Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction by John Rieder is highly recommended if if you’re at all interested in the subject. This book helped me make/clarify a plethora of mental connections between colonialism and Social Darwinism and racism and various types of early science fiction, from “undiscovered lands” adventures like H. Rider Haggard stories to time travel to alien invasions to dystopias. I’m going to keep this one, as it will likely reward re-reading.
Next was The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis, since I’d mentioned it at Readercon as something fans of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race might find interesting.
Though Theoharis was unable to obtain access to a large store of Parks’ papers due to legal issues, she used as many other sources as possible to document Parks’ lifetime of activism. Since that is exactly the focus I wanted, I enjoyed this a lot. I feel it gives a great picture of Parks’ views and activism throughout her life, and how she interacted with activists and organizations, and the various lowkey internecine conflicts that had to be dealt with as well as attacks from outside the movement. It’s also a picture of how women in the civil rights movement often did a lot of work for very little reward, and shows some of the social class aspects that operated within the larger organizations like the NAACP. Now I want to read a book on Parks that includes work on the personal papers that have recently become available: The papers of Rosa Parks (1913-2005) span the years 1866-2006, with the bulk of the material dating from 1955 to 2000. The collection, which contains approximately 7,500 items in the Manuscript Division, as well as 2,500 photographs in the Prints and Photographs Division, documents many aspects of Parks’s private life and public activism on behalf of civil rights for African Americans. The collection is on loan to the Library for ten years through the generosity of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. The Library of Congress received the materials in late 2014, formally opened them to researchers in the Library’s reading rooms in February 2015, and now has digitized them for optimal access by the public.
Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen is a series of essays on various “non-conforming” female public figures from Serena Williams to Caitlyn Jenner. Each essay shows how perceptions of their public personas interact with American cultural norms and the backlash that ensues. I liked that each chapter focused on a different type of non-conformity. It was a fast, entertaining read, though I did bristle at one passing reference to “Harlequin romances,” a phrase which appeared to be used as metonymy for the Romance genre. Really, honey?
From the introduction: this book considers the costs and benefits of smoothing one’s sharp edges just enough to make it onto the cover of Vanity Fair or into the pages of GQ, multiplexes across America, or the White House–and the implication that unruliness is still largely the provenance of women who are white and straight.
Favorite quote: It’s one thing to argue that you belong–it’s another thing to actually believe it. As [Jennifer] Weiner’s experience makes clear, part of the difficult, essential work of unruliness is shaking the status quo so thoroughly, so persistently, so loudly that everyone–even the very women behind that agitation, many of whom have internalized the understandings they fight so tirelessly against–can see their value within it.
The Supergirls: Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines (Revised and Updated) by Mike Madrid traces the history of female superheroes from the earliest days of comics to the present. The social history is fairly shallow, but if you’re looking for an overview of the topic and a host of characters to research in more depth, you could do worse. Caveat: it’s full of observations such as Thorn was as tough as they came, but dressed in a green leather halter-top and micro miniskirt with thigh high boots, she looked more like the entertainer at a bachelor party than the terror of the underworld.
I’d originally picked up Black and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction, edited by Isiah Lavender, for the essay about Octavia Butler’s short story “The Evening and the Morning and the Night,” but the essay I found most rewarding was “Questing for an Indigenous Future: Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony as Indigenous Science Fiction” by Patrick B. Sharp, as it described and connected some historical events of which I’d been ignorant when I read the novel, and which added quite a bit of depth to my understanding of it.
“Monteiro Lobato’s O Presidente Negro (The Black President): Eugenics and the Corporate State in Brazil” by M. Elizabeth Ginway, “Mestizaje and Heterotopia in Ernest Hogan’s High Aztech” by Lysa M. Rivera, and “Virtual Reality at the Border of Migration, Race, and Labor” by Matthew Goodwin all brought me new insights and new information. High Aztech was a DNF for me back when it was new, so I’m glad I got to read about it from another perspective.
Warning, Dragon Spawn by Eileen Wilks ends on a cliffhanger, and the next book isn’t out until January 2018. This one is thirteenth? I think? in this urban fantasy series, that I’ve been reading since the beginning. There’s plenty of reminders about previous continuity, but I wouldn’t recommend starting here. The plot gets really complicated, really fast, and the stakes keep rising. I do recommend the series, though, especially as an example of focusing on a single romantic relationship through multiple books, and a really good take on the drawbacks as well as advantages of a paranormal “mate bond.”