(A monthly Read Along book group for those who want to explore science fiction written by WOMEN. ALL CAPS.)
I recently did a panel event at the Women of the World festival in London with the title Do Women Dream of a Different Future: Women and Science Fiction and it didn’t take much research to find that women have always dreamt of a different future. Those of us who are writing within and around sci-fi today are standing on the shoulders of authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, Joanna Russ and Octavia Butler, and they have been dreaming for a long, long time already. It just feels like not everyone has been listening.
While checking out what is considered the “most famous works of science fiction”, I became increasingly disconcerted by the dominance of male authors on the lists. In one Top 50 I skimmed through, only four women made the cut. FOUR. What’s up with that?!
I was also aghast to realise that although I could reel off a whole stream of luminary male science fiction authors without really thinking about it, I began to stall after maybe seven women. It made me feel awful. As a woman, and as an author, I want to be shouting about women writers. I want to champion them, because it’s only when we all raise our voices together that we can be lifted up and given a fairer share of the spotlight. In another ten years, I hope to Christ we can have more than four women sci-fi authors in a Top 50 list.
With that in mind, for the rest of 2018, I will be reading science fiction written solely by women (and by “women” I mean anyone identifying as a woman), and I encourage you all to join me! It’ll be FUN. We’ll learn new things! We’ll have debates! Maybe we’ll find some new favourite authors! And during it all, we’ll be sharing the book and author love on social media so that everyone can enjoy it, too.
I’m predominantly a Twitter user, so I’ll be polling on there for what books to read each month (our first read starting from April 1st), but I will post updates on my Facebook page, too, if I can remember. The hashtag we’ll be using is #ReadWomenSF because I couldn’t think of anything better and sometimes being literal is the best option. It kind of sounds like an order, too, which I quite like. We’ll do a Twitter discussion on the last Monday of every month (so April 30th for our first one) to chat about the book and whatnot. And I’ll write a review and post it on here, too. Bam!
It’s a free-for-all Read Along, so you can read or not, skip a month or not, it’s totally up to you (I predict I’ll be reading alone some months, but that’s okay! I do all my reading alone anyhow). Just remember to use the hashtag or follow me (@gemtodd) so you can keep track of everything.
Books for April 2018
(Amazon links in titles. I’ve tried to pick books where there are cheaper buying options. Also worth asking your local library if they have copies.)
All Systems Red by Martha Wells
In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.
But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.
On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.
But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS. AGAIN.
Three terrible things happen in a single day.
Essun, masquerading as an ordinary schoolteacher in a quiet small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze, the empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as its greatest city is destroyed by a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heartland of the world’s sole continent, a great red rift has been been torn which spews ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
But this is the Stillness, a land long familiar with struggle, and where orogenes — those who wield the power of the earth as a weapon — are feared far more than the long cold night. Essun has remembered herself, and she will have her daughter back.
She does not care if the world falls apart around her. Essun will break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
Often compared to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Naomi Alderman’s The Power – Woman on the Edge of Time has been hailed as a classic of speculative science fiction. Disturbing and forward thinking, Marge Piercy’s remarkable novel will speak to a new generation of readers.
After being unjustly committed to a mental institution, Connie Ramos is contacted by an envoy from the year 2137, who shows her a utopian future of sexual and racial equality and environmental harmony.
But Connie also bears witness to another potential outcome: a dystopian society of grotesque exploitation. One will become our world. And Connie herself may strike the decisive blow…
So there we have it. We’ll stick to three titles to choose from this month. The Poll is open right now until Sunday 25th March (it’s my pinned tweet at @GemTodd). So go cast your votes (or comment below if you don’t use Twitter), and please, please share with your friends so we can get as many people as possible to read along and appreciate all things women and sci-fi! Cheers.