Let's Talk About Literature

Let’s Talk About Literature: Women and Science Fiction

The other day I saw a Tumblr post about how women are often not given enough credit in the world of science fiction. The misrepresentation of female authors in what we as a society deem “classic literature” has always been something that has both fascinated and angered me. But when you look at literature through a certain lens, there is no denying that so many women don’t get the credit that they deserve, especially with genres such as science fiction. So I would like to take the time to talk about a few of the great female science fiction authors.

Mary Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-tyne


Honestly, just reading the synopsis of The Blazing World by this amazing woman made me ashamed to say that I’ve never read it. The Blazing World by Mary Cavendish is credited as one of the first science fiction novels in the history of literature. The story follows a woman who enters a utopian society that can only be reached through the North Pole. It is described as an adventure story filled with talking animals and “bird men” and “fish men.” Cavendish also published this story under her own name, in a time when women typically published anonymously or under pseudonyms. Cavendish did not just write science fiction, but was also a poet, philosopher, essayist, and playwright.

Clare Winger Harris


Clare Winger Harris was a writer of science fiction short stories during the 1920s. While the world was obsessing over Fitzgerald and Hemingway, Harris was writing stories for magazines about cyborgs. Her 11 published short stories were compiled into a book entitled, Away From Here And Now. She was very similar to Cavendish in the way that she too published under her own name and is credited with being the first woman to publish science fiction stories in a magazine under her own name.

Gertrude Barrows Bennett


Gertrude Barrows Bennett is credited with being one of the first major female science fiction and fantasy writers in the United States. She published under the pseudonym Francis Stevens. Some say that she is the woman who “invented dark fantasy.”

Mary Shelley


You didn’t think I would write a whole post about women and science fiction without mentioning Mary Shelley, did you? Shelley was a novelist, essayist, dramatist, and short-story writer most known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein. This work of literature is still widely known today, and Shelley is easily one of the best known writers of classic literature.

I think in today’s society women are very prominent in the science fiction writing world. The current most popular dystopian franchise, The Hunger Games, was written by a woman. There are also many other female works such as Divergent by Veronica Roth that have been popular as well. However, we need to remember these historical women for helping us make those gains.

If you know of or have read any other science fiction works by women that I didn’t mention in this post, please leave them in the comments!


2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Literature: Women and Science Fiction

  1. Leigh Brackett could hold her ground with Robert E. Howard and wrote impeccably good Mars stories along the same lines as Edgar Rice Burroughs. Her plots were so tight, it’s no surprise she ended up doing scripts for some truly classic movies– The Big Sleep and El Dorado not least among them.

    Andre Norton was so prolific, her work ended up having a significant influence on D&D, Traveller, Tunnels & Trolls, and Gamma World. She is not one of “The Big Three”… but her writing very nearly defined how an entire generation of fans imagined fantasy and science fiction should work.

    Finally, Margaret St. Claire wrote some truly strange works. The way she mixed science fiction and fantasy would come off as really weird to today’s readers. However, the literary antecedent for the the dungeon environment that was a core element to the gameplay of original Dungeons & Dragons is drawn from her work.

    If you have not read it, I can strongly recommend “The Best of C. L. Moore”. It’s so good, it will blow your mind. The pulp scene has very little to do with how it tends to be characterized. Don’t take anyone’s word on what the works are really like– go read them and see for yourself!


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