Women in SF&F Month Banner

Women in SF&F Month is almost at an end, although it is going to continue into the first week of May. The final guests will end on May 2nd and there were a few more things I wanted to cover before declaring the event officially over as well.

Once again, I just wanted to link to what happened last week, any related links I noticed, and announce the final guests!

Week In Review

Here’s what last week’s guests talked about:

Thank you to all of this week’s guests for taking the time to share their thoughts and recommendations!

This week there is also another giveaway in addition to Kate Elliott’s books mentioned above. There is a chance to win the entire Newsflesh trilogy (Feed, Deadline, Blackout) by Mira Grant. Be sure to check out the other sites listed in the giveaway post for more chances to win these books!

I also wanted to point out a list of non-European based fantasy books written by women that Martha Wells has started. There are so many of these I want to check out!

Final Guests

The final guests are:

Ana and Thea from The Book Smugglers
Catherine Asaro (Saga of the Skolian Empire series, Lost Continent series, The Spacetime Pool, Alpha)
A. M. Dellamonica (Indigo Springs, Blue Magic)
Kenda from Lurv a la Mode

Women in SF&F Month Banner

Today’s guest is Pamela from The Discriminating Fangirl! Pamela is the founder, editor, and head writer of the site, and there are other contributors who regularly post on the site as well.

I love The Discriminating Fangirl because it is my type of place – dedicated to all things geek-oriented. This includes speculative fiction book reviews, but it also extends to television and movies (especially superhero movies), comic books, and video games. They also have a few podcasts that cover everything from banned books to some of the latest movies in the Marvel universe. It is the perfect place to hang out if you’re into the usual geeky things in addition to reading science fiction and fantasy.

Pamela is telling us about two of her favorite authors today. They’re both authors I’ve read, and I have to say, I give a big thumbs up to both the authors she’s selected and her reasons for choosing them!

The Discriminating Fangirl Logo

First, huge thanks to Kristen for inviting me to be part of her Women in SF/F month! I went back and forth on what to write today, and I decided that since I love giving my opinion, I’m going to talk about two authors who write in my favorite SF/F subgenre: urban fantasy.

I love pretty much any subgenre of speculative fiction. I cut my reading teeth on science fiction and fantasy and was attacking hard SF and high fantasy by the time I was ten. When urban fantasy started to surface in bookstores, I found myself immediately drawn to it. I love the idea of the fantastic hiding in plain sight in a contemporary setting. And I quickly realized that the vast majority of the UF that I was reading was written by women, which was a major plus to me. I’m all about promoting women’s participation in geekdom, and I’m proud to read female authors in the geeky realm.

So! Who are my two favorite female urban fantasy authors? Actually, I shouldn’t even qualify that with “female.” These are my two favorite UF authors, period, and they’re two of my favorite authors in any genre. Let’s go!

Books by Ann Aguirre

Ann Aguirre

Ms. Aguirre first came on my radar with the first novel in her Sirantha Jax series, Grimspace, and boy, do I love that series. I love character-driven science fiction, and Grimspace is right up my alley, led by a tough female lead who grows and changes over the course of the series. LOVE IT.

So when I saw that Ms. Aguirre was coming out with an urban fantasy series, I jumped aboard as fast as I could. The Corinne Solomon series has quickly turned into one of my favorites, and Ms. Aguirre is proving herself an expert at creating the kind of character that I love. Corinne, like Sirantha Jax, is tough and intelligent, but she is ultimately a flawed human being, and that’s what makes her so fascinating. She does the wrong thing while trying to do the right thing, and she tries desperately to learn from those missteps, and really, I can’t ask for better character development than that. At the end of the third book in the series, Shady Lady, I actually cried for Corinne. I may be a sap, but I don’t often cry over books (Harry Potter is the exception here), so this is high praise from me.

The fourth Corinne Solomon book, Devil’s Punch, came out April 3, and it’s sitting in iBooks waiting for me to crack its metaphorical spine. If you haven’t checked out Ms. Aguirre’s series (she also has a dystopian young adult series, Razorland, which I also love), you should definitely pick one up.

Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire

If there’s an author that will make me jump off of my butt and run to buy a book the second it comes out, it’s Seanan McGuire. Her October Daye series is hands-down my favorite urban fantasy. It just encapsulates everything I love about the genre, from magic hiding in plain sight to a snarky, self-aware main character to absolutely gorgeous incorporation of mythology and folklore into the “real” world. I love good world-building, and Ms. McGuire builds one seriously amazing world.

Much like my love of Ms. Aguirre’s characters, the thing that keeps me hooked on the October Daye series is the amazing cast of characters. October herself is near the top of my list of favorite fictional characters. She’s flawed–oh my goodness, does she have issues–but she ultimately tries to do what’s good and right. She feels a sense of duty, but she also has a well-developed idea of her own personal ethics, and while those ethics may adapt to situations, I never feel like she’s acting out of character. Toby is never stagnant as a character, and with each new book in the series, I feel like she grows and adapts and becomes even better.

To put it succinctly, I freaking love Toby.

But Toby isn’t the only amazing character in the series. I’ve seen so many series get weighed down under an enormous cast of characters, and the problem with that stems from not fleshing out those characters enough. I don’t want to read about cardboard cutouts who interact with the main character but don’t really have personalities beyond “handsome love interest” or “sassy best friend.”

The October Daye series boasts the best cast of supporting characters I’ve seen. I love them all, even the ones I hate. No one is just tossed in there to fill a role, and I’ve even fallen head over heels for a few of them (Tybalt, Luideag, Quentin, I’m looking at you). I cried like a baby when a supporting character died in the fifth book, One Salt Sea.

I could ramble on forever about how much I love this series, but I should probably cut myself off here. Ms. McGuire has managed to write an addictive series that’s alternately serious, funny, and heartbreaking, and I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for the next book to come out.

She also writes the InCryptid series, another urban fantasy, which I actually haven’t read yet. I just bought the first ebook, Discount Armageddon, so I’ll be reading it soon. Under the name Mira Grant, she’s also written the Newsflesh series, which is actually the first zombie horror books I’ve read. I’m not into zombies, guys, so it’s a sign of how awesome those books are that I absolutely loved the first two and can’t wait for the third, which comes out in May.

Women in SF&F Month Banner

Today’s guest is fantasy and science fiction author Kate Elliott! She is sharing her own experience with gender roles as a child and how it influenced her writing (which is fantastic, by the way!).

I discovered Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker books last year and am now a big fan of them. Cold Fire ended up being not only one of my favorite books I read last year but also that special kind of book every reader loves to find – a new favorite book from any year. That was mostly because of the characters, the world, the dialogue, the sense of humor, and, well, I just loved EVERYTHING about this book. It’s one of those extremely rare books that captured my attention right from the beginning and kept me absorbed until the very end. I even gave it a rating of 10, which is not an occurrence that happens often at all! I can’t wait for the final book in the trilogy, and it has put Kate Elliott on my list of authors I simply must read more by.

You have a chance to win one of her books to read, too, since she has offered to give away two signed books today!

Kate Elliott

I grew up in rural Oregon. I was what they then called a tomboy, which meant I was a girl who liked to do things culturally associated with and approved for boys. For the purposes of this post I’m speaking of the western rural USA, as that was my experience. Even though I use a form of universal speech, it’s meant to reflect a limited “we” not an “the whole world and everybody we.”

Looking back now, I see that I was merely an active, outdoors-oriented child, but the cultural markers fell strongly upon our minds and bodies. To be an active, outdoors-oriented child is not to be boyish or girlish; it is not gendered. Our society gendered it.

