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Something for the weekend, sir?

A meme, of course. Provided by SF Signal. And since I’ve been a bit rubbish – well, a lot rubbish – at posting here over the past couple of months, and the tumbleweed and cobwebs are starting to look unsightly, I have seized the opportunity given by the meme to generate some uncontroversial blog content… Well, uncontroversial for me, anyway.

I’m not entirely sure what a “book snob” is – that would be someone who likes good books, yes? Well-written books, yes? I certainly wouldn’t recommend a crap book to someone. Well, not without mentioning that it was crap, and only if they’d asked for something that was so narrowly defined the only book I could think of happened to be a crap one… Many of the books I’ve recommended below I really can’t recommend highly enough. They should be required reading.

Science Fiction
Sf is my genre of choice, so I’m well-practiced in answering some of these questions. Most are books I’ve mentioned before, some I’ve even written about or reviewed – and I’ve linked to my review, where one exists.

If I were to recommend a science fiction book to a new genre reader, it would be: The Wall Around Eden, Joan Slonczewski (my review)
If I were to recommend a science fiction book with lots of action, it would be: Against A Dark Background, Iain M Banks (my review)
If I were to recommend a science fiction book to a “book snob”, it would be: Coelestis, Paul Park (my review), or Kairos, Gwyneth Jones (my review)
If I were to recommend a science fiction book series I loved, it would be: The Marq’ssan Cycle, L Timmel Duchamp
The last science fiction book I read that was recommended to me and I liked was: Queen of the States, Josephine Saxton (my review)
The last science fiction book I read that was recommended to me and I finished but disliked was: What Lot’s Wife Saw, Ioanna Bourazopoulou (mentioned here)
The last science fiction book I read that was recommended to me and I didn’t finish was: Darkmans, Nicola Barker

Fantasy
I have a low opinion of epic fantasy, so I read very little of it – and then typically only when it’s either been recommended by someone whose opinion I value, or it was written by an author I already like. I will point out that “dislike” is probably too strong a word for my reaction to the Alan Campbell. I did quite enjoy it, but not enough to bother reading the rest of the series.

If I were to recommend a fantasy book to a new genre reader, it would be: A Princess of Roumania, Paul Park
If I were to recommend a fantasy book with lots of action, it would be: Wolfsangel, MD Lachlan (mentioned here)
If I were to recommend a fantasy book to a “book snob”, it would be: Evening’s Empire, David Herter (mentioned here)
If I were to recommend a fantasy book series I loved, it would be: Isles of the Forsaken / Ison of the Isles, Carolyn Ives Gilman (review here)
The last fantasy book I read that was recommended to me and I liked was: God Stalk, PC Hodgell (mentioned here)
The last fantasy book I read that was recommended to me and I finished but disliked was: Sea of Ghosts, Alan Campbell
The last fantasy book I read that was recommended to me and I didn’t finish was: King’s Dragon, Kate Elliott

Horror
I read very little horror, so most of these will be blank…

If I were to recommend a horror book to a new genre reader, it would be: The Facts of Life, Graham Joyce
If I were to recommend a horror book with lots of action, it would be:
If I were to recommend a horror book to a “book snob”, it would be: Viator, Lucius Shepard, or X,Y, Michael Blumlein
If I were to recommend a horror book series I loved, it would be:
The last horror book I read that was recommended to me and I liked was:
The last horror book I read that was recommended to me and I finished but disliked was:
The last horror book I read that was recommended to me and I didn’t finish was:


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More on women-only science fiction anthologies

Back in April, I posted a list of women-only science fiction anthologies – see here – but since then I’ve discovered two more that should have been on my list:

futureevesFuture Eves, Jean Marie Stine, ed. (2002) Subtitled “Classic sf by women about women”, this anthology is split into two sections: From the 1920s – ’30s and From the 1940s – ’50s. It contains stories by Leslie F Stone, Margaretta W Rea, Hazel Heald, Evelyn Goldstein, Marcia Kamien, Joy Leache, Betsy Curtis, Beth Elliott and Helen Clarkson. There’s a couple of names there new to me – Rea’s story is apparently the only one she ever had published (in Amazing, Jan 1933), Goldstein had eight stories published between 1954 and 1960, Kamien three in the mid-1950s, Leache three from 1959 to 1961, and Elliott only one in 1959. Clarkson is also known for a single story, which was reprinted in New Eves – see my review here.

rotator_women-225x300Women Resurrected: Stories from Women Science Fiction Writers of the 50’s, Greg Fowlkes, ed. (2011) This is from a small press which seems to specialise in “resurrecting” old and forgotten genre works – not just science fiction, but also mystery and adventure. Women Resurrected contains stories by Pauline Ashwell, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Florence Verbell Brown, Barbara Constant, Betsy Curtis, Dorothy de Courcy, Miriam Allen deFord, Helen Huber, Jean M Janis, Elisabeth R Lewis, Katherine MacLean, Judith Merril, Evelyn E Smith, Lyn Venable, Ann Walker, Elaine Wilber, Therese Windser and Mari Wolf. Yet more unfamiliar names – Brown (1 story only published), Constant (2 stories), de Courcy (20 stories), Huber (1 story), Janis (2 stories), Lewis (1 story), Venable (7 stories), Walker (1 story), Wilber (1 story), Windser (1 story) and Wolf (7 stories).

