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Science fiction writing: It’s not just a man’s world

Well, of course, the title makes sense, right? I mean, why shouldn’t women write sci-fi too? But the jarring truth is that men are still being spotlighted much more often than women for their science fiction stories, even though both genders are writing it.

Men Getting the Sci-Fi Spotlight

The focus on men in the science fiction genre has been going on far too long. This point applies to both the authors and the characters in the books. Yet you only have to look back to Mary Shelley to see that women have been writing sci-fi for a long time! But time and again women struggle to get the attention of men writing in the genre.

For example, last week when I was on (I’m in Canada) I searched the term “sci fi writers.” Up came photos of 10 well-known authors in the Science Fiction genre and (wait for it) they’re all men. Here’s what I saw:


There’s Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Charles Stross, and more. Please understand I’m not saying these aren’t talented writers. The point, though: Where are the women? Because there certainly ARE women who in the sci-fi world.

It’s like we’re just replaying the all-male shortlist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award again and again. And it’s frustrating that sometimes people aren’t willing to look around for a more diverse pool of authors for awards.

YES, women writers in Science Fiction do exist, and they are awesome. You only have to look so far as Natacha Guyot to prove it.

Science fiction writers, including Natacha Guyot

I recently purchased Natacha Guyot’s sci-fi tale Dream Crusher. She has visited my former blog Poetic Parfait a few times, where she blew me away with her analyses of sci-fi works and her love of spaceships. Now she is offering content coaching for entrepreneurs and creators.

If you missed Natacha’s series at her site on #SciFi Women Interviews, I highly recommend it too. You’ll read about female writers who adore writing in this genre and the compelling storylines they’re creating for readers.

Of course, there are many, many women writing about science fiction. It’s just that men seem to be receiving a lot more attention than women. To find the top women in the field, for example, I had to Google “sci-fi writers women.”

Yet, if you’re looking for the leading men, you wouldn’t have to include the word men in that search. Sad? Yup. In my Google search results, I read headlines like “The 23 Best Science Fiction Books by Female Authors” and “100 Must-Read Sci-Fi Fantasy Novels by Female Authors.” Seriously, can’t we do away with the gender notation and have combined lists from here on out? Wouldn’t that be a step toward inclusion?

There are women out there writing wonderful tales, and I want them all to get credit and not be blocked from getting the spotlight because of their gender!

Taking steps, but still a ways to go for gender equality

There is some good news, though. At the 2016 Nebula Awards, women took home the prizes in all five categories for Science Fiction and Fantasy. Woohoo! Nnedi Okorafor and Naomi Novik are just two of the women we celebrate!

But… that positive news was around the same time that the annual Strange Horizons SF Count came out, which showed how poorly women authors are being represented in Science-Fiction/Fantasy media. Of the 18 magazines analyzed, only five of the book reviewers reviewed as many books by women as men, even though the number of books received by each gender was almost equal. Talk about a gender imbalance.

Still, we cannot give up hope. Change is slow but it IS happening, as shown by the Nebula Awards results.

The reality is that science fiction books, short stories, TV shows, and movies are, for the most part, very clever in their plot lines. They are complex and intriguing. I am a woman, and I look for smart writing; I bet a lot of other women out there are doing the same. Science fiction meets that need for a challenge, and I’m up for it! So let’s start putting more women into the role of the main characters in sci-fi books AND keep encouraging females to write in this genre. Are you with me?

40 thoughts on “Science fiction writing: It’s not just a man’s world”

  1. **waves hands frantically*** Absolutely! Becky Chambers changed the way I look at Science Fiction, and character gender. Some of her characters are gender neutral or even change sex naturally. My own protagonist is a complex female in a patriarchal world. It’s a trilogy, so hopefully it will be that little bit less patriarchal when she’s done 😊

  2. Hi
    Nice post! I’ve made a post about ice so if you have time and will please go and check it out! If you like it pls follow me, I follow you.
    Thank you! 🙂

  3. I’m an aspiring sci-fi writer with a science fiction flash fiction blog on WordPress. As I take inventory of the writing scene, I’m realizing that it is my femininity that sets me apart. So, I’m running with it. Who cares what everyone else thinks. I write what I want to read! Good article:)

  4. It’s so fantastic that things like this are being highlighted – thank you for writing this! I’ll look up some of those authors next time I’m in the library. Any particularly great novels I should look out for?

