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Yuknavitch, Lidia

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1963-    ) US academic and author, perhaps best known for a memoir, The Chronology of Water (2010), in which she unpacks her difficult but ultimately fruitful life which, like much of her fiction, powerfully embraces linkages between violence, Sex, affirmation, and the body (especially the female body) as a field of play to be engraved upon, as in earlier novels like Her Other Mouths (1997) or The Small Backs of Children (2015), whose extremities seem to edge into the fantastic, but in the end seem not to. Of direct sf interest, however, is The Book of Joan (2017), which quotes Doris Lessing prominently, and represents a continuation of the style of metaphysical Space Opera (see Mainstream Writers of SF) Lessing adopted for the Canopus in Argos: Archives sequence beginning with Shikasta (1979). The Book of Joan is set, perhaps implausibly given the transformations described, in Near Future 2049, most of the action taking place on an orbiting Space Habitat known as CIEL (French for sky) and manufactured out of the debris of old Space Stations, as the dying planet Earth suffers through late stages of Climate Change below them. The inhabitants have suffered Devolution, becoming desexed physically ablated androgynes. In their names, and through some loose analogies, the cast echoes and replays the lives of mediaeval characters, including Joan of Arc (here Joan of Dirt), whose sacrificial life – by a process perhaps akin to Genetic Engineering she seems to have become a seedbed for Earth's surviving species (again see Devolution), and for the inevitable Mutations – is tattooed by another character, based on the proto-Feminist author Christine de Pizan (1364-1430), on her own skin. No one is allowed to live beyond the age of fifty, because of population pressure and resource depletion (though the inhabitants are in fact infertile). But Joan of Dirt's tale, and others, whether or not inscribed on skin, somehow imply the survival of a living planet. [JC]

Lidia Yuknavitch

born USA: 18 June 1963


works (selected)



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