The Falling Woman Critical Essays

Pat Murphy


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Pat Murphy began publishing in the 1970’s, but her first awards came in the 1980’s. She received a Nebula for The Falling Woman and another Nebula the same year, along with a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, for “Rachel in Love” (Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, 1987; chapbook, 1992). “Rachel in Love” was included in Points of Departure (1990), a short-story collection that won the Philip K. Dick Award.

Murphy’s writings synthesize science-fiction and fantasy elements with universal human concerns and problems. Her themes include alien encounters/estrangement, parent/child or male/female relationships, and self-realization/development of talents. Her first novel, The Shadow Hunter (1982), uses time-travel technology to move a prehistoric man into an alien future, and “Rachel in Love” describes the difficulties of a chimpanzee scientifically imprinted with the human intelligence of a teenage girl. The City, Not Long After (1989), a fantasy inhabited by various human, machine, and nonhuman figures, is set in a world devastated by a plague that was caused by humans with misguided intentions. Most of the short stories collected in Points of Departure also feature a synthesis of universal human concerns with the elements of science fiction and fantasy.

The Falling Woman illustrates Murphy’s recurrent themes. First, Murphy expands the alien encounter theme...

(The entire section is 403 words.)