Reading: Joan Slonczewski — The highest Frontier

A new author for me. I heard of Joan Slonczewski for the first time only a couple of weeks ago when she was Charles Stross’ guest blogger. I’ve long admired Charlie for his conscious writing on gender and for the female characters through his books — more often than not the lead roles, and (with the exception of China Miéville) haven’t come across a male science-fiction writer who even begins to take this as seriously as he does.

Charlie occasionally has guest bloggers, and recently, when he asked his blog commentators, “What do you think is the most important novel of the past 10-and-a-bit years (published since January 1st 2000)? All male authors are disqualified.” as a follow-on to a previous post where the question produced nearly 400 comments with scant representation from female authors, I thought, come to think of it, he doesn’t have female guest bloggers (turns out he’s also had Elizabeth Bear guest blogging).

And then Joan turned up.

Professor of Biology, science-fiction writer, researching in extremophile microbiology and genomics … self-healing anthrax space-elevators! Naturally I ordered her just-published The Highest Frontier immediately. She also deals with space colonisation and some pretty complicated gender, identity, class, ethno-national issues as well as the social and medical consequences of student-minature-elephant sex in a space habitat.