None of these “unknown” writers had careers that lasted beyond the early 1960s. It’s tempting to wonder why – marriage? children? no longer welcome by editors? It also seems odd that de Courcy, with twenty stories published between 1946 and 1954, should prove so obscure, especially given that a woman sf writer – Pamela Zoline – is still known today for a single story published in 1967 (and she only published 5 in total throughout her career). Perhaps the fact de Courcy co-wrote with – husband? brother? – John de Courcy explains it. The same might also be said of Mari Wolf, who wrote alone – I mean, how can you forget a writer whose first story was titled ‘Robots of the World! Arise!’.

So that’s a pair of anthologies which focus on the early decades of science fiction and women’s contribution to it. According to Partners in Wonder by Eric Leif Davin, there were 65 women writers published in science fiction magazines between 1926 and 1949, and a further 138 who debuted between 1950 and 1960. In total, those 203 women sf writers produce 922 stories during those 34 years, averaging between 5% and 16% by title of the total contents for genre magazines throughout the period.

After 1960, of course, and the appearance of massmarket paperbacks in supermarkets, there was a huge influx of female sf readers and writers… and yet common perception still has it that women writers are a small minority – as if the situation prior to 1960 has held true for the last 50 years. Even worse, little or none of those pre-1960 women sf writers are ever collected, or appear on lists of “classic” sf… further feeding into the myth that women did not write sf during those decades. Happily, the above two anthologies prove this untrue . More like them, please.


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Women-only science fiction anthologies

Men-only sf anthologies are hardly rare, and anthologies where the male writers hugely outnumber the female writers on the table of contents are sadly commonplace. But there have been attempts in the past to redress this. As far as I can discover, there have been thirteen women-only sf anthologies published since the 1970s, and one that describes itself as a feminist anthology and has mostly female contributors. Late this year, of course, we get Alex Dally MacFarlane’s The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what stories she has chosen. But for the time-being, there are…

venusThe Venus Factor, Vic Ghidalia & Roger Elwood, eds. (1972) This is the earliest women-only sf anthology of which I’m aware. It appears to have been sold on the fact it contains “Agatha Christie’s only science fiction story”, ‘The Last Séance’. The remaining stories are by Cynthia Asquith, Gertrude Atherton, Miriam Allen deFord, and the more familiar Zenna Henderson, Anne McCaffrey, Judith Merril and CL Moore. It covers most of the decades from sf’s beginnings to the book’s publication, with Christie’s story from the 1920s, three from the 1930s, one from the 1950s and three from the 1960s.

wowWomen of Wonder, Pamela Sargent, ed. (1975) Perhaps the most celebrated of the women-only sf anthologies – or rather, the trilogy which this book begins is perhaps the most celebrated. Sargent lays out her agenda in an excellent introduction (in fact, all three Women of Wonder anthologies are worth getting for Sargent’s introductions) – this is more than just science fiction “by women about women”, it’s about women’s place in the genre, and in the history of the genre, as both protagonists and writers. There are no obscure names in the table of contents, and one story even won a Nebula Award. The stories are by Sonya Dorman, Judith Merril, Katherine McLean, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey, Kit Reed, Kate Wilhelm, Carol Emshwiller, Ursula K Le Guin, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Joanna Russ and Vonda N McIntyre, and date from 1948 to 1973. I reviewed it on SF Mistressworks here.

mwowMore Women Of Wonder, Pamela Sargent, ed. (1976) Although the Women of Wonder anthologies were plainly intended to demonstrate that, “Look! Women write science fiction too!”, Sargent does seem to draw her contributions from a relatively small pool. Admittedly, she explains that the anthologies are as much about sf stories about women as they are sf stories by women. Appearing in this volume are CL Moore, Leigh Brackett, Joanna Russ, Josephine Saxton, Kate Wilhelm, Joan D Vinge and Ursula K Le Guin, three of whom appeared in the earlier volume. I reviewed the anthology on SF Mistressworks here.

