What's The Name of That Book??? discussion

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requests: for books in general > classic SF that respects women...

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Cheryl (cherylllr) | 1840 comments Mod
I found this listopia:
http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/27...

but most of the books there seem to have more avant-garde stuff, more about redefining gender & sexuality. I'm sure they're good books and I'm sure I'll read some of them. But meanwhile....

I'm looking for the other books, the classic robots and aliens and spaceships written back in the forties and fifties. I know some of them included real women, not just women who were eye-candy or victims or shrewish spinsters or housewives... but I can't remember any examples.

I'd welcome suggestions for modern books that read like classics, too, like the League of People series by James Alan Gardner.

I am aware of the Honor Harrington series by David Weber and know it has fans, but since I don't like warfare or politics I don't know whether it's apt.

I also like what I've read by Elizabeth Moon but haven't read her big Vatta's War series that starts with Trading in Danger yet, so, again, I don't know if it fits.

(Sorry the links didn't hold when I copied the message over.)


Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides (upsight) | 283 comments How about Margaret St. Clair? The Best of Margaret St. Clair is a collection of her short stories that's usually not hard to find used. Last I checked, anyway.


Cheryl (cherylllr) | 1840 comments Mod
I'll look into that, thanks.


message 4: by D.M. (last edited Feb 17, 2012 09:28PM) (new)

D.M. Dutcher  | 311 comments You could try James Tiptree Jr. aka Alice Sheldon. edit: also Cordwainer Smith especially with any stories about C'Mell.


Kate Farrell | 1146 comments Mod
A classic with a strong female character is Podkayne of Mars by Heinlein.
A modern book: The Margarets by Tepper.
Books by Nancy Kress are good: Probability Moon, Steal Across the Sky, etc.
The Empress of Mars by Kage Baker.
A young adult classic is Enchantress from the Stars by Engdahl.
To Ride Pegasus by McCaffrey.
I could keep going...


Phillip (JeevesWooster) As weird as the suggestion might sound, you might try the tale of "Beren and Luthien" in Tolkien's "Silmarillion".

Tolkien gets a lot of criticism for not having many women in his work at all. That is a fair criticism. But, when they are present they are not presented as mere objects of desire. In fact, when they are on stage they pretty much save the day.

If you are not a fan of the "Silmarillion" then skip right over to "Beren and Luthien" so that you don't lose interest by getting bogged down in the creation story and the origin of the sun and moon and on and on. "Beren and Luthien" is self contained.

"Beren and Luthien" is like stepping into a Grimm fairy tail that is developed enough that you can walk around in it. The character of Luthien is a strong woman who saves the hero multiple times while she partners with him on his quest.

It is a beautiful story that was important enough to Tolkien that he wrote multiple versions at different times in his life. You can find the multiple versions in the volume "Tales of Beleriand" In the "History of Middle Earth". Also, the story was so important to Tolkien that he had the names Beren and Luthien cut into the headstone of the grave he shared with his wife.

I hope this helps.


Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides (upsight) | 283 comments I just realized "respects women" is hard to pin down, for me. In a lot of the older SF that I've read, they tended to simply be absent, or window dressing. Or ... never mind, it's a spoiler, but I'm still mad about Isaac Asimov's Foundation series in that regard, and it's been about 15 years since I read it.

I don't think, for example, that showing a woman as a housewife is necessarily dismissive. It's only so if the housewife is portrayed as empty-headed. My personal beliefs compel me to point that out, though I realize that's probably not where you were going with that.

As far as things that read like classics: the Company Wars series by C.J. Cherryh, The Sky So Big and Black by John Barnes, and maybe Old Man's War and sequels, though I think this is more debatable.

Obligatory Joanna Russ quote: "There are plenty of images of women in science fiction. There are hardly any women."


Cheryl (cherylllr) | 1840 comments Mod
Sid, your housewife observation is appropriate. And I love the Russ quote.

