Women in science fiction

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There have been women writers, such as Clare Winger Harris and Gertrude Barrows Bennett, from the beginning as creators and consumers of science fiction. Despite this the genre had a reputation as being by men for men, or sometimes for boys.[4] A support for this hypothesis is that women did not win SF awards for fiction, like the Hugos, until the late 1960s. Further the 1966 "Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll" did not list any novels by women[5] and the 1973 "Locus All-Time Favorite Authors Poll" was over 90% male.[6] Of the two women in Locus's poll one, Andre Norton, had been "gender ambiguous" for many of her readers. This use of ambiguous, or male, names extended to other major female writers of the era like C. L. Moore and Leigh Brackett. Women who wrote under their own names, like Zenna Henderson, initially tended to write more "domestic" material concerning teachers and mothers. A partial exception to this is Katherine MacLean who wrote sociology and psychology oriented fiction while only rarely using a male name. While Margaret St. Clair used both a male name and her own with neither by-line necessarily meaning a "domestic" tone.[7]

Eric Leif Davin argues in Partners in Wonder that the reputation is unjustified; that compared to other careers, science fiction was a "safe haven" and unusually accepting of outsiders, including women.[8] Women writers were in a small minority; during this period almost 1,000 stories published in science fiction magazines by over 200 female-identified authors between 1926 and 1960 were documented, making women writers 10-15% of contributors. His is a minority view, "at odds with the common perception of science fiction".[8]

Unquestionably, however, the advent of second wave feminism in the 1960s, combined with the growing view of science fiction as the literature of ideas, led to an influx of female science fiction writers, and some saw this influx as the first appearance of women into the genre.

In the 1960s and 1970s, authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin (who debuted in 1963) and Joanna Russ (who debuted in the 1950s) began to consciously explore feminist themes in works such as The Left Hand of Darkness and The Female Man, creating a self-consciously feminist science fiction.

Three women have been named Grand Master of science fiction by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America:[9]


While science fiction fandom has been an organized phenomenon for decades—presaging the organized fandoms of other genres and media—the study of science fiction fandom within cultural studies and science fiction studies is relatively new. Consequently, assertions about the prevalence of women in fandom are largely anecdotal and personal, and sometimes contradictory. Most prominent among these assertions is the claim that it was the advent of the original Star Trek television series which brought large quantities of women into fandom.

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