auroroaAurora: Beyond Equality, Vonda N McIntyre & Susan Janice Anderson, eds. (1976) This billed itself as a “feminist science fiction anthology” because its contents were not contributed wholly by women – three of the stories in the anthology were by men, David J Skal, PJ Plauger and Craig Strete. The remaining stories were provided by James Tiptree Jr (twice), Mildred Downey Broxon, Ursula K Le Guin, Joanna Russ and Marge Piercy. The stories are all original to the anthology.

crystalThe Crystal Ship, Robert Silverberg, ed. (1976) Although a male sf writer’s name appears prominently on the cover of this book, it actually contains three original novellas by women: ”The Crystal Ship’ by Joan D Vinge, ‘Megan’s World’ by Marta Randall and ‘Screwtop’ by Vonda N McIntyre. The last also appeared in The New Women of Wonder (see SF Mistressworks review here), and was published in 1989 as one half of a Tor double with James Tiptree Jr’s ‘The Girl Who Was Plugged In’.

millennialMillennial Women, Virginia Kidd, ed. (1978) Kidd was a member of the Futurians and an influential editor. While this anthology is perhaps not as strong as any of the Women of Wonder anthologies, it does present a wide variety of sf stories – provided by Cynthia Felice, Marilyn Hacker, Diana L Paxson, Elizabeth A Lynn, Cherry Wilder, Joan D Vinge and Ursula K Le Guin. Some editions of the book were sold as Le Guin’s short novel, “Eye of the Heron and other stories”, with Le Guin’s name most prominent on the cover. I reviewed it on SF Mistressworks here.

nwowThe New Women of Wonder, Pamela Sargent, ed. (1978) The third and final Women of Wonder anthologies until their 1995 reboot. Sargent once again turns mainly to women writers she has previously published – only Eleanor Arnason, Pamela Zoline and James Triptree Jr are new in this volume. Mind you, their three stories are pretty much stone-cold classics of the genre. Also inside are stories by Sonya Dorman, Vonda N McIntyre, Josephine Saxton, Kit Reed, Carol Emshwiller, Joanna Russ, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and Joan D Vinge. This volume is the strongest of the three. I reviewed it on SF Mistressworks here.

cassandraCassandra Rising, Alice Laurance, ed. (1978) Not an easy book to find, this anthology contains nineteen original stories by Ursula K Le Guin, Kay Rogers, Joan Bernott, Zenna Henderson, Katherine MacLean, Kathleen Sky, Rachel Cosgrove Payes, Josephine Saxton, Grania Davis, Raylyn Moore, Alice Laurance, Anne McCaffrey, Steve Barnes, Barbara Paul, Sydney J Van Scyoc, Beverly Goldberg, Miriam Allen deFord & Juanita Coulson, Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Steve Barnes, incidentally, is not male writer Steven Barnes but the pen-name of Margaret L Barnes (an introductory note explains she used the name “as a way of preserving her family name, Stephenson, lost in marriage”). Judging by some of the introductory comments to the stories made by Laurance, this was an open submission anthology, which may explain the presence of the more unfamiliar names. There is also a foreword by Andre Norton.

spaceAsimov’s Space of Her Own, Shawna McCarthy, ed. (1983) As the title indicates, this anthology contains women-authored stories originally published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. Asimov’s regularly published themed anthologies of contents drawn from the magazine – McCarthy herself edited four of thirty such anthologies. The contents date entirely from 1981 to 1983, and are provided by Connie Willis, Mary Gentle, Leigh Kennedy, Sydney J Van Scyoc, Ursula K Le Guin, Pamela Sargent, Joan D Vinge, Julie Stevens, Mildred Downey Broxon, Cyn Mason, PA Kagan, Sharon Webb, Pat Cadigan, Lee Killough, PJ MacQuarrie, Tanith Lee, Stephanie A Smith, Cherie Wilkerson, Janet Asimov, Beverly Grant and Hope Athearn. None of the stories are especially well-known.

despatchesDespatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind, Sarah LeFanu & Jen Green, eds. (1985) During the 1980s, The Women’s Press published a number of science fiction paperbacks by women writers, all in similar grey livery. This was the only anthology. It contains original stories by Josephine Saxton, Margaret Elphinstone, Joanna Russ, Gwyneth Jones, Beverley Ireland, Tanith Lee, Lannah Battley, Pamela Zoline, Mary Gentle, Frances Gapper, Lisa Tuttle, Pearlie McNeill, Naomi Mitchison, Zoe Fairbairns, Penny Casdagli, Raccoona Sheldon (AKA James Tiptree Jr) and Sue Thomason. Many of the authors also had novels published by The Women’s Press, reprints and original. The Zoline is a coup – she has only ever written five stories… and one of those was original to her collection, Busy About the Tree of Life. Jack Deighton reviewed Despatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind on SF Mistressworks here.

