Edited by Roby James
Review by Colleen Cahill
Norilana Books ISBN/ITEM#: 9781934169896
Date: June 2008 / Show Official Info /
Anthologies focusing on women are not new; the Sword and Sorceress series begun by Marion Zimmer Bradley is the first that jumps to mind. When I got Warrior WiseWoman, edited by Roby James, I thought it was the same, but don't let the cover fool you. While intended to be a sister volume to Sword and Sorceress, it differs in that the focus is science fiction instead of fantasy. An ambitious goal, one that has a good start with stories that not only have women protagonists, but also complex plots and good writing.
The first story by Douglas A. Van Belle sets the tone for the book with his enthralling "Ungraceful Cliff Dwellers". This tale of beings whose God is clearly a human has a bittersweet quality that is tempered by its humor and interesting insights. The female lead is not a superwoman, but one of great emotional strength, something many of these stories have in common. "To Find Home Again" by Rose Lemberg explores a woman who is slave to a mercenary Captain, although their relationship is more of trust and love than master and servant. When her memories are erased, Ria has to rediscover not only herself but also relearn who is friend and who is foe. This work not only has an intriguing plot, but because of the wonderfully drawn characters. Catherine Mintz's "Heaven Shed Tears" is also bittersweet, set in a generational space ship where one woman passes down what traditions she can in a harsh existence. There is a lyric quality to this story which tugs at the heart and the mind. More sorrow and also great courage is in "An Ashwini Apart" by Bhashar Dutt, written from the view of two genetically-altered women who have lost their male twin, one who is closer than a spouse. Dutt brings out both the dark and light sides of humanity in the eerie and well constructed piece. Sally Kuntz's "Only a Personal Tragedy" also touches the heart as a young, naive woman almost accidentally becomes an anti-war activist.
A few of these stories have edges of fantasy to them, such as Nancy Fulda's "A New Kind of Sunrise", where a nomadic tribe must live between "the narrow band of Night and Day" as full sunlight will destroy all exposed life in minutes. The traditions of the tribe come under question for one young woman when a stranger is found who has knowledge from the mysterious North. Anna Sykora's "Keepers of the Corn" also has more a feel of fantasy, beginning with with what seems to be an primitive tribe, but this is a much more complex piece.
Other stories are definitely more hard science fiction, as in Peg Robinson's exploration of human impact on the environment of an alien world in "As Darwin Decreed". This pieces makes it clear that not all questions have a black or white answer and Robinson has her characters nicely debate the issue of what choices humans have in a new world. "Ice Queen" by Colleen Anderson looks at a virtual world gone amok, with one woman standing between salvation and destruction. Although it's title seems from a romance novel, Vylar Kaftan's "A Christmas Wedding" is in the post-apocalyptic tradition, with one woman trying to rebuild her life after the western United States erupts in a supervolcano.
One of my favorites in this book is Mary Catelli's "Among the Wastes of Time" and how else can you describe a story with a alien dominating humanity other than science fiction? But don't look for good guys and bad guys, as pieces raises lots of issues when the heroine losses her son due to the uncaring greed of the Last.
Warrior Wisewoman is an auspicious start for this new series, with many finely written pieces. By tapping both new and established authors, this work shows many sides of the woman as both hero and as villain. Hopefully this is the first in a long line of anthologies to come.