More Great Sci-Fi by Becky Chambers

I am a woman and I like science fiction. Is there a 12-step program for that? I don’t think it necessary, but I really wonder why people think that it’s uncommon for a woman to like a story set in space. Adventure, exploration, new cultures, what’s not to like? Today’s sci-fi even has strong female characters.

One conceptual strike against the genre is the mistaken impression that only nonfiction can deal with real world problems in a serious way. Becky Chambers’ writing might change that. While she’s funny, tells a good yarn, and makes up entire new civilizations she presents examples of embracing those different from us, learning their joys and pains, and hearing their stories. Meantime, Becky Chambers takes a hard look at family groupings and gives many possibilities for how species choose their partners, raise and parent, or find caregivers for their young. In the tradition of one species in The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, children use xyr pronouns until they are old enough to decide their gender. As a parent of a non-binary child, I like this idea of allowing the young person to know their own identity before we provide one for them. A key theme of Chambers’ novels is when we we meet someone from another background, we can make incorrect assumptions, or we can ask humbly, listen carefully and remember what we learn well enough to teach others.

I’ve liked all four books in the Wayfarer series. The World Science Fiction Conference awarded it a Hugo award! The only problem I had with the books was there were not enough of them. I wanted to hear more about the characters she made so dear to me. These are my questions after finishing The Galaxy, and the Ground Within. When will those love birds from two xenophobic species get together as a couple publicly without shame? Will the methane breathers find a new world for themselves or will they continue to wander the galaxy after their planet was ransacked by a dominant off-world species? How did Chambers really get me to care this much for characters with completely different body plans from ours (with twice as many legs or with exterior scales, as examples) who think humans are funny looking?

If you haven’t read the first installment, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, you might start the series there. But each book is self-contained enough for you to begin with whichever you can get your hands on first. Becky Chambers is one of my favorite authors in any genre. Open the cover of The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, for a fantastic vacation read.

[Only caveat: Occasional f-bombs dropped for intensity or comic effect.]

Next week I’ll review Conversations with Lorraine Hansberry (2021) edited by Mollie Godfrey. Hansberry is the playwright who wrote Raisin in the Sun.

Thank you for reading Fake Flamenco. ¡Olé! I look forward to your comments and your memorial poems. –Rebecca

Becky Chambers Photo: Colibrette44

Rebecca Cuningham

16 thoughts on “More Great Sci-Fi by Becky Chambers

  1. I felt so smug as a teenager reading science fiction and even liked that they seemed to be exclusively male oriented. How wrong I was. I look forward to reading Ms. Chambers

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Rosaliene. I have a feeling it’s not as rare as some might think. I want a good story, new ways of looking at challenges, interesting characters, and emotional breadth, whichever genre it might be.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I too am a woman that likes science fiction — and I fell in love with my husband at the World Science Fiction Convention!
    We have attended six of them now (all in Britain & Europe), plus lots of other smaller SF conventions. I used to be in a female minority but that isn’t the case anymore. SF conventions are accepting places for trans, gender fluid and non-binary individuals. In 1980s and 1990s, this was especially needed by many people I know. It took the world outside a good while to even start to catch up. It is a crying shame that the commercaily run ComicCons are killing off the old style SF Cons….

    I enjoy Becky Chambers very much –another wonderful thing about them is that they can be read by age 12 and above. Not that I’ve got my hands on her latest one yet!

    The books I have read read again and again this year are by Ann Leckie and Arkady Martine. The dominant human civilisation in Anns SF is gender blind ( I tried to pick out who is male and female and failed!) and other cultures use a variety of several pronouns. Arkadys’s debut novel A Memory called Empire has a brilliant main female character.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, Kim. I love your story that you fell in love with your husband at the World Science Fiction Convention! That’s out of this world. (couldn’t resist) Glad to hear the conventions are a safe space for a variety of gender expressions. Over the years I’ve heard wonderful tales of awesome costumes that faithfully reproduce characters from novels and screen. Hope that the fans will reassert control of the conferences, there is something beautiful about movements led by every day humans. I appreciate the recommendations for books by Leckie and Martine. I will check them out!

      Liked by 2 people

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