Monday, 17 November 2008

The Adventures Of Alyx - Joanna Russ

This volume collects Russ’s first novel Picnic on Paradise together with the short stories she also wrote about the central character. In her own time, Alyx makes her way as a thief and an adventurer. Pulled from the distant past accidentally and with no hope of return, she is stranded in a world she does not understand amongst people who do not know what to do with her. Although that world is in our future, it casts a keen eye on the absurdities of our own time.

These are beautifully crafted stories. Russ handles words like a magician, creating characters, scenes, and stories with a seeming effortless use of language. The flow of language and the flow of story complement one another to perfection. The stories are powerful in themselves, but they also tap into an elemental power that comes with all good storytelling – the feeling that you are in the presence of a gifted bard who talks to you directly.

There is a natural talent at work here, some writers do have this. But it is a talent that has been nurtured with great care and which serves a bright, intelligent, compassionate, and fun loving mind.

One can only assume that such an accomplished writer is mostly out of print because of her chosen genre – science fiction. It annoys me (as anyone who reads these posts will know) that there are so many pioneering works of this nature that languish unseen, whilst the darlings of today’s literati plunder the genre and present the shiny baubles they have stolen from their excavations as something they have invented themselves, never quite daring to call it sf, never daring to acknowledge they are neither the first nor the best.

Joanna Russ was one of the first and she is still one of the best.