Guess what lovely literary ladies?! March is Women’s History Month! To celebrate, Open Road Media is proud to recognize the genre-breaking achievements of early science fiction writing pioneers. Authors such as Octavia E. Butler, Elizabeth Hand, Kate Elliott and others have paved a road for all women writers in what has largely been a male dominated genre.
In honor of their acclaimed science fiction women authors, Open Road has put together an inspiring video where authors speak about being women writers, writing female characters, breakthroughs and accomplishments along the way, and the women role models to whom they look up to. CLICK HERE to check it out!
Sarah Zettel, one of the honored sci-fi authors with Open Road Media, has been kind enough to share her illuminating article 13 Reasons to Read Sci-Fi by Women here on Domestic Geek Girl! Like her writing? Be sure to stop by her blog and let her know! Also, click here to learn more about Women’s History Month at Open Road Media!
13 Reasons to Read Sci-Fi by Women
It was supposed to be Ten Reasons.
I tried. I really did. I just couldn’t get the list that short.
Actually, I have mixed feelings about these lists. I don’t believe there’s any good reason for science fiction (or anything) created by women to be treated differently than sci-fi by men. If a book (or movie, or short story, or comic, whatever) is good, then it’s good. If it’s not, it’s not.
The identity of the author shouldn’t matter, and if it wasn’t for the people who keep saying “I don’t read books by women,” or “women don’t write (or read) science fiction,” it might not.
And do not get me started on that whole “fake geek girls” riff.
Sci-fi as we know it has been written around the world for at least two hundred years. So much of it is created by women that narrowing the list down to ten (or thirteen) titles was a challenge I was never going to be able to handle alone. So, I reached out across the Internet for answers, especially into the places where I knew I’d find authors, editors, readers, and my fellow geeks.
Here’s what the Internet said back. Keep in mind, this is not a complete list. In fact, this is barely the beginning.
1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. We’re beginning at the beginning. This is widely acknowledged as the first sci-fi novel, and it’s a story that has been embedded in pop culture for two hundred years.
2. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Written in the 1930s, this is a hilarious send-up of English pastoral and gothic novels, and worth reading for that alone. It is also, very definitely but subtly, science fiction.
3. Northwest Smith by C. L. Moore. This is actually an anthology. Moore was one of the most prolific writers of sci-fi’s pulp days back in the 1930 and ’40s. If you liked Joss Whedon’s cult hit Firefly, or Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, you’ll like Northwest Smith. “Shambleau” remains one of the world’s ickiest vampire stories.
4. The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold. Sci-fi adventure that skillfully blends action, humor, and romance. If this list were arranged by number of Internet votes, Bujold would have been duking it out with Butler, Shelley, and Le Guin for top slot.
5. The Female Man by Joanna Russ. Writingduring what was called the “new wave” period of SF which rode the social changes of the 1960s and ’70s, Joanna Russ was one of the most dangerous, and challenging of women sci-fi authors. This is a direct challenge to gender roles and perceptions wrapped in Russ’s smooth prose.
6. A Thousand Words for Stranger by Julie Czerneda. Czerneda is fun. Her work has scope, excitement, brilliance and engaging characters.
7. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This book is a well-thought-out, beautifully crafted nightmare. I quote it regularly.
8. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I was given this book by my mother and I read it to my son. It not only holds up, it remains exciting, illuminating, and scary.
9. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Not only is this a good story, it’s a powerful reason for the renaissance happening in sci-fi right now, especially on the YA shelves.
10. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. Butler was (and is) a hugely influential African American author with a brilliant writing style and an unrivalled ability to imagine the way her futures (and her pasts) shaped the lives of her characters. Sower is what I’d call a slow-dystopia novel. Civilization has collapsed, is collapsing, but it is also being reimagined and rebuilt.
11. Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa. This isn’t a novel, it’s a manga, and an anime series (actually, several anime series plus video games). It’s also some of the best, most engaging sci-fi you’re ever going to read.
12. The Empire Strikes Back by Leigh Brackett. Obviously not a novel. But, it is widely considered the best of the movies to date, and the brain behind much of that brilliance was the veteran female SF author and scriptwriter.
13. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin. I could have filled this list exclusively with Le Guin titles. I’m going with this one, because it’s a book I give to people who think they don’t like sci-fi. It’s the story of a man whose dreams shape reality, and the psychiatrist who figures that out.
Some honorable mentions: Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm, Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre, Shattered by Robin Wasserman, Finity’s End by C. J. Cherryh, The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon), Grass by Sheri Tepper, Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress, The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell, Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.
Sarah Zettel is an award-winning author of science fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery, and young adult novels. She has never met a genre she doesn’t like. She has won critical acclaim for her mysteries, young adult and historical books. She currently lives and writes in an unpronounceable town in Michigan, with where she keeps a husband, a son, and a cat named Buffy the Vermin Slayer. Click here to check out her blog!
Are there any sci-fi novels by women that Sarah missed? What’s YOUR favorite novel written by the fairer sex? Comment below!