Just the other day someone told me, with a great deal of authority in his voice, that there just aren’t very many good science fiction writers who are women. I can’t imagine the look that passed across my face while I tried to take in the absurdity of that statement.
While it may be true that women writing science fiction are less well known than their male counterparts, and their titles are harder to find in bookstores, there are plenty of them out there, and they are writing smart, fun, and challenging sci-fi.
So how do you go about finding all of these great women sci-fi writers? There are a few reliable web resources, like the Feminist SF wiki, which not only provides an A-Z list of women writers, but also allows browsing by theme, characters, or format. The website for the Tiptree award, which annually honors titles that explore or expand the concept of gender, is also a good place to find contemporary SF by women. And Gwyneth Jones, a science fiction writer and critic, has a great top 10 list if you’re looking for a quick starting place.
If you’re not sure what the big deal is or just want to know a little bit more about the gender bias in science fiction publishing, Susan Elizabeth Lyons has a great essay on the topic: Women Writing Science Fiction: Some Voices from the Trenches.
So where to start reading? You might want to go back to the very birth of SF with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Yes, it was written in the early 19th century, but it still holds up as a thrilling and creepy exploration of human invention gone terribly awry.
Two personal favorites are Ursula Le Guin and Octavia Butler. From Le Guin, you’ll find The Left Hand of Darkness on the shelf–an other world tale of gender shifting, civil rebellion, and individual transformation.
We have a few books by Butler, and I recommend any of them, especially Kindred, a time travel story about a contemporary black woman who is forced into the past to protect her slave owning ancestor, and Seed to Harvest, a collection of Butler’s Patternist series, which explores power dynamics among a genetically superior race.
If you’re looking for something super fun to give you a quick break from studying, I recommend the Hunger Games Trilogy–The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay–by Suzanne Collins. For a great review, take a look at Kristina’s recent blog post about them.