The Tiptree Memorial Women in SF list

“Where are all the women SF writers?” you might have heard someone ask. Even though you might think there are few, based on our numbers receiving Nebula and Hugo awards (see this post for more on this issue), there are actually many excellent women SF writers. Here is a totally non-exhaustive list, feel free to add authors that are not here.  (“SF” in this case is the broader category of “Speculative Fiction” than strictly “Science Fiction:)

Eleanor Arnason
Margaret Atwood
Elizabeth Bear
Alison Bechdel
Leigh Brackett
Libba Bray
Lois McMaster Bujold
Emma Bull
Octavia Butler
Pat Cadigan
Angela Carter
Suzy McKee Charnas
C. J. Cherryh
Jo Clayton
Storm Constantine
L Timmel Duchamp
Suzette Elgin
Carol Emshwiller
Karen Joy Fowler
C. S. Friedman
Lisa Goldstein
Nicola Griffith
Sarah Hall
Barbara Hambly
Zenna Henderson
P.C. Hodgell
Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Nalo Hopkinson
Tanya Huff
Shirley Jackson
N. K. Jemisin
Gwyneth Jones
Nancy Kress
Mercedes Lackey
Tanith Lee
Madeline L’Engle
Ursala K. LeGuin
Kelly Link
Laurie Marks
Maureen McHugh
Vonda N. McIntyre
Judith Merril
Naomi Mitchison
Elizabeth Moon
C.L. Moore
Lyda Morehouse
Pat Murphy
Andre Norton
Rebecca Ore
Tamora Pierce
Marge Piercy
Page Rockwell
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Joanna Russ
Pamela Sargent
Melissa Scott
Nisi Shawl
Racoona Sheldon
Mary Shelly
Joan Slonczewski
Tricia Sullivan
Cecilia Tan
Sheri S. Teppe
James Tiptree Jr.
Catherynne M. Valente
Joan D. Vinge
Michelle M Welch
Kit Whitfield
Kate Wilhem
Liz Williams
Connie Willis
Jeanette Winterson

For specific titles, may I recommend the “Mindblowing SF by women and people-of-color” list.

The Host: Stephanie Meyer

Not the fabulous South Korean horror/comedy movie of the same name, this is the 2008 book from Stephanie Meyer. If Robert Heinlein had page-counts like Stephen King and rose from the grave to re-write The Puppet Masters as a romance, this might be the book he would have ended up with.

Not having read the sparkly-vampire series, but unable to avoid having heard lots about it, I was not sure what to expect from Ms. Meyer’s “first book for adults.” It turned out to be the perfect book to read on a sick day, with snow and sleet falling outside. Perhaps overly long at 600+ pages in hardcover, it was still a quick read. The main theme of the story was similar to Meyer’s vampire stories – impossible love. “He’ll never love me, I’m a parasitic alien controlling his beloved girlfriend’s body! Perhaps if I try really hard and am the saintliest parasitic alien ever, he will learn to love me the way I love him.” And that’s the way it goes.

The book passes the Bechdel test, (“Does it have more that one named female character? Do they talk to each other? About something besides men?”) presuming multiple women in one body count. The infesting alien and her host converse constantly throughout the book, mostly about men but also about staying alive in a post-alien-invasion world. Meyers is an effective world-builder – the theme of alien parasites isn’t a new one, but she has her own unique twists. The aliens are peaceful and even beautiful when seen outside their host bodies.

Like all zombie/mind-controlling-parasitic-alien stories, there are allegories to be found but they are not as clear cut as say, George Romero’s zombie treatises on race and consumer culture. Meyer’s peace-loving aliens feel justified in taking over the entire human race since the humans are so vicious and murderous to each other and the rest of the planet. Is Meyers making some point about gun control? If you let the pacifists take the guns away, the whole world will be full of boringly nice alien Democrats?

Although the main character alien fulfills her role of self-sacrificing hero, it’s left wide open for a sequel or three, but it’s hard to imagine tweens or adults getting worked up about the main male love interest characters. They are both jerks.  After the inevitable movie comes out, it’ll be harder to make your eyes shine silver than to make your skin glitter for Halloween.

Shambling Towards Hiroshima: James Morrow

Who could resist science fiction with a title taken from Yeats and a cover depicting a Godzilla-like creature menacing a radioactive Rising-Sun-rayed skyline?

2009’s Shambling Towards Hiroshima is a melancholy wisp of a novel, only 170 pages in softcover. James Morrow is lauded by some as the greatest sci-fi satirist currently writing. On the surface, this book seems like a comedic noir satire, starring a 1940’s monster-movie actor, but the framing of the book as a memoir written on yellow legal pads turns out to be quite sad.

The story traces the alternate-universe origins of “Gorgantis,” a Godzilla-like secret WWII weapon the US has developed in parallel with the bomb. You’ll have to read the book to find out why the US government would need a B-movie actor to inhabit a flame-breathing lizard suit to defeat the Japanese.