There are a lot more complex ways to talk about gender today than there were then. At that time, as far as I knew, there was only the binary: boys and girls. There was a proper way to be a boy and to be a girl and an improper way to be a boy and to be a girl. I understood that as a child, even if I couldn’t have expressed it in those terms. You really didn’t want to be an improper boy or an improper girl, although the one advantage improper girls (as long as they weren’t being sexually improper, that is, wanting to have sexual autonomy and desire) had over improper boys is that it was at least understandable that improper girls might perceive boy things as superior because, of course, they were deemed so by society.

What I saw was that the things I yearned for–adventure, travel, sword fights, the excitement engaged in by characters in the fiction I loved to read–and the things I had–ambition to strive for lofty goals, an inner drive, a questing mind that wanted to discover–were things that society and literature and film told me were reserved for boys.

When I was in 7th grade and twelve years old,  my Language Arts teacher was a young woman of uncommon good sense who had empathy and compassion for her students. She was unlike any other female role model I had come into contact with up to that time. About halfway through the year, she gave us a questionnaire of “fill in the blank” questions meant, I suppose, to make us think about our selves and our lives. My favorite food is . . . The best trip I ever took . . .

The last question was the most open-ended one: “I wish . . . ”

I wrote: I wish I was a boy.

These days, that sentence could be interpreted in many ways. It could have been then, too, of course, but the conversation about gender in rural Oregon was a far more limited one. What she thought I don’t know. But I do know she called me aside and asked me about it privately. What did it mean to me that I said that? she asked me with concern.

What it meant to me was that it wasn’t worth being a girl.

Being a girl was second-class, even in some ways shameful. Boys got the good things, they were clearly seen to be better, it was obviously better to be a boy, and furthermore, the dreams I had and the desires and hopes were boy dreams, not girl dreams.

But beyond that, what it meant to me what that my authentic self, the place I knew was my most true inner self, wasn’t supposed to exist. I shouldn’t be the person I knew myself to be.

I believe she saw my words as an expression of pain. That it mattered to her that I was in pain made a huge impression on me.

More than that, it altered the trajectory of my life.

What she helped me understand was that I didn’t want to be a girl not because being a girl was bad at root, but because I felt stuck in the limited role allocated to girls.

She made it possible for me to realize that the problem wasn’t girlhood. The problem wasn’t that being a boy was actually better in an essentialist way, that males were genuinely superior to females, but that it was a cultural issue in which being a boy was defined as being better.

She made it possible for me to decide that it was okay to be a girl. That I could be proud of being a girl. That I could start to claim for myself some of that space that had for so long been reserved for boys. That I had a right to be there and go there, too, wherever there was.

Today, of course,we have more nuanced and complex ways of exploring statements about gender identity. I have no way of knowing how complex her question to me was meant, or what she was aware of and was listening for in my response. What mattered was that she approached my pain with compassion and without judgment.

If you’ve not grown up being told you shouldn’t be who you are, I’m not sure you can quite understand why world-building and writing epic fantasy is so attractive and in its way a form of chain-breaking. I started writing right around that time. My first serious “cycle” of stories, which I wrote in tandem with my best friend when we were 14, featured two male characters. It was very much in the style of everything I read, in which if there were female characters they were secondary and of only temporary interest to the story, while the lads got to have their rollicking adventures.

But in fact, that was the only story of that kind I ever wrote. After that, at the tender age of 15, I decided I had had enough of there not being anyone like me even in my own stories. I decided to write about girls, about women–about men, too–but women in equal space and equal importance to the story. This was not a small decision. It went against what I saw when I read; it went against received wisdom, especially in adventure stories. Certainly it became progressively easier as more and more women moved into the science fiction and fantasy field as increasingly visible writers with stories that increasingly included and highlighted female characters and the world as experienced from the point of view of women.

Eventually, although this was harder, I was able to see that I had bought into the denigration of women’s lived experience. I had to climb out of that pit myself. Feminist historians have been excavating women’s lives for decades, bringing forgotten, invisible lives into the light of day. I realized that in my own small way I might help overturn this diminishment of female lives not only by portraying women in diverse ways that allowed women a full range of personalities, occupations, roles, and stories, but also by respecting the centrality and importance of the women’s work so often considered (often by women) trivial, demeaning, and lesser.