Great rec's all! Keep 'em coming, especially the even older than McCaffery and Cherryh stuff.

(Oh, and I do like it when you use that add book/author feature so that they show up as links like this: Joanna Russ, thank you. :)

I have some research to do on what you've given me so far, thank you, but let's see about keeping this thread alive for a little while. You folks are great!


Cheryl (cherylllr) | 1840 comments Mod
Maybe it'd help to give a little background. I was trying to turn a friend onto classic sf and she picked up The Martian Chronicles and did not like it, especially because of Ray Bradbury's portrayal of women. Now the thing is that I don't recall everything I read being that bad. So, hmm, what the heck did I read, and was it bad, was I naive - or was some of it perfectly fine? Danged if I know - I hope someone on GR does!


D.M. Dutcher  | 311 comments More modern books with a retro-ish feel would be Dragonsong, The Ship Who Sang and Crystal Singer by Anne McCaffrey. Retroish space opera might be good with The Lost King by Margaret Weis.

You might also like these books, although they aren't 40ish or 50ish. Jim Aikin's The Wall at the Edge of the World, which has very strong female characters in a dystopian future, and Sharon Shinn's The Alleluia Files series.


Cheryl (cherylllr) | 1840 comments Mod
I will definitely look into them, thanks.


kvon | 54 comments Zenna Henderson had stories in the fifties and sixties with telepathic aliens hiding out on Earth.

I haven't read much of C.L. Moore's sf, but she had the fantasy heroine Jirel of Joiry.

I recommend Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century, an anthology and series of essays on women's sf through time that helped me put into perspective what women were going through. It has a story from the 20s by Harris, and from the 30s by Stone.


Lindig | 48 comments A really good anthology of women in SF is

Women of Wonder  Science-Fiction Stories by Women About Women by Pamela Sargent

This later got split into "Classic Years" and "Modern Years."


Cheryl (cherylllr) | 1840 comments Mod
Ah, more great leads, thanks so much people!


message 15: by MB (last edited Feb 22, 2012 07:53PM) (new)

MB | 124 comments Hoping to see more posts on this because I'm always searching for this as well.

DO NOT MISS Lois McMaster Bujold!!! Her books are amazing.

Grass by Sheri S. Tepper is wonderful. If you are new to her, I'd start there. All of her books are about strong women characters.

I'll second Kage Baker, John Scalzi, Zenna Henderson, Sharon Shinn.

Elizabeth Moon's Remnant Population was super! Her Vatta's War series was fun too.

The CoyoteCoyote series by Allen Steele had a few strong women in it. I've also enjoyed most of Jack McDevitt. His Alex Benedict series has a strong female protagonist.

Technically, this may not be what you're looking for, but I believe The Handmaid's Tale would qualify as SF.


Lindig | 48 comments Another early writer who had a strong woman was C.L. Moore and her character Jirel of Joiry
Jirel of Joiry

and also Judith Merrill


message 17: by Georgia (last edited Mar 04, 2012 12:11PM) (new)

Georgia D | 4 comments Try "Hellspark", by Janet Kagan. I'm surprised to see that it's 1988, I thought it was older. Its female protagonist Tocohl Susumo is a negotiator / mediator / conciliator who use proxemics and kinesics, as well as oral language. Wonderful book involving communication, set in a "first landing on a planet" scenario.

Janet Kagan also used proxemics / kinesics / oral language in a Star Trek novel she wrote (Uhura's Song), which portrays Uhura as a strong, real woman.

the version I have of Hellspark (ISBN 0-9658345-2-2, MM Publishing 1998, www.angelfire.com/biz/MeishaMerlin) also has short afterwords about Hellspark and Uhura's Song, and a short additional reading list of nonfiction books.

Wow, everybody, what a great set of sci fi having strong female characters!


