It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible

The sf mistressworks meme


Pushing on with the Women in SF theme, I decided to have a go at a full-on meme-type list. And here it is…

A few things to bear in mind about the titles listed below: science fiction only, no fantasy; and no YA or children’s works. One work per author, because I wanted breadth (otherwise I’d have filled it up with my favourite authors). Arbitrary end date of 2000 – which will be addressed by a subsequent list of 21st Century SF Mistressworks. Some authors who have had more books published post-2000, I’ve missed off. I’ve used my own taste in novels, awards shortlists, recommendations by various folk, and some judicious online research to generate the list. I can’t guarantee I’ve picked a writer’s best book, or indeed that any of the books on the list that I’ve not read myself are in any way “classic”.

For trilogies or series, I’ve listed the first book but put the trilogy/series name in square brackets afterwards. Asterisked titles are in Gollancz’s SF Masterworks series. And if the Masterworks series is allowed an anthology, so am I: hence the inclusion of Despatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind. I’ve also sneakily included one or two collections, for those writers best known for their short fiction.

The list is in order of year of publication.

You know how it works: bold those you’ve read, italicise those you own but have not read. (If you’ve read the entire named series, you can even emboldenize that as well.)

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, Katherine Burdekin (1937)
6 Wrong Side of the Moon, Francis Leslie Ashton (1951)
7 The Sword of Rhiannon, Leigh Brackett (1953)
8 Pilgrimage: The Book of the People, Zenna Henderson (1961)
9 Memoirs of a Spacewoman, Naomi Mitchison (1962)
10 Witch World, Andre Norton (1963)
11 Sunburst, Phyllis Gotlieb (1964)
12 Jirel of Joiry, CL Moore (1969)
13 Heroes and Villains, Angela Carter (1969)
14 Ten Thousand Light Years From Home, James Tiptree Jr (1973)
15 *The Dispossessed, Ursula K Le Guin (1974)
16 Walk to the End of the World, Suzy McKee Charnas (1974)
17 *The Female Man, Joanna Russ (1975)
18 Missing Man, Katherine MacLean (1975)
19 *Arslan, MJ Engh (1976)
20 *Floating Worlds, Cecelia Holland (1976)
21 *Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, Kate Wilhelm (1976)
22 Islands, Marta Randall (1976)
23 Dreamsnake, Vonda N McIntyre (1978)
24 False Dawn, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (1978)
25 Shikasta [Canopus in Argos: Archives], Doris Lessing (1979)
26 Kindred, Octavia Butler (1979)
27 Benefits, Zoe Fairbairns (1979)
28 The Snow Queen, Joan D Vinge (1980)
29 The Silent City, Élisabeth Vonarburg (1981)
30 The Silver Metal Lover, Tanith Lee (1981)
31 The Many-Coloured Land [Saga of the Exiles], Julian May (1981)
32 Darkchild [Daughters of the Sunstone], Sydney J van Scyoc (1982)
33 The Crystal Singer, Anne McCaffrey (1982)
34 Native Tongue, Suzette Haden Elgin (1984)
35 The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (1985)
36 Jerusalem Fire, RM Meluch (1985)
37 Children of Anthi, Jay D Blakeney (1985)
38 The Dream Years, Lisa Goldstein (1985)
39 Despatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind, Sarah Lefanu & Jen Green (1985)
40 Queen of the States, Josephine Saxton (1986)
41 The Wave and the Flame [Lear’s Daughters], Marjorie Bradley Kellogg (1986)
42 The Journal of Nicholas the American, Leigh Kennedy (1986)
43 A Door into Ocean, Joan Slonczewski (1986)
44 Angel at Apogee, SN Lewitt (1987)
45 In Conquest Born, CS Friedman (1987)
46 Pennterra, Judith Moffett (1987)
47 Kairos, Gwyneth Jones (1988)
48 Cyteen , CJ Cherryh (1988)
49 Unquenchable Fire, Rachel Pollack (1988)
50 The City, Not Long After, Pat Murphy (1988)
51 The Steerswoman [Steerswoman series], Rosemary Kirstein (1989)
52 The Third Eagle, RA MacAvoy (1989)
53 *Grass, Sheri S Tepper (1989)
54 Heritage of Flight, Susan Shwartz (1989)
55 Falcon, Emma Bull (1989)
56 The Archivist, Gill Alderman (1989)
57 Winterlong [Winterlong trilogy], Elizabeth Hand (1990)
58 A Gift Upon the Shore, MK Wren (1990)
59 Red Spider, White Web, Misha (1990)
60 Polar City Blues, Katharine Kerr (1990)
61 Body of Glass (AKA He, She and It), Marge Piercy (1991)
62 Sarah Canary, Karen Joy Fowler (1991)
63 Beggars in Spain [Sleepless trilogy], Nancy Kress (1991)
64 A Woman of the Iron People, Eleanor Arnason (1991)
65 Hermetech, Storm Constantine (1991)
66 China Mountain Zhang, Maureen F McHugh (1992)
67 Fools, Pat Cadigan (1992)
68 Correspondence, Sue Thomas (1992)
69 Lost Futures, Lisa Tuttle (1992)
70 Doomsday Book, Connie Willis (1992)
71 Ammonite, Nicola Griffith (1993)
72 The Holder of the World, Bharati Mukherjee (1993)
73 Queen City Jazz, Kathleen Ann Goonan (1994)
74 Happy Policeman, Patricia Anthony (1994)
75 Shadow Man, Melissa Scott (1995)
76 Legacies, Alison Sinclair (1995)
77 Primary Inversion [Skolian Saga], Catherine Asaro (1995)
78 Alien Influences, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (1995)
79 The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell (1996)
80 Memory [Vorkosigan series], Lois McMaster Bujold (1996)
81 Remnant Population, Elizabeth Moon (1996)
82 Looking for the Mahdi, N Lee Wood (1996)
83 An Exchange of Hostages [Jurisdiction series], Susan R Matthews (1997)
84 Fool’s War, Sarah Zettel (1997)
85 Black Wine, Candas Jane Dorsey (1997)
86 Halfway Human, Carolyn Ives Gilman (1998)
87 Vast, Linda Nagata (1998)
88 Hand of Prophecy, Severna Park (1998)
89 Brown Girl in the Ring, Nalo Hopkinson (1998)
90 Dreaming in Smoke, Tricia Sullivan (1999)
91 Ash: A Secret History, Mary Gentle (2000)

