Read for: Joan is an essential stop on my journey through the world of classic feminist sci-fi
Firstly, can we talk about this cover? I adore it. The colours are great, I love the geometric layout of the title, and the artwork is creepy and interesting. I LOVE all the fabulous covers of old science fiction books. Like really. Believe it or not, the awesome cover is not the only reason I picked this up though; I have read 2 of Joan’s other novels, A Door Into Ocean (1986) and her most recent work The Highest Frontier (2011) – both excellent. Still Forms on Foxfield is Joan’s first novel, published in 1980, and it definitely reads like a first novel. The concept was appealing; the planet of Foxfield is inhabited by a community of people who escaped the planet Earth following a nuclear war that nearly wiped it out. Protagonist Allison Thorne receives a message from UNI, a group of people from Earth – which has largely recovered from the war and continued to develop – who have been secretly monitoring Foxfield for years. With Allison’s assistance they land on Foxfield and start introducing new technology to the community of Quakers. The execution was a little choppy, but it’s a quick novel (just over 200 pages) so you can’t expect that much in-depth development. There were a lot of neat elements, one being that following the war on Earth women rose up and, blaming the war on the aggressive tendencies of men, attempted to breed out the male gender (this comes 8 years before Sheri S. Tepper’s memorable The Gate to Women’s Country, which featured a similar concept) Slonczewski also ties into her novel some hot button issues that continue to be controversial today (34 years later if you weren’t counting); same sex marriage and women’s reproductive rights. Did you know that Joan is a microbiologist? Well, she is, so there’s lots of biology in this novel as well. While this may not be my favourite story of hers, I do enjoy reading an author’s works from the beginning, and in comparing her first novel with her most recent the development is staggering. Check out Slonczewski please! She needs a bigger following.