Oct 15 2010 10:04am

Queering SFF: Two Feminist Book Clubs for 2011

Women of Fantasy book clubI try to gather up books in this space on a regular basis that deal with issues of gender and sexuality, review them, and give you fine readers a nudge in their direction—which is all well and good, but it’s not the same as being able to sit down and have a talk about the book with the text read ahead of time and a group of people to chat with. That’s what book clubs are for, and in 2011, there are two focusing on women writers of speculative fiction.

(This is all thanks to Elizabeth Bear, who provided links on her blog, without which I might have missed out.)

The Women of Fantasy, hosted by Jawas Read, Too!, and also The Women of Science Fiction hosted by Dreams and Speculation. Both are focused on books in the genre by women writers, and looking at the lists, the books themselves all have at least a minor focus on gender and/or sexuality, so it seemed like the perfect thing to recommend.

The Women of Fantasy book club will be reading these texts:

  • January: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
  • February: Elfland by Freda Warrington
  • March: Prospero Lost by L. Jagi Lamplighter
  • April: Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest
  • May: War for the Oaks by Emma Bull
  • June: The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier
  • July: All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear
  • August: Indigo Springs by A. M. Dellamonica
  • September:Firebird by Mercedes Lackey
  • October: Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton
  • November: The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee
  • December:  A free “Reader’s Choice” selection

Many of these books are relatively new—as in a few years old at most, some even newer, but there are also texts that have hung around longer, like Emma Bull’s much-celebrated War for the Oaks. The distribution of subtypes of fantasy makes me a happy camper, also: there’s everything from epic fantasy to urban fantasy to a touch of horror. And, several of our very own Tor Books authors and contributors like Jo Walton and A.M. Dellamonica.

I’m reasonably excited because, while it turns out I own nearly all of these books, I haven’t managed to sit down and actually read a couple of them. So, here’s to hoping this will kick me into gear on that score. (Other I have of course read and loved, but would be happy to read again for a book club.)

Women of Science Fiction book club

The Women of Science Fiction has these books in mind, chosen by polling:

  • January: Dust by Elizabeth Bear
  • February: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • March: Darkship Thieves by Sarah Hoyt
  • April: The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
  • May: Mappa Mundi by Justina Robson
  • June: Lilith’s Brood (a.k.a.: Xenogenesis) by Octavia Butler
  • July: Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • August: China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh
  • September: Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon
  • October: Farthing by Jo Walton
  • November: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • December: City of Pearl by Karen Traviss

Both lists contain the first novel in a trilogy by Elizabeth Bear, so if you happen to like the book, you’re going to be picking up two more to finish the story. (Not that that’s a bad thing, but, well, you might want to make time for extra reading.) Jo Walton is here again, also, much kudos to her.

(I “score” less well on this list for books-read: only five out of the twelve, which means there’s a lot of new material for discovery.)

The ones I am most intrigued by the thought of discussing are China Mountain Zhang, The Gaslight Dogs, and the two Bear novels. (I spent a generous section of a college semester dissecting Lilith’s Brood in a class, and it’s also rich for discussion and debate.) If you plan on participating, even for a month here and there next year, which are you most excited about?

I admit, I’ve never done a book club before. It’ll be a new experience for me, especially online. I’m pleased by the attention being drawn to women writers of speculative fiction, though, as there are still some nasty and repulsive gendered politics flowing under the surface of the fandom. This attention and critical interest is great and the more people participate, the more often it might happen.

So, you know. I might miss a month here and there, or only have something tiny to say. But I’ll try to keep caught up, and perhaps provide a link and reminder for the books-of-the-month next year if that’s of an interest to any readers. I think these are excellent efforts and I’d like to support them as much as possible—maybe one of these years we should do a QSFF book club. That sounds…fun and possible.

Dreams and Speculation banner imagery from HubbleSite gallery, authored by STScl and NASA and used freely in the public domain

Women of Fantasy banner imagery by John William Waterhouse

Brit Mandelo is a multi-fandom geek with a special love for comics and queer literature. She can be found on Twitter and Livejournal.

Denni Schnapp
1. Schnappi
This would be a first time for me too, but it's an excellent idea! I'll be focusing on the women in science fiction :)
2. jessicaemilymoyer
Yeah! I love SF bookclubs, but I haven't lived near one in several years. Most excited about Hundred Thousand Kingdoms for now as that book blew me away, I just loved it, but I'm not quite sure what it was that was so great.
Brit Mandelo
3. BritMandelo

Cool! *g* (It's such a nifty idea--where I live, this would never happen, but the internet makes it all possible.)


I have a copy and it's on my pile of to-read, so that'll be a nice reason to pick it up. I've heard it's excellent, so I bought it, but my piles are getting a bit out of control lately...
[da ve]
4. slickhop
Hmm, I've read two off the fantasy list and nine off the SF list already. But adding the others to my queue ...
5. Nduncs
Hmm, are you going to give credit to the artist for the art work used on the Women of Fantasy banner, or even the sci-fi one?

I mean its only fair, right?
Chris Lough
6. TorChris
@5. It is indeed, but we need to hunt down the names of the artists first, as they're not credited in the banners provided by the respective clubs.
7. dreamsandspec
@Brit Mandelo: Thank you for the post!

@Nduncs and @TorChris: I'm not sure about the Women of Fantasy images, but all my space images come from the Hubble official site ( and now credited on the book club as well--as it should have been to begin with.
10. PhoenixFalls
I've already read 2 of the 11 Fantasy titles and 4 of the 12 SF titles. . . yet I'm only planning on participating in the Women of SF challenge. Silly me. Probably because I have greater love of all the subgenres of SF than I do of all the subgenres of Fantasy. . . But they are damn good lists, and I was stoked to see this was happening somewhere online and that so many people have been promoting it. Should be some fascinating discussions!
Pamela Adams
11. PamAdams
I'm looking forward to the China Mountain Zhang discussion- I love that book.
Ryan V
12. JesterJoker
The Women in SF list intrigues me. About half of them are right up my alley and the other half someone could probably convince me, so. :D
13. wandering-dreamer
Welp, guess my reading list just got even longer, thank god I've still got a few months left in 2010 to get some of it out of the way before I go after these!
Erika A.
14. brownjawa
Thank you for the post, Brit! :)

@TorChris: I apologize for that. The images are all by John William Waterhouse and mostly taken from I do believe I did a Google search for one or two of them. Thank you for reminding me I didn't give credit. I'll fix that right away. :)
Brit Mandelo
15. BritMandelo

This is going to be fun; it's super-cool that everyone's so interested.

(@brownjawa @dreamsandspec

Totally my pleasure.)
16. filkferengi
Thanks for mentioning these, Brit! It looks intriguing. If you could post reminders as each book comes up, that'd be super, & probably foster some excellent discussion.
Brit Mandelo
17. BritMandelo

I think I will do that, indeed. *g*
Sally Bibrary
18. BendingtheBookshelf
I've signed up for February (Elfland) and May (War for the Oaks) on the Fantasy front, and for June (Lilith’s Brood) on the Sci-Fi front.

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