Meme: women in SF

The Rules of the Game (as teefed from Aliette de Bodard’s blog) Are:

Bold the women by whom you own books
Italicize those by whom you’ve read something of (short stories count).
*Star those you don’t recognize
Unmarked are those whose work you have not read

(And I’ve got some comments on the original list at the end, which may be of more interest than the list itself…)

Joan Aiken*
Patricia Anthony
Eleanor Arnason
Catherine Asaro
Ellen Asher*
Margaret Atwood
Camille Bacon-Smith*
Kage Baker
Elizabeth Bear
Anne Bishop*
K. J. Bishop*
Leigh Brackett
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Lois McMaster Bujold
Emma Bull
Octavia E. Butler
Pat Cadigan
Rachel Caine*
Jayge Carr *
Angela Carter
Jeanne Cavelos*
Karen Chance *
Joy Chant*
Suzy McKee Charnas
C. J. Cherryh
Susanna Clark
Nancy A. Collins
Storm Constantine
Louise Cooper*
Susan Cooper*
Joan Cox *
Kathyrn Cramer
Ellen Datlow
Aliette de Bodard
Debra Doyle*
Tananarive Due
Rosemary Edghill/Eluki bes shahar*
Kate Elliott*
Carol Emshwiller
Jane S. Fancher*
Sheila Finch*
Karen Joy Fowler
Esther Friesner*
Mary Gentle
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Laura Anne Gilman
Lisa Goldstein*
Kathleen Ann Goonan
Theodora Goss
Nicola Griffith
Eileen Gunn
Barbara Hambly
Elizabeth Hand
Charlaine Harris*
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Zenna Henderson*
Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Nancy Holder
Nalo Hopkinson
Tanya Huff
N.K. Jemisin
Alaya Dawn Johnson
Kij Johnson
Diana Wynne Jones
Gwyneth Jones
J.V. Jones
Leigh Kennedy*
Caitlin Kiernan
Rosemary Kirstein*
Ellen Klages
Mary Robinette Kowal
Nancy Kress
Katherine Kurtz
Ellen Kushner
Larissa Lai
Madeline L’Engle
Margo Lanagan
Deborah Layne*
Sharon Lee*
Tanith Lee
Ursula Le Guin
Anna Leonard*
Doris Lessing
Kelly Link
Jane Linskold
Karin Lowachee
Elizabeth A. Lynn
Katherine MacLean*
Ardath Mayhar*
Anne McCaffrey (yes, really; a short story at least, maybe half a novel, ages ago…)
Shawna McCarthy
Maureen McHugh
Vonda N. McIntyre
Patricia A. McKillip
R. M. Meluch*
Farah Mendlesohn
Judith Merril
Stephenie Meyer
Barbara Michaels*
Laura Mixon*
Judith Moffett*
Mary Anne Mohanraj
Elizabeth Moon
C. L. Moore
Cheryl Morgan*
C. E. Murphy*
Pat Murphy
Edith Nesbit (E. A. Nesbit)
Andre Norton
Naomi Novik
Nnedi Okorafor
Rebecca Ore
Marge Piercy
Rachel Pollack
Cherie Priest
Marta Randall*
Kit Reed
Laura Resnick
Ann[e] Rice
M. Rickert
Justina Robson
Michaela Roessner*
J. K. Rowling
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Joanna Russ
Mary Doria Russell
Jessica Amanda Salmonson*
Pamela Sargent
Elizabeth Ann Scarborough*
Melissa Scott*
Ekaterina Sedia
Nisi Shawl
Mary [Wollstonecraft-] Shelley
Delia Sherman
Sharon Shinn
Vandana Singh
Joan Slonczewski
Kristine Smith*
Sherwood Smith*
Wen Spencer*
Nancy Springer*
Margaret St. Clair*
Caroline Stevermer
Mary Stewart*
Judith Tarr
Sheri S.Tepper (I’m assuming attempting and not finishing counts.)
Amy Thomson*
James Tiptree, Jr.
Mary Turzillo
Lisa Tuttle
Catherynne M. Valente
Ann VanderMeer
S. L. Viehl*
Joan D. Vinge
Elisabeth Vonarbourg
Evangeline Walton*
Jo Walton
Martha Wells*
Kate Wilhelm
Sheila Williams
Connie Willis
Terri Windling
Patricia C. Wrede
Patricia Wrightson
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Jane Yolen
Sarah Zettel


