Can you name the 10 greatest science fiction novels by women authors published in the past decade? That's a meme that's been making the rounds, in response to a perceived increase in the marginalization of women in SF.
The discussion started a week and a half ago or so, when Clarke Award winner Tricia Sullivan was being interviewed over at Geek Syndicate, and she remarked on the fact that the Clarke Award has greatly decreased its percentage of women finalists and winners. Sullian said:
For the first ten years from the award's inception in 1987 until 1996, the genders were balanced, five female winners and five male. Between 1997-2006 there were three female winners out of ten (Mary Doria Russell, Gwyneth Jones, and me) and between 2006-2010 there have been no female winners. The shortlist since 2000 has included Gwyneth Jones a whole bunch of times, Sheri Tepper, Sarah Hall, Lydia Millet, Jan Morris, Liz Williams, Audry Niffeneger, me, Elizabeth Moon, Connie Willis, Justina Robson twice, Octavia Butler, Mary Gentle, and Kathleen Ann Goonan. Yet, since 2003 there has been only one year with more than one female author on the ballot. What are the odds of a woman being chosen when the judges's shortlist is 80% male or more?
I do not know why this is the case, but I wonder whether, with science fiction declining greatly in the US, there may not be enough women playing the SF game right now. Only the most successful writers can survive in this climate, and that probably means women are being forced out at a higher rate than men. Without much input from women in North America or Australia, the burden may be falling on UK SF writers.
Responding to this, Niall Harrison with Torque Control, the blog of the editorial staff of Vector, the critical journal of the British Science Fiction Association, notes that only a handful of British women are publishing original adult science fiction with a British publisher right now, especially if you leave out fantasy-SF hybrids like Justina Robson's recent work. There's a fascinating discussion in the comments on Harrison's post, including a bit where Paul Kincaid suggests that British SF has become more male-oriented since "the end of the so-called British renaissance" and Martin Lewis adds that 2000, with the rise of "Alastair Reynolds and the new generation of British male space opera authors," might mark a watershed.
Harrison came back, a few days later, asking people to name what they thought were the ten greatest science fiction books by women authors of 2000-2010. You have until December 5 to respond, and already there have been lists posted by Jo Walton at Tor.com, Liviu Suciu at Fantasy Book Critic, Cheryl Morgan at Cheryl's Mewsings, and a number of others.
Meanwhile, in a separate blog post at Big Other, Paul Kincaid also listed five fairly recent women authors from the United States who ought to be more influential on SF than they are: Kit Reed, Vonda McIntyre, Pat Murphy, Lisa Goldstein and Karen Joy Fowler. His descriptions of their work and why it should be taken on board are well worth reading in full.
So there you have it — what would you consider the 10 greatestscience fiction books by women published in the past decade?