Thursday, May 05, 2011

Review: Frankenstein's Daughters: Women Writing Science Fiction

Frankenstein's Daughters: Women Writing Science FictionFrankenstein's Daughters: Women Writing Science Fiction by Jane Donawerth

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Wow. This book was...work. Work I enjoyed, work I took on by my own choice and work I was satisfied to do, but...work.

How does one review a book like this, full of things one didn't know diddly squat about until one read it? I can't speak to its accuracy, its depth, its breadth, or any other such qualities used to measure books that offer critique on other books. All I can tell you is my own experience with it.

Looking at the bones and growth of science fiction through a feminist theory lens is an interesting experience. Going through science fiction books and stories via the road of literary criticism renders even the familiar strange and even unknown territory. Donawerth caused me to add a lot of books to my reading list, both fiction and nonfiction. I've learned new words and phrases-- essentialism, hetero- and homodiegic, male narrative. I've discovered new forms of narrative I never realized I was reading. I have a lot of ways of looking at science fiction. I took a lot of notes.

Although structured in the "tell them what you will tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them" method I recall from 1990s college classes, and not occasionally diving deeply into academia-speak, I still found it very readable. Perhaps one of the most interesting features of this book were responses from some authors of works analyzed to Donawerth (chapters of the book were published elsewhere) in which these authors -- Anne McCaffrey and Emma Bull pop to mind most readily, but there was at least one other -- disagree or expand on Donawerth's assertions. This made the book more like a conversation. Donawerth was also very thorough in citing the texts from which she drew the ideas she applies to fiction, which added to the conversational tone.

I appreciate learning how to see literature in this particular way, because I am interested in how gender is handled in science fiction, both as stories and as writing.





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