I wanted 100 titles, but couldn’t quite manage it. So feel free to suggest books that belong on the list (given the criteria outlined above).

Thanks to Kev McVeigh, Athena Andreadis, John Stevens, and others for suggestions.

EDIT: as I should have realised from the name, Francis Lesley Ashton is apparently not female.

40 thoughts on “The sf mistressworks meme

  1. Pingback: The SF Mistressworks meme | Solar Bridge

  2. Pingback: sf mistressworks meme - Science Fiction Fantasy Chronicles: forums

  3. Pingback: Science fiction mistressworks « It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

  4. Herland is quite fun! And radical for a 1915 work…. I remember really enjoying Where Late the Sweet Birds sand (I think it won the Hugo).

  5. Pingback: Reminder: Speed of Dark « Torque Control

  6. Pingback: Science Fiction Mistressworks – A Son of the Rock -- Jack Deighton

  7. A correction:

    C. L. Moore should obviously be on the list but Jirel is fantasy, not SF. So perhaps Judgment Night and its siblings should go on the list instead.


    Marion Zimmer Bradley — The Heritage of Hastur (people forget that the Darkover series are in fact SF)

    Lisa Tuttle — Lost Futures, Windhaven

    Pamela Sargent — The Shore of Women (she also edited the influential Women of Wonder series)

    Carol Emshwiller — Report to the Men’s Club

    Rebecca Ore — Gaia’s Toys

    Sheila Finch — The Guild of Xenolinguist stories

    MIchaela Roessner — Vanishing Point

    Mary Rosenblum — Water Rites, Chimera

    If you consider Golding’s The Inheritors SF, this should be added to the list:

    Elizabeth Marshall Thomas — The Animal Wife

    • Thanks, Athena. You always find ones you’ve missed after you’ve published the list. I’m getting lots of suggestions from people, so I’ll put together an amended list of 100 in a week or so.

      Having said that, Tuttle is on the list. I thought Jirel of Joiry was like Brackett’s Martian stories – I guess I’ll have to read them. Shouldn’t have forgotten the Sargent, have already been scolded over forgetting Darkover, and Emshwiller I looked up but didn’t know enough about her oeuvre.

