Future Eves: Great Science Fiction About Women by Women
Click on image to enlarge.
by Jean Marie Stine
Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Description: How will women affect the future, and how will the future affect the lives of women? You'll find out in Future Eves: Great Science Fiction by Women About Women edited by Jean Marie Stine. Written between 1931 and 1959, these stories show how different women have, in different eras, envisioned the future of their sex. Leslie F. Stone was so far ahead of her time that nothing like her novelette, "The Conquest of Gola" (1931), an encounter with Earth males told from the point-of-view of an alien matriarch, would be attempted again in science fiction until the work of Alice Sheldon (AKA James Tiptree, Jr.) in the 1970s. The scientific detective story is a subgenre of science fiction that flourished in the early 1900s with the adventures of Arthur B. Reeve's Craig Kennedy character; and Margarette Rea is one of the few women of the time to have, in "Delilah" (1933), written in the subgenre (in this instance utilizing the newly emergent science of "psychology"). Hazel Heald's novelette, "The Man of Stone," is searingly feminist, all the more so since her heroine, like so many women of the time, takes her brutalized situation so much for granted; the title can be seen as having both a literal meaning and a metaphorical one in relation to the heart of the principle male character (Lovecraft fans are in for a real treat.) On a more modern note, Evelyn Goldsmith offers what is both a legitimate science fiction puzzle story and one of character in her "Days of Darkness" (1959), the tale of a spinster's encounter with an invisible, vampiric alien invader. Although "Alien Invasion" (1954) by Marcia Kamen is short, it is one many women will sympathize with--after all, what else is sex between a man and a woman? In "Miss Millie's Rose" (1959), Joy Leache manages what so few male science fiction writers of the era seemed able to do: portray a character whose psychology arises out of her own future world and not our own. Betsy Curtis is a deceptively mild name for someone able to produce a work like "The Goddess of Planet Delight," a short novel in the classic mode that mixes a sociological puzzle with pointed satire, high-adventure and romance in its story of a traveling salesman who has to stop over one night at the planet named "Delight." "Cocktails at Eight" seems a deceptively mild domestic comedy, until you realize what author Beth Elliot is saying about the children her heroine has produced. Finally, Helen Clarkson offers "The Last Day," a haunting poignant short-short so prophetic that, though chosen prior to 9/11/2002, hits home all the harder in the aftermath of that horrendous tragedy. Future Eves is fascinating reading, both as science fiction and as an eye-opening view into futures past.
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner, 2002
eBookwise Release Date: September 2004
7 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [253 KB]
Reading time: 200-280 min.
THE GODDESS PLANET DELIGHT
(Planet Stories, May 1953)
WHEN the alarm signaled the first whiff of the atmosphere of the next planet on his route, Herl Hofner stopped chinning his strapping six-foot self and left the little gym.
Slipping into the swivel chair at the desk he clipped the pile of loose papers into an empty niche at the side of the desk, spun the chair to the instrument panel of the Krylla. Dialing with his left hand, he swept the bank for incoming signals while his right hand adjusted the microphone frequencies.
"Class M-for-Mary ship requesting permission to land. Do you have automatic beam landing device? Class M-for-Mary ship requesting permission to land. Do you have automatic beam landing?" His dial pointer swept back and forth.
"Come in, class M-for-Mary."
Herl's left hand moved to the auto-beam switch. "What band for M-for-Mary landing? What band for M-for-Mary landing?"
"Come in on seventy-three point eight, M-for-Mary. Come in on seventy-three point eight, M-for-Mary."
Herl's left hand now centered the needle neatly on the appropriate setting as his right pressed the stud for extending the wings with their powerful atmosphere motors; and he sank back into the chair cushions with a relieved sigh. This was still a civilized planet. He'd be able to get back maybe a month sooner than he'd expected after the most recent setback. Forty years, he frowned, was too long between visits from Galactic Central, even if Central had no responsibility for autonomous groupings. A lot could happen in forty years on these isolated planets. Unprecedented mutation leaving half the population deaf and dumb had made the last call a long and tedious one. But by the signs so far, this planet was still ticking along satisfactorily. With radio and radar and standard language, a spacer had all the comforts of civilization.
The speaker hummed into activity. "Please state vessel name, registration, number of crew, destination, and nature of business, M-for-Mary entering on band seventy-three point eight."
Herl grinned comfortably to himself. Familiar red tape had a homelike ring. "This is the Krylla, registered J-John five two L-Lomax one five on Earth Sol at headquarters of Galactic Coordination, on routine round trip of thirty planets carrying only Captain Herl Hofner, your sears-monkey, to governmental centers for trading coordination."
He heard the snort from the speaker before the bellow. "What in seven light years is a sears-monkey?" He could visualize the veritable bull of a man at the port control tower.
"Traditional term on Earth for a trading catalogue, now used to signify the man who carries it. I've got five hundred thousand feet of microfilm of the latest manufactured articles and raw materials and their descriptions and prices from about three thousand planets in the galaxy. Anything you need?"
"I don't know. Nobody tells me anything." A pause. "How long do you wish to remain on Delight?"
"That depends on what's needed and how long it takes me to find out. How long has the planet been called Delight? I have it listed as Geescow, or maybe that was my predecessor's idea of a joke."
"That was no joke. We only settled here eighty years ago and there was a little bug in the water that made the whole place stink like a garbage scow. We've got that pretty well cleaned up and renamed the place." Another pause. "Do you need hotel accommodations?"
Hotel. Herl felt his chin. He'd better redepil on the way down. Sears-monkeys were expected to go the local culture one better on everything to keep up Galactic Coordination's reputation. And he should wear the red dress uniform tunic and black trousers. The more civilized they were, the harder they fell for a little routine glamour.
