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!)

Comments
by on ‎07-22-2009 11:08 AM

Great article but don't forget Mercedes Lackey, Melanie Rawn, Margaret Weis, Kate Elliot, and Jennifer Fallon

by Sensitivemuse on ‎07-22-2009 11:37 AM
I love Mercedes Lackey, Margaret Weis, oh and Robin Hobb, and Andre Norton. There are a great number of female fantasy/sci fi authors. The only thing I don't like is some of them mix in romance in where it's not even necessary. Wish they would stop that....
by Blogger Albert_Rolls on ‎07-22-2009 01:11 PM
All historians are armchair-ish; it's not like there is a field beyond the library, as in archeology or anthropology, to go out into. Why don't you write a proposal to do a history of the science-fiction/fantasy genre and shop it around. You might get lucky; there has to be a market for such a book.
by Moderator becke_davis on ‎07-22-2009 02:21 PM
I read A Wrinkle in Time when I was young, and loved it. I didn't realize it was part of a trilogy until I was an adult. The others -- A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet -- aren't as brilliant as the first, but they are well worth a read.
by on ‎07-22-2009 05:04 PM

Since we are talking about female authors I would add Julie E. Czerneda, Katherine Kurtz, Sharon Lee and Diana L. Paxson to the list.  I'm really looking forward to reading Ice Song next month.  Another great article Paul.  YOu always give me something new to think about.

 

Toni

by NativeTexan on ‎07-23-2009 09:56 AM
This is a great article! As a female science fiction author, I'd love for my name to be added to the list! Check out my first and recently released novel, Long Journey to Rneadal. This exciting tale is a romantic action adventure in space and is more about the characters than the technology.
by DSaff on ‎07-23-2009 01:21 PM
Nice article. You named some authors I love and some I have yet to read. Thanks for the new list. <grin>
by on ‎07-24-2009 06:20 PM
Madeleine L’Engle, Ursula K. Le Guin and Anne McCaffrey are excellent sci-fi writers. Good idea to write an article that debunks the male theory for sci-fi. As a sci-fi reader for as long as I can remember and a female, I am glad to see this type of article. You pointed out several authors I need to add to my pile. Keep up your articles for Unabashedly Bookish.
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