newevesNew Eves: Science Fiction About the Extraordinary Women of Today and Tomorrow, Forrest J Ackerman, Janrae Frank & Jean Marie Stine, eds. (1994) An excellent introduction to science fiction by women from the genre’s beginnings through to the year of publication of the anthology – indeed, the anthology is organised by decade. The editors’ introduction is mostly good, but sabotages itself with a final section which undermines the quite sensible argument presented in the preceding pages – no doubt the lone male editor insisted on this. The stories are organised into sections by decade: ‘The 20s & 30s’, ‘The 40s’, ‘The 50s’, ‘The 60s & 70s’ and ‘The 80s – and Beyond’. Not all of the older stories work for modern readers, but it’s good that they’re documented – works by Francis Stevens (AKA Gertrude Barrows Bennett), Leslie F Stone and Hazel Heald, for example. Later authors may be better known but there are still many who have been unfairly forgotten. I reviewed the anthology on SF Mistressworks here and here.

wowcalssicsWomen of Wonder: the Classic Years, Pamela Sargent, ed. (1995) The first of a pair of reboots of the Women of Wonder series, it actually contains more stories than the the original three volumes – and, in fact, contains many of the stories from those anthologies. Zenna Henderson, Margaret St Clair and Lisa Tuttle are new to the volume, and CL Moore, Leigh Brackett, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Joan D Vinge are all represented by different stories than those in the Women of Wonder trilogy. As for the rest… The stories by Judith Merril, Katherine McLean, Anne McCaffrey, Sonya Dorman, Kit Reed, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Joanna Russ and Vonda N McIntyre all originally appeared in Women of Wonder; those by Josephine Saxton, Kate Wilhelm and Ursula K Le Guin were in More Women Of Wonder; and the stories by Pamela Zoline, James Tiptree Jr and Eleanor Arnason were in The New Women of Wonder. There is enough of a difference to consider buying this book if you own the original trilogy, but perhaps less of a reason to track down the three Women of Wonder anthologies if you have this one.

wowconWomen of Wonder: the Contemporary Years, Pamela Sargent, ed. (1995) While the “classic” volume covered the years 1948 to 1977, the same years covered by Sargent’s original trilogy, this one covers the following two decades – with stories from 1978 to 1993. Contributions are provided by CJ Cherryh, Tanith Lee, Suzy McKee Charnas, Carol Emshwiller, Sydney J Van Scyoc, Angela Carter, Mary Gentle, Octavia E Butler, Jayge Carr, Rosaleen Love, Sheila Finch, Pat Cadigan, Pat Murphy, Karen Joy Fowler, Judith Moffett, Connie Willis, Lisa Goldstein, Nancy Kress, Storm Constantine and Rebecca Ore. Although there are names in common with New Eves: Science Fiction About the Extraordinary Women of Today and Tomorrow, there is very little overlap – only the Van Scyoc story, in fact, appears in both. I reviewed this anthology for SF Mistressworks here and here.

doeDaughters of Earth, Justine Larbalestier, ed. (2006) Unlike the other anthologies in this post, Daughters of Earth is a mix of fiction and non-fiction, as each of the stories is followed by an essay discussing that story and/or its author. Daughters of Earth also covers the widest spread of time of all the anthologies named above – the earliest story is from 1927 and the latest from 2002. The fiction is provided by Clare Winger Harris, Leslie F Stone, Alice Eleanor Jones, Kate Wilhelm, Pamela Zoline, James Tiptree Jr, Lisa Tuttle, Pat Murphy, Octavia E Butler, Gwyneth Jones and Karen Joy Fowler. Some of these stories have appeared in other anthologies mentioned in this post; one or two of them I consider personal favourite sf stories. The non-fiction is provided by Jane L Donawerth, Brian Attebery, Lisa Yaszek, Josh Lukin, Mary E Papke, Wendy Pearson, Cathy Hawkins, Joan Haran, Andrea Hairston, Veronica Hollinger and L Timmel Duchamp. If this anthology has a fault, it’s that it could do with being much larger – it contains eleven pieces of fiction, but I can think of at least another dozen I think deserve the same treatment.

I’ve mentioned throughout this post where reviews of the anthologies on SF Mistressworks exist, and I’ve linked to those reviews. The ones that have yet to be reviewed… will be done some time during this year as I own copies of them all. For those interested in reading more on the subject, there is Partners in Wonder by Eric Leif Davin, The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction by Justine Larbalestier, Decoding Gender in Science Fiction and, if you can find a copy, Future Females: A Critical Anthology by Marleen S Barr. There are probably many other books on feminist science fiction, as well as books on, or by, individual feminist writers – for example, Joanna Russ: On Joanna Russ by Farah Mendlesohn or The Country You Have Never Seen by Russ herself. And, of course, everyone should own a copy of Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing

ETA: Despite owning copies of them, I managed to miss out both Despatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind and Cassandra Rising, as noted in the comments below. I have now added them. Other people have pointed me in the direction of themed all-women anthologies from major publishers and small presses, many of which include both science fiction and fantasy. Those, I think, are a post for another day. The above are explicitly science fiction anthologies, covering the historical spread of the genre and demonstrating that women have been writing sf since its beginnings.


