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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Love's Body, Dancing in Time by L. Timmel Duchamp

Love's Body, Dancing in Time by L. Timmel Duchamp. Seattle, Washington: Aqueduct Press, 2004. ISBN: 0-9746559-1-0

This book is certainly another prime example of my contention (though the idea certainly isn't original with me) that science fiction can encompass any other genre. What we have here is a variety of feminist philosophy masquerading as scifi. And doing a relatively creditable job at it, although the writing does tend a bit toward the pedantic at times. Although the word “masquerading” is perhaps a bit unfair. After all, scifi can be whatever its author wants it to be.

Two of these stories, for that's what this is, a collection of stories, are also historical fiction. One of them, “The Apprenticeship of Isabetta di Pietro Cavazzi” is more historical fiction genre-wise, than science fiction. It barely qualifies as the latter, and is entirely the former, taking place in 1626. “The Héloïse Archive,” the book's final story, more of a novelette than a short story, given it fills over one-third of the entire collection, fulfills both roles quite admirably, being science fiction and historical fiction in almost equal measures.

Héloïse is the one-time wife of Abelard, the noted twelfth-century theologian, philospher, teacher. In this story of an alternate history to ours, told entirely through a series of letters from Héloïse to Abelard, she--and her associates--experience a series of seemingly miraculous visions which lead eventually to the "Magdalenian Reform" movement initiated by Héloïse's daughter. Which, according to a scholarly note, included the admission of women to the priesthood, universal literacy as a Church priority, and the gradual democratization and decentralization of Church governance. Not to mention the transformation of the manorial system into communally-owned and managed cooperatives.

This is about as far away from space opera as you can get. Recommended for feminists, those who enjoy philosophical fiction, and anyone who prefers intellectual challenge over mere entertainment.

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