ONE MAN’S THOUGHTS: A History of Women Authors in Science Fiction

Women authors, outside of romance, were not common in early science fiction. For a long time the most successful female writers were romance novelist. As romance books grew in popularity here in the U.S. during the fifties and sixties women writers expanded into other fields. I imagine a heavy influence for many of these bold writers was the romance genre and this influence was fortunate.

Romance and the romance style have had a significant impact on our culture, not only in television and movies but other types of books as well. Whether a reader enjoys intrigues, flashing swords or star ships in their stories, a heart felt need for love will always make any setting better. Romantic writing has had an impact on all manner of other genres.

Male writers dominated early science fiction publications. Armed with an interesting view of the future and some talent they wrote tales like Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and Doc Savage. These stories were typically entertaining, over the top and short. Of course those with deeper insights such as H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradburry and Isaac Asimov defined hardcore science fiction writing, however science fiction still had a limited audience.

In the nineteen sixties while the top selling science fiction was inhabited by the giants, new writers were also appearing. Harry Harrison, Robert Heinlein, and Piers Anthony made their debut, but so did Anne McCaffrey and Ursula K Le Guin. Not only were they science fiction writers, but also as women authors they brought a new point of view to the genre— along with new readers.

By the seventies women were much more prevalent in science fiction and fantasy writing. Kate Wilhelm, Martha Randal, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Mary Lee Stettle (who gained a National Book Award for Blood Tie) all had best selling books in that decade. Not only were women writing more in other genres, but also there was a boom in women publisher and magazine editors.

With the changes in audience, writers and publishers for science fiction it allowed for a new type science fiction. The science fact in these stories can be used as tool for characters with more humanized goals. For example, traveling to Mars or through time just to do it isn’t as interesting as doing it for love. With a romantic motivation to a fantastic setting it brings a level of believability that would otherwise be missing. As a writer I certainly fall into that category. I’ve never written a story where the character doesn’t fall in love. It is by far the most dramatic, life changing, wonderful event that can happen to a human being and should be told and retold as many ways as possible. Thanks to women in the field of science fiction, and writing at large, I have book that has a place in today’s market.

Until next time, happy writing.

Michael Matthews Bingamon


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