Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Women Writing SF: Further Reading

There are a few more books in my reading project that I haven't written about, but as I have less to say about them I'll probably leave them for my next recent reading roundup.  In the meantime I've gone back to my TBR stack with a slight feeling of letdown--there are a lot of books there I'd like to read, but I've enjoyed this project and the new vistas it's opened to me.  For the rest of the year, then, here are some more science fiction books by female writers that I hope to get to (besides, that is, more of the four I've written about).
  • Tricia Sullivan - If either Sullivan's Maul (which came second in Niall's best of the decade poll) or her most recent, and very well-received, Lightborn, had been available for the Kindle I would have added them to the reading project.  As it is I hope to get my hands on copies, electronic or physical, in the near future.

  • Zoo City by Lauren Beukes - Beukes's debut Moxyland was one of the books I read for this project, but I found myself, though impressed, with little to say about a book that seemed more like a demonstration of Beukes's talent and ideas than a complete work (Martin Lewis has a write-up for his reading project here, though).  Her follow-up has garnered some ecstatic reviews, however, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

  • Justina Robson - Along with Gwyneth Jones, Robson is probably the highest-profile female author of British SF, but none of her novels have ever called out to me.  Her Natural History ranked third on Niall's top ten, which is reason enough to give it a look.  Of the rest of her bibliography, Living Next Door to the God of Love seems to be well-regarded, and she's also got a short story collection, Heliotrope, coming from Ticonderoga Press this year.

  • Nalo Hopkinson - I've basically been meaning to check out Nalo Hopkinson's writing since the mid-nineties and have somehow never gotten around to it.  Midnight Robber and Brown Girl in the Ring seem to be the places to start.

  • C.J. Cherryh - I seem to have made my opening forays into SF just a smidge too late for Cherryh, who peaked in the 80s with Hugo wins for Downbelow Station and Cyteen.  Her 2009 novel Regenesis got a lot of fans talking about her in rapturous terms, so I think I'll look out for those two novels.

  • Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge - Nic at Eve's Alexandria wrote a post about this book recently that intrigued me.  It's just been rereleased, though again without a Kindle edition.
Any other suggestions?


Liz said...

Octavia Butler?

Athena Andreadis said...

C. S. Friedman (In Conquest Born), Melissa Scott (Dreamships, Dreaming Metal, Shadow Man).

Ian Sales said...

I believe Regenesis is a sequel to Cyteen.

Kelley Eskridge's excellent collection, Dangerous Space, is available as an ebook from Aqueduct.

Anonymous said...

No suggestions, but a request instead. I've been going back through your reviews looking for stuff available on kindle (new toy) and it's amazing how little there is. It seems you're reading on one -- would you be willing to feature an occasional roundup of what you've found for it?

Matt Hilliard said...

Cyteen is one of my absolute favorite novels and I'm very interested to hear what you have to say about it. I've read it several times and expect to read it many more times in the future, but I need to go back to Downbelow Station, which I read only once over ten years ago and now only dimly remember.

Regenesis is, as Ian said, a direct sequel to Cyteen. To an unusual degree, in fact: it's a direct continuation of the narrative, and although I was impressed Cherryh perfectly recaptured the feel and texture of a novel she wrote twenty years earlier, it struck me as curiously unambitious.

Anonymous said...

Solitaire has a Kindle edition: http://www.amazon.com/Solitaire-a-novel-ebook/dp/B004H1T8FQ

However, I just wanted to note that if you can a non-DRM copy of an ebook, most of the standard formats can be converted to MOBI format using Calibre [http://calibre-ebook.com], and Kindle reads MOBI just fine.

Abigail Nussbaum said...


I've read Butler's Kindred but not anything else. She is certainly a writer that I should be more familiar with.


I'm not familiar with Friedman. I do happen to have the reprint edition of Scott's Trouble and All Her Friend, though.


My strategy with the Kindle has been to find out whether books I'm interested in have available editions, not look for cool stuff that's available for it. As you say, that way lies a lot of heartbreak, so maybe I should reverse my approach, but so far I don't have a list of cool finds.


Alas, that edition isn't available for purchase in my region. Amazon is better about restricting purchase outside the US than other online vendors (coughiTunescough), but there are still a lot of these frustrating lacunae.

Alexander said...

Interesting. Looking forward to your thoughts on Cherryh especially. Although my perception is that Regenesis wasn't as good or nearly as well received as much of Cherryh's other material, including the recent Foreigner series. Great use of imagined economics, in any case.

Martin Wisse said...

What I would like to see your take on are the classic Golden Age women sf writers, like C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett or Idris Seabright/Margaret St. Clair. Not sure anything of theirs is available for Kindle though.

Jodie said...