To this day, I feel a responsibility to my younger self, to write stories that don’t exclude her.

This sense of obligation to my younger self is why I try to write stories that include as wide and various a range of roles not just for female characters specifically but for people who have long been excluded in one way or another. I want my fiction to include the people who for so long have been ignored and made invisible by cultural narratives that claimed they did not and do not matter. I am so tired of exclusion.

Because you know what?

We don’t have to perpetuate exclusion. We’re bigger than that: We make up worlds.

About Kate Elliott:
Kate Elliott is the author of the Spiritwalker Trilogy, an Afro-Celtic post-Roman icepunk Regency adventure fantasy with swords, sharks, and lawyer dinosaurs. She has also written the Crossroads Trilogy, which features giant eagles, ghosts, and the clash of cultures, the complete-in-seven-volumes Crown of Stars epic fantasy, and the science fiction Novels of the Jaran. She lives not in lurid adventure fiction but in paradisiacal Hawaii.

Website | Blog | Twitter

Cold Magic by Kate Elliott Cold Fire by Kate Elliott Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott

Book Giveaway

Kate Elliott has graciously offered to give away 2 SIGNED copies of her books – one to a US reader and one to a reader from anywhere outside the US. Each winner can choose one of the following books:

  • Cold Magic (Spiritwalker #1)
  • Cold Fire (Spiritwalker #2)
  • Spirit Gate (Crossroads #1)
  • Shadow Gate (Crossroads #2)
  • Traitors’ Gate (Crossroads #3)

You can read more about both of these series on the author’s website:

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below. One entry per person. This giveaway is open internationally. One winner from the US and one from outside the US will be randomly selected.  This giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Sunday, May 6. Each winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the book).

Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winners. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Good luck!

Note: Now that the giveaway is closed, the contact form has been removed.

Women in SF&F Month Banner

Today Memory from Stella Matutina is sharing the story of how she became a fantasy fan!  Stella Matutina is another one of my favorite blogs to visit for all things bookish. You know how once in a while you find a reviewer whose taste really matches yours? You both love the same books, and you both tend to not like the same books even if it seems like you’re the ONLY ONES in the ENTIRE WORLD who didn’t enjoy this one book? Memory is that reviewer whose taste seems eerily similar to mine – so if you have found you also have taste that is similar to mine, you should definitely be reading her blog! In addition to having excellent taste, she writes some really interesting and fun reviews, especially when she’s so excited about a book that she just can’t be constrained by things like punctuation and grammar.

Please welcome Memory!

Stella Matutina Header

I’m a fantasy fan because of two women: Lisa Boles, my grade seven Language Arts teacher, and Jean Mabee, my junior high librarian.

That’s not to say I was a total fantasy neophyte before I met them. I’d read a decent amount of children’s fantasy–C.S. Lewis and Lloyd Alexander and the like. Trouble was, my twelve-year-old self wanted to explore work aimed at an older audience, and I thought that meant abandoning all hope of anything magical. My parents spoke of having read fantasy in their younger years, but both had since moved on to other genres. Their example showed me that adult literature was primarily composed of category romance, mystery, and submarine novels.

All of which sounded pretty damned dull. I figured I was doomed.

It wasn’t until I perused Ms Boles’s classroom library that I realized fantasy existed outside the realm of children’s literature. She had a fair few adult fantasy novels in the mix, and my classmates and I were welcome to borrow them. I chose a Forgotten Realms title more or less at random and dove right in.

The next thing I knew, I was obsessed with the genre.

When Ms Boles realized what had happened, she pushed me to read several of her own favourites, including Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. They were the first properly epic books I’d ever encountered. I loved them so much that I started getting up an hour earlier every morning, just so I’d have more time to read.

