The first full week of guest posts opens with science fiction and fantasy author Brenda Cooper! Her most recent novel is Edge of Dark, the first book in a new science fiction series. She is also the author of the Ruby’s Song duology beginning with The Creative Fire, the books in The Silver Ship series starting with the Endeavour Award-winning novel The Silver Ship and the Sea, Mayan December, Building Harlequin’s Moon (co-written with Larry Niven), and several short stories (many of which have been included in Year’s Best anthologies).
Women Kick Science Fictional Ass
Recently, I was sitting at dinner with a friend who was planning a science fiction event with a famous male writer. He had learned that a female writer had been invited to join. This dismayed him. After some poking and prodding, it turned out that he had never read any of her work (and I’m referring to a multiple award-winning writer). To me, they were both equally famous, both excellent writers, and both had won similar awards. But to my friend, only one of them even really seemed to exist. And this is a good friend, a man I’ve known and enjoyed lunches with for over twenty years. He isn’t ill-intentioned.
There have been recent challenges asking people not to read white male science fiction writers for a year. I won’t do that. If both of the writers mentioned above had a novel come out this year, I would read both novels. Some of my favorite writers are white males. Others are other genders and come from a variety of backgrounds.
But for the sake of the people who may have been reading exclusively white male writers, I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about some of my favorite women science fiction writers. I’m only going to have room to talk about a few in depth, but I’ll end with a long list, and even that list won’t be complete. There’s actually a LOT of women writing science fiction right now.
Let’s start with a recent discovery of mine (and of many other people): Ann Leckie. The first book in her Imperial Radch series, Ancillary Justice, pretty much swept the awards last year. Her ideas are good solid far-future sense of wonder SF, and while I was reading Ancillary Justice I experienced that same awe that books like Rendezvous with Rama engendered. The morning I finished her book, I sat down with a cup of coffee in my left hand, and I turned the pages on my Kindle with my right hand. When I finished, I had a full cup of ice-cold coffee leftover. I wanted to mention Ann even though I don’t know her, since anyone who hasn’t heard of her hasn’t been paying attention.
I picked the next three writers because I love their work, and I also value their significant contributions to the genre and/or the larger social conversation.
Madeline Ashby’s Vn series about sentient robots is fabulous; and I’m quite looking forward to her novel Company Town. In addition to being an excellent fiction writer, Madeline is a working (and excellent) futurist. In fact, I caught my first sight of her online when I was looking for women futurists rather then writers. That led me to her books, which I have enjoyed very much. We shared a table of contents recently, in Kathryn Cramer and Ed Finn’s anthology Hieroglyph. Her story, “By the Time We Get to Arizona,” is a fabulous take on a future pathway for immigration.
I discovered multiple Hugo and Nebula winning writer Nancy Kress through her bestselling novel Beggars in Spain. I used to haunt Elliot Bay Books (way back when it was in Pioneer Square in Seattle) looking for new Nancy Kress books. This was before I had published a single story. Now she and I are both physical and Facebook friends, and have dinner together and see movies from time to time. My early fascination with Nancy’s work was because she writes about genetics and about the affects of technologies on real people. I keep enjoying her work because her characters are real and her worlds are plausible. She’s a fabulous short story writer, and a writer of excellent books about writing. She has a novella, Yesterday’s Kin, on this year’s Nebula ballot.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch once edited Fantasy and Science Fiction. She is still a publisher and editor working with her husband Dean Wesley Smith on the original anthology series “Fiction River.” I’ve studied with them in the past. Kris is one of the best writing craft teachers I’ve ever worked with. I love her novels (the Diving series is my favorite) and her short work is absolutely fabulous. I always look forward to new stories from her, and they often appear in Asimov’s. Kris also writes thoughtful non-fiction blogs and books about the writing business. She pretty much understands this business in more depth than anyone else I know.
Other female writers with science fiction stories and novels that I’ve read and enjoyed (in no particular order) include Ursula Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Aliette de Bodard, Mary Robinette Kowal, Lois McMaster Bujold, Cat Rambo, Margaret Atwood, Kate Wilhelm, Mary A. Turzillo, Mary Rosenblum, Nisi Shawl, Louise Marley, Kay Kenyon, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Laura Anne Gilman, Kij Johnson, Jennifer Linnaea, Linda Nagata, Fran Van Cleave, Tananarive Due, Brenda Carr, Jennifer Brozek, Eleanor Arneson, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Nicola Griffith, Rachel Swirsky, Sarah A. Hoyt, Kelley Eskridge, Connie Willis, Eileen Gunn, Catherine Asaro, Melissa Shaw, Sandra McDonald, Elizabeth Bear, C. J. Cherryh, Anne McCaffrey, Charlie Jane Anders, Vandana Singh….I could go on. I’ll think of more. And the list I haven’t read yet might be twice as long. There is a whole universe of fabulous science fiction writing by women. With any luck, my good friend from above will see this story and pick up at least one writer he hasn’t read. And so will others…
Brenda Cooper writes science fiction, fantasy, poetry, and non-fiction. Her most recent novel is Edge of Dark, from Pyr books. To learn more about Brenda, visit her at www.brenda-cooper.com.