Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

‘Fool’s Errand’ by Sarah Zettel

with 4 comments

In the future, all spaceships will be issued with a fool. Apparently the presence of a jester reduces the risk of mental illness and violence. I would have thought the opposite would be true. Anyway, there is some cobblers about an escaped AI with is quickly wrapped up by our fool with no need to trouble the reader with things like characterisation or drama (this is, after all, a story originally published in Analog). At least it doesn’t outstay its welcome; I turned the tenth page over to discover that the story had in fact just finished.

Quality: *
OOO: *

In the introduction, the editors return to a theme from earlier in the book:

It is one of the few space opera stories with a woman central character – and it is worth noting, as we remarked in the Asaro note earlier, that women writing space opera, and space opera with women as central characters, is a characteristic of US space opera. British space opera does not have many women authors or sympathetic, heroic women central characters.

So which is it? Are there “few space opera stories with a woman central character” or is “space opera with women as central characters” characteristic of US space opera? Since Hartwell and Cramer can only find room for five stories by women in an anthology of thirty two stories presumably the latter. I will also note that so far in the book there have only been three stories by British authors and two of these have had female protagonists. Perhaps the editors do not consider these characters to be sympathetic or heroic, although I notice these criteria weren’t applied to the characters of US authors. (This wonderfully enlightened American attitude to women doesn’t seem to have spread to the editors treatment of Zettel herself: she only gets a half page introduction, the shortest in the book, and half of this is devoted to irreverent quotes from her about the “new challenge” of writing fantasy and the awesomeness of Stan Schmidt.)

Written by Martin

28 January 2013 at 09:08

4 Responses

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  1. Is that generalisation even generally true?

    Ian Mond

    28 January 2013 at 11:26

  2. As we’ve discussed in the past, there are fewer women publishing SF in the UK than in the US. Given this, it isn’t too surprising if there are fewer women publishing space opera in the UK. Beyond that – and particularly when discussing characters rather than authors – I’m not at all sure their generalisation is generally true.


    28 January 2013 at 12:21

  3. Sounds like this was the germ for – maybe even an extract from – Zettel’s debut novel Fool’s War, which I read more than a decade ago. I remember liking it, though the only thing I remember about it is that the captain of the spaceship is a devout Muslim woman, which I thought was neat.


    28 January 2013 at 16:22

  4. Yes, the story was the germ for the novel (although Hartwell and Cramer mistakenly refer to the latter as Fool’s Run). I have no difficulty believing the novel is better since there just isn’t room in the story to achieve anything.


    28 January 2013 at 16:32

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