenly stopped, which was really frustrating! It was like the story ended mid chapter, and everything was left so open. We never even came close to seeing the resolution of everything that had been set up, and it wasn’t in the ‘make your own ending’ kind of way, because it didn’t even feel like we were even close to the ending. That ruined the story for me.

I chose to read A Matter of Proportion by Anne Walker next, the third story in the collection. I struggled to get into this story, because the writing was very eloquent. My vocabulary isn’t amazing (even as a writer and a reader), so I did struggle with some of the words and descriptions which stopped me from following the story as well as I would like. To add to that, the perspective switched between two characters without telling us this had happened which was a bit confusing. However, the main character in this story has a disability (he’s a paraplegic), which I loved, because it’s still such an underrated thing in fiction, and especially in fantasy and science fiction. To see this in a classic piece was really amazing.

I told the publisher who offered me the ARC that I was really interested in reading the stories with disability representation in this anthology, so they suggested to me to read Unwillingly to School by Pauline Ashwell alongside A Matter of Proportion. The main character has a disability, but we don’t even find out until halfway through which is great, it’s so rare to read a story about a disabled character where the disability isn’t the main focus. I also found this story really charming. The main character was relatable and funny and although the writing style was unusual, I found it easy to read and connect to.


I read a selection of four stories from this anthology, and although I enjoyed two of those, the other two left me feeling a little disappointed. However, I would stress that this book would be a fantastic resource for anyone studying women’s history or science fiction, as this anthology is amazing for promoting the works of underrepresented female science fiction writers in the 50s and 60s. I love what this anthology is trying to do, but I feel like it doesn’t quite work as entertainment as well as it does an education resource.
166 reviews3 followers
June 9, 2020
I remember as a boy skimming the bookstore shelves for new science fiction to read. There was no internet, and the only tools I had to select a new read was the cover of the book and the blurbs on the dust cover. Science fiction was not as popular then as it is today, and I knew very few people who read Sci Fi. And those that did, we never discussed the books we read, TV shows were the rage, and reading seemed to be too much like school work to be shared as entertainment. I quickly began to bypass female Sci Fi authors because they did not seem to write stories that the young boy that I was liked. I was suspicious of any author who used ambiguous first names or initials since it could be an attempt to mask the authors gender. A decade or so later, more people I knew read Sci Fi, and enough critically acclaimed books had female authors and I realized my prejudice was unwarranted.

And then Rediscovery was recommended to me, and the introduction sounds like they knew me as a boy! I guess I was not alone. So I bought a copy to see what I had been missing all those years ago. And honestly, the book seemed to reinforce my preconceptions that female authors wrote different kinds of stories. I think short story anthologies have a disadvantage since you will not like all the stories, so how do you evaluate the whole? This was not a collection I would have liked as a boy, but I did like more of it as an adult. I chose 3 stars, I liked it and I was glad I read it.
Profile Image for Emily.
926 reviews40 followers
April 6, 2021
Started as a buddy read with my friend Cortney, but we petered out after maybe 3 stories? I put it on the back burner for a while and then started deliberately making my way through the stories. I think I really prefer the John Joseph Adams style of putting author info/commentary AFTER the story. I didn't like having my perceptions of the story or what it was trying to do put through someone else's filter first. I finally just started skipping over that and reading the story first. It was an interesting collection, and it was fun to see what women were doing in a field so thoroughly dominated by men at the time. (Here's my secret — I mostly just stopped reading books by men.)
138 reviews
August 23, 2022
Some of the finest examples of Silver Age science fiction I have ever read - tackling themes of sexism, gendered violence, disability and discrimination that still are so clearly present today.
Profile Image for X.
542 reviews
February 25, 2023
DNF. Unfortunately these stories are very…. 1958-1963. I guess I can’t blame them but I have no desire to keep reading.
Profile Image for T.B. Caine.
576 reviews52 followers
June 25, 2020
Thank you to Netgalley & the Publisher for giving me a copy to review!

My Booktube

Just an average collection. I would have more to say but, it was just ok?
The stories here definitely have historical merit, and it would be invaluable as a tool to study the writing of early women in science fiction. But, most of the stories were just not enjoyable for me to read, and I struggled to even feel like the stories had any form of stakes.

