Shirley Golden’s book, ‘Skyjacked’ is being published next month. Shirley has written a guest post for my blog about science fiction and female authors.
Science Fiction and Female Authors
As a female author who’s written a sci-fi, space adventure, I wasn’t immune to the male dominance of the genre – at least when it comes to popular or acclaimed writing. So much so, that I considered using my initial instead of my first name on the cover. Upon reflection I decided, that given we’re living in the 21st century, the time for such nonsense should be over.
However, I recently discovered on The Telegraph’s, “Best Sci-fi and Fantasy Novels of All Time”, that just 9% were female. The Guardian’s list of, “The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels”, fared only slightly better with female authors making 15% of the cut. And a search of Amazon revealed the ten top sci-fi bestsellers were all by men, with the first female author making an appearance at ranking 19.
But is this sexism, or do women fail to write (or submit) as much work in the genre?
According to a survey by Tor Books in 2013, women made up 32% of their speculative fiction submissions, although this varied when broken into subgenre, with young adult fiction tipping in favour of female submissions. Nevertheless, it seems that women might be less inclined to submit in this genre overall. Unfortunately, I found no information on comparative acceptance rates of sci-fi submissions by publishers.
Female authors that often make top sci-fi lists are, Margaret Atwood, Ursula Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Doris Lessing, and sometimes Angela Carter (who is included in sci-fi/fantasy lists). And this raises a related debate over whether women can write “hard sci-fi”. Hard sci-fi authors tend to keep within current limitations of what is theoretically possible, and therefore at the extreme end, stories shouldn’t include such concepts as faster-than-light travel, inter-species breeding or time travel into the past. Catherine Asaro is known for the scientific depth of her stories, and includes elements such as equations, and diagrams of quantum mechanical wave functions in her fiction. So, clearly women are just as able to write “hard sci-fi” as men if they choose to do so. And of course, there’s Frankenstein. Oh, the irony that possibly the most influential speculative fiction novel of all time was written by a woman.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, my own book shelves reflect a similar bias; the only female sci-fi books I possess (excluding fantasy and horror writers) are Ursula Le Guin, Carol Emshwiller, Ann Leckie, and Sophia McDougall. However, I can only think that my book shelves reflect the fact that male sci-fi novels are marketed more rigorously than their female counterparts because I have no preference for the sex of an author in any genre. If I’m honest, I don’t make a huge distinction between the sexes – humans all need shelter, food, love – I fail to understand the need to highlight differences.
As soon as I started writing my novel, Skyjacked, I knew I had little interest in pursuing hard science in fiction, and not because I’m a woman. My love of sci-fi (which began with TV shows such as Blake’s 7 and V) is rooted in the desire to indulge in an escape from reality. So, I hope my book will appeal to readers of both sexes, who enjoy colourful characters in a fast-paced, action-packed, adventure story, whose main aim is entertainment.
‘Skyjacked’ is available to pre-order from:-
Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/skyjacked/
Shirley Golden’s Website – http://www.shirleygolden.net