  1. This list uses SF to mean “speculative fiction”; unfortunately, my reading not much fantasy cuts some of these writers out of my list for reasons more related to genre than gender.
  2. I’ve added a number of authors to the list. Since it’s alphabetical, I’ll mention here who they are: Patricia Anthony (one of my favorites, and I’m mortified she was left off the list!), Nancy A. Collins, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, N.K. Jemisin, Alaya Dawn Johnson, J.V. Jones, Karin Lowachee, Larissa Lai, Doris Lessing, Nnedi Okorafor, Marge Piercy, Mary Wollstonecraft-Shelley, Vandana Singh, Joan Slonczewski, Elisabeth Vonarbourg, Patricia Wrightson, Sarah Zettel, and of course Aliette de Bodard herself.
  3. About the nature of those omissions: A number of those authors aren’t American but Canadian, which is worth noting — it suggests a number of other female SF authors who have also been left out, about whom I’ve not heard. Of course, one could say that this is an exercise in promoting the work of women who are writing today, but then why C.L. Moore and Tiptree? And how could anyone omit Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, a text many argue kicked off modern SF?!? I found some of the exclusions from this list quite surprising, frustrating, or both.
  4. On that note: this is definitely slanted towards people who produce novels, meaning it excludes people who’ve thus far focused on shorter fiction. Were it designed to raise consciousness about female SF writers in general, not just novelists, I’d be adding a whole lot more names, and not just my classmates of mine from Clarion West like Tina Connolly, Maura McHugh, or Caroline Yoachim, but also plenty of other authors like K. Tempest Bradford, Elaine Chen, Eugie Foster, Yoon-Ha Lee, Holly Phillips, Rachel Swirsky, Shweta Narayan, Catherynne M. Valente… the list could go on and on. By these standards, an equivalent list of male authors would have emitted the likes of Ted Chiang until 2002. Which, make no mistake, I am suggesting is a problematic conception of how to raise consciousness about quality SF work being written by women.
  5. I’m assuming having read editors’ works as editors (Ellen Datlow, Tananarive Due — whose name, sadly or perhaps revealingly, was misspelled in the original list — and Sheila Williams) count; I’m also assuming nonfiction counts, as the one book by Nisi Shawl I happen to own is a nonfiction book on writing she coauthored.
  6. I own much more than I’ve read, obviuously — which is true for male writers as well as female. I’ve read more than I expected. There’s a few here who are high on friend’s lists — I just discovered my friend Soyeon is a huge Catherine Asaro reader, and I’ll wager a few friends will, eventually, hassle me to actually read Karen Joy Fowler. (Note that the way I’ve marked this up, owning a book — the bold marking — is different from reading it — the italic.)

4 thoughts on “Meme: women in SF

  1. You don’t recognize Joan Aiken? Huh, I thought she was standard reading for everyone, although she may be more of a YA author in the same way as Madeline L’Engel or Jane Yolen.

    I’m glad you added in Patricia Anthony. She’s quite good, as long as you don’t mind being miserable for days afterward.

    …Kage Baker is a girl? My goodness.

  2. Josh,

    Yup, never read Aiken. I think I missed a bunch of YA stuff.

    And yeah, Patricia Anthony. I’ve only read a few things — Brother Termite, and argh, something else. Maybe Cold Allies? I remember reading Brother Termite aloud to my girlfriend at the time (as an experiment, as we were listening to audiobooks at the time, and I was just rediscovering SF) and being blown away at how sad, moving, beautiful, and strange it was all at the same time… for a story about an alien invasion by the Greys, no less. It’s a shame she’s sort of stopped writing, though, well, maybe she quit while she was way, way ahead, and the number of books she published is pretty respectable.

    I recently ordered a bunch of her books on Abebooks, resolving to read them all. I will need to make time, but it’s worth it. The first I’ll try, I think, is Cradle of Splendor right after I read Ian McDonald’s book set in Brazil. Feel like contrasting the two Brazils.

    I’ve never read Kage Baker, but yeah… is that surprising? (I’m guessing those Corporation books are as harsh as I supposed?)

  3. On point 3, it’s hard to discuss the history of SF without CL Moore and James Tiptree Jr. Their footprints are that big. It would be hypocritical to discuss the role of women in SF, or even SF in general, without including these two.

  4. Junsok,

    Oh, I agree. I think the same is true of Mary Shelley, though.

    And really, my main point is, there’s other kinds of self-contradiction in this list in other ways. It presents as consciousness-raising but (a) focuses on current American authors, (b) misspells one of the few “ethnic” names included, and leaves out other major female SF authors from history. Some of the authors I mentioned are newer, but Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Lessing, and Piercy are also considered notable in the history of SF, and especially the history of SF by women. And as far as I know, Patricia Anthony was a pretty big deal in her time… a few serious nominations, and I honestly think her stuff (what I’ve read, which isn’t much but I have the rest on the way…) is really good.

    (I’m actually kinda sad she’s not publishing anymore, though she did finish a novel not long ago, so who knows?)

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