Would be very helpful as a resource, but maybe not so much as something you read for fun.
Profile Image for Clara Ward.
Author 7 books10 followers
July 13, 2020
I'm not generally a fan of classic short stories, and many societal assumptions from the late fifties and early sixties are frankly off-putting. However, while I can't say I enjoyed every story in Rediscovery, I was surprisingly satisfied with the time I invested in this collection. The last story, "Unwillingly to School" by Pauline Ashwell, offered a surprisingly fun and relevant perspective for a reluctant college student (overcoming her assumptions and presumed limitations from growing up as a farmer's daughter on a space mining colony). And a tiny mention of all circus lions ever (as well as a few other bits) in "The Pleiades" by Otis Kidwell Burger will endear that story to me forever. Finally, the 1958 Hugo Awards Ballot and the tale of how this anthology came to be published—both included at the end of the book—are stories worth discovering in their own right. One additional note: Of the five people I know who read this, four agreed that it was better to wait and read the intro to each story after reading the story itself, because many contain spoilers (but they're definitely interesting to read afterward!).
Profile Image for Dan Trefethen.
728 reviews21 followers
September 30, 2020
“Rediscovery” implies that you knew of it before, but most of these women writers were unknown to me. I knew of Judith Merril and Kit Reed, of course, since they had long and storied careers in science fiction and fantasy, but most of the others were obscure. Partly for good reason – one of them published only three stories, and another only one! However, the quality of all the stories is pretty high, especially for the time period they were published.

Rosel George Brown tragically died young in 1967 when it looked like she was building a career along with other women breaking out at that time. Her story “Of All Possible Worlds” is almost Le Guinian in its approach to first contact. The funniest story is the novella “Unwilling to School” by Pauline Ashwell, told in a snappy vernacular style by a young woman from 'the wrong side of the tracks'.
Profile Image for Ayre.
859 reviews32 followers
September 1, 2020
I received a copy of this title for free in exchange for an honest review from netgalley.

Like most anthologies this had stories I really like and stories I didn't like so much. I've read a lot of classic sci-fi this year and I do have to say these women did a lot better with scientifically accurate information than most of the men I read from the time period (but hey maybe because these are short stories they didn't have time to be inaccurate)

overall I very much enjoyed reading these stories by women
Profile Image for Annarella.
10.4k reviews99 followers
July 9, 2020
This is an interesting anthology of silver age sci-fi written by women.
Some of these stories are quite fresh, some didn't age well. It was an entertaining read and I'm happy I discovered some interesting stories by unknown to me women.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
Profile Image for Mike.
Author 47 books154 followers
July 3, 2020
This reminded me very much of The Feminine Future: Early Science Fiction by Women Writers , in that it reintroduces us to excellent stories by writers who are mostly, undeservedly, forgotten today. The other book has an earlier timeframe (1873 to 1930), and there are some clear differences. The women of that earlier time were mostly writing male points of view, sometimes under male names; by the late 1950s, when Rediscovery kicks off, women were still sometimes writing under male or ambiguous names (as indeed they are today), but a lot of their stories were from a female viewpoint.

It also reminded me a little of stories I've read by male authors in the same period, in that a lot of the stories assume that men are inherently this way and women are inherently that way, and the sexes are at war, and there will never be peace or alliance between them; they're too different. However far we still have to go, the intervening three generations have, at least, made progress in both of those respects; we recognize a much wider (and much more overlapping) range of ways of being for both men and women, and, while, as I say, there's still plenty of room for improvement, men and women are now able to be friends, allies, and colleagues while also being or not being lovers. Here, though, we see the early stirrings of modern feminism, when men (rather than patriarchy) were still seen as the problem, and a hard problem at that - perhaps insoluble.

Not every story is like that, though (and, don't get me wrong, the ones that are like that are still fine stories with a strong impact). Some of them are just really good stories of their time; some would stand up well if first published today, though there are a few that lean a bit too heavily on the tropes (and social assumptions) of the period to have aged well. They often take those tropes in a new and interesting direction, though.

One unfortunate thing, and I will mention it even though I read a review copy from Netgalley, because I know the book's been out for a while and assume I got the published version. Stories of the pre-digital age are usually reprinted by being scanned and having optical character recognition run over them, and despite being in use for more than 25 years, this technology is still not always accurate in its transcriptions and tends to produce typos. Some of them were easy to miss (some of them, no doubt, I did miss), but about half of the ones I noticed could have been caught with spellcheck. I don't know why people use OCR and then don't spellcheck. (Getting a machine to read it aloud while you read along would also be a good means of avoiding these issues, if you had the time.)

This doesn't detract much, though, from what is a fine collection of stories that should be more widely known. They are unpredictable, emotionally powerful, thoughtful, humane, and excellently crafted. As the editor's introduction notes, because of the prejudice against women that existed in the SFF field at the time, a woman had to be that much better to compete, and these women are fine writers who are long overdue to be rediscovered.
Profile Image for Adam Howells.
Author 3 books6 followers
June 8, 2021
Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958 to 1963) is a solid introduction to an overlooked area of science fiction: Silver Age female authors. The subject matter and themes vary, providing the reader insight into the wide creative scope of authors who could easily stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the household names of classic sci-fi. The best science fiction presents worlds in stark visual and operational contrast to our own, yet they simultaneously hold up a mirror to society’s values and shortcomings. Nearly all these stories succeed under this banner.

