First there was the meme

Back in March, I put together a list of 91 science fiction works by women writers and presented it as a meme. This was a result of a conversation on several blogs and Twitter. And, as memes do, it spread. This was good. However, the list had a couple of mistakes on it – a couple of books were fantasy not sf; and one author proved to be male.

In the past few days, the conversation about women sf writers has reached a wider audience. Last Monday, Damien G Walter asked Guardian readers to name their favourite science fiction novels, and from this generated a list of 500 titles (which tellingly labelled them “the best science fiction novels”). But the very small number of books by female writers on the Guardian’s list prompted both Cheryl Morgan and Nicola Griffith to rightly point out how shockingly imbalanced the situation was. The Guardian added to the debate with another article on the topic of women writing sf – the comments of which sadly prove exactly how bad it really is.

When I put together the list mentioned above, it was with the help of several people. Knowing I was not especially well-read in the area, I’d also hoped the list would evolve as some of my choices were debated and replaced with better books. And the list did indeed go on to generate two comprehensive lists of women genre writers – one here by oursin and one here by Kev McVeigh. But it seems the nature of the meme-lists is that they stay constant as they spread. And the items on the list soon get forgotten…

Hence this: the SF Mistressworks Project. I am hoping this blog will comprise reviews of sf books by women writers, reviewed by divers hands (yes, volunteers needed!), sf books which are as good as, if not better, than those by male writers which appear in Gollancz’s SF Masterworks series. This site, it is hoped, will be a resource dedicated to books by women sf writers.

For the record, here’s the original meme, in order of year of original publication.

1 *Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (1818) – review
2 Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1915)
3 Orlando, Virginia Woolf (1928)
4 Lest Ye Die, Cicely Hamilton (1928)
5 Swastika Night, Katherine Burdekin (1937)
6 Wrong Side of the Moon, Francis Leslie Ashton (1951) – actually a male writer
7 The Sword of Rhiannon, Leigh Brackett (1953) – review
8 Pilgrimage: The Book of the People, Zenna Henderson (1961) – review
9 Memoirs of a Spacewoman, Naomi Mitchison (1962) – review
10 Witch World, Andre Norton (1963)
11 Sunburst, Phyllis Gotlieb (1964)
12 Jirel of Joiry, CL Moore (1969) – I’m reliably informed this is fantasy
13 Heroes and Villains, Angela Carter (1969)
14 Ten Thousand Light Years From Home, James Tiptree Jr (1973)
15 *The Dispossessed, Ursula K Le Guin (1974) – review
16 Walk to the End of the World, Suzy McKee Charnas (1974) – review
17 *The Female Man, Joanna Russ (1975) – review, review, review
18 Missing Man, Katherine MacLean (1975) – review
19 *Arslan, MJ Engh (1976) – review
20 *Floating Worlds, Cecelia Holland (1976)
21 *Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, Kate Wilhelm (1976) – review, review
22 Islands, Marta Randall (1976) – review
23 Dreamsnake, Vonda N McIntyre (1978)
24 False Dawn, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (1978)
25 Shikasta [Canopus in Argos: Archives], Doris Lessing (1979)
26 Kindred, Octavia Butler (1979) – review
27 Benefits, Zoe Fairbairns (1979)
28 The Snow Queen, Joan D Vinge (1980) – review
29 The Silent City, Élisabeth Vonarburg (1981) – review
30 The Silver Metal Lover, Tanith Lee (1981)
31 The Many-Coloured Land [Saga of the Exiles], Julian May (1981)
32 Darkchild [Daughters of the Sunstone], Sydney J van Scyoc (1982)
33 The Crystal Singer, Anne McCaffrey (1982)
34 Native Tongue, Suzette Haden Elgin (1984) – review
35 The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (1985) – review
36 Jerusalem Fire, RM Meluch (1985) – review
37 Children of Anthi, Jay D Blakeney (1985)
38 The Dream Years, Lisa Goldstein (1985)
39 Despatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind, Sarah Lefanu & Jen Green (1985)
40 Queen of the States, Josephine Saxton (1986)
41 The Wave and the Flame [Lear’s Daughters], Marjorie Bradley Kellogg (1986)
42 The Journal of Nicholas the American, Leigh Kennedy (1986) – review
43 A Door into Ocean, Joan Slonczewski (1986)
44 Angel at Apogee, SN Lewitt (1987) – review
45 In Conquest Born, CS Friedman (1987)
46 Pennterra, Judith Moffett (1987) – review
47 Kairos, Gwyneth Jones (1988) – review, review
48 Cyteen , CJ Cherryh (1988)
49 Unquenchable Fire, Rachel Pollack (1988)
50 The City, Not Long After, Pat Murphy (1988) – review1, review2
51 The Steerswoman [Steerswoman series], Rosemary Kirstein (1989) – review
52 The Third Eagle, RA MacAvoy (1989) – review
53 *Grass, Sheri S Tepper (1989) – review, review
54 Heritage of Flight, Susan Shwartz (1989)
55 Falcon, Emma Bull (1989)
56 The Archivist, Gill Alderman (1989)
57 Winterlong [Winterlong trilogy], Elizabeth Hand (1990) – review, review
58 A Gift Upon the Shore, MK Wren (1990) – review
59 Red Spider, White Web, Misha (1990) – review
60 Polar City Blues, Katharine Kerr (1990)
61 Body of Glass (AKA He, She and It), Marge Piercy (1991)
62 Sarah Canary, Karen Joy Fowler (1991)
63 Beggars in Spain [Sleepless trilogy], Nancy Kress (1991)
64 A Woman of the Iron People, Eleanor Arnason (1991)
65 Hermetech, Storm Constantine (1991) – review
66 China Mountain Zhang, Maureen F McHugh (1992) – review, review
67 Fools, Pat Cadigan (1992)
68 Correspondence, Sue Thomas (1992) – review
69 Lost Futures, Lisa Tuttle (1992)
70 Doomsday Book, Connie Willis (1992) – review
71 Ammonite, Nicola Griffith (1993) – review
72 The Holder of the World, Bharati Mukherjee (1993)
73 Queen City Jazz, Kathleen Ann Goonan (1994) – review
74 Happy Policeman, Patricia Anthony (1994)
75 Shadow Man, Melissa Scott (1995) – review
76 Legacies, Alison Sinclair (1995)
77 Primary Inversion [Skolian Saga], Catherine Asaro (1995) – review
78 Alien Influences, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (1995)
79 The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell (1996) – review, review
80 Memory [Vorkosigan series], Lois McMaster Bujold (1996)
81 Remnant Population, Elizabeth Moon (1996)
82 Looking for the Mahdi, N Lee Wood (1996) – review
83 An Exchange of Hostages [Jurisdiction series], Susan R Matthews (1997) – review
84 Fool’s War, Sarah Zettel (1997)
85 Black Wine, Candas Jane Dorsey (1997) – review
86 Halfway Human, Carolyn Ives Gilman (1998) – review
87 Vast, Linda Nagata (1998)
88 Hand of Prophecy, Severna Park (1998)
89 Brown Girl in the Ring, Nalo Hopkinson (1998)
90 Dreaming in Smoke, Tricia Sullivan (1999) – review
91 Ash: A Secret History, Mary Gentle (2000)

Books with asterisks are in the Gollancz SF Masterworks series.

Just because a book is on the list does not necessarily mean a review of it will at some point appear on this blog; just because a book is not on this list does not mean a review of it will not appear on this blog at some point.

EDIT: I will keep the list updated with links to reviews of the books on this site.