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Worlds Without End Blog

SF Mistressworks Posted at 8:09 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

SF Mistressworks

One thing that science fiction fans love is a good list of great books.  There’s something very satisfying about poring over a list like the SF Masterworks or The Classics of Science Fiction to see which ones we’ve read and which we’ve missed.  We get to determine for ourselves if the list creators got it right with their selections and there is endless opportunity to speculate, and argue about, the books we’d have put on the list if only we’d been consulted.

There are some great lists out there for us to choose from and many are covered here on WWEnd for your edification.  Each list has its own slant and biases built in and because we often don’t agree with their contents, or we just want to fill a particular niche that’s underserved, we just keep making more.

I’ve been making an effort to read more women authors this last year or so and the first thing I did was go looking for a list.  I found many to choose from but ultimately none were quite what I wanted.  The answer was to make my own list:  Award Winning Books by Woman Authors.  Like the name indicates it’s just a simple list of all the winning books by women from the 10 awards we cover here on WWEnd.  Of course, that’s a pretty easy list to make.  All I had to do was poll the database and post the results.  A useful list and good start but I wanted more.

Then along comes this great list called the SF Mistressworks by SF/F writer and blogger Ian Sales on It Doesn’t Have to be Right….  This list is exactly what I was looking for and a great fit for WWEnd. The goal of his list is to highlight great works by women authors that are worthy of the attention given to those books on the SF Masterworks list – which is a bit thin on women authors.  Ian turned his list into a meme and it took off across the internets – a clear indication of the quality of the list and of the un-tapped desire for such a list.

Says Ian: "I’ve used my own taste in novels, awards shortlists, recommendations by various folk, and some judicious online research to generate the list."  He goes on with this caveat: "I can’t guarantee I’ve picked a writer’s best book, or indeed that any of the books on the list that I’ve not read myself are in any way ‘classic’."  Fair enough.  As with all lists it’s not perfect but some real effort went into it and the result is pretty impressive.  All the usual suspects are in there but there are many authors and titles you’ve probably never heard of too.  Plenty of room to branch out and try someone new.

The list of 90 books is restricted to SF works with only one book per author and a cut-off date of 2000.  He’s got a 21st Century SF Mistressworks list in the works so don’t get too upset if you don’t find the most recent authors and books in the list.  We had about half of these books in our database already and I spent the last week adding the others – not to mention some 30-odd new authors!

Take a look at the list and see how you fare.  If you’re a WWEnd member you can use BookTrackr™ to tag the ones you’ve read.  What books would you add to it?  What books would you replace for your favorite authors?

Many thanks to Ian Sales for the great list.


Meridian   |   02 Apr 2011 @ 02:54

I’m slipping here – only read twenty-three of these. I’ve also read unlisted books of a further five or so of the authors featured. I’ve always been a big fan of Tepper, but she tends to get too preachy now. The late great James Tiptree Jr (Alice Sheldon) was a great writer, but don’t read her stuff if you are prone to depression. Elizabeth Moon is greatly under-estimated. Sticking purely to SF the list is fine, but if you shade into fantasy there are others I’d add.M

Dave Post   |   02 Apr 2011 @ 23:19

@Meridian: Only 23? That’s a quarter of the total list. Not bad in my opinion! This list is a real challenge because of it’s breadth. 90 authors? I’ve read around 100 SF/F authors total and only a paltry number of those are women so far. I’m way behind.

Meridian   |   03 Apr 2011 @ 04:40

If you want a perspective, I’ve read about four thousand F&SF books by over three hundred and fifty writers. But over the last ten or fifteen years my time spent reading has dropped to the point where I only read about thirty books a year, of which half are those categories. This means that, of that list, the writers I have read tend to be the older ones. I’m always open to new writers, but seldom get the time.And I just noticed: no Justina Robson, which is a big omission. M

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