The Best of Margaret St. Clair

Dec 17 2012

The Best of Margaret St. Clair cover

The Best of Margaret St. Clair cover

I have no idea when or why I bought The Best of Margaret St. Clair (public library). It sat on the bottom of my to-read pile as it grew to skyscraper heights. By the time I got around to reading it, it was an orphan.

As it happens, Margaret St. Clair was a science fiction writer of the mid-twentieth century, a feminist and rough equivalent to Marion Zimmer Bradley.

This book collects a handful of her short stories, all of which provoked total concentration and shortness of breath. After finishing a story, I’d feel compelled to put the book down and think about the story.

She was a woman in a man’s field, writing about men. She wrote about women, too, but it’s her deftness with men that fascinated me most. Her men feel real, motivated by men’s forces: duty, honor, respectability. Her women, ironically, felt simpler.

The stories range from adventure to horror to cerebral science fiction.

As hard as I find it to recommend anything, I have most trouble with short story collections. They cover such a wide range of tones and themes. Perhaps that is the joy of a collection: you won’t like every story, but you’ll probably like one.

I liked them all.

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