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8-question meme from SF Signal

John DeNardo posts these regularly on SF Signal and I usually have a go at them. This week it’s the following eight questions:

1. The first science fiction, fantasy or horror book I ever read was:
Technically, it would be Doctor Who and the Zarbi by Bill Strutton, a novelisation of the TV series, which my parents gave me as a Christmas present in, I think, 1974. But the first category sf novel I read was Starman Jones by Robert Heinlein, which was lent to me by a classmate in my first year at prep school – so that would be either late 1976 or early 1977.

Doctor_Who_and_the_Zarbi

2. The last science fiction, fantasy or horror book I read that I’d put in my “Top 20″ list is:
I guard my Top 20 jealously and, sadly, it’s mostly not sf, fantasy or horror. No genre book has made it into the list during the last couple of years. However, if I were to run a category genre-only Top 20, then the last book I read which might make the grade would probably be… Extra(Ordinary) People, a 1984 collection by Joanna Russ, if only because it contains a story, ‘The Mystery of the Young Gentleman’, which immediately became a new favourite. I reviewed it on SF Mistressworks here. If I were to restrict myself to novels, the last three genre reads with the most stars from me on GoodReads were, in no particular order: Europe in Autumn, The Violent Century, Rapture and Ancillary Justice.

3. The last science fiction, fantasy or horror book I couldn’t finish was:
That would be Palimpsest by Cathrynne M Valente. I’d heard a lot of positive things about it, and was quite chuffed to stumble across a copy in a charity shop. But the reading didn’t go very well at all. I baled around page 100, unable to put up any longer with the over-writing. I think it was something about a character being able to taste a snail’s foot in his mouth or something.

4. A science fiction, fantasy or horror author whose work I cannot get enough of is:
I have my favourites – who doesn’t? Paul Park has a new novel and a collection coming out this year, which has made me very happy – doubly so, in fact. Sadly, Gwyneth Jones doesn’t seem to have anything due out in the foreseeable future. A couple of years ago, I’d heard a US publisher had contracted for a sequel to Dr Franklin’s Island (as by Ann Halam), but I’ve yet to see it mentioned anywhere online. I’m also eagerly awaiting David Herter’s new sf novels/novellas from PS Publishing.

all-those-vanished-engines-paul-park-base-art-co

5. A science fiction, fantasy or horror author I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read yet is:
But I’ve read everyone! Ahem. Of course, I haven’t really, just rather a lot of them – but many of those I’ve not read have been a matter of choice. I don’t think there’s anyone I’m ashamed I’ve not read – because if I was, I’d have read them; or at the very least I’d have one of their books on my humungous TBR pile. PC Hodgell, for example; or Michael Cisco… I own books by both but have yet to read them. Which reminds me, I really must get around to purchasing a copy of Laurie J Marks’ Fire Logic, as I really want to read it. Um, in fact, now I think about it, there’s a whole bunch of authors I want to read but have yet to buy anything by…

6. A science fiction, fantasy or horror book I would recommend to someone who hasn’t read sf/f/h is:
Easy. The Wall Around Eden by Joan Slonczewski. I reviewed it on SF Mistressworks here, and have been singing its praises ever since. Sadly, it’s currently out of print; but it really needs to be introduced to a new audience.

7. A science fiction, fantasy or horror book that’s terribly underrated is:
Where do I start? Many of my favourite genre novels were highly regarded when they were published, but they’ve never been reprinted since. One or two are now in the SF Masterworks series… so I can hardly claim they’re still under-rated. Instead, I will chose something completely out of my comfort zone – a fantasy novel: The Grail of Hearts by Susan Shwartz (1991). It was never published in the UK, had two reviews on publication (in Locus and amazing Stories), has zero reviews on GoodReads and two on Amazon (including a 5-star one by Katherine Kerr!), Kirkus called it a “formless hodgepodge of a book”, and the first five pages of Google are links to places to buy the book rather than online reviews… I think it qualifies as under-rated.

grailfohearts

8. A science fiction, fantasy or horror book that’s terribly overrated is:
There’s a lot of recent sf I think is horribly over-rated – just look at the Hugo Award and Nebula Award shortlists for the past few years. But many of those books I’ve not actually read myself, so my opinion is chiefly the result of other stuff written by those authors. However, I have read Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey, and it was shortlisted for the Hugo Award for 2012, and made it into the top 5 on the Locus Poll for that year. I thought it was terrible, and I refused to read its sequels. I now hear it’s been optioned for television. Sigh.