  5. its just because we are not wanted in some certain areas,unfortunately.I always believe that there is a woman behind every man who cannot be in the front line for centuries.

  6. Daniel Triumph

    This is great. I know women are underrepresented in a lot of places, but the fact that this is true about sci-fi sucks. I’m more of a fantasy writer, but I’ve read a lot of Micheal Crichton and watched a lot of Stargate. Stargate Atlantis has a lot of important and meaningful female characters, and my sister really enjoyed it. There’s clearly a place, rather, a need for female sci-fi in writing, characters, and even readers.

    Thank you for the post!

    1. And thank YOU for realizing that women deserve a higher representation in sci-fi, Daniel. Through education, we can make the world better, I truly believe that!

  7. I agree there should be more equality in the science fiction arena, I’m a feminist myself; I stay at home to cook clean and run the household, while my Wife works. In saying this I believe woman are more than capable to be alongside their male counterparts in success and fame.

  8. Tell me about it. I’m a struggling female Sci-Fi author myself. The road is hard for all authors, but to if you are female and write Sci-Fi the deck seems stacked against you.

    1. I wish you all the best with your writing! You are welcome to reach out to me via my contact page here and perhaps I can help with promoting one of your books :)

  9. Okay, here’s my bid… tongue in cheek tho it may be.
    A sci-fi Gloria Steinem lands on earth, as a robotic P’Boy Bunny. Everyone finally gets it!

  10. I just read Emma Tennant’s The Time of the Crack (variant title: The Crack) (1973)…. bizarro fable about post-apocalyptical London transformed by a massive chasm through the city…. we follow the misadventures of a Playboy bunny, and all the nostalgic “let’s set up a new world” fantasies of those she encounters… There are quite a few worthwhile novels by lesser known women SF authors one has to search for.

  11. Christy, I couldn’t agree more that we need more heroines in sci-fi books. I’ve loved the genre since childhood, but had trouble finding female main characters to identify with, and female authors to indulge in. It’s sad to think a genre devoted largely to the future still does not recognize both genders as equal in terms of both quality and quantity of publications.

  12. So much truth to your piece, Christy. Sad that we still have to put the word ‘female’ in front of certain search terms to find out the works and presence of women. I agree with Raj on the authors he brought up. I was a huge fan of Enid Blyton growing up and her work resonated strongly with me growing up. I think because of this, I never did doubt women could be writers and could write about anything. It is tricky to figure out how we can do away with this gender imbalance in the arena of writing. Awards and recognition are certainly one way to show that women are just as capable as men. But, opportunity is another thing altogether. I suppose if women can stand up and make themselves heard, they will be noticed and opportunity will come along and the world will be a more equal place.

  13. I am clearly on the side of good writing, Christy, regardless of the gender. If at all the gender imbalance is still persisting, it is only due to lack of creative aggression among women writers. They need to not only write but spread out on all genres with maximum torque to make their impact felt. Time was until the 19th c, when women were apparently shy of writing under their own names. Thus there was the very talented Mary Ann Evans writing under the pseudonym of George Elliot with considerable success. Around the same time and closely thereafter, the world has seen the success stories of Jane Austen, Enid Mary Blyton, Barbara Cartland, Agatha Christie, Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou, Joanne Rowling, popularly JK Rowling, to name a few leading lights. If there are women scientists, there is nothing to stop women in science fiction. May their numbers increase.

  14. I am soooooo with you, Christy!!!! Love this!!! I recently began developing a concept in the sci-fi genre and am just starting to stick a toe in research. I began reading The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin and also got The Girl In The Road by Monica Byrne. I will check out the authors you mentioned as well. Thanks so much for a great (and timely for me) piece!

  15. My favorite science fiction writer is Madeleine L’Engle. One of my favorite quotes is from A Wrinkle in Time. “They are very young. And on their earth, as they call it, they never communicate with other planets. They revolve about all alone in space.” “Oh,” the thin beast said, “Aren’t they lonely.”

  16. I’ve recently read a few books by Ursula K. Le Guin and she’s becoming a huge favorite. The Dispossessed and The Lathe of Heaven are both great. I’ll have to look up Natacha Guyot – thanks for that suggestion!

  17. I’m with you!

    The gender imbalance exists in all genres, but I think it’s most noticeable in science fiction and horror. It’s also much bigger in traditional publishing than small presses – which is part of why we need to push mainstream media outlets to acknowledge those small presses.

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