In 1818, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus, which is considered by many to be the first true science fiction novel.
Since then, many women have written other great science fiction. Unfortunately, too much of it was either not published, because it was written by women, or their work was not recognized as science fiction. Fortunately, there have been efforts this century to bring their work the recognition it deserves.
Want to read more by these authors? Here are two lists of women science fiction authors to get you started.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Award and the SFWA Author Emeritus Award have recognized nine women: Andre Norton, Judith Merril, Ursula K. Le Guin, Katherine MacLean, Anne McCaffrey, Ardath Mayhar, Connie Willis, C.J. Cherryh and Jane Yolen. Here’s a small sample of their work:
Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (1975) won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1974 and both the Hugo and Locus awards the next year.
McCaffrey’s Dragonflight (1968), the first in the Dragonriders of Pern series, incorporates two of her Nebula Award-winning novellas, “Weyr Search” and “Dragonrider.”
Willis’ Doomsday Book (1992) is the first in a series about Oxford time-traveling historians. It won both the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1993.
Cherryh’s Cyteen (1988) was originally published as a trilogy but is now available in a single volume. It won the 1989 Hugo and Locus awards.
Yolen’s The Devil's Arithmetic (1988) is a children’s book about a 12-year-old girl who time travels to the Holocaust. It was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novella and won the National Jewish Book Award the following year.
Science Fiction Masterworks
The Science Fiction Masterworks imprint includes books by 17 women, including a couple of the Grand Masters listed above. It’s a long list and getting longer (yay!), so I’m not going to list them all, but here's a taste.
Joanna Russ' The Female Man (1975) was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novella, and in 1995 it won a Retrospective Tiptree Award.
Sheri S. Tepper's Grass (1989) was short-listed for the Locus and the Hugo awards.
Maureen F. McHugh's China Mountain Zhang (1992) won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards.
Pro tip: Sometimes women have disguised their names so their books can be published. For example: Andre Norton, C.J. Cherryh, M.J. Engh, Pat Cadigan, James Tiptree, Jr., and C.L. Moore.
Looking for even more award-winning science fiction by women? Check out Science Fiction by Women: Afrofuturism Edition.
And, of course, this year's One Book, One Chicago explores the theme Imagine the Future while we read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.