SF Mistressworks – the year just gone

All things considered, 2014 was a good year for SF Mistressworks. Although we opened the year posting only one review a week, we moved to two per week at the beginning of March and kept it up until the end of the year. In total, we published 94 reviews of 85 books by 56 women sf authors. The reviews were provided by 20 contributors.

Here are some stats:

Most popular reviews in 2014

  1. The Word for World is Forest, Ursula K Le Guin (Jun 2011)
  2. Star Rider, Doris Piserchia (Oct 2013)
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (Jun 2011)
  4. The Passion of New Eve, Angela Carter (Jun 2011)
  5. The Female Man, Joanna Russ (Jun 2011)

The number one spot is a surprise – it’s not Le Guin’s best-known work, after all. I can’t think of any good reason why it might have proven so popular. The review of Star Rider, on the other hand, was linked to by io9 in a post on ‘Great Unsung Science Fiction Authors That Everybody Should Read’ back in March 2014. The Atwood and Carter are popular outside genre, so their presence is understandable – they may also be taught in schools. And The Female Man has, for some reason, been a much-talked about book in 2014, perhaps because of an ongoing re-evaluation of Russ’s place in the science fiction corpus.

Most popular reviews of 2014

  1. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K Le Guin (Sep 2014)
  2. Rocannon’s World, Ursula K Le Guin (Dec 2014)
  3. The Children of Men, PD James (Apr 2014)
  4. Fireflood & Other Stories, Vonda N McIntyre (Feb 2014)
  5. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (Feb 2014)

Le Guin, possibly the best-known female science fiction writer of all time, takes the first two spots. And the number one book is the most-reviewed book currently on SF Mistressworks, having been reviewed six times to date. PD James and Atwood are popular outside genre, and the McIntyre was one of the reviews chosen by Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly to re-publish in their magazine.

Most-reviewed authors in 2014

  1. Ursula K Le Guin (9)
  2. Lois McMaster Bujold (8)
  3. CJ Cherryh (6)
  4. Kate Wilhelm (5)
  5. Marta Randall (3)

See comments above re Le Guin. One of SF Mistressworks’ reviewers contributed a series of reviews of Bujold’s Vorkosigan books, hence her appearance at number two. It’s good to see Cherryh appearing, as she seemed to be one of those well-known authors who had slipped through the cracks. Wilhelm is a favourite of one of SF Mistressworks’ reviewers, and Randall is doing well considering her oeuvre comprises only half a dozen novels.

Most reviewed books in 2014

  1. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K Le Guin (4)
  2. Shards of Honour, Lois McMaster Bujold (2)
  3. The Dispossessed, Ursula K Le Guin (2)
  4. Downbelow Station, CJ Cherryh (2)
  5. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (2)
  6. The Warrior’s Apprentice, Lois McMaster Bujold (2)

Not much to say here – Le Guin and Bujold… While SF Mistressworks obviously attracts reviews of popular books, it has also posted reviews of far more obscure novels and authors. There’s a real sense of satisfaction to be had in discovering some long-forgotten masterpiece of science fiction, even if, sadly, a few of the more obscure books unearthed by SF Mistressworks reviewers – like Worlds for the Grabbing, Brenda Pearce; Second Body, Sue Payer; Countdown for Cindy, Eloise Engle – proved not very good. But there are certainly forgotten books which deserve to be much better-known, such as Busy About The Tree of Life by Pamela Zoline, or The Revolving Boy by Getrude Friedberg.

Although the majority of books reviewed by SF Mistressworks in 2014 were novels, not all of them were. The numbers broke down as:


While science fiction is a much more diverse genre than it used to be, during the twentieth century and earlier Anglophone sf was very much dominated by American writers. The nationalities of the authors reviewed on SF Mistressworks reflects this… Which is not to say we would not like more reviews of books by non-US, or even non-UK, women sf authors. The nationalities for 2014 break down as (N/A applies to anthologies):


The Year Ahead
What can we expect in the coming year? We’d like to maintain the two reviews per week schedule, which means we need more reviews. The guidelines are simple: science fiction, female author, published in or before 2001, review at least 500 words. Send reviews and offers to contribute to sfmistressworks (at) gmail (dot) com. We’ve no intention of giving up or closing down the site, although we may have to post less frequently if we don’t have enough reviews. There are certainly no shortage of books to write about.

We’ve also been considering an infrequent short fiction feature, an in-depth review of an eligible piece of short fiction. One of those may or may not appear in 2015. In the past, we’ve posted the odd career retrospective, and we might try doing more of those – particularly for the lesser-known women sf authors.

In 2014, SF Mistressworks partnered with Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly and Kwerey. We’re happy to do the same with any other relevant website – anything to spread the word. Just send an email to the address mentioned above.

It only remains to wish every all the best in the coming year, and hope you’ve enjoyed and appreciated what SF Mistressworks has done in the past three years.