It's nice to see that Lyndon Perry, reviewing Nancy Jane Moore's collection Conscientious Inconsistencies for The Fix, enjoyed her stories and found their quality impressive. But as happens over and over and over again in reviews and discussions of feminist sf (and so of course in reviews of Aqueduct's books), the reviewer here confronts us with the classic provocation for eyeball-rolling that anyone who regularly reads feminist sf will be familiar with: the assumption that because he likes the stories and perceives their quality, that therefore what he's reviewing can't be feminist sf.
Although touted in the introduction as a sampling of stories influenced by Moore’s feminism, I found, rather, the four pieces of fiction (and a list of “Thirty-One Rules for Fulfilling Your Destiny”) as examples of great writing featuring fully characterized protagonists who just happen to be women. Moore’s style rises above a particular perspective and stands on its own as quality short fiction. To classify this collection as feminist literature, in my opinion, might unnecessarily marginalize these stories away from the very genre fiction scene it seeks to represent.
The introduction he alludes to, by the way, is by me. A few comments seem in order. First: it's a safe bet that he hasn't read much feminist sf. Second: Since when does any story "rise above its perspective"? Every narrative has a perspective, and to imagine that the perspective doesn't matter is naive. But third, and perhaps more to the point: I find myself wondering yet again why it is so apparently impossible for "genre readers" to recall that feminist sf has made important contributions to the genre? (Jeanne Gomoll's manifesto took this on many years ago; but it's not an issue that has resolved itself with time, and so her "Open Letter to Joanna Russ" remains relevant to the discussion.) Although our noses are constantly being rubbed in this ignorance, as I wrote in my essay (in the Daughters of Earth anthology) on Karen Joy Fowler's "What I Didn't See," I keep hoping, I keep hoping, I keep hoping--- and I do keep seeing signs that at least some feminist sf is finally being integrated into the younger critics' understanding of the genre, and that discussions of sf by women aren't always relegated to special--segregated--chapters in critical studies of the genre as they always were in the past.
I've no doubt that for as long as Aqueduct publishes books, I'll be reading reviews expressing puzzlement that a particular book was published by Aqueduct because really, it's quality fiction and not-- ugh-- *feminist.* (Why, reviewers frequently want to know, do I think that the work published as a volume in the Conversation Pieces series is a contribution to the "conversation of feminist sf"? There's nothing "feminist" about this work! It's too good to be "feminist"!) Not wanting to be an ingrate, I do my best to overlook such remarks. But I do, in the privacy of my office, roll my eyeballs (not to mention raise my eyebrows).
The flip-side of this ignorance, of course, is that when a work of feminist sf is too subtle or goes too far outside a reviewer's comfort zone, said reviewer has a habit of taking his or her simplistic assumptions about feminism and projecting them willy-nilly onto the text, ignoring everything in the work that can't be forced into the square peg of their polemic-against-their-straw-man-feminism interpretation. This also drives me nuts. (More exercise for my eyeballs and eyebrows.)
I realize this is an aspect of living in the ghetto of a genre ghetto. Ignorance is a perk of privilege. (If you don't know what I mean, just contemplate Dubya's proud flaunting of his ignorance.) Come to think of it, I was constantly being called "Little Miss Know-it-all" in my family when I was growing up. I learned early that knowing things that other people didn't know was not a virtue. (I rolled my eyeballs a lot back then, too...)