“Unhuman Sacrifice” highlights the futility and danger of attempting to proselytize while refusing to understand a different society’s (and species’) customs. “Cornie on the Walls” is a downright horrifying tale of a man transformed into a house. His wife tragically died within his inner workings, and now he spends his days projecting her death onto his walls. “The Pleiades” highlights the ugliness of eternal existence. “A Matter of Proportion” and the novella “Unwillingly to School” (later expanded upon into a full novel, Unwillingly to Earth) both feature disabled protagonists, an underrepresented population presented by underappreciated authors.

While the content varies along with the gender of the stories’ protagonists, most of the stories with a female lead include a feminist bent reflective of the period in which they were written. These stories are standouts in the collection. Even the humorous selection “Satisfaction Guaranteed” features an objectified secretary providing novel solutions for the story’s conflict. These solutions are, unsurprisingly, advanced by the male character as if they were his own. (Notably, many women sci-fi writers at the time wrote under male pseudonyms to gain the acceptance of male editors.)

Rediscovery is well worth your time. Whether you’re a genre afficionado or unfamiliar with its tropes, the universality of these stories is as relevant today as it was half a century ago. This is a book you’ll want to read through once and eventually return to re-read favorite selections.
Profile Image for K.A. Hough.
Author 2 books17 followers
May 10, 2021
Rediscovery is a collection of science fiction stories written by women. Each is prefaced by a short essay by a science fiction writer of today, which provides insight into the author's life and work, as well as what struck the essayist about the piece that follows. These, in themselves, make for interesting reading, though they do contain a few spoilers.

Each story is beautifully formed, interesting and unsettling. I had to take a break after reading each one to think on it, to ponder what I had just read; each story deserved time to wrap my mind around the concepts these women created, and the clarity with which they identified challenges, sixty or more years ago.

Without revealing any spoilers, these pieces contain themes of inequality and/or miscommunication, often both. Written from both male and female perspectives, with no common planet, species or time between them, the authors sketched palpable differences between males and females; this is true of probably all works of fiction, but it was bittersweet and saddening to see it so clearly here. These women, who made up only 9% of all the sci-fi authors of that time, and who are all but unknown today, so subtly, aptly depicted struggles between genders, between masculine and feminine energy, between humans and alien species. They wrote about colonies led by women, but never fully safe from men. About the dangers of assuming you know anything about another human or humanoid.

It was an absolute honour to read what they had imagined so long ago, and it's wonderful to think that their work and their lives are being rediscovered by new generations (see what I did there?).

I enjoyed this anthology immensely, and would recommend it to sci-fi fans and anthropologists alike.
Profile Image for Ed Erwin.
915 reviews95 followers
November 25, 2022
There are some very interesting stories in here. I was particularly taken with the two by Rosel George Brown, one of which involved human explorers tragically misunderstanding an alien culture. The final story by Pauline Ashwell, a novelette really, was an absolute gem. As the introduction points out, it was unusual in that it was written by a woman, the main character is a woman, a woman with a disability, and it is funny. Her disability, similar to dyslexia, is not the point of the story, but it has an impact on the story. The humor comes from the personality of the young woman, who narrates her own story in her own unconventional grammar. And she is stubborn. One of the characters describes her as not having "free will" so much as she has "free won't". The author created three more stories staring the same character, and they were collected into a fix-up novel called Unwillingly to Earth. It is out-of-print, but worth tracking down. You can get a taste of the book by reading the second of those four stories on project Gutenberg. https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/30427

The book also includes a photo of the 1958 Hugo ballot. There were 3 women among the nominees for "Best new author", all three represented in this book. Strangely, the winner was "No award in this category".
215 reviews1 follower
February 5, 2022
This is a collection of science fiction short stories by women writers. They range from dark to humorous. Some are distinctly feminist. It was great finding these writers, many that have been lost or forgotten to modern readers. I enjoyed the variety and I especially enjoyed the humor in the last story which was long enough to be considered a novelette. The writers all seemed to look at society in a unique way and to spend more time delving into the relationships between characters. I intend to pass this book on to a friend. I really enjoyed reading it
Profile Image for Daniel Tanghal.
61 reviews2 followers
November 25, 2021
My favorite stories:
Inhuman Sacrifice by Katherine MacLean
The White Pony by Jane Rice
Step IV by Rosel George Brown
Of All Possible Worlds by Rosel George Brown
Satisfaction Guaranteed by Joy Leache
The Pleiades by Otis Kidwell Burger
Unwillingly to School by Pauline Ashwell
March 27, 2022
Great to see that these authors exist, but very few of them left me wanting to track down more by the authors.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Acacia Weber.
319 reviews2 followers
February 8, 2020
Very well put together anthology, I recommend for any fans of short SciFi stories! The stories are all pretty varied, which keeps it interesting
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