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The SF Mistresswork list, revised

Who remembers the SF Mistressworks meme, a list of science fiction by women writers from the twentieth century (and earlier)? I originally posted it in March 2011 (see here), and it then inspired me to create the SF Mistressworks website. Which is still going strong.

But that original list had a few problems. A couple of the titles I’d proposed turned out to be fantasy and not science fiction; and one writer even proved to be male – well, I never can remember which is male and which is female from Lesley and Leslie… The list also contained only 91 books, as I’d not managed to think of 100 suitable titles.

But three years later, I’ve read a lot more sf by women writers, and I’ve done more research on the topic. So I felt it was time for a new version of the list. Also, many more of the books are now available once again – either published by small presses, or made available on Kindle by the SF Gateway or the authors themselves self-publishing their back-catalogue.

The list below mostly unchanged from the original – I’ve simply expanded it to 100, removed the fantasy novels, made a few alternative selections for a couple of writers, and added some more writers I’d unfairly missed off first time around. It now looks like this:

  1. Frankenstein*, Mary Shelley (1818)
  2. Herland†, Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1915)
  3. Orlando, Virginia Woolf (1928)
  4. Lest Ye Die, Cicely Hamilton (1928)
  5. Swastika Night, Katharine Burdekin (1937)
  6. Shadow on the Hearth, Judith Merril (1950)
  7. Judgment Night, CL Moore (1952)
  8. The Sword of Rhiannon, Leigh Brackett (1953)
  9. Agent of the Unknown, Margaret St Clair (1956)
  10. Pilgrimage: The Book of the People, Zenna Henderson (1961)
  11. Catseye, Andre Norton (1961)
  12. Memoirs of a Spacewoman†, Naomi Mitchison (1962)
  13. Sunburst, Phyllis Gotlieb (1964)
  14. Heroes and Villains, Angela Carter (1969)
  15. Armed Camps, Kit Reed (1969)
  16. Darkover Landfall, Marion Zimmer Bradley (1972)
  17. Ten Thousand Light-years from Home, James Tiptree Jr (1973)
  18. The Dispossessed*, Ursula K LeGuin (1974)
  19. Walk to the End of the World†, Suzy McKee Charnas (1974)
  20. Star Rider†, Doris Piserchia (1974)
  21. The Female Man*†, Joanna Russ (1975
  22. Missing Man, Katherine MacLean (1975)
  23. Arslan*, MJ Engh (1976)
  24. Don’t Bite the Sun, Tanith Lee (1976)
  25. Floating Worlds*, Cecelia Holland (1976)
  26. Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang*, Kate Wilhelm (1976)
  27. Islands, Marta Randall (1976)
  28. Dreamsnake, Vonda N McIntyre (1978)
  29. False Dawn, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (1978)
  30. Shikasta, Doris Lessing (1979)
  31. Kindred†, Octavia Butler (1979)
  32. Benefits, Zoe Fairbairns (1979)
  33. Leviathan’s Deep, Jayge Carr (1979)
  34. A Voice Out of Ramah, Lee Killough (1979)
  35. The Snow Queen, Joan D Vinge (1980)
  36. The Silent City†, Élisabeth Vonarburg (1981)
  37. The Many-Coloured Land, Julian May (1981)
  38. Darkchild, Sydney J Van Scyoc (1982)
  39. The Crystal Singer, Anne McCaffery (1982)
  40. Native Tongue†, Suzette Haden Elgin (1984)
  41. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (1985)
  42. Jerusalem Fire, RM Meluch (1985)
  43. The Children of Anthi, Jay D Blakeney (1985)
  44. The Dream Years, Lisa Goldstein (1985)
  45. Last Letters from Hav, Jan Morris (1985)
  46. Queen of the States†, Josephine Saxton (1986)
  47. The Wave and the Flame, Marjorie Bradley Kellogg (1986)
  48. The Journal of Nicholas the American, Leigh Kennedy (1986)
  49. A Door into Ocean†, Joan Slonczewski (1986)
  50. Angel At Apogee, SN Lewitt (1987)
  51. In Conquest Born, CS Friedman (1987)
  52. Pennterra, Judith Moffett (1987)
  53. Kairos, Gwyneth Jones (1988)
  54. Cyteen, CJ Cherryh (1988)
  55. Unquenchable Fire*, Rachel Pollack (1988)
  56. The City, Not Long After, Pat Murphy (1988)
  57. Carmen Dog†, Carol Emshwiller (1988)
  58. The Steerswoman, Rosemary Kirstein (1989)
  59. The Third Eagle, RA MacAvoy (1989)
  60. Grass*, Sheri S Tepper (1989)
  61. Heritage of Flight, Susan Shwartz (1989)
  62. Falcon, Emma Bull (1989)
  63. The Archivist, Gill Alderman (1989)
  64. Winterlong, Elizabeth Hand (1990)
  65. A Gift Upon the Shore, MK Wren (1990)
  66. Red Spider, White Web, Misha (1990)
  67. Polar City Blues, Katherine Kerr (1990)
  68. He, She and It (AKA Body of Glass), Marge Piercy (1991)
  69. Sarah Canary*, Karen Joy Fowler (1991)
  70. Beggars in Spain, Nancy Kress (1991)
  71. A Woman of the Iron People, Eleanor Arnason (1991)
  72. Hermetech, Storm Constantine (1991)
  73. Synners, Pat Cadigan (1991)
  74. China Mountain Zhang, Maureen F McHugh (1992)
  75. Correspondence†, Sue Thomas (1992)
  76. Lost Futures, Lisa Tuttle (1992)
  77. Doomsday Book*, Connie Willis (1992)
  78. Ammonite*, Nicola Griffith (1993)
  79. The Holder of the World†, Bharati Mukherjee (1993)
  80. Dancing on the Volcano, Anne Gay (1993)
  81. Queen City Jazz, Kathleen Ann Goonan (1994)
  82. Happy Policeman, Patricia Anthony (1994)
  83. Shadow Man, Melissa Scott (1995)
  84. Legacies, Alison Sinclair (1995)
  85. Primary Inversion, Catherine Asaro (1995)
  86. Alien Influences, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (1995)
  87. The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell (1996)
  88. Memory, Lois McMaster Bujold (1996)
  89. Remnant Population, Elizabeth Moon (1996)
  90. Looking For The Mahdi, N Lee Wood (1996)
  91. An Exchange of Hostages, Susan R Matthews (1997)
  92. Fool’s War, Sarah Zettel (1997)
  93. Black Wine, Candas Jane Dorsey (1997)
  94. A Thousand Words for Stranger, Julie E Czernada (1997)
  95. Halfway Human, Carolyn Ives Gilman (1998)
  96. Vast, Linda Nagata (1998)
  97. Hand of Prophecy, Severna Park (1998)
  98. Brown Girl In The Ring, Nalo Hopkinson (1998)
  99. Dreaming In Smoke, Tricia Sullivan (1999)
  100. Ash: A Secret History, Mary Gentle (2000)

