I’m really enjoying the whole Outspoken Authors series from PM Press and last week I read Karen Joy Fowler’s entry, The Science of Herself, and now I want you to go and read it, too. And, bonus, today it is on super sale! (Full disclosure: I know Karen, published a collection of her work, and really want you to read her books!)
The title story “The Science of Herself” is about (ok, forgive me, it’s about a lot of things) Mary Anning, who from an early age, was one of the foremost fossil hunters in Britain. Of course, she wasn’t recognized as such: those who bought her discoveries claimed them as their own and Mary and her family had to struggle for their daily bread. This is Karen in her element: writing about women in history doing their own thing, investigating the world, and not always being recognized or even noticed by the men around them. She mixes in some Jane Austen — after all, she did write The Jane Austen Book Club — and breaks your heart over and over. (That is kind of her specialty.)
The second story, “The Pelican Bar,” won both the World Fantasy and Shirley Jackson Awards and is a spectacular story, although all the spectacle is slipped underneath the surface. In the interview, Terry Bisson asks whether the story (which is about a North American teenager) was inspired by the Guantánamo Bay detention camp and Karen says:
“Definitely Guantánamo. Also Abu Ghraib. But even more directly, from the chain of overseas schools run by the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS), particularly the notorious Tranquility Bay in Jamaica and High Impact in Mexico. I read online a statement that we shouldn’t be surprised that Americans are OK with torturing foreign prisoners, because apparently we are OK with the torturing of American children, as long as it happens overseas. That statement was the seed of my story.”
The last story is “The Further Adventures of the Invisible Man” which was originally published in Conjunctions 39: The New Wave Fabulists and is another fabulous how does she do it story.
And, you know, the stories are fabulous, but the two pieces of nonfiction are what makes this book a must have. Karen is one of the smartest people I know and any time I can see her on a panel or listen to an interview (or even read one), I do. Her conversation with Terry Bisson is worth the price of the book alone, and, given that The Science of Herself is on super sale today, I hope you’ll give it a shot.