Women in Science Fiction Project

Back in February 2014 I did an article about Fantasy for Feminists. Since then, various people I’ve come across have asked about women science fiction authors. Who are they? Where are they? It’s the thing right now (still) to assume that there aren’t a lot of women science fiction authors, that it’s almost completely a male dominated field. This same argument has been going in speculative fiction in general for… well, forever, and the awesome thing is it’s not true. I think it’s time to admit that women are a huge and important presence in science fiction, have been here for the entire life of the genre, and are here to stay. So, for the next few months I’m going to be hunting down, reading, and reviewing some Science Fiction work by women authors to add to the reviews of science fiction by women authors already on the site. We’ll be publishing those reviews on Thursdays. Keep in mind, these are not feminist works. Some will not feature female protagonists, be groundbreaking, or be in any real way discernable from work by male authors. Some will be liberal, progressive, and/or groundbreaking. Some will be none of any of those things. The things they will all share: they will all be books written by a woman, and they will fall into the science fiction genre.

For us here on Speculative Post, the real defining piece that sets sci-fi apart from other spec fic is the use of technology as a major part of the setting and plot of the story. That technology can be a space ship the characters are charting the universe in, it could be the development of a drug that creates super-humans, it could be the development of artificial intelligence. The key thing is that this technology does not exist in that form in the real world; it’s development is being speculated by the author. This technology should either be the central plot point (A.I.’s take over the world!) or it should deeply inform how the plot unfolds (life on a space station does not equate to life on Earth). This means that the science fiction umbrella covers the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, and more. For a detailed description of different science fiction subgenres and how vast the sci-fi umbrella is, check out my article on Science Fiction Subgenres. Sidenote: there are works out there where technology that is not speculated but already exists in the real world is a key point of the plot. These works either fall outside of speculative fiction (nothing is speculated), or, in our opinion, fall into other subgenres of speculative fiction.

I think it’s easy to overlook women in speculative fiction in general just because it’s a text based medium rather than a visual medium like film or even today’s music industry. It’s also easy for a female author to disguise her gender (for a variety of reasons) simply by using a pen name or initials, and not offering an author photograph and avoiding gender nouns in the author bio. It’s also a time honored tradition for women authors to write as men, without ever revealing that they are biologically women. In other words, one has to look for some women authors in order to find them. And that’s not always easy, especially if you’re not a crazy person like me who eats up research projects for breakfast. (The ones that last to lunch and/or dinner are the best.) Now, there are a host of reasons why a female author may want to disguise her gender, but the topics of gender based marketing and assumptions of men as superior scientists are beyond the scope of this project. Right now, I just want to establish that some amazing women write amazing science fiction, and you should read them.

One last note before I leave you to start the reviewing process: there is no doubt in my mind that male writers of science fiction have, on average, enjoyed greater literary success than their female counterparts. Just looking at the list of Hugo Award Winning Books will show you, undeniably, that this is so. Adding in other genre literary awards will not help those statistics. Far more men have won genre awards than women, and when you weed out novels that fall in the speculative fiction categories but outside of science fiction (aka, weed out fantasy), the discrepancy between the genders becomes even more profound. Again, the reasons why that is is beyond the topic of this project. There has been an uptick in recent years of women winning the major genre awards, and winning with science fiction. There has also been an uptick in women openly writing science fiction, and the explosion of independent publishers and self published authors over the past decade has helped to fuel this trend. However, there is also the fact that in general, fantasy is currently out publishing and outselling science fiction, so growth for women writers in this science fiction may be hampered by market factors that have nothing to do with who wrote the book, just that there isn’t much of an audience for it currently based on genre. Of course, part of fixing this is to read science fiction, so, onward to the reviews!

Reviews relevant to this project already on the site:

Undercity by Catherine Asaro

A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin

Archetype by M.D. Waters

Not Easy Being Green by Susy Gage

Janea A. Schimmel

Janea A. Schimmel

Janea is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Speculative Post. She's previously worked on the group Speculative Fiction blog The Ranting Dragon, as well as on her own personal blogs. She's currently enjoying the freedom of writing and editing full time, on The Speculative Post, the illusive novel, and freelance opportunities as she transitions from Lansing, MI to the Chicago area. In her previous life, she worked in an urban public library where she gathered rather too much fodder for stories.

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