Tag Archives: Carolyn Ives Gilman

Aliens of the Heart, Carolyn Ives Gilman

29 Jun

Aliens of the Heart cover

Aliens of the Heart
Carolyn Ives Gilman

Aqueduct Press, 2007
ISBN 978-1-933500-17-1

Review by Ian Sales

Aliens of the Heart, a collection of three short stories and one novelette, is the nineteenth volume in Aqueduct Press’ Conversation Pieces, a “small paperback series” which “celebrates the speculations and visions of the grand conversation of feminist sf”. The series comprises fiction, poetry and non-fiction – “essays … speeches … interviews, correspondence and group discussions”. It currently stands at thirty-two volumes, with two more due in August this year.

The four stories in Aliens of the Heart are all set in the US mid-west, arguably the heart of the country. They are all science fiction, though in at least one case the story first appeared in a fantasy anthology. But not only does the “heart” of the title refer to the stories’ geographical location but also to the hearts of the protagonists, all women, all the heart of the relationships which form the centres of the stories, and all the hearts of the stories themselves.

‘Lost Road’ is one of those stories with a simple premise that genre fiction does so well. A middle-aged couple – he is suffering from dementia? Alzheimer’s? – drive from their farm into the nearby town of Lost Road. After their errands, they head home… but they cannot find their way. I will happily admit to a dislike of genre stories which use their central conceit as a metaphor, and then proceed to beat that metaphor to death. I call them “Clarion-style stories”, and you can often find one or two on the Hugo Award shortlist each year. ‘Lost Road’ is similar to those types of stories, but it is, above all else, subtle. As Betty Lindstrom and her husband Wayne travel further from the world they know (though the landscape remains disturbingly familiar), so Wayne seems to recover from his condition. Yet nothing is resolved; the power of the story lies in its refusal to explain or resolve. ‘Lost Roads’ originally appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction, in February 1992, and was reprinted in 2002 in an anthology from Tesseract Books, Land/Space.

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Arkfall by Carolyn Ives Gilman

19 Apr

Arkfall cover

Arkfall
Carolyn Ives Gilman
Phoenix Pick, 2010
ISBN 0978-1-60450-454-5

Review by Ian Sales

Osaji lives on Ben, a world much like the moon Europa, with a world-ocean beneath a thick covering of ice. Humans have colonised Ben, but only on the floor of the Saltese Sea in underwater cities, or travelling about in arks which drift freely from place to place. After one such tour aboard the ark Cormorin, Osaji leaves the crew at Golconda – because she cares for her grandmother, who the others aboard the ark consider a liability because she is suffering from senile dementia. Because Osaji has taken responsibility for the care of her grandmother, her options are severely limited. Her sister will put her up, but not for long as she doesn’t want the burden of their grandparent. So Osaji signs aboard another ark, Divernon, but neglects to mention she will be accompanied…

But while settling aboard, and before Divernon’s other crew members appear, a seaquake strikes Golconda and causes great damage. Divernon breaks its mooring, and is unable to return to the city, unable to control its flight from the city. Osaji is not alone, however. Just before Divernon broke free, she managed to rescue an offworld visitor to Ben, Jack. Together, they find themselves adrift in Ben’s waters, propelled by swift currents from the Saltese Sea out into the greater ocean of the world… Where they are witness to strange sights unsuspected by the Bennites.

The story of Carolyn Ives Gilman’s novella Arkfall in part apes the journey Divernon takes in the outer ocean. There is no real direction to it, more of a Vernian surrender to fate and the ocean currents. For a genre which relies so heavily on plot and its consequent narrative impetus, it makes Arkfall a leisurely read. But that doesn’t work against it because Osaji is a wonderfully-drawn character, and the world-building is superb.

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