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Women in SF, a Guest Post by Ian Sales

Ian Sales is a writer, reviewer and the curator of SF Mistressworks. He has been published in a number of magazines and original anthologies. He won the 2012 British Science Fiction Association Award for his hard sf novella Adrift on the Sea of Rains, the first book of the Apollo Quartet. It was also a finalist for the 2012 Sidewise Award. The second book of the quartet, The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself, was published in January 2013, and the third, Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above, was published in November 2013. He can be found at iansales.com

During the 1950s, Margaret St Clair published almost eighty stories, all in major sf magazine titles. Some might know her 1963 novel, Sign of the Labrys, although it has never been reprinted. Marta Randall’s debut novel, Islands, was shortlisted for the 1977 Nebula Award, and she was the first female president of the SFWA. Islands has not been reprinted since 1980. Doris Piserchia published thirteen novels between 1973 and 1983. She has not had a book in print since 1987. Phyllis Gotlieb was shortlisted for a Nebula in 1973, and won two Aurora Awards, including one for lifetime achievement. She published ten novels between 1964 and 2007, few of which were ever reprinted and none are currently in print. Jo Clayton was hugely prolific: beginning in 1977, she wrote thirty-four novels in twenty years. All of her books are now out of print.

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The list of forgotten women sf writers is embarrassingly long. While it’s true there are male writers of science fiction who have also been forgotten, there are also many who are remembered as “great” or “classic” authors, or even as “grand masters”. The list of women remembered in this way is far smaller. Ask someone to name five sf writers of the 1950s, or the 1960s, and chances are the names they will give are all male. It’s almost as if women’s contribution to science fiction has been written out of the genre’s history.

And, in a way, it has. If you search online for a list of “best” or “classic” science fiction novels or short stories, any list you might find will be predominantly male – if not entirely male. Only this month, redditors voted on “the 25 Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time”, and there was only one book by a woman on the list – The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin.The original SF Masterworks series published by Millennium contained only four books by women out of seventy-three titles (and two of those were by Le Guin). In 2010, Joanna Russ’s classic The Female Man was the first book by a woman published in the relaunched series, but the twentieth title.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.