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October 15th, 2010

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12:35 pm - SF by women
There's been an interesting series of posts at Torque Control about women and SF, with spinoffs on other blogs.

Here is a place to start

Niall asked people to pick their top ten SF stories by women of the past decade.
I invite you all to email me your top ten sf novels by women from the last ten years (2001–2010), before 23.59 on Sunday 5 December. Again, science fiction, although I leave it up to your conscience to decide which, if any, books that excludes... The books can have been published anywhere. I’ll collate all the votes, and announce an overall top ten.
I tried this and came unstuck.

In the 1980s almost all the SF I read was by women, perhaps because a lot of what was written by men seemed to exclude or belittle me. But over the nineties I think SF by men became more inclusive to female readers but perhaps the overall industry became less welcoming to female writers. In the 2000s I have read very little SF by women. I think it's a real problem.

I think the only two outstanding SF novels I have read by women written in this decade, are
The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
I have read some other outstanding non-realist novels by women, which would jostle for a place in any top ten of the decade, regardless of genre or gender. But unfortunately I would not call them SF. They are:
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link (this is a novella, but I think it's wonderful)
In Great Waters by Kit Whitfield
Lavinia by Ursula le Guin (and the Gifts trilogy which I think goes with it conceptually)
Darkmans by Nicola Barker
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Am I guilty of classifying these as 'not SF' because of the gender of the author? Possibly, but I feel that calling any of these SF would be a real stretch.

There is a post about replies to this question on Torque Control.

I think I must read something by Liz Williams.

(7 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:October 15th, 2010 02:07 pm (UTC)
You can still vote for just those two, if you want. In fact, please do. :-)
[User Picture]
Date:October 15th, 2010 02:14 pm (UTC)
Ok, I felt it was a bit weak to just have two
[User Picture]
Date:October 15th, 2010 02:30 pm (UTC)
For me it's like any other popular vote: individual voters are not expected to have comprehensive knowledge, the aim is to achieve something like comprehensiveness through the collation of many individual perspectives. A poll where a hundred people nominate two books each is going to be more interesting than a poll where ten people nominate ten books each.
[User Picture]
Date:October 15th, 2010 08:44 pm (UTC)
There is some imagery in Oryx and Crake that will stay with me forever. Seriously haunting dystopia there.
[User Picture]
Date:October 17th, 2010 04:16 pm (UTC)
Yes, it's sort of clumsy in some of its science I think, but it stuck with me after I read it while other books just fade away
[User Picture]
Date:October 16th, 2010 08:34 pm (UTC)
I've never managed to get through Oryx and Crake, I keep picking it up again and then not getting into it. Ihave no idea why, as I love some of her other works.

I think I must read something by Liz Williams.

I thought that awhileback. There are those that like Winterstrike, which is the book I tried. Exact same problem as Oryx and Crake, so it went back to the library unfinished.

I would actually call Strange and Norrell SF, if we give it the broader definition that's used for most awards. But I do wonder if part of the problem is that a lot of female writers who are excellent, like Link, are writing urban fantasy (or whatever it's being called this week) instead of stuff that we tend to think of as SF.
[User Picture]
Date:October 17th, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
The women whose writing I like best do seem to write fantasy, and I don't even read much fantasy. I think perhaps women are more alienated from the world as it is.

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