The OF Blog: A list of PoC/Female "Mindblowing SF" stories and a complaint about the gender/race discussions

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A list of PoC/Female "Mindblowing SF" stories and a complaint about the gender/race discussions

Two interesting and somewhat-related blog posts I've read recently. The first is by Shaun Duke and it pretty much is an essay decrying the tone and tenor of the recent debates surrounding females and people of color being underrepresented in recent SF/F anthologies. Although I can understand his point of view to an extent, I disagree with its main thrust in that I believe that agitprop is often necessary to sway public opinion. It might be messy and might irritate some, but it sure beats shutting one's trap and not speaking up.

But there's another facet that I think can be addressed with another link than by spending paragraphs laying out opinions. K. Tempest Bradford, following up on the past weeks' discussions, has created a list of "Mindblowing SF" written by female and/or PoC authors. Since these things tend to be popular, I'm going to copy/paste the list for the novels and highlight the ones I have read in bold and place in italics the ones I own and will read shortly. Feel free to do this, as it might help raise awareness in a way that would be constructive:

Ring of Swords by Eleanor Arnason
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Iron Shadows by Steven Barnes
Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
Xenogenesis trilogy by Octavia E. Butler
Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
Mindplayers by Pat Cadigan
Synners by Pat Cadigan
Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter
Hunter of Worlds by C J Cherryh
Cyteen by C J Cherryh
Voyager in Night by C J Cherryh
Chanur’s Homecoming by C J Cherryh
The Fires of Azeroth by C J Cherryh
Heavy Time by C J Cherryh
Stars in the Pocket like Grains of Sand by Samuel R Delaney
Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
The New Gulliver by Esmee Dodderidge
Age of Ruin by John M. Faucette
Life by Gwyneth Jones
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Lathe of Haven by Ursula K Le Guin
Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
Blue Light by Walter Mosley
Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor
Body of Glass by Marge Piercy
Natural History by Justina Robson
The Female Man by Joanna Russ
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Beauty by Sherri S Tepper
Silent City and In the Mother’s Land by Elizabeth Vonarburg
The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
Bellwether by Connie Willis
Passage by Connie Willis

Not a bad "starter" list (keep in mind that fantasy authors were excluded from this particular list due to the nature of this list's origins), but what books (genre SF only) would you add to it?


Martin said...

China Mount Zhang by Maureen McHugh seems like an obvious one.

Unknown said...

Larry: I want to clarify because I don't want anyone to misunderstand what I was trying to get at in my post.

I don't want people to shut up. I want these issues to be discussed, but there comes a point where the constant attack mode stops working. I've stopped listening precisely because I'm about tired of seeing nothing but angry, bitter rants where the "perpetrators" are all evil racist, sexist bastards who hate everyone but white males, etc. There are too many of these arguments out there, and it does the SF/F community no good.

We need to seriously broach the topic without creating more tension. RaceFail, for me, was not just a failure in dealing with the PoC-in-SF/F issue, but in open, honest communication. We cannot possibly try to work through what are serious issues if we cannot actually discuss them in a tone that condones honest, intelligent discussion. Resorting to the sort of mean-spirited tactics that put people in two categories--mean racist/sexist bastard, or person on "our" (non-sexist/racist) side--is limited and pathetic as an argument. We need to get out of this "damned if you do, damned if you don't" funk that the SF/F community is in. Otherwise, I don't see the place being all that inclusive in the future.

Yes, the ballsy, in your face approach works, but it doesn't work forever. Eventually it will fall completely out of favor and people will stop listening, to any of it. I'd prefer the community sit down and start acting like the whole racism/sexism in SF/F is a complicated issue in need of serious study and civil attention. It's like immigration: lots of angry people on both sides, but ultimately where did it get us? Nowhere. We still have an immigration problem and nobody is really doing anything significant about it.

Nephtis said...

Add to your list two novels which were listed with short stories:

Slow River by Nicola Griffith
Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge

I'd add the following novels to the list:

Maureen M. McHugh - China Mountain Zhang
Tananarive Due - [something, haven't read enough]
Chris Moriarty - Spin State and Spin Control
Justina Robson - [something, haven't read enough]
Joan D. Vinge - Snow Queen, Summer Queen
Joan Slonczewski - A Door Into Ocean, Brain Plague
Karin Lowachee - Warchild, Cagebird, Burndive
Kay Kenyon - [something, haven't read enough]
Lyda Morehouse - Archangel Protocol, etc.

I have read:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Xenogenesis trilogy by Octavia E. Butler
Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin
Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell


Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter (reading right now!)
In the Mother’s Land by Elisabeth Vonarburg (this is published as The Maerlande Chronicles and I'm reading it right now)


Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler Cyteen by C J Cherryh
Stars in the Pocket like Grains of Sand by Samuel R Delaney
Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
Life by Gwyneth Jones
Natural History by Justina Robson
Silent City by Elisabeth Vonarburg

I can certainly stand to read more from the list.

Lsrry said...


I think I might have been a bit uncharitable (reading/posting after midnight can lead to a few hasty presumptions sometimes), but I do agree with you that the topic can be presented in a more measured and less heat-filled fashion. But damn if I don't sometimes find myself reliving my campus radical days, even when it costs me a bit of remorse a day or two afterward!

I should have said that I can understand the desire for both a stepping back from the heat and a pressing on with the attack, but when I (and I guess others) don't stop to think that sometimes people are the target and not the literary creations, that can be bad.

Sometimes, that line between avocation and persecution can be a bit fuzzy and so many well-meaning people can cross it so easily, no?

Unknown said...

Larry: I completely agree. Not much else to say beyond that.

Crotchety Old Fan said...

Not a single work listed by Andre Norton?


Anne S said...

Suzy Mckee Charnas' Walk to the End of the World trilogy springs to mind. Powerful stuff.

Lsrry said...

I'll have to look into it. Thanks for the suggestion, Anne!

dacole said...

Well said SMD and I agree. But then I never believed that every anthology should have to have a particlular group in it. The authors listed here all have problems. The ones I have read, for example, don't strike me as mind blowing (though the ones in the original anthology didn't either except for Clarke). I wouldn't even consider the handmaids tale to BE science fiction maybe it was when it was published (but then so was Brave New World which I also would not consider science fiction anymore) but it really isn't now. Ann Macaffrey doesn't measure up to those in the original book and is really fantasy not sci-fi. LeQuin however should have been included.

Frankly though if we get to the point where people feel like they HAVE to include women and Poc we are doing the wrong thing. If they fit the anthology than include them if they don't then don't.

Anonymous said...

Oh and larry why am I not suprised that you were a campus Radical...radical communist I guess right? ;).

Lsrry said...

You'd be correct to an extent, although my radicalism was manifested mostly in the classroom and rarely out in the streets. I was certainly influenced by Neo-Marxists like E.P. Thompson, but also by poststructuralists like Michel Foucault and Lacan, among others.

Come and think of it, I haven't changed much over the years, except that I melded that with my adoption of the Catholic faith in 2002.

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