Anyanwu | 7 comments Let's not forget Octavia Butler's books. The Patternmaster series or Lillith's Brood series (particularly the first books , Wildseed and Dawn). Her book, Kindred, would also be science fiction even though it transports a modern African American women back to the antebellum south. Basically all of her books feature strong women dealing with issues of survival and oppression. I could list them all.....wait don't miss Fledgling!


Random (rand0m1s) | 43 comments I'll have to join in with Elizabeth Moon. Remnant Population is one of my all time favorite books.

Funny enough, I happened to run across a post of hers yesterday that, while not directly related, might be interesting to the discussion here.

Characters, Variety, and Writers


Ann aka Iftcan (Iftcan) | 4805 comments Mod
Ok, there are some very interesting females in James White's Sector General books. Also, many of Andre Norton's books have strong females in them. Might I suggest Witch World has a SLEW of them, as does Storm Over Warlock and the 2 books that go with it, have an entire matriarchal race. This first book only has human males in it--the second book is done from the pov of a human female. And there is a third book that semi-goes with the first 2, since it is the son of the 2 main characters from books 1 and 2 Forerunner


Cheryl (cherylllr) | 1840 comments Mod
I'd forgotten the Sector General books, but yes, they're a pretty good add. I'll investigate the others, hoping they're older....


Esme | 14 comments There's a much more recent SF series by Tanya Huff that you might enjoy. They're military SF, and they feature a kick-ass woman as the protagonist. The first book is called Valor's Choice. Definitely worth checking out!


Emily  O (ReadingWhileFemale) | 14 comments I don't know if she's as classic as you'd like, but Ursula K. Le Guin is an excellent sci-fi writer who writes wonderful female (and male) characters. I loved her books The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia and The Left Hand of Darkness. They're a little more avant-garde than your classic sci-fi, but they are both very well written and I think they're definitely worth a read.

I'm also going to second the recommendations for Octavia Butler, who is amazing, and James Tiptree Jr, though a lot of her stuff is ironic or satirical, so it can seem to be pretty awful to its female characters occasionally. They're both great writers.


Kaion (kaionvin) | 160 comments Cheryl in CC NV wrote: "Maybe it'd help to give a little background. I was trying to turn a friend onto classic sf and she picked up The Martian Chronicles and did not like it, especially because of Ray Bradbury's portray..."

I don't know about The Martian Chronicles, Cheryl, but I found his treatment of women in Fahrenheit 451 to be really distracting in the story. I suppose some of it could be chalked up to the simple-mindedness of Guy himself, but it was still one of the aspects which really really dated the story for me.


Cheryl (cherylllr) | 1840 comments Mod
Thanks. :)


message 28: by night music -- bring on the clowns ♫ (last edited Jun 12, 2012 04:38PM) (new)

night music -- bring on the clowns ♫ (pjreads) | 62 comments Can't get your request out of my head, this book keeps wanting to be mentioned:

Forty Thousand in Gehenna by C.J. Cherryh by C.J. Cherryh
Three strong female characters: Pia, Elai and Dr. Elizabeth McGee
Mass-produced clones and fascinating aliens
Nominated for the 1984 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel

It's been a long time since I read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury by Ray Bradbury, but I think it has some* female characters who are more than caricatures. (*I just checked wiki and maybe it's only one: Clarisse McClellan). Originally published in 1953.


Cheryl (cherylllr) | 1840 comments Mod
Thanks!


message 30: by Kaion (last edited Dec 11, 2012 01:10PM) (new)

Kaion (kaionvin) | 160 comments Arguably, Clarisse is just as much of a positive cariature (see: Manic Pixie Dream Girl) as the other female characters are negative cariatures.


night music -- bring on the clowns ♫ (pjreads) | 62 comments Kaion wrote: "Arguably, Clarisse is just as much of a positive cariature (see: Manic Pixie Dream Girl) as the other female characters are negative cariatures."

You're probably right.


