Speculative fiction by women – and what exactly are the neighbours hiding in their garden anyway?

Even though I didn’t have school today – Pentecost holidays, hurray – I’m awfully tired. First of all, my sleep this morning was cut short by an infernal noise that turned out to be my stupid neighbours from across the street having the empty plot of land next to their house bulldozed yet again. I don’t know why they can’t just let grass grow on the plot of land, but have to bulldoze it again and again. Mafia body drop-off? A stolen nuke from the Cold War? A crashed UFO that has to be buried? A vault full of vampires biding their time to break free and feast on the neighbourhood? Probably not, but it is fun to speculate.

Since I didn’t have school today, I took the opportunity to head into Bremen. I had some business at the bank and I also ate out for the first time since the EHEC crisis hit. And since I was in town already, I also hit the bookstore and bought Indulgence in Death by J.D. Robb, Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier and Goddess of Light by P.C. Cast. I’d missed those books when they originally came out in the mid 2000s, but they are currently being reissued in Britain.

All three books I bought today are speculative fiction by female authors, which is pretty standard for my buying and reading patterns, because in recent years I have been reading a lot more books by women than men. However, I’m somewhat of an exception, because the the gender balance in science fiction discussion sparked by people naming their favourite SF books in the Guardian and mentioning overwhelmingly male writers is still going strong. Indeed, if I had participated in the Guardian poll (which I didn’t), there’s a pretty good chance I might have named a male writer as well, even though I read a lot of women. In fact, the main reason I didn’t participate in the poll was because I couldn’t decide on just one favourite book and writer.

Cheryl Morgan offers a summary of the discussion so far at the SFWA site. Of course, you also get the usual comments by people who claim not to care about or notice an author’s gender, they “just want a good story”. Only that for some reason, all good stories turn out to be written by men. One poster even suggests that SF by women just isn’t as good and that forgotten female authors needn’t be rediscovered, because if they had been any good, they’d certainly would never have been forgotten in the first place. Because worthy books are never forgotten and that single poster’s tastes are the one and only authority in the universe on what is and is not a great SF novel.

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