And so we come to the end of the alphabet. For this final installment in my series on women writers of science fiction and fantasy, I turn to Sarah Zettel and Pamela Zoline. If you’ve enjoyed other works by these authors, if something I say strikes a chord for you, or if you have any other authors you’d like to recommend, please leave a comment.
A Taste of the Nightlife by Sarah Zettel
Those of you who were paying attention back at the beginning of this series of blog posts may recall that Sarah Zettel also writes as C.L. Anderson — which means this blog series both begins and ends with reviews of her work. I’m not going to justify including her twice while many other worthy authors have not been mentioned. I’ve said before that I’m not intending to be encyclopedic. Besides, I really like her writing.
Whereas Bitter Angels was lovely hard SF, A Taste of the Nightlife is humorous paranormal mystery starring Charlotte Caine, a live chef who serves undead and other paranormal creatures (vampires like her brother, werewolves like the waiter Suchai, and other “human derived paranormal peoples”) as well as humans at the Greenwich restaurant she runs with her brother Chet. The book opens with the Caines getting their chance at being noticed because the critic Sevarin has shown up to review the restaurant. A difficult customer with a jealous boyfriend causes a scene that ends with the fire sprinklers being set off in the dining room.
The characters are lively (even the undead ones), the writing is witty, and the plot is everything a cozy mystery lover could want. The second book in the series, Let Them Eat Stake, is due out in April — a book release I’m definitely eager for. Highly recommended. (Mom, you’ll love these books!)
To quote what she already said about her writing:
Why do I write the kind of books I do? My answer I’m afraid is an old one. I have no choice. I have to write, and I can only write the stories that are given to me. So, I write a combination of what I enjoy, what I can sell, and what won’t leave me alone.
As for where to start with my work, I think that Bitter Angels and A Taste of the Nightlife are not only some of my best work to date, but the most easily available, so I’d recommend people start there.
Sarah Zettel (and both of her pseudonyms) can be found on her Website, www.sarahzettel.com.
“The Heat Death of the Universe” by Pamela Zoline
This story (available in the Internet archive here or as part of a collection of stories by Zoline) is composed of numbered paragraphs, cutting back and forth between the life of Sarah Boyle, a housewife attempting to maintain her sanity and some intellectual rigor while dealing with housework and child-raising, and scientific information, such as definitions of entropy and discussion of whether the universe is a thermodynamically closed system.
Although my life is not as circumscribed as Sarah Boyle’s, I could wish that some passages resonated less with me. (“Housework is never completed, the chaos always lurks ready to encroach on any area left unweeded, a jungle filled with dirty pans and the roaring giant stuffed toy animals suddenly turned savage. Terrible glass eyes.”) Although, to be fair, the chaos doesn’t have to lurk around here because I choose to give priority to things other than the housework. 😉 (My favorite recently discovered quote: “At the worst, a house unkept cannot be so distressing as a life unlived.” — Dame Rose Macaulay) Which may be why I don’t have her somewhat inevitable heat death.
It’s a sad story, told staccato in beautiful language, written the year I was born, the era of bra burning, a time when women were striking back against the June Cleaver lifestyle. As such, it’s a story of its time, but it still resonates today. It’s not so very long since my daughter was an infant and I found myself unhappy because it never seemed to stop and I wanted to have some time to myself and and and and and . . . As such, this story will probably always have a place in society, because the conflict between internal and external life, family and self, isn’t going to go away. It’s a good story to read in that sense, but it’s not a happy one.