Women and SF

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Kamakhya, Apr 8, 2002.

  1. Kamakhya

    Kamakhya Seeker of Stuff

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    There are a number of women posting on the fantasy boards here...any women, other than myself, into SF here?

    There was a great topic about strong female leads, what do y'all think about the phenominal input of women into the SF genre in recent years? Do you ever consider gender when you buy a book? Do you think the gender thing is being treated fairly in SF? Are you turned off or on by books that are considered "feminist" literature? How do you see women fitting into what is historically a male dominated genre? Do you think the gender gap is being breached now?

    Kamakhya
     
  2. vortexreader

    vortexreader Registered User

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    Very intereting topic Kamakhya. I'd like to give it some more thought before replying more fully. To begin with though I have to admit that I don't seem to read many female SF authors...the only ones I can think of off the top of my head are Anne McCaffrey and Sheri S Tepper...with a bit of Le Guin and McHugh thrown in occassionally. This isn't a conscious decision, just the way things work out.
    I love Tepper's work on gender and sexuality. Feminist SF, as a sub genre, is not a turn off for me at all. I guess I'm just fairly ignorant of what's out there.

    Can you give some examples of this? Maybe that will get my brain working properly this morning and I comment a bit more lucidly!
     
  3. Lady Fox

    Lady Fox New Member

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    I read Andre Norton back when I didn't even know that this author was female. LOL! There are some really good female authors in scifi today, most of whom probably fit into the Space Opera category more so than hard scifi. Some of the names that come to mind for this category are Elizabeth Moon, Lisanne Norman, and Lois McMaster Bujold. Jody Lynn Nye writes pretty good light scifi as well. And of course there is the classic Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which to me is the ultimate example of a scifi/fantasy blending series. My fav female scifi author is Anne McCaffrey. Her Pern series was one of my first experiences with this genre and I have read just about everything by this author. S.L. Viehl is another good female scifi author. Her StarDoc series is interesting and well written.
     
  4. Kamakhya

    Kamakhya Seeker of Stuff

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    Vortex, other than those previously mentioned and off the top of my head:

    Octavia Butler
    Nalo Hopkinson
    Nancy Kress
    Connie Willis
    Pamela Sargent
    Kate Wilhelm
    Joan D. Vinge
    James Tiptree, Jr.
    Joanna Russ
    C.J. Cherryh
    Vonda McIntyre
    Pat Murphy
    Pat Cadigan

    These are the more well known authors, but there are a gazillion more lesser known authors. It seems to me as I peruse the shelves and magazines that women are writing more and more science fiction.

    I bet you read more female authors that you realize. Your choice of authors for the reading group in April consisted of three women and one man! [​IMG]

    Kamakhya
     
  5. vortexreader

    vortexreader Registered User

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    OK, I forgot about Octavia Butler!
    I'll probably get kicked off this forum for saying this (LOL!) but I can honestly say I have never read any of the other authors you've listed Kamakhya...maybe a few short stories in anthologies.
    Why? I don't know. As I said before, I don't consciously ignore female writers (I actually thought Nalo Hopkinson was a guy!). Oh dear, I'm beginning to look hopelessly ignorant...
     
  6. Corwwyn

    Corwwyn Registered User

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    I don't consider author gender when I buy books. I just try to find the best books I can, the one's I think will most interest me.

    Some female authors I greatly admire have already been listed:
    Marion Zimmer Bradley (Darkover series, Hunters of the Red Moon)
    Sheri S Tepper (The True Game)
    Andre Norton (many works including the classic Catseye, Uncharted Stars, and Postmarked the Stars)
    C J Cherryh (Morgaine series, Downbelow Station, Merchanter's Luck, a whole heap more great novels)
    Ursula K LeGuin (Earthsea series - yes I know its fantasy; sorry about that for you SF purists, but I think her writing ability merits her mention despite a lack of "SF" per se)

    Ok, to flesh out the list of authors mentioned by other posters here are some that come to mind:

    J Hunter Holly (if you have never read it, get The Mind Traders if you can - a female author who can write a good male lead, surprisingly well)
    Dianne Duane (best TREK writer imo with only exception being Carolyn Clowes:The Pandora Principle)
    Carolyn Clowes (best TREK novel ever imo: The Pandora Principle)
    Zenna Henderson (Pilgrimmage - classic)
    Leigh Brackett
    Suzette Haden Elgin (Star Anchored, Star Angered...3rd or so book in a not too awesome series, but great title)
    Louise Cooper
    Mary Shelley (Frankenstein...nuff said)
    Joanna Russ
    Mary Stewart (admittedly fantasy rather than sf)
    Tanith Lee (again, fantasy rather than sf)
    H M Hoover
    Joan Aiken
    Doris Piserchia (A Billion Days of Earth - classic)
    Judith Merril
    Ann Maxwell (Dancer series, not among my faves, but some folks quite like them)
    Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

    I'm not a fan of heavy preaching, be it feminism, religion or whatever (though I have no problem with feminism, religion or whatever forming part of the story).