I’m not sure whether Ms Boles mentioned my newly-minted fantasy-fan status to Mrs Mabee, or whether she noticed it herself. Either way, I soon made her acquaintance–and she proved to be an even bigger fantasy fan than Ms Boles. She and her co-librarian (whose name, I fear, escapes me) had stocked the school library with both fantasy and science fiction. Mrs Mabee ensured I knew exactly where to find the best of the lot. She introduced me to authors like Mercedes Lackey, whose work I loved, and Anne McCaffrey, who proved hit-or-miss but ultimately enjoyable.

Mrs Mabee also lent me several of her own books–presumably titles her library’s budget (or, perhaps, the school board’s content restrictions) didn’t allow her to purchase for students. Ms Boles, too, made sure I entered the rotation for her copy of A CROWN OF SWORDS, the seventh Wheel of Time novel.

Ms Boles and Mrs Mabee loomed large in my world. Through them, I met a couple of female teachers’ aides who also loved fantasy. My habit of openly carrying my current read everywhere I went also introduced me to some fantastically-inclined women outside the school’s walls.

For a long time, almost every fantasy fan of my acquaintance was female.

The books they recommended to me changed my world.

And I’ve just realized that very few of those books were by women.

When I look back at that period, I can point to many favoured male authors. But other than Mercedes Lackey (who, to be fair, published enough books for any three writers), Anne McCaffrey and Leigh Eddings (David’s often-uncredited coauthor), I’m drawing a blank on female writers. I’m sure I did encounter others, but I read so many more books by men that the female-authored texts have been drowned out.

Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey Belgarath the Sorcerer by David and Leigh Eddings

I honestly don’t believe I read so few books by women because there were none available. Neither do I think my male-oriented reading list had much to do with the fact that epic fantasy and fantasy adventure were my preferred subgenres.

It was a matter of visibility. I mostly read books people recommended. People recommended books they’d heard of, and subsequently read, themselves.

Most of those books were by men, because our culture privileges men’s writing over women’s.

Sometimes, this privileging is unconscious. Other times, it’s deliberate. It’s always a disservice to both female writers and readers of all genders.

I was eighteen and fresh off an historical fiction kick before I began to read substantially more fantasy by women. I no longer knew many fantasy fans, female or otherwise, so I couldn’t rely on recommendations. I found most of my books by browsing the library’s shelves at random. Somehow, I gravitated towards female fantasists.

Which was all fine and dandy for me, but as Elizabeth Bear said earlier this month, the best way to support female writers is to buy their books, read them, and talk about them. I did very little of the latter until I joined LibraryThing. Sharing my thoughts with other avid readers proved so much fun that I later began my blog, where I do my best to be vocal about the authors I’ve read and enjoyed. More than half of them are women.

In return, I’ve received scads of recommendations for fantasy by women. I discovered Sarah Monette, Naomi Novik, Anne Bishop, Connie Willis, Lisa Shearin, Jacqueline Carey, Elizabeth Knox, Diana Wynne Jones, and a whole host of others because I knew fans–most of them women–who had read their work, loved it, and told the world.

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop

We’ve got a long way to go before female authors are as visible as their male counterparts, but whenever we spread the word about a book we’ve enjoyed, whenever we encourage another girl or woman to read some SFF, we’re moving in the right direction.

Fifteen years back, two enthusiastic, supportive female fans did just that for me, and it’s made my life so much richer. I’ll always be grateful to them.

Women in SF&F Month Banner

Today is about Blackout by Mira Grant! It’s the conclusion to Newsflesh, a science fiction/horror trilogy about blogging and the zombie apocalypse. Even though I’m not normally a zombie fan, I really enjoyed the first book, Feed. It was dark with a great sense of humor and it had one of the most memorable endings I’ve ever read. To learn more about Mira Grant and her series, you can visit her website.

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you probably know I am also a HUGE fan of Mira Grant’s other identity as her actual self – urban fantasy writer Seanan McGuire.  Her blog is pretty stellar too, particularly when she writes posts like this one about the digital divide. I don’t seem to be the only one who thinks pretty highly of her, either. Seanan McGuire won the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and both of the first two Newsflesh books (Feed and Deadline) have been nominated for the Hugo Awards. In fact, Seanan was nominated for a total of 4 Hugo Awards this year, making her the first woman to receive that many Hugo nominations in one year.