I just finished the second book in Suzy McKee Charnas' 'Holdfast' series, which I thoguht was a good bit of classic, feminist sci-fi.

Anonymous said...

@Abigail: fair enough -- and thanks anyway for the places you *have* noted e-availability. I wonder when (if?) publishers will get around to moving their backlists online, as well as the Latest Hot Thing.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... you've written a little about The Dispossessed (one of my favorite books of all time), but I think LeGuin's other science fiction novels (e.g. The Word for World is Forest, The Left Hand of Darkness, the other books of the Hainish Cycle, etc.) are well worth reading. Lois McMaster Bujold also seems worth reading (assuming you haven't already) as a highly popular female science fiction author.

Athena Andreadis said...

In Conquest Born is outstanding space opera and has one of the most memorable female heroes of SF, Anzha lyu Mitethe.

Trouble and Her Friends is Scott's debut novel and is very good -- but she gets better. The two Dream- novels are about conscious AI, but very different from the quotidian cyberpunk; The Shadow Man is a sui generis meditation on biological and political gender.

While we're discussing Cherryh, Downbelow Station is hands down my favorite book of hers -- another outstanding space opera with a female Captain Nemo: Signy Mallory.

Athena Andreadis said...

Postscript: Octavia Butler's Bloodchild story collection is a must. She's one of the few SF writers who really knows how to use biology.

Chuk said...

Nancy Kress, maybe? I liked Beggars in Spain and her more recent one Steal Across the Sky.

I second all those people who said Melissa Scott and Octavia Butler.

Jakob Schmidt said...

If you give Justina Robson a try, you should definitely read Natural History before Living Next Door ... both a very different books, but nevertheless, Lving Next Door ... is an explicit sequel to the former.
Natural History is foremost a "political" book about the human/non-human status of post-humans and the problematic notion that they are bound by a relation between their form an the function they were designed to fulfill. It's also a conceptually brilliant first contact story.
Living Next Door ... is a very strange coming-og-age story about identity, sexuality and love, against the bckdrop of multiple fantastic worlds shaped by the interaction of human minds with the alien "stuff" that creates realities from thoughts. Next to Delany's Dhalgren, it is my favourite sf novel in the "very strange/occassionally surreal" mode.

Anonymous said...

Abigail, thanks very much for including Solitaire in your future reading pile. I loved Nic's review at Eve's Alexandria -- such a pleasure to have one's work so thoughtfully considered -- and am thrilled to have the book reissued.

One reason I'm thrilled is that it is available in DRM-free editions from Weightless Books (including MOBI)to any reader in the world, no market restrictions. Apologies for touting my own stuff here, but I want to make sure to support DRM-free wherever I can. And Weightless has many, many good books available.


Abigail Nussbaum said...

Alexander (and others):

I think I was unclear about Cherryh. I'm planning to read Downbelow Station and Cyteen (the former first as I found it in a used bookstore the other day) as an introduction. Will decide about Regenesis, and other books, further down the line.


To be honest, I'm not very well read in the Golden Age regardless of gender (though the authors I have read were, unsurprisingly, male). I suppose I tend to feel an additional barrier of stylistic convention and cultural assumptions (I'm basically a New Weird and onwards girl). But names like Brackett and Moore are definitely worth considering.


I wrote about my (somewhat ambivalent) reactions to The Left Hand of Darkness here. I am interested in reading more of Le Guin's short fiction, however.


I've not been impressed with Kress's Hugo-nominated short fiction in recent years. Are her novels better, or just different?


Thanks for commenting and for the pointer to Weightless Books. I'll definitely add Solitaire to my shopping cart.

Alexander said...

With regards to Kress, my own take is that she's done some pretty worthwhile things and entered a slump in the last five years or so. Most noted in her short fiction, I'd say, although also problems with novels to an extent, see the strange horizons review of Steal Across the Sky.[1] I believe that works like Crossfire and Beggars in Spain are far more ambitious and effective, although with these it could be long enough that nostalgia is talking.

[1] http://www.strangehorizons.com/reviews/2009/06/steal_across_th-comments.shtml

Unknown said...

Maureen McHugh's novels? I know you've reviewed her short stories, but China Mountain Zhang and Mission Child are two of the best SF novels released in the 90s, if you haven't read those.

Foxessa said...

Janine Cross and Suzy McKee Charnas, particularly the latter's Walk to the End of the World.

Despite the pile-on by people who seemed not to understand what they were reading, Cherryh included something by Cross in one her anthologies.

Love, C.

Anonymous said...

I am not entirely convinced by all of McKee Charnas' books as a body but it's worth reading at least one of them to get a view on her work.

I would definitely recommend Joan Slonczewski; her Elysium Cycle books are available as ebooks and I've just been reading my way through them.

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