    I like good storytelling, believable characterization, interesting character interaction, good sense of mystery, wonder, awe, inspiration, exploration, etc..

    From a reader's perspective I don't really see any barriers in the genre, with the possible exception of the hardest (eg Hal Clement/Robert Forward/Jeffrey Carver type) edge of hard SF.

    Whether there just haven't been any/many successful female authors writing this flavour of SF or whether I simply havent found any yet I don't know.

    I think female authors can hold their heads high. There exist many, many simply superb SF works by a large number of female authors which sit comfortably alongside the male authors (if not in front of in some cases) on the prime shelf of must-read SF books.
     
  7. Kamakhya

    Kamakhya Seeker of Stuff

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    Vortex said:

    No worries Vortex. Up until this moment, I had thought you had read every book written from 1960 to 2000! [​IMG] This also means that you have a lot of SF to explore!

    Here are some tips:

    Connie Willis: She is an extremely funny writer, not hard SF at all. Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog both won Hugos and are excellent. They both deal with a modern (slightly futuristic) person going back in time. Doomsday Book is the Great Plague and Dog is victorian England. My personal favorite novel of hers is Bellweather. Be warned, however, she is not your typical SF writer.

    Kate Wilhelm -- She is an awesome writer, who is sadly becomming increasingly difficult to find. If you can find it, read Where Late the Sweet Bird Sings. It is a look at the results of cloning and post-plague.

    Joan D. Vinge - She wrote the wonderful Snow Queen series. She is he ex-wife of Vernor Vinge.

    C.J. Cherryh - Read Cyteen and Downbelow Station if you can get them. Whatever you do, avoid her latest novel, Hammerfall. Most of her work is in Fantasy, but her SF is worth seeking out.

    Lois Bujold McMaster -- If you haven't checked out her Miles Vorkosigan series, do so. Her universe and novels are great fun and very popular.

    Ok...that should be a good start! [​IMG]

    Kamakhya
     
  8. Kamakhya

    Kamakhya Seeker of Stuff

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    To reply to Corwwyn:
    Lack of SF???? I consider Ursula one of my idols of SF. The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossesed, The Lathe of Heaven, Rocannon's World, and City of Illusions are among my all time favorite SF books.

    One of the most interesting things to note with le Guin's work is her use of gender over the years. She has been writing since the 1960's. While she didn't have to take to road of her fellow authors and adopt a male name (e.g., Andre Norton and James Tiptree, Jr.), she did have predominately male characters. Earthsea is a good example of this. The lead is a male and women are literally delegated to the totally inferior role of kitchen witch. However, with Tehanu, she tried to make up for this. Because she has written for so long, from a time where men dominated completely, to one where women are taken seriously, you can really see the change in attitudes in gender.

    Me neither! I love stories that explore gender, but I draw the line at stories that claim one gender superior to the other. Personally, I couldn't stand Joanna Russ' novel, The Female Man. For this reason, I am afraid to read Tepper's The Gate To Women's Country.

    One story we haven't mentioned is The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. This story is a wonderful look at the role of women, if things were just ever so slightly different.

    Another interesting aspect of this conversation is how men have incorporated female characters in their own stories. It is not uncommon anymore for a woman to be the captain of a ship or the leader of a world. I have read many novels by men that effectively use female leads or co-leads (that is, without making them some ultra woman, sex goddess of Heinlein fame) in recent years.

    Kamakhya
     
  9. vortexreader

    vortexreader Registered User

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    That just jogged my memory! I have read one of the Miles books. It was in the 'Young Miles' collection...can't remember what's it called but it didn't really inpire me to read any further novels.

    I've also read Susan R Matthews (Exchange of Hostages, Avalanche Soldier etc) who I quite like. She went a bit 'wayward' with her last two novels. I'm looking forward to reading her latest, Angel of Destruction, sometime soon...
     
  10. vortexreader

    vortexreader Registered User

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    ... and I've enjoyed the short stories by Linda Nagata that I've read!

    What about Sarah Zettel? Is she any good? Her novels always sound interesting but I've never read any.
     
