Women are used to being erased. Our contributions are often over looked, purposefully so. How many times in history class did you hear the name Sybil Ludington? She only rode 40 miles and roused an army 400 strong (basically double Paul Revere) when she was sixteen. As a scientist educated in the 1980s-1990s, I saw only one woman scientist, Marie Curie, in the texts yet there were so many more. At least Rosalind Franklin is now in the books (but still almost no women show up in texts). Hedy Lamarr is only now getting recognition for her contributions to science being too female and too pretty to be taken seriously in her day.
Today I read this article from Tor by another woman peeved by an article in a major journal bemoaning a lack of women authors in SF and that maybe women would get better roles in SF movies/TV if women wrote it. I’d like to know if that author was just lazy and didn’t do the research (going off all the numb nuts on social media telling women to stop whining and write it if they want it) or did they simply ignore facts and erase women from the history of speculative fiction.
Because let’s be honest here: women have always been part of spec fic. You can argue they helped to create spec fic. Most people are aware of Mary Shelley of course and Frankenstein being such seminal SF (and horror) written in 1818 but printed several years later. However, there have been even earlier lady authors of SF such as Margaret Cavendish and Aphra Behn who wrote in the middle 1600s (I should see if I can get the blazing world by Cavendish, it would be interesting to see).
There was a “golden age” of women in spec fic in the 1960s but before that there were still women writing SF. In the earliest days there was Gertrude Barrows Bennett who is credited with creating Dark Fantasy in the nineteen-teens. Also in the teens and twenties were Miriam Allen DeFord & Clare Winger Harris. In the 30s- 50s, there was the great Andre Norton, along with Leigh Brackett and C.L. Moore. Granted they wrote under male or gender neutral names but they were there. Moore could have been a grand master if not for her illness.
Once we get to the 60s to today, I can’t even list all the women. Some of my favorites included Ursula LeGuin, Marion Zimmer Bradley and CJ Cherryh (okay those two I didn’t like so much as felt like I needed to like them because I was an SF geek), Barbara Hambly, Octavia Butler, Diana Wynne Jones, Tanith Lee, Madeleine L’Engle , Anne McCaffrey, Vonda McIntyre, Joan D Vinge, Chelsea Quinn Yarbo , Lois McMaster Bujold, Emma Bull, Carol Nelson Douglas, Sheri S Tepper, Laurell K Hamilton, and so many more. I can’t even begin to name all the authors I love today. Even in the publishing houses I’m with you can find dozens of female spec fic authors (including myself). Just this year I’ve been enjoying Cherie Priest, J.K. Rowling, Charlaine Harris, Robyn Bennis, Leanna Renee Hieber, Nnedi Okorafor and while I didn’t actually enjoy Darynda Jones as much but I read her this year and should include her.
In the last few years with the sad puppies and their women should get out of SF rhetoric, it feels more hostile to women now than it did thirty years ago. The solace is women are writing Spec Fic more than ever. It’s time to admit it. Women have always been writing spec fic and we will remain.