Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rokheya Shekhawat Hossein's "Sultana's Dream" (short story, feminist utopia, free)

Illustration accompanying the online copy of the short story Sultanas Dream by Rokheya Shekhawat Hossein at Penn Libraries. I am not sure if picture is of story author, or meant to illustrate the protagonist.Very good read. And a slightly less drastic form of feminist literature than Alice Sheldon's (in her James Tiptree, Jr avatar).

Made even more impressive by Reema Sarwal's introduction to the story at indiansciencefiction Yahoo group: it "was written in 1905 by a young Muslim woman who had newly learned English from her husband and wanted to impress him by showing her skill in writing English." Download link is also courtesy of Reema. Thanks Reema.

Story summary.

Sultana, in her dream, is transported to fabulous "Ladyland" - a place where
  1. men keep indoors & women do all the outdoor work.
  2. water & "sun-heat" are harvested by balloon contraptions kept hanging above the clouds that pipe their harvest down to homes.
  3. there is rain control.
  4. hydrogen powered flying contraptions are the principle means of motorized transport.
  5. ...


  1. This story uses solar heat as a war weapon. I know of at least 3 stories of Arthur Clarke where solar heat either causes or can cause death of someone: "A Slight Case of Sunstroke" (accidental murder of a football referee by protesting fans), "The Light of Darkness" (blinding of a dictator by an assassin - kind of, an early laser story), & "Islands in the Sky" (an accident is averted where someone could have "walked into" a place where sunlight is being concentrated). L Sprague de Camp also has at least one story that uses it - "The Exalted" (a mad scientist has built a battery out of slow glass, & can release the stored solar energy as in a weapon).
  2. Murray Leinster has a variety of stories where a cable is hung high into the sky - to tap electricity from ionosphere, a bit like pipes in this story that collect solar heat & water from upper atmosphere.

Fact sheet.

First published: The Indian Ladies' Magazine, Madras, 1905.
Rating: A.
Download full text from Penn Libraries.


Arvind Mishra said...

A valuable link for any sf historian!