Kaion (kaionvin) | 160 comments I think you can argue it either way. It's hardly as if the male characters are particularly well-developed either in Fahrenheit 451 either, it's only more noticeable that the female cariactures tend to be more vehemently negative that it is noticeable. But yeah, not a subtle book, CENSORSHIP IS BAD or HAS TELEVISION DESTORYED THE HUMAN RACE yet.


Michelle Grant (firefightrix) | 64 comments Rite of passage


Andria (airdna) | 1454 comments Mod
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman?

In poking about looking for some titles for you, Cheryl, I came across the following in a GR user review and laughed:

"I've tried so many times to like classic science fiction, but can't get past the dated writing style. It reads as if Dick Van Dyke is traveling through space, while Mary Tyler Moore is at home fixing his dinner. "


Michelle Grant (firefightrix) | 64 comments Rite of Passage is by Alexie Panshin. I think.


message 36: by Kagama-the Literaturevixen (last edited Dec 12, 2012 04:27AM) (new)

Kagama-the Literaturevixen | 502 comments I was going to suggest Cordelia'sHonor but someone already did. But I second that :)

DarkShip Thieves is good I think.

And also Restoree wich was written as a spoof of the old sci-fi books. Just an ok read,but then I am not a big Anne McCaffrey fan.

Freedom's Landing has a strong heroine too.


Marsha (QueenBoadicea) | 28 comments How about Marion Zimmer Bradley? She wrote tons of books about strong female heroines, her Darkover series being a notable inclusion. The ladies of the Free Amazons are women who fight to keep their place in society by forswearing being placed under the protection of men. When they come into contact with people from Earth, their lives undergo new complications but they manage to incorporate their lifestyles with those of Earthlings. So inspiring were her stories about the Comhi-Letziis that I believe a lot of female readers actually took the “Oath” to become Renunciates, forming their own clubs, much like people who choose to live like the characters in Tolkien fantasy novels.

I realize that the Darkover series don’t fall into books from the 1940s or 1950s and they’re not about robots and spaceships, per se. But neither is Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman Herland and I see it listed here. So Bradley definitely deserves a mention.


Cheryl (cherylllr) | 1840 comments Mod
Rite of Passage fits and was interesting, yes. Thanks for all the suggestions & observations. It's true that male characters weren't all that richer or authentic, or subtle, back in the day, either.


D.M. Dutcher  | 311 comments I've recently discovered The Dandelion Girl by Robert Young, and these stories might fit the bill. They may cross over to idolization of women, even. He writes about men who have very complex relationships with women and the feminine ideal, and while they aren't all great, it's definitely different from the usual.

I think you've mentioned you've read this, but Zenna Henderson's Pilgrimage: The Book of the People might be good to try as well. I need desperately to reread these.


Justanotherbiblophile | 581 comments How about some Telzey Amberdon (and a buncha other women) by James H. Schmitz? He wrote some great chicks. ;)


Loll | 1 comments What's the book where thiers a girl and she has a famous sister that looks like her but she doesn't know until the sister's manager calls her saying that she needs the girls help?


Cheryl (cherylllr) | 1840 comments Mod
Loll, you need to start a new topic thread in the "Unsolved" folder - it's unlikely anyone will see your request here.

Thanks for all the on-topic suggestions, folks!


Brian (furicle) Now that I think about it, the women in Dune by Frank Herbert and the original sequels are all full fledged characters in their own rights, and Spider Robinson's writings, especially with his wife like Stardance by Spider Robinson have strong/leading female roles


Fresno Bob | 56 comments Don't know if it was mentioned before, but Octavia Butler's stuff would fit the bill


Cheryl (cherylllr) | 1840 comments Mod
Thanks!


Brenda Kirton | 24 comments Restoree is supposed to be one of the first science fiction book with a strong female protagonist.


Cheryl (cherylllr) | 1840 comments Mod
That's true, def. belongs on the list here. ->


Fayley | 68 comments I concur with Restoree as a recommendation . Also Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon has an elderly lady as the protagonist .


Brenda Kirton | 24 comments Remnant population was so different and so good. I forgot about it.


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