Ambling Along
the Aqueduct

The Cascadia
Subduction Zone

The Aqueduct Bulletin

Subscribe to our

Catalog for 2023

Our Mission


PO Box 95787
Seattle, WA 98145-2787

Big Mama Stories

by Eleanor Arnason

$16 (paperback)
$9.95 (e-book) EPUB
 Add to Cart
 Add to Cart

Read a sample from the book.

Honor List for the 2013 James Tiptree, Jr. Award

One thing you can say for sure about Big Mamas and Big Poppas: their lives are never dull. The quirky, nearly omnipotent members of the colorful tribe of Big Mamas and Big Poppas rove the Universe, able to leap vast expanses of time and space in a single bound. Little can harm a Mama or Poppa, except large, mythological monsters and world-historical trends. And yet they do have their problems. In “Big Ugly Mama and the Zk,” for instance, Big Ugly Mama re-discovers why she dislikes time-travel, which she had hoped to use to put right the harm she has inadvertently inflicted on a zk. In “Big Green Mama Falls in Love,” Big Green Mama discovers just how life-threatening a Big-Mama-sized case of narcissistic love can be, even as the skwork learn that one cannot train a microbe to be patriotic. While in “Big Red Mama in Time and Morris, Minnesota,” Big Red Mama gets pissed off when she discovers the Cretaceous has been invaded by an obnoxious human who has stolen a time-machine—and decides that some information probably shouldn’t be free, particularly since as a group, humans underestimated the damage they did and rarely took responsibility for anything.

"Eleanor Arnason is a treasure," writes Andrea Hairston, the award-winning author of Mindscape. "Why? She knows her craft, respects her audience, and has a dazzling imagination. She entertains us with fearless writing.”

“I have been mad for the fiction of Eleanor Arnason since I first came across it back in the nineties. What I found in that first story, "Knapsack Poems," and in all the rest of her work, which I rapidly sought out, is that quality which first drew me to science fiction, and that which continues to draws me back to science fiction above all other forms of literature: the ability to imagine the world in some other way...”
 l —Kelley Jennings, Strange Horizons


In Big Mama Stories, Eleanor Arnason, known for anthropological SF stories like A Woman of the Iron People, has created a batch of new folk tales for the twenty-first century, with an entirely new cast of mythic characters. The results are reminiscent of Stanislaw Lem's Cyberiad or Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics: witty and fanciful short stories, populated with fantastical beings having larger-than-life adventures. Her prose has the straightforward quality of a good campfire story, and her characters are a delight.
  ....Arnason's Big Mama mythos is a highly enjoyable and strongly feminist synthesis of science, history, and sheer imagination. Like the best fairy tales and folk tales, her stories sometimes go to dark and unsettling places, but they’re really about how to overcome the darkness—how to take a long view of the universe, where individual lives are at once very small but also very important and precious. (read the whole review)
   —Karin L. Kross, Tor.com, July 2013

Arnason invents a cosmology in which humanity is overseen by immortal, all-powerful beings called Big Mamas and Poppas (though, as the collection's title suggests, the latter are not the focus of Arnason's stories). In the five stories collected here (three previously published, two original) it is eventually revealed that all species, even non-intelligent ones like viruses and bacteria, have their own Big Parents, and the stories revolve around the Big Mamas traipsing through time and space, observing, and sometimes causing, trouble for their own and other species, bumping up against other Big Parents, and then trying to unravel the whole mess. The result feels like a cross between the Brer Rabbit stories and Doctor Who.
...Big Mama Stories is a charming, often quite funny collection, and if its zany treatment of time travel and physics can sometimes seem a little twee, and if its politics are a little on the preachy side, there is almost always enough verve and humor here to counteract these flaws. In her afterword Arnason makes a good case for the need for folk figures even in an age of science and technology, and her combination of old-fashioned trickster figures with time travel and alien races is enormously compelling. One can only hope that with Big Mama Stories, she hasn't reached the end of these large, sensible, yet adventurous women's tales. (read the whole review)
  —Abigail Nussbaum, Strange Horizons, July 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61976-029-5 (13 digit)
Publication Date: May 2013
paperback 172 pages