100 Great Sci-Fi Stories by Women Writers (Read 20 for Free Online)

Image by Frankie Fougan­thin, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Since 2009, the orga­ni­za­tion VIDA: Women in the Lit­er­ary Arts has sought to bring bal­ance to the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of female authors in the lit­er­ary world. As revealed by the 2010 con­tro­ver­sy begun by author Jodi Picoult over the gush­ing treat­ment Jonathan Franzen’s Free­dom received in the New York Times, the dis­par­i­ty, and the bias, are real. Author Jen­nifer Wein­er chimed in as well, writ­ing: “when a man writes about fam­i­ly and feel­ings, it’s lit­er­a­ture with a cap­i­tal L, but when a woman con­sid­ers the same top­ics, it’s romance, or a beach book.” This fracas—involving a num­ber of most­ly New York literati and the death of the term “chick lit”—didn’t split even­ly down gen­der lines. Both male and female writ­ers lined up to defend Picoult and Franzen, but it did open up legit­i­mate ques­tions about the old (most­ly white) boys club that claims the upper ech­e­lons of lit­er­ary fic­tion and the brass ring that is the New York Times book review.

What received no notice in the pop­u­lar media dur­ing all this chat­ter was the place of women writ­ers in genre fic­tion, which most­ly lives out­side the gates and rarely gets much notice from the crit­ics (with the excep­tion of a hand­ful of “seri­ous” writ­ers and the Young Adult mar­ket). Well, there is a dis­cus­sion about gen­der par­i­ty in the sci­ence fic­tion world tak­ing place now on the blog of sci-fi crit­ic and writer Ian Sales. Sales curates SF Mis­tress­works—a blog for women sci-fi writers—and after review­ing a 1975 anthol­o­gy called Women of Won­der, he asked read­ers over at his blog to sub­mit their favorite short fic­tion by women writ­ers. His goal? To col­lect 100 sto­ries and novel­las as a counter to the clas­sic, and almost whol­ly male-dom­i­nat­ed col­lec­tion, 100 Great Sci­ence Fic­tion Short Short Sto­ries, edit­ed by Isaac Asi­mov. You can read the full list of 100 over at Sales’ blog. Below, we’ve excerpt­ed those sto­ries that are freely avail­able online. If you’re a sci­ence fic­tion fan and find your­self unable to name more than one or two female authors in the genre (every­one knows, for exam­ple, the fab­u­lous Ursu­la K. Le Guin and Mar­garet Atwood, pic­tured above), you might want to take a look at some of the great work you’ve missed out on.

Sales’ list spans sev­er­al decades and, as he writes, demon­strates “a good spread of styles and themes and approach­es across the genre.”

1 ‘The Fate of the Posei­do­nia’, Clare Winger Har­ris (1927, short sto­ry) online here

12 ‘The New You’, Kit Reed (1962, short sto­ry) online here

13 ‘The Put­nam Tra­di­tion’, Sonya Dor­man (1963, short sto­ry) online here

16 ‘The Heat Death of the Uni­verse’, Pamela Zoline (1967, short sto­ry) online here

24 ‘The Violet’s Embryo’, Angéli­ca Gorodis­ch­er (1973, nov­el­ette) online here (excerpt)

28 ‘The View from End­less Scarp’, Mar­ta Ran­dall (1978, short sto­ry) online here

51 ‘The Road to Jerusalem’, Mary Gen­tle (1991, short sto­ry) online here

71 ‘Cap­tive Girl’, Jen­nifer Pel­land (2006, short sto­ry) online here

79 ‘Spi­der the Artist’, Nne­di Okrafor (2008, short sto­ry) online here

81 ‘Eros, Phil­ia, Agape’, Rachel Swirsky (2009, nov­el­ette) online here

82 ‘Non-Zero Prob­a­bil­i­ties’, NK Jemisin (2009, short sto­ry) online here

85 ‘Blood, Blood’, Abbey Mei Otis (2010, short sto­ry) online here and here

88 ‘Amaryl­lis’, Car­rie Vaughn (2010, short sto­ry) online here

89 ‘I’m Alive, I Love You, I’ll See You in Reno’, Vylar Kaf­tan (2010, short sto­ry) online here

91 ‘Six Months, Three Days’, Char­lie Jane Anders (2011, short sto­ry) online here

93 ‘The Car­tog­ra­ph­er Bees and the Anar­chist Wasps’, E Lily Yu (2011, short sto­ry) online here

94 ‘Silent­ly and Very Fast’, Cath­erynne M Valente (2011, novel­la) online here, here and here

96 ‘A Vec­tor Alpha­bet of Inter­stel­lar Trav­el’, Yoon Ha Lee (2011, short sto­ry) online here

97 ‘Immer­sion’, Aliette de Bodard (2012, short sto­ry) online here

98 ‘The Lady Astro­naut of Mars’, Mary Robi­nette Kow­al (2012, nov­el­ette) online here

* Please note: an ear­li­er ver­sion of this post was titled “The 100 Best Sci-Fi Sto­ries by Women Writ­ers (Read 20 for Free Online).” As this list’s cura­tor, Ian Sales, points out unequiv­o­cal­ly below, this is not meant to be a defin­i­tive “best of” in any sense. Our apolo­gies for mis­read­ing his inten­tions. 

