Saturday 4 June 2011

The Russ Pledge: favourite science fiction by women

(Blog response to Nicola Griffiths: Taking the Russ Pledge.)

I've occasionally felt the need to answer the question, "Who are your favourite authors?" or "What are your favourite science/speculative fiction novels/stories?" I don't have a record of having answered this recently, but my impression is that a large proportion of my responses are women authors or books/stories authored by women. Here is my answer today, focusing (as per the Russ Pledge) on women who write scifi and speculative fiction (focusing a little more on science fiction than fantasy, but not shying away from the gray area between).

In no particular order (and with no claim to completeness):

  • Octavia Butler's Fledgling (a vampire novel, but definitely shows a scifi mentality); 'Speech Sounds' is one of the best short stories about what it means to be human that I have ever read
  • Nancy Kress, Beggars in Spain is a thrillingly creative social-sf novel, and stories like 'Inertia' are an unflinching look at biological engineering and how humans adapt
  • Ekaterina Sedia's wonderful The Alchemy of Stone is probably considered fantasy, but it's really steampunk science fiction with an emphasis on human (and created) expertise and craftsmanship
  • Tananarive Due: 'Like Daughter' (in the Dark Matter anthology) is a particularly heartbreaking story about cloning and the confusion between genetic and personal identity
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels (one of my earliest introductions to overtly strong women and alternative sexualities in future-of-humanity science fiction)
  • Nisi Shawl: the stories in Filter House reinvented my idea of what speculative fiction should be (and do)
  • Ursula Le Guin's Rocannon's World, Planet of Exile, City of Illusion etc.: powerful exploration of human settlements in an alien future and the real implications of science fictional technologies
  • Roz Kaveney's short fiction, especially 'A Wolf to Man'
  • Nalo Hopkinson: can anyone remind me the title of a short story I now can't find about a man and a woman who wear suits that allow them to feel each other's experiences and have sex?
  • Joanna Russ, The Female Man, How to Suppress Women's Writing
  • Julie Czerneda, Survival (haven't read the rest of the trilogy yet)
  • Jennifer Maria Brissett, 'Nasmina's Black Box' (again, might look like fantasy, but a story about human creation--and destruction--and full of gadgets and dreams)
  • Suzette Elgin, Native Tongue (real hard social-science fiction, with linguistics as the science)
  • Vandana Singh: speculative fiction that avoids most of the Anglo-american clichés and boundaries of the genre
  • Elizabeth Vonarburg, Chroniques du Pays des Mères, and the short story 'L'oiseau de cendres'; powerfully imagined, unromantic stuff
  • Mary Rosenblum, 'Search Engine' (low-life cyberpunk political thriller)
  • Therese Arkenberg, 'Drown or Die' (when we terraform another world, do we change it or ourselves?)