  11. vortexreader

    vortexreader Registered User

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    .
    Kamakhya, you must read it! It's a marvelous novel...particularly if you are interested in gender/sex issues.

    This is one of the scariest books I have ever read. As you say, just ever so slightly different, and the world turns into an almost unrecognisable place of horror.
     
  12. Corwwyn

    Corwwyn Registered User

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    My goodness Kama, how could those works have escaped my mind?

    I wanted to highlight Earthsea, and realized not all SF readers like fantasy too, and her SF works (good ones at that) just slipped out of my head.

    Profound apologies. [​IMG]
     
  13. Ntschotschi

    Ntschotschi immer noch dabei

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    I haven't been much into sf because the early authors like Heinlein used such stereotyped female characters that I couldn't stand it.
    I think that has indeed changed and there are a lot of good and new authors around.
    One of my favorites hasn't been mentioned: Doris Lessing. I think her sf books are wonderful.
     
  14. Kamakhya

    Kamakhya Seeker of Stuff

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    Ntschotschi, I know just what you mean. I started reading Sci-Fi in the mid to late '70s. I read a lot of Heinlein. While I loved his stories, I got really bored and annoyed with his female characters. One of my favorite stories was Rendevous with Rama, by A.C. Clarke because it had a teen female main character. But, over the years, I focused on other passions because the science fiction of the time was so male biased. I have only recently (maybe 3 yrs ago) resumed my childhood love of Sci-Fi. I have been absolutely amazed at the change in stereotyping (or, should I say, lack thereof), from both male and the ever increasing number of female authors.

    Thanks for the recommendation of Doris Lessing. I'll keep her in mind.

    Kamakhya
     
  15. Penumbra

    Penumbra New Member

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    Interesting topic, but I couldn't help but notice how you've all avoided my article: "On the Effrontery of Wonder Women"
    If you truly feel strongly about women in SF, as authors or otherwise, then take a stand.
     
  16. Corwwyn

    Corwwyn Registered User

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    Pen, post the link. [​IMG]
     
  17. Penumbra

    Penumbra New Member

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    Dear Corwwyn,
    You can click on my profile and find the list of my articles that way or you can simply go to articles to find the one I mentioned. I've got at least 10, most of which are relevant to topics mentioned in this forum or at least outrageous enough to get comments. I know, I'm a man, but give it a shot.
     
  18. astrianna

    astrianna New Member

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    Wow, Penumbra. That's the first word that springs to mind, having read your article.
    Where's your righteous indignation over the amazingly attractive male superheroes? An attractive man can kick some ass, even if it's significantly bigger than he is, but an attractive woman had better stay in the background and scream? Each of the women you bashed for being powerful (with the exception of Xena, but even you must admit she's a pretty big woman) has a supernatural or scientific explanation for her powers. Angelina Jolie was playing a video game character, Buffy's a slayer, Dark Angel is genetically manipulated. That's standard procedure in the superhero department, that's why they get to kick ass. That's why Buffy beats up the bad guys and the other people get to be side-kicks. And, ironically, that's where they get the idea that "beautifully proportioned females can physically
    compete with men" - because they're not just beautifully proportioned females. They're superheroes.
    I don't see where you get the man-hating vibe from these women. Perhaps if you elaborated on where that comes from, your article would make more sense to me. As it is, all I can say is that I found it very offensive.
     
  19. Kamakhya

    Kamakhya Seeker of Stuff

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    Wow is right, Astrianna. I was pretty offended too, until I rationalized that it must be satire. [​IMG] I mean, surely no one really believes that we should go back to the Star Trek beauties in mini-skirts who couldn't fire a phaser if you paid them.

    I did not deliberately avoid your article Penumbra, because I had no idea it existed in the first place. I'm not much interested in talking about movies. I haven't seen half of your references. I'm always annoyed by hollywood's idea of beauty.

    So, Penumbra, what's your opinion on the emergence of not only strong female characters, but a plethora of female authors in written Sci-Fi today?
     
  20. Penumbra

    Penumbra New Member

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    I had a feeling there was some intelligentsia lurking sround. Of course the article is offensive, considering Hollywood's exploitation of people, especially women. As for my personal opinion about women in SF/F, I find some feminine points of view quite valid and entertaining, about the same in proportion to men. I have a hard time with writers such as M.Z.Bradley, but find authors in the mold of Ursula Le Guin extraordinary and underappreciated. No real chauvinism from this fellow, you see, but I do write articles to try and get responses from a sometimes inane and frivolous forum. How am I doing? Perhaps you will favor me with looking at a few others, since you got right to the point with this one.