Last month we celebrated Black History Month by reading some SF. Since March is Women’s History Month, it is appropriate that we do the same. What follows is a list of works you could read this month and as well as some links to other places to look for reading material.
James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Bradley Sheldon): Tiptree’s work often explored gender and sexuality. The James Tiptree, Jr. Award, an annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender, is named for her.
C. J. Cherryh: Cherryh’s work often looks at the outsider finding his or her place in society. In particular many of the works explore gender roles and expectations. Her writing is considered some of the best in SF for any writer, to which her Hugo wins can attest.
Ursula K. Le Guin: Le Guin is an acknowledged master of the field, with several Hugo and Nebula awards to her credit. Her philosophical science fiction and fantasy novels push the boundaries of what literature can do. (See Jo Walton’s recent Tor.com review of Le Guin’s Lavinia.)
Elizabeth Moon: A former Marine, Moon is one of the few women writing military science fiction. Her works feature the themes of biology, politics and relationship issues.
Marie Brennan: Her novel Midnight Never Come is one of the best fairy stories in recent years. This tale is set in the time of Queen Elizabeth I, and its use of a historical reign as analogy for the primary narrative is both subtle and poignant.
Trudi Canavan: Australian author Canavan writes epic fantasy that is both personal and world-spanning, almost in the same sentence. She addresses issues that affect women in medieval societies in her work, and her female protagonists wrestle with them in an honest and enlightening way.
Kate Elliott: Another epic fantasist who also writes SF, Elliott’s Crown of Stars series has one of the best heroines in the subgenre. Liath manages to take charge of her life even with a horrible past that involves sexual slavery and psychological torture.
Pamela Freeman: Freeman is a children’s author still writing her first adult fantasy series. Her Casting Stones trilogy features a broad spectrum of strong, interesting female characters.
Elaine Cunningham: You have probably never heard of Cunningham, but Forgotten Realms fans are grateful for the works she produced in that shared world. Cunningham’s work shows that D&D roleplaying never was solely a male pastime.
Mercedes Lackey: Prolific and entertaining, Lackey’s works (especially Valdemar) were cutting edge in fantasy fiction when they were first published. Her inclusion of gay characters and strong, sexually liberated female heroines is particularly noteworthy.
Tanya Huff: Though Huff writes in a variety of genres, her paranormal fantasy has been especially popular, even being converted into a TV series called Blood Ties on Lifetime. The female protagonist is human, but she teams up with a vampire to stop various supernatural threats.
Lian Hearn: A pseudonym for a female author, Hearn’s work is set in a medieval Japan and captures all the majesty and beauty of imperial Japan. Hearn’s graceful and beautiful prose is some of the best in literature.
Kit Reed: Reed has a unique voice, and her works take a hard look at a lot of aspects of our current culture. Her most recent novel, Enclave, is a dystopian Harry Potter meshed with Orwell’s Animal Farm.
These are just a few of the female authors that can be found writing speculative fiction. There are many more and Wikipedia has a good (though not very comprehensive) list.
You should also check out Book View Café, “a consortium of over twenty professional authors with extensive publishing credits in the print world,” all of whom are women.
And if you are looking for fiction that is specifically feminist, then Aqueduct Press “dedicates itself to publishing challenging, feminist science fiction.” They have links to other resources that promote women in speculative fiction, as well.