Women Of Science Fiction And Fantasy Television by Karen A. Romanko (book review).

The sub-title of Karen A. Romanko’s book, ‘Women Of Science Fiction And Fantasy Television’, is ‘An Encyclopedia Of 400 Characters And 200 Shows’. Any geek-minded person would have to ask how can she be so precise a number or does it make better copy for the cover? She gets around that by having an ‘Honorable Mentions’ at the back of the book but you’re still not sure whether this covers those she found later or someone totting up those she missed.

I mean, wouldn’t you have ‘Lexx’ and ‘Torchwood’ in the main section for instance. There’s also no mention of how many she has actually seen all the way through or just done the research, which is covered in the back of the book. That is, on the whole, mostly accurate although she does get twitchy when series are prematurely cancelled.

Oh, in case you didn’t know the lady on the cover is Liana (actress Katie Saylor’ from ‘The Fantastic Journey’ (1977).

The entries are as shows and individual characters in one big mix. A bit crazy when you have the series next to the character, as with ‘The Addams Family’ and ‘Addams, Morticia, right next to each other at the beginning of the book and you do have to wonder how often that will happen. By the by, I don’t think Morticia has a tentacle dress as those are actually roots. Not too many entries that close together as it happens, although there’s an odd clumping of character names together and occasionally treated as a family of sisters than individually.

However, the character entries mostly only get a few lines compared to the show entries and there’s no real logic why some get more detail. Considering the book has an index, it might have been better to have indexed the characters for quick reference and focused on the shows. It would certainly have put the ‘Honorable Mentions’ in the main directory or allowed more detail, especially as to which women were in those series.

Although I doubt if few like me are going to read straight through a reference book, it is actually quite a smooth read and I was surprised by how many shows I’ve seen against those I haven’t, although occasionally making a note to look some of those up which is always a good sign. Oddly, with the individual character notation, the actresses aren’t given by name only with the TV series. It isn’t as though that would have taken up much extra space.

It does come over pretty obvious that Romanko is a ‘Buffy’ fan as her entries on Buffy and Willow Rosenberg are quite extensive, although misses out when the latter does some horrible things.

I do think she got one detail wrong on her comment on the original ‘Mission: Impossible’ that the disguised IMF members rip their masks off in front of their victims. That I think she is confusing with the first Cruise film. The original IMF did like to get away with no one the wiser with their involvement.

With ‘Misfits Of Science’ (1985-1986), she doesn’t recognize the now late actor Kevin Peter Hall as being the Predator from the films. Come to that, Romanko doesn’t seem to spot how much ‘Nanny And The Professor’ (1970-1971) resembles ‘Mary Poppins’. Bear in mind, Romanko does add little quips, more so on repetitions of plots so I imagine after a lot of basic plots, especially about Chosen Ones, etc that you can spot where she is getting a little cranky. It might make for an interesting book looking at all the Chosen Ones out there because there appears to be a lot of them. So much for there being a select few.

It’s very weird that all the ‘Star Trek’ series gets covered, but with ‘Stargate’, ‘Atlantis’ and ‘Universe’ ending up as footnotes rather than full entries. It isn’t as though they didn’t have enough ladies, especially in charge.

I did say mostly accurate. The odd error does creep in. From ‘Dark Shadows’, Quentin Collins is a werewolf not a ghost. With the ‘Jaime Sommers’ entry, calling the fembots ‘cyborgs’ is an accuracy as they were total robots, no organics included. She has got it the wrong way around with Talia Winters from ‘Babylon 5’ as it was the sleeper personality that was the real personality. ‘The Corps is Mother…’

Totting up shows that are totally missed and she does include UK shows, it’s a shame that she didn’t include Channel 4’s 1999 TV series ‘Ultraviolet’ and its lead character Dr. Angela March. Oddly, not even her ladyship, Lady Penelope, from ‘Thunderbirds’ gets a mentions, nor ‘Person Of Interest’, come to that. Digging around in my brain for any other significant series missed and I also thought of ‘Highlander: The Raven’ (1998-1999) and still thinking about it up to her point of completion. Therefore, it should become a good party game to see what else has been overlooked or why they should have been main entries.

As this is the kind of book that is likely to grow with ever more new TV SF and fantasy series released, I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t a regular update every few years. On the whole, Romanko isn’t too critical of all the entries but that might be down to a space consideration. The same with the number of photos but that might also be a matter of cost. As a quick reference and bear in mind some of what I consider omissions, you do have something of a useful reference book here for when something is on the tip of your tongue and can’t put a name to it.

GF Willmetts

March 2020

(pub: McFarland. 245 page lightly illustrated indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: £41.50 (UK), $39.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-47666-804-8)

check out websites: www.mcfarlandpub.com and www.eurospanbookstore.com

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