Reading: Justina Robson — Natural History

The third of my current reading pile, and I forget where I came across this … It was a bit over a week ago, and I thought I should order some new books, but all the ones I really want to read haven’t been published yet – probably indicates I have become slightly fanatic in my book love when I lurk around things I have to pre-order – and everything else in my usual reading topics was either way too expensive or just didn’t make me think, “Yes! I really do want to, nay, need to read in the next week High Mountain Pastoralism in Northern Pakistan, otherwise I shall be a lesser person for it.” so I went to my favourite blogging author, Charles Stross, because recently he’s had some guest author bloggers, and I went trawling for new reads.

Still not sure how I came to Justina Robson, but there was one post from a couple of years ago with her name, and a link to her website, and obviously I clicked it, and then had a read around and came to the conclusion I might enjoy Natural History, described as “far future hard SF”. This is always tricky for me, new authors. In sci-fi, I quite determinedly (though not always, viz. 2312), limit myself to female authors. This is because there ‘are not so many’, meaning there’s an industry-wide habit of shunting anyone of the ‘gentler persuasion’ off towards what they should be writing, lest they get vapours, or otherwise damage their delicate constitution messing about in the men’s toolshed, i.e. pushed into writing fantasy, which largely I don’t like (though I seem to read with some regularity, and when it’s good – Pratchett, or the recent discovery of Saladin Ahmed – it’s sublime). And then given that there are in truth very few sci-fi writers I think genuinely transcend the condition of the time from within which they write, who actually understand the genre as a philosophical exercise in imagining possible worlds in which we could aspire to live, and in doing so underline the hypocrisies and smallness of this one – even if writing very-near future speculative sci-fi and getting the massive historical changes gender, sexuality, and identity are undergoing (yes, this does matter, and if you think it’s irrelevant to any plot, you’re participating in some fairly heavy colonialism), and once past that substantial hurdle can then write something that is as tangible as my experience of this world, well mostly I experience disappointment.

So I picked up Natural History, and have no idea what to think yet, and am trying to be strictly non-judgemental as I get through the opening scenes. One way or another, I suspect I’ll mention it in my annual reading list.