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Sci­ence Fic­tion Clas­sics on the Web: Hux­ley, Orwell, Asi­mov, Gaiman & Beyond

Free Philip K. Dick: Down­load 11 Great Sci­ence Fic­tion Sto­ries

Isaac Asi­mov Recalls the Gold­en Age of Sci­ence Fic­tion (1937–1950)

425 Free eBooks: Down­load to Kin­dle, iPad/iPhone & Nook

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (13)
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  • Marcel says:

    …can’t see Franken­stein…

  • Ryan says:

    I found this per­spec­tive the oth­er day: http://whowritesfor.com/archive

    I can’t wait to get read­ing!

  • Ian Sales says:

    The title of the list is 100 GREAT Sci­ence Fic­tion Sto­ries by Women, not “best”. In fact, my post cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly states, “The sto­ries are by no means the best by each writer”.

  • Margie Stoked says:

    Where is Andre Nor­ton nee Alice Nor­ton

  • Susan Arthur says:

    When It Changed by Joan­na Russ. It is always the first sto­ry I think of when short sci fi comes up.

  • Marc Emmelmann says:

    I became a #sci­fi lover in my 20’s. Now I’m in my 30’s and have start­ed a web­site to pro­mote sci-fi paint­ing.


    I’m seek­ing painters(who paint Sci Fi)and want to mar­ket their work for free on this web­site. We will sell your works for you for a rea­son­able com­mis­sion.

    And course, if you appre­ci­ate Sci­Fi and paint­ings — our fea­tured piece is extra­or­di­nary! :)


  • Josh Jones says:

    Hi Ian,

    Thanks so much for stop­ping by and point­ing out our error. I’ve amend­ed the title to reflect your inten­tions.

    All the best,

  • Dave says:

    I strong­ly sug­gest that for sites like Gutenberg.org and Archive.org you link to the work’s main page rather than one par­tic­u­lar for­mat.

    Links for the two works in ques­tion:

    Also, the links to infinityplus.co.uk are all dead as it appears the site is offline.

  • Ian Sales says:

    Hi Josh. Thanks. And thanks also for the sig­nal boost.

  • StNaija says:

    Wow, this just beau­ti­ful! My only plea is that you add Romie Stott–A Robot Walks Into A Bar And Says. She wrote it for ARC. It is an AMAZING sto­ry with a human ele­ment and lot’s of guts.

  • Ming on Mongo says:

    There is no ‘secret plot’ to sup­press female sci-fi writ­ers. It just hap­pens to be a lit­er­ary form that tends to dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly attract males and male writ­ers, whose brains are sim­ply ‘wired’ dif­fer­ent­ly from female brains, not unlike the way that sci­ence in gen­er­al tends to attract males. So iron­i­cal­ly these kin­da “women only” lists just serve to imply that women writ­ers can’t make it on their own, and some­how need extra “help”, anal­o­gous to the “Spe­cial Olympics”.

  • Shruti says:

    Men and wom­en’s brains may be wired slight­ly dif­fer­ent­ly but there is no authen­tic and sci­en­tif­ic study prov­ing that men’s brains are more sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly inclined than wom­en’s brains. It could be due to social con­di­tion­ing as men are tra­di­tion­al­ly encour­aged to show an inter­est in and to pur­sue sci­ence not women. There is no secret plot because it’s out in the open for every­one to see. The sci­ence fic­tion genre is dom­i­nat­ed by men as is evi­dent. Women are at a dis­ad­van­tage in the sci-fi genre as they are over­looked and so to lev­el the play­ing field, women writ­ers of this genre need to be encour­aged. Yes they might need a lit­tle extra help but only because men have been get­ting it for a long time now.

  • Tim says:

    Not sure who all these authors are, but I tend to look for longer books — 100K+ words and so won’t get to the above sto­ries.
    I don’t care if a book was writ­ten by a man or woman — I rarely look at the author’s name — I just want to read an engag­ing sto­ry, which for me has been sci­fi for the past 40+ years.

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