"How far is the port from the capital?"
"Not more'n ninety, hundred miles from the middle of town. Plenty of taxi service for the little bit of business we get here. Only twelve spaces and eighty-three jets registered for the whole planet."
Well, that explained the volubility of the control man. Evidently just busting for somebody to talk to. Not first-class security, being so gabby, but pleasant to come in out of the black to.
"I may need an office where I can place the samples. Can you get me something?"
"No. You gotta have a clearance permit to rent, a commercial visa, a set of ration cards for food ... do you need one for clothes? ... a transportation permit to hire a vehicle ... an application blank for the examination, an application for personal insurance, vehicle insurance, theft insurance, credit bonding, driver's license, secretarial assistance (will you need a secretary?), and the most important of the kaboodle, application for permission to make addition applications for permission."
"Luna! I don't expect to be here a couple of weeks at the most. I don't need clothes unless the ones I have are offensive to your planetary taboos; and I certainly don't need a secretary. Can't I just hire a cab and let the driver worry about the insurance and driver's license and all the rest of that stuff?" Herl mentally withdrew his grin at the comfort of red tape. "I can eat food from the ship if I have to."
"Can't unload any food without special permission two weeks in advance of unloading date to give time for federal inspection." The heavy voice was firm if regretful. "You'd better just pick up this book of forms and fill them out while you wait for clearance to enter the city."
"Clearance," Herl almost yelped. "How long will that take?"
"Depends. You might be able to get it in four, five hours if the video bands are fairly free. You're almost down now. Don't forget the 1.3 earth gravity. Buckle your belt: the field's jet-pitted and you're coming in on wheels. Be seeing you."
But Herl was still seeing him six hours later, sitting across a castered utility table from almost exactly the bull of a man he'd visualized ... about Herl's own height but broader all the way from shoulders to beam. Where he'd half expected a close-cropped head, however, the tower man, Saem Berry, wore his hair in ragged brown locks falling almost to his jacket collar.
Herl had looked up at him curiously in the midst of asking a question relevant to a three-page form describing his employment status and waiving unemployment compensation during his stay on Delight.
"Let my barbering permit lapse," admitted Berry, sheepishly. "Can't re-apply for six more months, so I have to hack it off when it gets in my way."
"Earth months or Delight months?" Herl asked as he wrote.
"Delight months. That's about a year and a half, earth time." Saem Berry opened the desk drawer and took out a pair of office shears. Holding his head over the wastebasket he snipped off a few of the longer strands; then he sat up and replaced the shears. "Good thing I learned to shave myself."
Filling out forms and returning to the Krylla for a snack had taken only five of the six hours: waiting for vizor connections had taken the last hour along with a game, of tri-di chess to kill the time. Berry had been surprisingly uncommunicative about the state of Delight culture and technology.
"Better see it for yourself," he'd said. "I don't know half of what goes on in town, living way off here."
He had been politely curious about Herl and Herl's job.
"Go around from planet to planet and system to system selling stuff, eh?" He tilted his head at the captain. "What made a smart young fellow like you want to wander around the galaxy instead of settling down to a steady job and raising a family? Lot of money in it, or are you staying away from something you don't like?" he asked penetratingly.
Herl responded in kind. "Don't know as I ever thought of it just that way," he admitted. "I guess I like to see things getting tied together in some sort of organization. I like to see people getting what they want and need ... and I'm good at it. There's no great income in it. Maybe I just like going from place to place and seeing how things are there."
"Looking for something you need yourself, I'll bet. Got a girl?" the controlman grinned slyly.
"No girl," Herl grinned back. "Do the girls on Delight need a man like me? I might be able to arrange for a shipload."
Saem shook his head. "I've got a daughter," he said, "who yearns for far places ... marriageable gal ... I'm always on the lookout." He laughed. "That's the kind of thing she'd say, not me, the little brat."
"Do I have to get a special permit to take her to dinner?" Herl asked, just as the vizor connection was completed.
The major official in a conservative blue tunic, who looked like half the civil officers in the galaxy, peered apologetically out of the screen. "You can come right to my office in the city, Captain Hofner," he urged. "I'll get some of our leading men together to meet you at once. I understand you're a busy man. Uh ... have you all your applications filled out?"
The towerman assented quickly for Hofner. "Yes indeed, Mr. Commissioner. He's alone and planning to stay only a few weeks, so he didn't need most of the big ones like permanent housing or shopping assignment or resident tax registration and like that. Will you be sending a temporary driver for him till he's got his permit?"
"Oh, yes. I'll send a man out as soon as I can clear one."
Saem's tone was deferent. "Thank you, Mr. Commissioner." The connection was broken and the screen went dark. "Pretty obliging guy, Commissioner Crawford. He doesn't forget a thing. Never has. That's an impressive record." The controlman nodded his head; his hair swung down over his eyes; and he fumbled in the drawer for the scissors again. "Now I'd forget my head if it wasn't dogged down."
"It can't be that bad," Herl objected.
"Right again," the other admitted. "That's a joke around here at any rate. You can't afford to forget anything around here."
"I won't forget," smiled Herl.
"You'd better not. It would be awkward as hell if you did and got stuck here."
"They couldn't hold me here just for forgetting something. I'm an employee of Galactic Coordination, you know, and not a local citizen."
The brown locks swung from side to side. "I don't know but I wouldn't risk it. It might be a good many years, from what you tell me, before anybody came out from the Sol system looking for you if they're as understaffed as you say."
"I'll be careful, then." And Herl Hofner patted his pile of applications and turned back to the chess game.