Women writers and science fiction would not have been a popular combination if a bored 21-year-old, Mary Shelley, did not try her hands at the genre.
Science fiction did not exist before Mary Shelley. She has been a trailblazer who brought women into the world of Sci-Fi, with her popular Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus. The novel is often regarded as the first novel in the science fiction genre.
There is an interesting story behind this trailblazing novel. “I busied myself to think of a story, a story to rival those which had excited me to this task. One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror, one to make the reader dread to look around, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beating of the heart,” wrote Mary in the 1831 edition of the novel.
Mary used Gothic horror, and created a story about a doctor who uses technology to play God. She made it up one dark and stormy night to scare her husband Percy Shelley and poet Lord Byron. This scary story laid the foundation for every crazy scientist story to come
On Mary Shelly’s birth anniversary, here is list of the top three female Sci-Fi authors. These fiery woman duly contributed to science fiction genre and broke the societal gender norms.
Early In 1977, a fresh talent in the pen name of James Tiptree emerged. The author, Alice Bradley Sheldon, remarkably entered into the male-dominated genre. She chose to keep her real identity under a shield for about ten years. Her pseudonym was eventually revealed, but she did not give up on writing.
Before trying her luck at science fiction, Sheldon was a life-long learner. She went to art classes, flight school, then did PhD in psychology and even worked for the CIA. Having so much knowledge, she did not let it go in vain.
Sheldon used all her school and work knowledge as a fuel for science fiction stories. Her stories more often combined elements of technology-focused hard science fiction with soft psychological-based science fiction.
Once in an interview, she said, “A male name seemed like good camouflage. I had the feeling that a man would slip by less observed. I’ve had too many experiences in my life of being the first woman in some damned occupation.”
Her work also added a pinch of sexual fluidity to science fiction. She powerfully wrote about escaping patriarchy and the reversal of gender roles.
Although her tone varied, the consistent touch feminism was always present. Her stories often pointed out the violence and degradation women experience in a male-dominated society, and featured determined, passionate, wholly three-dimensional women.
If you love Sci-Fi novels, then there are high chances you have heard of this influential author. Octavia Butler has received multiple Hugo and Nebula awards. Also, she was the science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship (Genius Grant).
However, her journey hasn’t been a cakewalk. “Honey, Negroes can’t be writers.” The five words from Octavia Butler’s aunt aptly described the difficulties of a black woman writer in the 1960s. The African-American woman wrote several novels. Most often they dealt with social hierarchies and the frailties of human beings.
Her bestselling novel, Kindred, follows young African-American writer, Dana, as she is transported between her present. It beautifully portrays race and gender issues. It also takes a close look at slavery and how it impacts modern society.
Butler made use of science fiction to tell stories with women and minority protagonists. She also covered themes of belonging and overcoming. The author expanded the boundaries of what science fiction can do. Her words are some of the best ever put on a piece of paper.
Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula Le Guin is one of the authors who had an immense impact on science fiction. More often, she is considered as a legend influencing many others. For her commendable work, she has also won the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award multiple times.
Le Guin, also happens to be one of the only female authors to be a Grandmaster of Science Fiction. Her work is sometimes classified as soft science fiction, due to her exploration of social and psychological identity within her books. But, she rejects this classification.
She has criticized the assumption that science fiction characters should be white. Le Guin strives to write characters as diverse as the world around us. A Wizard of Earthsea follows Ged, a young magician seeking to control his power after he releases a shadow creature who continues to pursue Ged in hopes of possessing him.
Picture Credit: bookstr.com
Megha Thadani is an Intern with Shethepeople.tv