Women In Science Fiction

…is the lofty and pretentious name I’m giving to a rather loose project that will extend over several volumes.

I’m Kristine Kathryn Rusch, USA bestselling and Hugo-award winning writer. I’m the former editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. The first and only female editor of that magazine, by the way. I’ve worked as an editor off and on for years on other projects as well. In addition to this editing project, which I’ll explain below, I’m also editing a best-of mystery volume, Fiction River (both as occasional volume editor and series editor with Dean Wesley Smith), and several reprint anthologies coming up in late 2016. More on those later. I’ve won a Hugo award for my editing, been nominated for many other awards, and won a special World Fantasy award as well. I’ve also done a lot of ghost editing for others behind the scenes.

Why am I giving you my editing credentials? Because this website was born from an as-yet-unnamed editing project I’m doing for Baen Books. I pitched the book to Toni Weisskopf under this unwieldy title: Tough Mothers, Great Dames, and Warrior Princesses: Classic Stories by the Women of Science Fiction.

That title may stick. We’ll see. (UPDATE 8/25/15: The official title is Women of Futures Past: Classic Stories)

My goals with the Tough Mothers anthology are complex. In short, I want to compile a volume of excellent science fiction stories by women, including some classics, that could have been published today. I don’t want this volume to look like something you have to read in a college literature class. I want it to be something you’ll grab off the shelf immediately, thinking you’re in for some marvelous reading—and I want that impression to be right. I want stories impossible to put down, stories with heart. They don’t have to be “by women about women” the way that the Women of Wonder volumes were. I want these stories to be by women, yes, but about anything. And I want them to be riproaring good reads.

The project came about because of a science fiction class I taught in 2013. I wanted my students to read some classic stories in sf before the class. I had no trouble finding endless reprints of favorite stories by men. But when it came to classic stories by women, most weren’t in major collections. Even the retrospectives of the best stories of the 20th Century only mentioned these stories; they weren’t reprinted in the volumes.

When I was a young writer, I read all of the Hugo-award nominated stories in collections compiled by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg. Those volumes ceased with Isaac’s death in 1992. (The remaining volume in the contract was co-edited by Connie Willis. There were no more after that.)

The end of those volumes created a huge vacuum: So many of the classic stories that I loved from sf were published in the 1990s and never collected. Ever. The older Hugo volumes also went out of print, and that led to something I never thought I’d encounter—the perception that women had had no success in the science fiction field until the 21st Century.

In fact, when I went to Wikipedia as I was writing the proposal for this anthology I’m editing for Baen, I discovered the Women in Speculative Fiction listing only had a few female writers listed from the 20th Century, but several new writers from the late 2000s were prominently listed.

If anyone wants to use this site to update Wikipedia, I would appreciate it. [Update 9/14/15: Looks like many of you have been updating the Wikipedia listing. Thank you!!!]

Why do I care? Two reasons, I guess. I want these stories to live and continue to be read. I don’t want them to be lost. I’m focusing on women in the Tough Mothers volume, but I’ll also be editing reprints of award-nominated stories starting in 2016, emulating the volumes that Isaac published over 20 years ago.

Classic (and future classic) stories by women and men shouldn’t get lost in dusty old magazines and broken web links. We need an easy way to find these stories. Anthologies will do that.

But I wanted to start with Tough Mothers and this website, since I’ve been told repeatedly by young female writers in the sf genre that women never did anything in sf until the year 2000 or so. Our history is being lost and, as someone with a B.A. in History, I find that offensive in the extreme.

This website isn’t meant as the be-all and end-all of women in science fiction. Most of the posts will be from me, noting the stories as I read them for this volume and, I hope, for future volumes. The website is, as I say in the tagline, an exploration. It’s my exploration of the history of part of the sf field.

I only have 100,000 words in Tough Mothers, which doesn’t even scratch the surface of what I’m trying to do, which is why I’m setting up this site. I want to call attention to great stories that I’ve read and pieces that I’m thinking about for the volume (and for future projects). I also needed a place where you readers can suggest your favorite stories, a place with a broader reach than my Facebook page, a place that isn’t my personal website. Go to the Suggestions page and leave a comment. Or mention something on one of the posts. I’ll see your ideas. I promise.

I hope that the site will outlive the original project and will continue as a home for other projects, which I can’t yet mention.

Right now, this site is new. It doesn’t have a lot of material yet. It will. Please be patient with me.

I’m making this post the first thing you see when you come to this page. The newer posts are listed to your left. Please don’t comment on this post. You may comment on all the others. Please feel free to recommend stories or discuss what’s there. (Politely. Please.) I welcome the interaction.

Thanks for visiting.

14 comments for “Women In Science Fiction

  1. Daron Fredericks
    May 26, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    You had me at Zenna Henderson! This sounds fantastic. Gotta go run downstairs and find my copy of Holding Wonder.

  2. LeGrand
    May 27, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Somehow in this connection no-one seems to mention Eric Leif Davin’s “Partners in Wonder: Women and the Birth of Science Fiction, 1926-1965” (Lexington Books, 2005). Well worth a look if you haven’t seen it.

    • May 27, 2015 at 11:55 am

      Thanks, LeGrand. I have it. It’s actually in the photo on the header. Wonderful book.Thanks for the suggestion.

      • LeGrand
        May 27, 2015 at 4:46 pm

        Whoops! Must examine header before posting. Thanks for pointing that out …

  3. Wyldkat
    May 29, 2015 at 11:50 am

    I will be looking forward to this collection. I have grown weary of telling young fans that women were writing SF & F long before the 2000’s. I was reading McCaffrey, Norton, Henderson and Moore when I was in Jr. High and High School in the late 70’s, early 80’s. Not to say that the modern writers aren’t good, some in fact are excellent, but we shouldn’t be ignoring those that blazed the trail for them.

    Good luck.

  4. May 29, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Fffssss, you young farts. “Late ’70s”!

    I been reading SF since “early ’60s” and there were so many female writers I never even though about it. I mean, what difference did it make? None is what.

    Anyway, good fortune in this new book project. About time and all that.

    [How early ’60s? Emm… 1960 on is it.]

  5. saintonge235
    June 4, 2015 at 6:18 am

    Glad to see this happening. Far too much of the history of the field is out of print.

  6. Christine Leov Lealand
    June 11, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    I will go through my old anthologies Kris and leave some suggestions

  7. June 12, 2015 at 6:04 am

    Someone who is hard to find, but who I loved as a teenager (sorry no titles) was CL Moore. I used to get really old library pulls that would have a story of hers in them but that’s about it-

  8. Santa
    June 21, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Thank you for starting this project. You are bringing attention to many great authors and stories. I look forward to the first volume.

  9. Siward
    July 15, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    I’m glad to see Ursula K. LeGuin on your list as I did not see her name in your story in GG60. I spent many wonderful hours reading her worlds as a teen. I am still puzzled as to why women in SciFi is an issue. I could never figure out how someone’s sex at all affected their imagination or literary prowess. I never looked at the authors name to determine if it was a man or a woman; only to use as a lead for finding more wonderful stories.

  10. Reziac
    November 1, 2015 at 5:39 am

    Tough Mothers would be a great title! (and even better as a series title!) Put that as the main title, and the altogether too staid and proper official title as a subtitle, that’s the ticket.

  11. Chuck Rothman
    January 27, 2016 at 9:47 am

    See if you can find something by Rosel George Brown. She had a strong reputation back in the day. Same for Katherine Maclean and Pauline Ashwell.

  12. January 27, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Great project! I look forward to hearing more about it.

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