Women Writers of SF and Fantasy

At the very outset,  in the Guardian makes the case for Mary Shelley and Margaret Atwood to be considered Science Fiction writers in  Dystopian dreams: how feminist science fiction predicted the future.

Would Mary Shelley have recognised Science Fiction? Some in the genre (eg Aldiss) have made the case for appropriating her Frankenstein. Margaret Atwood has made clear she doesn’t consider herself a Science Fiction writer; she’s appropriated some of the garb, that’s all. Obsessions with sex plus nihilism and added miserablism really are tedious fare. Doris Lessing made a far better job of appropriation but then her Canopus in Argos had added Sufi influence.
For a long time there weren’t enough women writing in the genre. My collection includes a good deal by Andre Norton —not a feminist, for baggage she brought her American Indian heritage to bear; and CJ Cherryh —also not a feminist, she just did loads of good SF. Both were prolific and covered the genre from different angles.

I’ve collected everything I can by Ursula Le Guin and still have a high regard for her creations. Elements of Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni cycle prefigure Game of Thrones (just don’t go looking for gratuitous sex & violence). There’s too little by Zenna Henderson (sadly overlooked). Perhaps Joanna Russ had a lot to say but I found her shouty.

Going back a little, Leigh Brackett struck me as a slightly superior Edgar Rice Burroughs. The problem with ERB was he reworked old material (if he’s the original formulaic fiction writer, he’s got a lot to answer for). My Leigh Brackett collection is mostly Ace books from the 60s. It includes
The Secret of Sinharat / People of the Talisman (an Ace double)
The Planet Savers / The Sword of Aldones (another Ace double)
The Sword of Rhiannon
The Coming of the Terrans
The Big Jump
The Ginger Star

I enjoyed Evangeline Walton’s reworking of the Mabingonion (The Children of Llyr, The Island of the Mighty, The Song of Rhiannon, Prince of Annwn). There’s a tendency for publishers to typecast their authors which is a real shame. New Wave Science Fiction should have sorted that out but it seems the accountants have taken control (I’m an accountant and mostly what I see is writers treated like machines – but that’s a different tale).

That’s missing out many others including Jane Gaskell, Marion Campbell (I was mesmerised by her Dark Twin) James Tiptree Jr, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Louise Cooper, Leigh Eddings (who cowrote with David Eddings), Mary Gentle (savage and bleak), Tanith Lee. Anne McCaffrey…

Feminism has a point but it isn’t all. Science Fiction is 🙂

Might scan some paperback covers later and doll this post up (I can hear the abuse already).


Writing isn’t just about the final form, or offering a well machined product that delivers precise dollops of enjoyment; it’s also about exploration and change. Agitprop (or agitpop 🙂 ) can suffer from the energy of the participants which makes it hard to see the art.

Rarely, some sublimate themselves and their work to the up and coming authors. Andre Norton achieved this by abandoning her space creations to develop Witch World, a series that ran to many books. In Tales of the Witch World, authors such as Robert Bloch, Elizabeth Scarborough, A. C. Crispin, Ardath Mayhar, and Robert E. Vardeman (from vol. 1) contributed to the world. Andre Norton was never highly regarded by the critics which pushes her contribution — an American Indian world view, a reflection of her heritage — under the radar.



About Terence Park

Board games, US Comic books, SF Paperbacks, Vinyl records; I've plenty of them all. I write SF (the serious sort). I also do spreadsheets.
This entry was posted in General and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s