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