Science fiction and fantasy are genres in which women are traditionally under-represented. People (usually men) seem to be labouring under a false (and bigoted) impression that women can’t write genre fiction (other than in the crime and romance genres.) Lots of parenthesis in that sentence, so we’ll try to simplify it. Most men are bigoted against female writers. There. That’s more to the point.
Anyway, not being a bigot myself, I had never thought about how many women authors I read, nor in fact what gender the authors that I read are. Never crossed my mind.
Until my wife pointed me to a website (A Year of Reading Women) and asked how many female authors we had on our shelves. I came back with a depressing answer: three. Yes, three, a single digit number. On a bookshelf with more than two hundred books on it. Heidi (my wife) said that she was doing this ‘Year of Reading Women’. And I knew that I would do it too. Forget the Bechdel Test. This is the real test of fiction and of your bookshelf.
“But who are the three authors?” I hear someone in the background mumbling. Firstly, don’t start sentences with ‘but’. The three female authors who grace my shelves are Anne McCaffrey (of Dragonriders of Pern fame), Anais Nin (Little Birds) and Anne Rice (Interview with the Vampire.)
And so, I thought, it was time to consciously make a change.
Time to set out and read more female writers, to have my own ‘Year of Reading Women’.
I am going to read one book a month (at least) by a female writer, and write reviews of their work.
Here’s my list:
- Little Birds – Anais Nin
- Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K le Guin
- The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
- Her Smoke Rose Up Forever – James Tiptree Jr
- China Mountain Zhang – Maureen F McHugh
- A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
- Dragonflight – Anne McCaffrey
- Bitter Greens – Kate Forsyth
- vN – Madeline Ashby
- Maul – Tricia Sullivan
- Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynn Jones
- Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke
- Finnikin of the Rock – Melina Marchetta
Yes, I do realise that there aren’t thirteen months in the year, that last one will take me through to the end of next year. Oh, and James Tiptree Jr is the perfect example of what I’m talking about when it comes to female authors being sidelined in genre fiction (“It has been suggested that Tiptree is female, a theory that I find absurd, for there is to me something ineluctably masculine about Tiptree’s writing.” – Robert Silverberg)
I’d love for people to join in, and so I’ve added a linky below, write a blog post, write some reviews, add the links.
Let’s make 2014 a year of reading women!