Now that you understand why Mira Grant is awesome incarnate, I have some super secret information for you regarding Blackout and a chance to win the entire trilogy!

Yesterday, io9 published an excerpt of Mira Grant’s Blackout, the final book in her Newsflesh trilogy. Today, an intrepid Newsie hacked into the CDC computer system and liberated another file. For this one, though, you’ll have to do a little digging…

Below is a puzzle whose answer reveals one of the five codes you’ll need to access the second, top-secret document. (Click to enlarge.)

Rumor has it that you should be hanging around these other blogs to gather the other four:

Rose-Owls and Pumpkin Girls (The Journal of Seanan McGuire)
Sword & Laser

The Mary Sue

SF Signal

Once you’ve gathered all five codes, you can access the encrypted document at the Orbit Books site. WARNING: Massive spoilers for Feed and Deadline ahead!

Blackout will be available May 22nd.

Feed by Mira Grant Deadline by Mira Grant Blackout by Mira Grant

…or, if you’re a little bit more patient and a little bit less willing to track down clues, you can take a shot a winning Feed, Deadline, and Blackout!  You may have noticed that, unlike the first two weeks of Women in SF&F Month, I didn’t have a giveaway last weekend.  Instead, I figured I’d wait until the Blackout event to announce this one!

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below. One entry per person and a winner will be randomly selected. This giveaway is open in the US, Canada, and the UK, and will be open until the end of the day on Wednesday, May 16. The winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the book).  The winner will be sent all three books following Blackout‘s release on May 22.

Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Update: The form has been removed now that the giveaway is closed.

About Blackout (SPOILERS for Feed and Deadline in below description):

Blackout by Mira Grant

Rise up while you can. -Georgia Mason

The year was 2014. The year we cured cancer. The year we cured the common cold. And the year the dead started to walk. The year of the Rising.

The year was 2039. The world didn’t end when the zombies came, it just got worse. Georgia and Shaun Mason set out on the biggest story of their generation. The uncovered the biggest conspiracy since the Rising and realized that to tell the truth, sacrifices have to be made.

Now, the year is 2041, and the investigation that began with the election of President Ryman is much bigger than anyone had assumed. With too much left to do and not much time left to do it in, the surviving staff of After the End Times must face mad scientists, zombie bears, rogue government agencies-and if there’s one thing they know is true in post-zombie America, it’s this:

Things can always get worse.

BLACKOUT is the conclusion to the epic trilogy that began in the Hugo-nominated FEED and the sequel, DEADLINE.

Women in SF&F Month Banner

Today’s guest is Ian Sales, who runs the wonderful site SF Mistressworks! This site is a great resource for learning more about science fiction books written by women so I asked Ian if he’d be willing to tell us about the site and why he started it.

SF Mistressworks contains reviews of science fiction books written by women anytime before the end of the twentieth century. Here’s the basic premise from the site’s FAQ page:

 

This blog aims to be a resource providing reviews of science fiction books by women writers. It will demonstrate that:

a) women have been writing science fiction since the genre’s beginnings,

b) many of their books should qualify as classics, and

c) many of their books are, in fact, better than “classics” by their male counterparts, and have at least aged better.

You can submit reviews of books that fit the site’s criteria, and that same page will give you more information if interested in doing so. I highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t been there before!

Back in October 2010, there was a discussion on Torque Control, the blog of the editors of Vector (the critical journal of the British Science Fiction Association), on the lack of women writers who had won or been shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award. It was triggered by a question posed to Tricia Sullivan in an interview at Geek Syndicate. Niall Harrison then asked for people to email him “top ten sf novels by women from the last ten years (2001–2010)”. That inspired me to choose women sf writers for my 2011 reading challenge – each month I’d read a qualifying book and then blog about it. I’ve been doing these “reading challenges” for several years, and choose a new theme each time.

Sometime during March 2011, the imbalance of genders in Gollancz’s SF Masterworks became topic among a group of us on Twitter. I decided to blog about this, and received so many responses I turned the list into a “meme” of ninety-one titles. This proved extremely popular.

In early June 2011, a poll on the Guardian newspaper’s website for “people’s favourite science fiction novels” resulted in a list of over 500 titles overwhelmingly by male writers. Nicola Griffith and Cheryl Morgan both commented on this. The Guardian followed up their comments with an article, “The incredible shrinking presence of women sf writers”. This prompted Nicola to come up with the Russ Pledge: “to make a considerable and consistent effort to mention women’s work which, consciously or unconsciously, has been suppressed”.

I was already doing my women sf writers reading challenge, and I’d generated the SF Mistressworks meme list, but I felt there was still more which could be done. I had partly selfish motives: my favourite science fiction writer is Gwyneth Jones; and there are a number of fairly obscure women sf writers whose works I like and admire and wanted to tell people about – Sydney J Van Scyoc, Shariann Lewitt, Jay D Blakeney, Susan R Matthews… And it seemed to me the best way to do this was to put together a review blog.

Bold As Love by Gwyneth Jones Darkchild by Sydney J. Van Scyoc Interface Masque by Shariann Lewitt

I put out a call for reviews – I didn’t mind if the reviews had appeared elsewhere, nor if I had multiple reviews of a single title. Lots of people responded. In the first month – June 2011 – I posted thirty-eight reviews by various people. By 6 April 2012, SF Mistressworks has posted ninety-one reviews of eighty-three books by sixty women sf writers, provided by twenty-three reviewers. The site now posts two reviews a week, and I hope to maintain that schedule until, well, untill we run out of books to review.

SF Mistressworks was shortlisted for the BSFA Award for Non-Fiction, which was fantastic. It lost to the SF Encyclopedia. However, that same weekend – during Olympus 2012, the annual UK Eastercon – two volunteers stepped forward and set up sister sites. Michaela Staton is now running Daughters of Prometheus, which reviews twenty-first century science fiction by women writers; and Amanda Rutter is responsible for Fantasy Mistressworks, which reviews fantasy by women writers published before 2000.

I’d like to say my cunning plan is finally coming together but I can’t really take responsibility for any of this. Ultimately it lies with the women who write science fiction – and have been writing it since 1818! That their contribution to the genre should be ignored is criminal; that it continues to be ignored is far far worse. When I set up SF Mistressworks one of my objectives was to show how easy it is redress the balance – in your own reading, in the conversation about science fiction in which you partake. A number of people have answered the call – either changing their reading habits to include more women writers, or writing about sf books by women writers.

It’s not been plain sailing all the way, however. A number of men have vocally resisted the Russ Pledge. A Mind Meld on it, posted on SF Signal shortly after I set up SF Mistressworks, generated a number of heated comments. Even now, lists of “classic” or “best” science fiction continue to appear with very few women writers on them. Back in 2011, Strange Horizons posted statistics of reviewed books by men and women by various genre magazines in 2010. The results were not encouraging. Recently, they posted the results for 2011, and they are marginally better. But there is still much to be done.

At the aforementioned Eastercon, I hunted through the dealers’ room for sf novels by women writers, ones I could review for SF Mistressworks or Daughters of Prometheus, and they were harder to find than I had expected. The situation in US publishing, past and present, is better than it is in the UK, but it is still bad. It is my hope that by bringing the women writers men don’t see out into the light we can make science fiction a better genre and so affect what is currently being discussed and reviewed and published.

Ian Sales reads, writes and reviews science fiction. He’s had short stories published in several magazines and small press anthologies, and recently edited Rocket Science for Mutation Press. He also runs Whippleshield Books, which published his novella Adrift on the Sea of Rains. He is represented by the John Jarrold Literary Agency, reviews books for Interzone, reviews DVDs for The Zone SF, and curates the SF Mistressworks website.