Mike Resnick, editor,
Men Writing Science Fiction as Women
(DAW, 2003)

Second verse, same as the first, a whole lot louder and a whole lot....

About halfway through Men Writing Science Fiction as Women I was indeed tempted to end that sentence with "worse." There are some very unimpressive stories included in this book. In fact, among the first 11 stories, there are only a couple of entries that do not lend solid support to the notion that men are far less capable of creating female characters than women are of building believable male protagonists ... Billie Jean King at the center court typewriter trounces an inept Bobby Riggs.

Then, happily, in the back half of the book authors Jack Nimersheim, David Gerrold and Frank M. Robinson prove that at least some male science fiction authors are capable of that greatest leap of Y chromosome imagination; breathing life into a story told in the first person, female.

To recap, Mike Resnick asked various science-fiction authors to write stories in the first person of the opposite sex. The female authors would write from the male point of view, the men would write as women. Resnick's second directive was that he only wanted stories in which the sex of the narrator was an integral part of the story. And now both books, Women Writing Science Fiction as Men and Men Writing Science Fiction as Women, are available and readers can decide whether the male authors or the female scribes have done a better job.

In my opinion, none of the stories in Men Writing Science Fiction as Women is quite as strong as Linda J. Dunn's "Blackbird, Fly," the best of the pieces in Resnick's earlier volume. And, while there are more high-quality stories in Men Writing... than was the case in Women Writing..., there aren't as many freshman authors here as there were "freshwomen" in the first book. I think the more telling fact is that a greater number of the stories crafted by male writers were of poor quality than was the case with the women.

My conclusion would have to be that the best writers, of either sex, are fully capable of crossing the sexual barrier in their storytelling. Among the less experienced, however, the women do a better job than the men.

So what will you find in Men Writing Science Fiction as Women? Stephen Leigh's "Staying Still" tells the story of Brenna and Jax and how the disintegration of their relationship aboard a starship exploring new worlds lets Brenna change the course of her life in ways she doesn't fully appreciate until she's reunited with her old flame. Jack Nimersheim's "Maternal Instincts" is the story of a cybersex-trade worker and her quest to locate the daughter she was deemed unfit to raise. David Gerrold takes us "Digging in Gehenna," uncovering a lost civilization on an unforgiving planet. And Jack Dann's "Summer" introduces us to a future Earth buried in an ice age and a teacher who longs for a time when both the world and her life were warmer.

So once again, as was the case with the first book, I think Men Writing Science Fiction as Women is worth the cover price. And, once again, I think the editor ought to have made a greater effort to bring up the quality of the weaker tales ... unless Resnick's point was to demonstrate that some of his authors were, in fact, incapable of writing convincingly from the viewpoint of the opposite sex. The concept behind this pair of collections was sound. And while the end result could have been considerably better, each volume contains stories that are well worth reading.

- Rambles
written by Gregg Thurlbeck
published 13 March 2004

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