Happy International Women’s Day, everyone.
While this isn’t the only day a lot of us take to remember, thank, and cheer on the women in our lives who embolden us, support us, and love us (Thanks, Mom!), it is a day that–and especially in light of recent events–carries more weight for a lot of us.
In the spirit of the day, take a moment to give a shoutout to your favorite female science fiction and/or fantasy writers. Or just your favorite female authors, if they write outside of those genres. Shout it loud, shout it proud.
Also in the spirit of the day, I wanted to share what happened to me shortly after I published my first novel, so permit me the trip down memory lane. This happened just about three years ago, about a month shy of the day. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said this happened shortly after I published Chasing Shadows. I think about a month and a half had gone by, and I was attending a wedding as a friend’s Plus One. It was a weird situation to be in as I knew exactly three people there, but for the most part, it was a very nice evening.
There are, however, always those moments that jab into your memory and stick there.
I was over by the bar and had struck up a conversation with a man who’d been forced into awkward closeness to myself and my friend. He was nice enough, and he chatted with us as we all waited for a free bartender to take our drink orders. At one point, we got into the subject of our careers. When he asked me what I did, I smiled and said with newfound pride that I was an author. When he asked me what genre, I said science fiction.
There’s a thrill that comes with saying that for the first time, and being able to point to a published book as solid evidence that you really are an author. Of course, I didn’t get to bask in that glow for more than half a second.
The man who had been pleasant enough replied with, “I’m surprised. Isn’t that a man’s genre?”
Then he laughed like he’d said something witty, asked if that was sexist, then immediately turned away from me to break the conversation and focus on my male friend.
I spent a moment fuming, but a minute later, I got the chance to jump back in, and rattle off several names that left him admitting that, maybe, he wasn’t as familiar with the genre as he thought, and no, it’s not a “man’s genre.” Turns out, there was a large gap in his scifi reading list.
I bring this up not to gloat. That conversation actually ended very pleasantly, and I’d like to think that he actually went on to check out a book or two by the women I mentioned. But whether he did or did not, whether that conversation had any meaningful impact on his life or not, it certainly had one on mine.
It was important to me to find my voice again, and say the names of the women who had come before me. And I will always be forever grateful for those who made their mark in the genre.
So thank you, Ursula K. Leguin, Octavia Butler, and Margaret Atwood (even if you prefer to be categorized under Speculative Fiction rather than Science Fiction). Thank you for making your voices heard, and giving me the solid foundation to stand on when I found my own voice again.
And thank you Mary Shelly, for writing Frankenstein, the first science fiction novel. While it was far from the first piece of speculative work, it went where others previously had not, and inspired a genre that would only gain power in the future.
And now, some thank you’s to some scifi and fantasy authors that I have grown up with, recently enjoyed, or am very excited to read my first book from:
- J.K. Rowling
- Marge Piercy
- Fran Wilde
- Jess E. Owen
- Rysa Walker
- Deborah Harkness
- Mary Pope Osborn
- Suzanne Collins
- Seanan McGuire
- Kameron Hurley
- Fonda Lee
- Zen Cho
- Robin McKinley
- and Catherine Fisher.
And, of course, thank you to all the male science fiction and fantasy authors who wrote and continue to write female characters with agency and dignity. But for today, thank you most of all to the women who came before me, who inspired me and gave me some of the courage that it took to publish that first book.
Here’s to you, the ones who went first, when the road was hardest. Thank you.