 

 

Although there were around sixty women actively writing science fiction or fantasy in the 1940s, I can’t find a sf novel written by any of them which was published in that decade. Several of the writers on the list are better known as writers of fantasy, but they have written science fiction and that’s what I’ve listed. Books in Gollancz’s SF Masterworks series I’ve marked with an asterisk (*) – many of these were added to the series after I posted the original list three years ago. Books that were published by The Women’s Press back in the 1980s/1990s I’ve marked with a dagger (†).

Myself, I’ve read 49 of the books, and have a further eight on the TBR. Forty-eight of the books have also been reviewed on SF Mistressworks, some of them several times.

Finally, are there any writers I’ve missed who really belong on the list? Don’t forget it’s books published up until 2000. Perhaps some of the books on the list are not the author’s best work, perhaps another title would better. One or two were, I admit, judgement calls – for example, Marge Piercy’s He, She and It (as Body of Glass) won the Clarke Award in 1992 but is no longer in print; her Woman on the Edge of Time, however, is (but it was also first published in 1976, and I felt I had more than enough books from that year). There are, as far as I’m aware, only two cheats on the list – Tiptree is represented by a collection rather than a novel; and Despatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind is an anthology  – and, to be honest, there are a good number of women-only sf anthologies which might be better choices.

ETA: removed Despatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind as it’s an anthology, and added Joachim Boaz’s suggestion of Kit Reed’s Armed Camps. I’ll be posting a list of women-only sf anthologies shortly.


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10 books that stayed with me

Whenever a book-related meme pops up, I love to jump on board. And apparently there’s one currently doing the rounds: “List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be ‘right’ or ‘great’ works, just ones that have touched you”. I saw this on Liz Bourke’s blog here, and decided to have a go.

