Since 2011 is becoming the Year of Women in SF (and so it should)… and my reading challenge for the twelve months involves reading a dozen sf novels by women writers… and various other websites and blogs have been posting on the topic since the beginning of the year… and today people were throwing around on twitter some suggested titles by female authors for Gollancz’s SF Masterworks series using the hashtag #SFMistressworks… I thought it was time for another leap onto the bandwagon. SF Mistressworks is an excellent term, I feel, to describe classics of the genre by female writers. And here are some of my suggestions. Most I’ve read, but some I’m going by others’ comments. Some are obscure but, I think, deserve to be better known. I have not included any of the titles by female writers already in the SF Masterworks series, although, of course, they deserve to be on a list such as this.
In no particular order…
The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
This is pretty much the definitive theocratic US dystopia novel.
Ash: A Secret History, Mary Gentle
Why is this even out of print?
Kairos or Life, Gwyneth Jones
Or perhaps even White Queen or Bold As Love (which won the Arthur C Clarke Award). Certainly she deserves to be on the list. The only difficulty is picking which book (or books, of course).
The Children of Anthi and Requiem for Anthi, Jay D Blakeney
Blakeney was a pen-name of Deborah Chester, who chiefly wrote YA sf novels under the name Sean Dalton. These two are actually pretty good space operas.
Daughters of the Sunstone, Sydney J van Scyoc
Van Scyoc has long been one of my favourite authors, and the trilogy collected in this SFBC omnibus edition is perhaps her best work.
Cyteen or Downbelow Station or Angel With the Sword, CJ Cherryh
Cyteen is probably her most adult novel, and Downbelow Station her most popular. Angel With the Sword just happens to be a personal favourite.
The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell
It won lots of awards.
China Mountain Zhang, Maureen F McHugh
I know only that this book is highly-regarded. It is on the list for this year’s reading challenge.
Kindred, Octavia Butler
Likewise for this one.
Shadow Man, Melissa Scott
Another one from my reading challenge, chosen because I’ve heard many good things about it.
Maul, Tricia Sullivan
Also from the reading challenge, but an Arthur C Clarke Award nominee too.
Any of the Jurisdiction series, Susan R Matthews
Why are these out of print? Why were they never published in the UK?
The Marq’ssan Cycle, L Timmel Duchamp
These five books are important.
Native Tongue, Suzette Haden Elgin
I’ve been wanting to read this for years.
Walk to the End of the World, Suzy McKee Charnas
Another one I’ve always wanted to read.
Angel at Apogee, SN Lewitt
Another favourite author who, I think, deserves to be on a list like this. Angel at Apogee was her debut novel and I still have a soft spot for it. Some of her later books were a bit too derivative to count as possible classics, but her last few were original and interesting.
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, James Tiptree Jr
Because she certainly belongs on this list, but her strength lay in her short fiction. As long as the collection contains ‘And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side’, I’ll be happy.
I have no doubt missed off lots and lots and lots of suitable books. Suggest me some in the comments, then.
Edit: now with new added meme-type stuff! See The sf mistressworks meme list of 91 titles by women sf writers.