Five Great Speculative Fiction Novels by Women

I’ve been meaning for a good long while to set aside a period to read only women authors. It’s not that they’re unrepresented on my shelves or in my to-read pile. But if I’m honest, I’ve read way more books by men than by women. Having realized the disparity, I felt a certain compulsion to address it. But I put it off for a long time, for whatever reason I could think of when the disparity re-intruded on my consciousness. Again, if I’m honest, my resistance was rooted in discomfort, as much as anything at the realization that my personal pre-sets, left unchecked, had brought about the disparity in the first place. If I did something about it, well, that meant it was a real thing, a disparity between my aspirational and actually-lived selves.

All the more reason to do something about it, and so a few months back, I made a conscious decision to read mostly books by women for a while. And I am surely glad that I did. Not for some consciousness-raising epiphany about men and women and society and literature (though there surely was that), but because I’ve found a rich vein of work that tickles a personal and particular sweet spot that I had been previously unaware existed, and that I had fervently wished was out there. Turns out my pre-sets had just prevented me from seeing it (thanks, patriarchy).

See, I’m a bit of a rare bird in reader culture, or so it seems to me. I love and identify with both speculative fiction in most of its forms and with more highfalutin quote-unquote literary fiction, with all its inquiries into history, psychology, language, and well, you name it. I came up reading both, love both, and wish they got along better in public. As a writer I try and draw from both sources. As a reader I crave works that weave the two together. Despite the continued snootiness of the literary set and the flagellations of spec fic’s misogynist rump, the overlap between the two is growing, and the correlation with the increasing prevalence of women writing speculative fiction leaves little doubt the phenomena are connected.

There’s so much great work being done right now. It’s a really exciting time for a reader like myself.

In celebration of that, and in honor of Lightspeed Magazine’s Women Destroy Science Fiction! issue, here are five great speculative fiction books by women that I’ve read recently, and why I think they are awesome and you should read them, too, whatever kind of books you like to read. Continue reading “Five Great Speculative Fiction Novels by Women”

What I Like is Better Than What You Like, or It’s Not Genre if Literary Writers Do It

Literature is like pornography: no one can tell you what it is, but they know it when they see it.  Such is the underlying assumption behind this cry for help from Arthur Krystal in the New Yorker, which allows him, among many other logically-suspect things, to claim unto literature’s greedy penumbra several works which are clearly speculative (that is, genre) fiction.  It allows him to say that works like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road are simply a literary sensibility working with genre, and not in it, as if some aesthetic prophylaxis were involved, allowing said literary giant to wade into the post-apocalyptic pool and take a swim without getting any of it in his hair.

What is the nature of the distinction?  I’ll let Krystal answer for himself. Continue reading “What I Like is Better Than What You Like, or It’s Not Genre if Literary Writers Do It”