There’s a relatively widespread preconception (among admitted nonreaders, I’ve found) that fantasy and particularly science fiction are “male” genres – with testosterone-fueled storylines written predominantly by men and aimed at readers with XY chromosomes. This blog is my humble attempt to debunk that absurd notion.
Growing up in the late ‘60’s and ‘70’s, I became a lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy in elementary school – and some of my most influential reads came from female writers: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet; Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore); Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight; and C.J. Cherryh’s Faded Sun novels (Kesrith, Shon'jir, and Kutath), to name just a few.
And over the last few decades, the list of innovative and extraordinarily talented female fantasy and science fiction authors has increased tenfold – writers like Victoria Strauss, Louise Marley, Jacqueline Carey, Kit Reed, Elizabeth Moon, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Karen Michalson, Juliet Marillier, Jane Yolen, Kim Harrison, Ekaterina Sedia, Cherie Priest, Stacia Kane, Catherine Asaro and Adrian Phoenix have continued to inject both science fiction and fantasy with strong and original female voices.
And while we’re on the topic, here’s another name for you: Kirsten Imani Kasai, author of the recently released novel Ice Song. Those looking for a powerful and provocative female voice in their fantasy reading fare should definitely pick up this stellar debut, which is set largely in the frozen wastelands of the Sigue. The story revolves around protagonist Sorykah Minuit, a rare human “Trader” who can switch sexual genders at will. After Sorykah’s twin infants are abducted by a reclusive madman who wants to use them for nightmarish scientific experiments, she sets off on a desperate quest to find her children and avenge them – and inadvertently begins a breathtaking journey of self-discovery. A deeply lyrical and sublimely haunting narrative powers this intriguing fusion of science fiction, fantasy and subtle social commentary.
Here’s just a sampling of Kasai’s addictively readable, melancholic writing style: “Afternoon light the color of apricots glistened atop the water; heat splayed against an icy sky. Soon, the color would fade and night emerge, liquid indigo turning the snow to charcoal. Southern sunsets lingered for hours. Siguelanders said the sun bled to death each night; this dazzling show repeated the story of Sun’s grisly murder by his lover Moon, who stabbed him while he slept, jealous of his affection for a mortal woman…”
As a dedicated follower of science fiction and fantasy – a.k.a. armchair genre fiction historian – I’ll be the first to kneel down and honor the hundreds of female writers who have entertained and enlightened me over the years. Because of their collective work, I feel as though I truly have gained invaluable insights into not only what it means to be a man or a woman but, above all else, what it means to be human.
Thank you all – from Madeleine L'Engle and Ursula K. Le Guin to Kirsten Imani Kasai! (And thank God science fiction and fantasy aren't "male" genres!)