Sunday, March 14, 2010

Old School Future

Picked this up for a fiver in a secondhand bookshop in Camden: a science-fiction anthology published by The Bodley Head Science Fiction Club in 1953, containing the first six stories of the longer American edition. What's interesting about the cover, apart from the lovely retro space hardware, is the depiction of a woman at the helm of a spaceship (or perhaps controlling lunar orbital traffic from a space station). I imagine she's toggling the radio to remind the space cowboy who's just buzzed her that he's violated about twenty navigational regs.

EDIT: Further thought - maybe the presence of a female space pilot/traffic controller in this old science-fiction illustration isn't so unusual; during the Second World War, just eight years in the past, when the book was published, women had taken on all kinds of roles previously considered the exclusive domain of men.


Blogger Larry said...

Oh I love books like this-old school SF!

March 14, 2010 6:15 pm  
Blogger George Berger said...

And they were sacked en masse as soon as possible after the War. I think I first heard about this by Reading an American novel by Marge (?) Percy (?). She stresses the role of female civil and military transport pilots in America. Most probably something similar happened in the Soviet Union and the UK.. The same author wrote an SF book somehow based on the Golem story, as well as an historical novel about women in the French Revolution. All good but not great.

March 14, 2010 6:25 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Larry - I love them too. They make me nostalgic for the future we never got.

George - Mathe Piercy won the Clarke Award for her sf novel Body of Glass. Is that the one you were thinking of? Russian women combat pilots were greatly feared by the Germans in WW2 - try googling night witches + Russia. But I believe you're largely correct about women being forced out of their useful and essential roles after WW2. Which makes that cover more interesting IMHO...

March 14, 2010 9:04 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Oops - Mathe Percy should = Marge Piercy of course. Poor typing skills on my netbook...

March 14, 2010 9:06 pm  
Blogger Larry said...

Paul, do you feel nostalgic for old SF too? I know I do, even tho a lot of it was before my time and I only got into SF in the 80s.

March 14, 2010 10:09 pm  
Blogger George Berger said...

Hi Paul----Three cheers for those Russian women! Yes, it was Marge Piercy and you named the book I was thinking of and had read. The book about the French Revolution is called "City of Light," I am pretty sure. I forget the title of the WW2 book, I've read all of them.
I have some beautiful covers stored in my computer. I got most of them from Interzone's Roy Gray. As for typing, I am writing this on my iPhone 3G (S). This Technotoy is wonderful and has helped me work quickly, but typing with it is no fun.

March 14, 2010 11:06 pm  
Blogger Larry said...

George I know what you mean. I'm typing from my Google G1 which at least does have a slide out keyboard!

March 15, 2010 9:57 am  
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