Sad news in the last day, with the passing of Joanna Russ. Russ was at the forefront of a new, literary breed of writers like Ursula leGuin and Samuel Delany in the 60s, who helped modernise and expand the psychology of the SF genre. Her most well-known work within the genre was undoubtedly the novel The Female Man, but for me she was never better than her Nebula-winning short When It Changed, which I first discovered in Again, Dangerous Visions, and which was one of the first signposts towards proving to me that the SF tag of “literature of ideas” could be expanded to encompass challenging, socially confronting, human ideas, rather than simply engineering notations.

Russ is often overlooked, because her output was never overly large, and unlike leGuin she did little of her work within the regular genre channels. But she was a powerful, articulate voice for the humanism of genre writing, and her finest works are still brilliant reads. She was 74.

2 thoughts on “VALE

  1. Thank you so much for this post.

    I had a moment after I heard the news where I almost emailed my indie bookshop to order in “The female man.” But then I didn't because it seemed like it might be too much like hard work, it might be too feminist, it might be in an older writing style that I don't like, blah blah blah (all the things that make people's faces squinch up when I tell them they must read LeGuin, actually).

    But I've just read “When It Changed” online, and it is so bloody good, all my fears are gone, now, and I will undoubtedly pick up a novel soon and get stuck into it.

    What a good pick for an easy, thought-provoking introduction 🙂



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