Thursday, January 7, 2010


Michael Swanwick blogs about Helen Merrick's The Secret Feminist Cabal-- and why he won't be reviewing it in a post entitled A Worthy Book I Won't Be Reviewing. He explains:

The thing is, I vividly remember the feminist upsurge in the 1970s, characterized by some extremely important works of science fiction and a number of passionate essays explaining the thinking behind the fictions. I also remember the male response to them. Even at the time, the worst of those responses made me cringe. Today, looking back, even the best of them makes me . . . is there a comparative verb form of cringe? Or a superlative? Cringier? Cringiest?

And then he cites a few of the more cringe-worthy moments Helen's book revisits. And so, no review, but this remark:

If you're the sort of person who needs to read this book, however -- and by now you should know whether you are or not -- this is a book you really do need to read.
I am bemused.


Josh said...

The line is a reworking of one of Rebecca's favorite saws, "You'll like this sort of thing if it's the sort of thing you like," which she used in the brilliant Gaia's Toys.

The non-review helped me a lot: I had formed an opinion of the book thanks to the absence of PKD from the index, and it's good to know that he made it inside the volume.

Asimov, and people like him, are interesting to me -- a guy who advocated, sometimes in the face of serious misogyny, for women's equality in his country and his profession, who (after he outgrew the "girls are icky" attitude documented in The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction) showed an interest on occasion in writing empowered heroines, but who was a masher that you would not want to leave alone with your Mom. One sometimes sees that kind of feminist depicted in Edwardian literature.

The feeling of vicarious embarrassment that makes you cringe at the egregious conduct of others is, according to an internet neologism, "igritude." The passages in question made Swankier igry.

Foxessa said...

Dude is sensitive!

I remember so much of this.

Love, c.

Therem said...

On the one hand, it's nice that he blogged about and recommended the book. On the other, his decision not to write a real review because the contents of the book make him cringe (in embarrassment over the behavior of other male writers, presumably?) is kind of demeaning to the women whose stories are related in it; it's easy to get the impression that the book is all about the yucky men, when it really isn't.

Michael Swanwick said...

I should mention that several people in my blog posted to say that they were going to buy the book despite my not reviewing it, simply because I'd made them aware of its existence.

Given that mine is not a major-traffic blog, I think you have a book of serious interest here.