review of short story collection Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963)

Several great stories here.

Katherine MacLean's "Unhuman Sacrifice" is a first-contact tale featuring an obnoxious missionary and a delicious ending. (I did not see "It's the wrong bush, but he'll never tell Henderson that" coming.)

Joy Leache's whimsical "Satisfaction Guaranteed" follows a smart secretary and her bumbling boss as they try to save a backwoods planet from economic uselessness. It's a lot of fun.

"Cornie on the Walls" by Sydney van Scyoc is a very creepy sci-fi take on haunted houses. An artist is permanently wired into his house and paints the walls with his thoughts. But guilt from choosing to let his wife die is driving him mad, and it's seeping into his art.

In "The Pleiades", Otis Kidwell Burger depicts a traveling show of seven special women. The twist is that they're the only aged - or in one case, mummified - people in a society of eternal youth. Imagining life from their perspective is... heavy.

Pauline Ashwell's novella "Unwillingly to School" is largely predictable but quite fun to read. As an aside: the device she describes that feeds words into your eyes as quickly as you're able to absorb them sounds like an absolute nightmare.

Anne Walker's "A Matter of Proportion" draws a parallel between two physically demanding feats in one man's life: one as a soldier on a dangerous mission; one as a disabled man trying to accomplish ordinary tasks in a world not built with him in mind. The disdain for inept would-be helpers (e.g. "nobody's secretary...had scurried to helpfully knock him down with the door") reminds me of some of the difficulties Rebekah Taussig discusses in Sitting Pretty (review); this must be a common frustration for people with disabilities.

There are two stories by Rosel George Brown. "Step IV" was ruined for me by lousy dialog; I also don't appreciate the apparent message that all, yes all men are inherently evil and a society that uses us as slaves is wise. "Of All Possible Worlds", on the other hand, is a quality example of the angsty-explorer-encounters-simple-but-content-society trope; I enjoyed the implication at the end that the people had intentionally bioengineered themselves to live their humble lifestyle.

Maria Russell's "The Deer Park" didn't resonate with me. Stories about how awful it would be to have things too nice rarely do. (The heroine declares: "Security is a disease." OK, but you know what's a worse disease? Disease. Also war, poverty, depression...) I did like the fanciful and essentially godlike technology present in the story, though. Often I feel like older sci-fi had somewhat limited dreams of what technology could eventually accomplish, but that's certainly not the case here.

Judith Merril's "Wish Upon a Star" is a generation-ship story with what I find to be a pretty depressing take on gender roles. Its characters seem unable to envision a world with equality; the mission planners create a matriarchal society, and the men dream of a return to patriarchy.

"The White Pony" by Jane Rice is about... the importance of giving up on your dreams? Or more charitably: the beauty of an ordinary life. I wasn't fond of this story, but it does feature a restaurant named "the Hasty-Tasty" and I really really want someone to make that a reality.