Right then. We have talked about women writers and science fiction in Britain (and talked, and talked: I’m pretty sure it’s now the longest comment thread we’ve ever had here). The conversation isn’t over – although extensive, it was a pretty small group of people involved, after all; and let’s be honest, it’s been a more man-heavy group than is ideal. But the situation is pretty clear. Opportunities for women writing science fiction novels in this country are limited, and have become more limited over the course of the last decade; and it seems likely this has to do with an increasingly restricted, male-oriented definition of what is publishable as science fiction. Many of the causes are undoubtedly systemic, but it behooves us to resist them so far as is possible.
This must be – already is, for many – an ongoing project, but it will necessarily be composed of individual actions. My individual action is that I’m going to go and read some of the books on that list of 2010 UK releases by women that we put together, and post reviews here in the first week of December – that is, Monday 6th to Friday 10th. Perhaps it’ll give you some things to put on your holiday wishlist, or some ideas for presents for others.
Here’s the first audience participation bit: I invite you all to join me. This shouldn’t be a hardship: the danger in talking about how little science fiction by women is published in the UK is that we forget how good some of it is. But the more people join in, the more books get talked about, and the clearer their importance to the field becomes. We’ve been talking about science fiction published in the UK, so that’s where I’d like to focus; but I’ll link to any reviews of sf by women posted during that week, if you tell me about them.
The second audience participation bit is this. Several times during last week’s discussion, issues of canon formation and the field’s memory came up, and how these work against women writers: the Gollancz all-male “Future Classics” promotion was mentioned as both symptom and cause of the current situation in the UK. So I think we should put together a corrective, an additional list of Future Classics by women.
I therefore invite you all to email me your top ten sf novels by women from the last ten years (2001–2010), before 23.59 on Sunday 5 December. Again, science fiction, although I leave it up to your conscience to decide which, if any, books that excludes. And for this, I think, the books can have been published anywhere. I’ll collate all the votes, and announce an overall top ten in the same week as I post my reviews (and highlight which books haven’t been published in the UK). To get you started, here are the decade’s nominees for the Clarke, BSFA, Hugo, Nebula, and Tiptree awards; Locus Online also has a directory of published books going back to 2002. And hey, if over the next few weeks you want to blog about your favourites – or send me a paragraph to post here – don’t let me stop you.
I have a few other ideas, but they’re half-formed — I’d like to see what additional data can be gathered, for instance. In the meantime, feel free to add your suggestions, and please spread the word. There’s a lot we can’t fix, but we can at least show that the books that are published are welcomed, and appreciated!