Homecalling and Other Stories

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Long before there were women astronauts—or even any astronauts—a few women journeyed to the stars with their imaginations and pens. Foremost among them was Judith Merril, as comfortable among the devices of space travel and alien contact as with scenes of family life. Surprisingly, until this complete collection of her stories came out, all of Merril's works had been out of print for many years.

Looking through the hefty volume Homecalling and Other Stories is akin to opening a gift box of chocolates, trying to choose the one which best matches one's taste. There are sweet stories, bitterly tragic ones, some with funny twists that show variations on the human condition. "That Only A Mother," her debut story from 1948, is a powerful statement on the dangers of nuclear war. "Rain Check" is a gentle look at the naivete of humans. "Pioneer Stock" tells a tale that, with minor variations, has and will happen anytime that native and invader populations meet and mate.

The two novellas in the book are true treasures. "Daughters of Earth" follows an almost biblical succession of generations as humankind spreads out across the universe. The title story, "Homecalling," is an ingenious and unexpectedly deep variation of the "children rescued by aliens" theme.

Regrettably, Merril almost stopped writing science fiction after her move to Canada in 1968. Most of the stories in this book were written during the 1950's and 1960's. Some of the stories’ hardware and the characters’ dialogue have a slightly dated ring. But the characters’ reactions and the themes are universal. Readers who appreciate science fiction or its place in popular culture will rejoice that these stories are available again.