Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Beyond The Green-skinned Slave Girls

I've never considered my nerd status to be particularly odd. I grew up in the eighties. We really were, sadly, the last generation to witness major space exploration.
But a quick glance at my library shows that, much like the corporate world, science fiction has been the domain of mostly men, and that hasn't changed much in the current century. And while there haven't been as many women writers in the genre, there have been a few who stand out. Below are a few who I hold in high regard:
Andre Norton
Of the names on this list, hers is probably the most recognisable, considering there is now an award named for her. She was born Alice Norton in 1912 and wrote under several masculine pen names, Andre Norton being the most recognized, because... duh, science fiction is for dudes! I'll freely admit that I'd probably read at least 10 of her books before I noticed the words 'her' and 'she' in the about the author pages. Norton's works span all genres of sci-fi, from fantasy to speculative fiction, as well as hard science space epics. I am most familiar with her space epic work. Her official site hasn't been updated in years, but for an introduction to her works, the  Baen Free Library has a couple of books available in many e-reader formats.
Anne McCaffrey
Probably best known for her Dragons of Pern fantasy series, McCaffrey also delved into science fiction from time to time, resulting in one of the most powerfully moving books I have ever read (more on that in my next post, get your tissues ready). I'm talking about the Brainship series. Not the first, but one of the more interesting takes on cybernetics. All but the first book in the series, The Ship Who Sang, were coauthored so finding them by author name alone can be difficult. Sadly, my search for a comprehensive list turned up a number of torrent sites. Please don't get your books from torrent sites, it's just plain tacky and you could get a virus. But once again, Baen comes to the rescue.
Octavia Butler
Oh my goodness, I could spend days preaching the gospel of Butler Worship. The saddest part of this entry is that, were it not for an African-American lit class back in college, I might never have heard of Octavia Butler and that is just criminal. Butler epitomizes the socio-political undertones that play a heavy hand in sci-fi. Race, xenophobia, gender roles, environmental awareness, class, she tackles them all both subtly and blatantly. And she writes some of the most uncomfortable situations I've had the pleasure of reading. There is an art to the way she presents despicable characters that seems to be lacking in today's horror/sci-fi sub-genres. I credit Butler as one of the greatest inspirations for my own choice to write sci-fi because she proved it can be more than just space epics.
Of course, there are a few other women of sci-fi that have inspired me, and there is an ever growing number of women joining the field now that e-books have enabled us. But if I were to list them all, this post would never end, so I'll likely do a followup at some point in the future. After all, I am a science fiction nerd girl. :)

3 comments:

  1. Your posts keep educating me more each day. Never knew these women existed. ps. Andre?
    was that a nod?
    pattielynn

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    1. Actually, it was not. Andre's name was originally Jason. I thought it was only fair to allow Jason to pick the new name. I told him it had to be vaguely French so he chose Andre.

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  2. I know this is quite late, but I always think of James Tiptree (Alias Alice Sheldon).
    She wrote a number of science fiction stories about gender. She kept up the ruse for years, even referring to herself as "him" in letters.
    She was actually married to CIA official (she met him when she was in the CIA) and they died in a depressing/romantic way.

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