I’ve done something similar before, I think, but not for quite so many titles… Which made this one a bit harder than expected. But here they are, in the order in which the books occurred to me:

1 Ascent, Jed Mercurio (2007), a novel I hugely admire and which has inspired me in my own writing.
2 The Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell (1957 – 1960), because on reading it I fell in love with Durrell’s prose and began collecting everything he had ever written.
3 The Undercover Aliens (AKA The House That Stood Still), AE van Vogt (1950), bonkers California noir meets pulp sf, and the only van Vogt novel I’d ever recommend to anyone.
4 Dune, Frank Herbert (1965), still the premier example of world-building in science fiction.
5 Dhalgren, Samuel R Delany (1974), the sf novel I’ve probably reread more times than any other.
6 Coelestis, Paul Park (1993), one of my top five favourite novels of all time.
7 Dan Dare: The Red Moon Mystery, Frank Hampson (1951 – 1952), the scene where Hank and Pierre first see through the clouds hiding the surface of the Red Moon haunted me for years as a kid.
8 Cotillion, Georgette Heyer (1953), the first of hers I read, and her novels are still my chief comfort reading.
9 The Barbie Murders, John Varley (1980), I fell in love with Varley’s Eight Worlds, and the title novelette still remains a favourite.
10 Guardian Angel, Sara Paretsky (1992), I’ve always preferred crime fiction written by women, and Paretsky is why – this was the first of hers I ever read.

Not such a great showing gender-wise – only two women out of ten. While there are certainly a great number of women writers I admire and whose novels and short stories I love, I spent my formative years reading mostly science fiction, and sadly it was chiefly science fiction by male writers. There were exceptions – in amongst all those books by Heinlein, van Vogt, Simak, EE ‘Doc’ Smith, Harrison, Herbert, Tubb, Vance, etc, I read and became a fan of Cherryh, Le Guin, Van Scyoc, Julian May… Later, I discovered Gwyneth Jones, Mary Gentle, Joanna Russ, Leigh Brackett… and now, of course, I think most of the twentieth-century science fiction I read is by women writers.


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To gateway or not to gateway

All too often when people suggest science fiction titles to introduce non-sf readers to the genre, they pick something that will show them what the genre is capable of. But everybody knows that all ready – they can see it on telly, in the cinema. They know all about space battles, planets exploding, alien vistas, robots, cyberspace, weird ideas. Whether they recognise some of those ideas as science fiction is an entirely different matter – is The Adjustment Bureau, with its “magic fucking hats”, a sf movie, for example? The reason these people don’t read science fiction is because they think it’s badly-written, or mired in outdated sensibilities and so irrelevant to them. And we’re no help because we thrust shit books written ninety years ago by some dead old white bloke at them. So what if the men all wears hats and the women do the dishes, it’s about galactic empires! It’s a classic of the genre!

But, honestly, why should we expect them to plough through three hundred pages of tin-eared dialogue, cardboard cut-out characters and leaden prose just for an “idea”? The whole point of written sf is that it can do what media sf does, but it can do it better. The plots will be logically and internally consistent, it won’t insult your intelligence, it may challenge your preconceptions and prejudices, it will have themes and motifs, and it tries to say something beside “money, please, now park your bum here for 100 minutes”. Plus all those space battles and exploding planets, too. Nothing in a science fiction novel is likely to make you *headdesk* like the “cold fusion” in Star Trek Into Darkness.

So when we try to think of titles for a non-sf reader to read… we should pretty much bin all the classics of the genre. We should choose books that demonstrate sf can be well-written, even beautifully written, that it can handle ideas considered too outrageous for cinema audiences, that it can tell stories that are well-plotted, internally consistent, without dumb plot-holes, stupid bromances, or daddy-issues that obliterate the actual story… We should suggest books that are recent, relevant, and have something interesting, or perhaps even important, to say.

And such science fiction novels do exist. It took me a while, but I think I came up with five. They’re all twenty-first-century novels. I have also read them. One or two might have won or been nominated for prestigious genre awards. They are, in no particular order…

Intrusion, Ken MacLeod (2012) Because it’s a near-future thriller written with genre sensibilities, works brilliantly and recognisably as a cautionary tale on the world we live in, and yet it also does something a writer of near-future thrillers would never consider doing, or might even actually be afraid of doing.

Dark Eden, Chris Beckett (2012) Not only because it won the Arthur C Clarke Award a month or two ago, but because it’s a story everyone will recognise but set on a world which will be completely new to them; and it’s beautifully written too.

Spin State, Chris Moriarty (2004) Because written science fiction can do the fast-paced action/adventure but it can also, in the same story, ask big questions about identity, memory, the future of humanity… and try to answer them.

Solitaire, Kelley Eskridge (2002) Because if science fiction is not about the people, then what’s the point in it – and how much are those people products of the world in which they live?

Life, Gwyneth Jones (2004) Because sometimes science fiction is actually about science and scientists, and how their calling affects themselves, their lives, those around them, and the world.

So: five science fiction novels, published this century by genre imprints. All are currently available. One is the first book in a trilogy, the third part of which has just been published. One is by a small press. I count eleven appearances in genre award shortlists by the five books, and two wins. So it’s not just me who thinks they’re good books. All five books are, I believe, accessible to someone who has not read science fiction before but is familiar with many of its tropes from television or cinema. And all five books, I feel, will show why written sf can do so much more than sf on television or in the cinema…

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