  8. I’m about to start Claudia O’Keefe’s Black Snow Days which might be worth listing, and i have heard good things about Rebecca Ore’s Becoming Alien too.

    And i would add Michaela Roessner’s Vanishing Point as a very interesting urban SF/post apocalypse/alternate universe novel.

    • I read the O’Keefe many years ago. I remember it as being somewhat over-written. I’ve also read the Ore – it’s the first of a trilogy, iirc. But it didn’t appeal to me enough to bother with the sequels – although, to be fair, it was a while ago. The Roessner sounds interesting, though.

  9. Great List! And wonderful to see a list like this (with such a great title).
    You make me want to go off and scan my bookshelves, but off the top of my head, I’d also like to see:
    Wilhemna Barid, Crashcourse (forgotten name of series);
    eluki bes shahar, Hellflower trilogy;
    Julie Czerneda A thousand words for Stranger (trade pact series)

  10. Pingback: The Women’s Press science fiction « It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

  11. Suzette Haden Elgin’s Native Tongue and its sequel were OK but… the men in it were portrayed as irredeemably stupid, making me wonder why the women in it were supposed to be downtrodden in the first place. I may have been disappointed by my expectation that the book was going to be about language. It wasn’t.
    Lessing’s Shikasta was turgid stuff. I never bothered with the rest of her SF.
    I prefer Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness to The Dispossessed.

  12. Pingback: Galactic Suburbia 28 « Randomly Yours, Alex

  13. Pingback: Science Fiction Mistresses – A Son of the Rock -- Jack Deighton

  14. Good list.

    Small detail but Grass is also in the Gollancz Masterworks list (#48 in the series).

    — Mark

  15. Pingback: A few notes about the sf mistressworks meme « It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

  16. I would put the brilliant utopian novel The Blazing World (1666) by Margaret Cavendish at n.1 in your list
    It has a parallel world, animal people, and the protagonist marries the emperor and organizes an invasion of England…

  17. I was looking up these books and authors on Wikipedia, for addition to my site, and I found that Francis Leslie Ashton is a man.

    • Um, I can’t remember where I came across Ashton’s name, but it said it was a she. Except, of course, then it would be Frances Lesley… Odd that no one else has spotted that. Thanks.

  18. Pingback: Women writing science fiction | On a Pale Star

  19. Pingback: Wednesday! « Gerry Canavan

  20. Pingback: Helium Boobs, Coconut Cows and Flying Eyes « It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

  21. Pingback: 20 Works Of Feminist SF « Everything Is Nice

  22. Pingback: The sf mistressworks 20th Century list – what’ve you read? « Bibliophage's Buffet

  23. Pingback: Aliette de Bodard » Blog Archive » The mistressworks of SF

  24. What a fantastic list! I will be using it as a suggestion list, I think, given how much I’ve loved most of the books listed that I’ve read.

    I’d include Patricia McKillip’s ‘Fool’s Run’, for the fantastic world-building.

    YMMV, of course.

  25. You may be interested in the reading list of online editions of Pre-1923 Utopias and Science Fiction by Women which I’ve just put up at — Mary Mark Ockerbloom, A Celebration of Women Writers

  26. Pingback: It’s not just the women of sf « It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

  27. Pingback: In Which I Rubbish Literary Sexism and V.S. Naipaul | Barking Book Reviews


  29. Pingback: A Brief and Profane Statement on the Russ Pledge (NSFW) |

  30. Pingback: SF Mistressworks | Worlds Without End Blog

  31. Pingback: The SF Mistresswork list, revised | It Doesn't Have To Be Right...

  32. Pingback: How the Top Ten Classic Science Fiction Books Have Changed Over the Years | Auxiliary Memory

  33. Pingback: The Mistressworks Meme | Lisa Batya Feld

  34. Pingback: Guest Post: From Pulp to New Wave: “Space Episode” (1941), Leslie Perri, “Recruiting Officer” (1955), Alice Eleanor Jones, “When I Was Miss Dow” (1966), Sonya Dorman | Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations

  35. Pingback: Science Fiction Mistresses – A Son of the Rock -- Jack Deighton

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.