Distaff: A Short Story Anthology from 9 Female Science Fiction Writers

Release date: 2019-08-15: Womens Sci-Fi Anthology


I heard about this science fiction anthology through Jo Zebedee, one of the nine contributors, in her capacity as a founding member of Otherworlds NI, a group for science fiction and fantasy (and horror) writers in Northern Ireland.

(Yes, I know, I am at the other end of the world but that’s a tale for another day.)


Cover art by Shellie Horst

The nine female authors featured in this anthology also hang out on, a forum for readers and writers of science fiction and fantasy.

I am also a member there but have cut back on most forums these days due to lack of time, and so missed all the buzz about their project.

Anyway, the women got together online to put out Distaff, a science fiction anthology (release date 15-Aug-2019), and I was fortunate enough to get a review copy gratis.

I like to pass the time during my train commutes these days by reading for pleasure, which is mostly fiction, but the occasional non-fiction also makes the cut.

For me, this is where shorter works come into their own with a smartphone reading app. The screen size is small and there is a limit to how many swipes I can physically handle before tiredness and/or boredom sets in.

Okay, now for my comments on the nine stories.

This post is not a review in the conventional sense (I don’t do reviews anymore) but, as a general rule, if I enjoyed a story I will say so and if I didn’t, well I wouldn’t be writing this post in the first place.

But in case you’re wondering, I find it much easier to hold a smartphone in one hand for ten to twenty minutes at a time than a dedicated eBook reader, especially when the train gets crowded.

(The numbers below refer only to the reading order in the anthology.)

1- The Broken Man by Jane O’Reilly

The phrase drowning in plastic came to mind as I read Jane’s story of a world where what/who is real and what/who is artificial may not be obvious. I took it as a kind of a morality tale on what could happen if humanity doesn’t clean up its act.

2- Space Rocks by Kerry Buchanan

Who would have thought that searching the galaxies for sentient life might leave humanity between a rock and a hard place! I loved this ending.

3- The Ice Man by Rosie Oliver

Is the 21st Century when medical bioengineering comes of age? Set in a futuristic Sweden, this police procedural (I hope I got that right) story examines how far some humans will go in pursuit of profit and glory.

4- Holo-Sweet by E. J. Tett

This story made me smile. An all-female crew, a sentient ship with attitude and er, physical needs, and a dash of Shakespeare. It’s crossed my mind a number of times over the years that the crew of the original Star Trek Enterprise couldn&‘t possibly all be straight. Here’s a yarn that comes at that from a queer angle.

5- A Cold Night in H3-II by Juliana Spink Mills

The Sleep. This story of a dwindling band of colonists struggling to survive on a cold planet will lull you with its pacing until you least expect it.

6- The Colour of Silence by Damaris Browne

This story posed the interesting premise of having the fate of humanity’s children depend on a journey to another world. Cue the private and public personas of politicians and their entourage, and watch emotions get raised to fever pitch.

7- My Little Mecha by Shellie Horst

Kids these days are playing with smartphones and tablet computers almost as soon as they are weaned. Perhaps I exaggerate, but just a wee bit. Now take that idea and stretch it to the stars. I’d sure hate to be a parent on this space station.

8- Ab Initio by Susan Boulton

A Worldwide pandemic? Post apocalyptic survivalists? How about if Yorkshire (North of England) meets The Road? I thought I was immune to that kind of story. But this one was infectious and I see no cure but to read it again and again and again…

9- The Shadows are Us and They are the Shadows by Jo Zebedee

This is a clever take on terraforming a grossly polluted world, our very own Earth. Perhaps cleansing a planet is a more appropriate metaphor. But who or what will do this great work and will they even care?

I enjoyed reading this anthology very much.
It’s available on pre-order.
Release date: 2019-08-15
Visit the anthology website for more information: