There is a recurring theme in not only science fiction and fantasy, but generally in literary circles, of recording the deeds of amazing female writers as something of an after-thought. A great many debates have raged on this topic, which I won’t go into here because this is not the purpose of the post.
All I will say is that yes, I do believe that there is still something of a gender imbalance in both the portrayal of female characters and female writers across all genres, and a great many groovy people are campaigning to change this, and as always the dream, for me, is reaching that point where gender doesn’t matter. Until then, and in the interest of balance, I thought I’d mention a few female authors who defined my childhood reading and my modern loves.
Ursula K. Le Guin remains one of the all-time greatest science fiction and fantasy writers of the 20th century, in my opinion. Her voice, her style, her stories, her characters and her big, big ideas about identity, humanity and morality make her one of the names that deserve to read for centuries to come.
Anne McCaffrey. I grew up reading the Dragonriders of Pern series, but a word should also go to The Ship Who Sang, one of the most elegant short stories in science fiction. Prolific, with humour and drama woven through great big narratives and epic adventures, she was one of the childhood authors that I devoured and kept on devouring.
Thinking of childhood authors, Diane Duane and Tamora Pierce were my two go-to books in the library when I first started reading properly. I confess, I haven’t read much of their stuff for a while, but their influence on my love for fantasy and joy in books when I was young should not be underestimated.
Ann Leckie and Ruth Ozeki were worthy winners of the Kitsches 2013, and only by coincidence were they women. Indeed, the matter of their gender wasn’t discussed, since frankly, who cared? Their books were fantastic – intelligent and progressive – and that was the only thing that mattered. A noble shout-out should also go to Anne Charnock, who was shortlisted for the same award, and who is clearly someone to watch in the world of science fiction writing.
No exploration of the fantasy bookshelves would be complete without a foray into Arthurian legends, and for my money Mary Stewart and Marion Zimmer Bradley did Arthurian action far better, and with far more delicacy and skill, than any other attempt I’ve read.
N.K.Jemsin and Lauren Beukes also stick in my imagination as stand-out examples of awesome writers who should and hopefully will come to be big names of science fiction and fantasy. Big ideas told in wonderful ways – who could want anything more?