‘The starting point for building a better future is to imagine that future.” Catherine Mayer, author & co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party
“New technology can be deeply influenced by science fiction,” she said, “and women are often under-represented in the stories that inspire new innovations and inventions. Could different stories about the future make it easier for more women and girls to succeed as inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs?”
As any regularly reader of this blog and our Ada Lovelace Conversations series of interviews with women science fiction writers will guess, this was a conversation I was very happy to be invited to participate in.
Long story short, the Clarke Award ended up assisting on the “one small step” of a first project exploring this question, which became the short story anthology Women Invent the Future, originally designed to distributed to all the attendees at Nesta’s annual FutureFest event (and we also gave out copies at this year’s Clarke Award ceremony) and, best of all, it’s still very much free now to anyone else who would like a copy.
I’m delighted to urge you to CLICK HERE to download a completely free digital copy, or you can get yourself a physical copy equally free if you’re happy to cover the small cost of postage and packing.
It really is a lovely little book, and I’m not just simply saying that because we had a small hand in it.
Knowing that no anthology can ever be all-encompassing of a subject, the Doteveryone team asked us to build upon the recommendations of the editorial consulting team and compile a further reading list to be included in the book, and by further they meant further, so alongside novels and novellas we also recommended other anthologies, comics, biographies, popular science, essay collections and books on writing and creating to inspire even more new authors.
I’ve been given permission to reproduce that list in full below, and I freely acknowledge this still just a drop in the ocean of amazing stuff we were sharing with each other. One small step, remember, and I’m very happy to receive more recommendations in the comments, or tweet me here.
Fiction — A few of the most compelling modern science fiction novels, anthologies and graphic novels we’ve been recommended while compiling Women Invent the Future.
Ancillary Justice — Ann Leckie (Orbit)
Leckie’s debut novel was a giant meteorite that crash-landed in the heartland of SF, winning the Hugo, Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke awards and more. Centred on a battleship A.I translated into a single human body, the novel is both epic space opera and a beautifully nuanced exploration of differently gendered language.
Binti — Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)
A modern classic of Afrofuturist fiction this novella (now a series) features one of science fiction’s most compelling heroines. Binti is the first member of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy.
Synners — Pat Cadigan (SF Gateway / Gollancz)
Crowned the Queen of Cyberpunk for her contribution to this ever-popular literary movement, Cadigan is a multi-award winning and nominated author and the first person to win the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award twice. Be sure to pick up the SF Masterworks edition of this classic novel with an introduction by Neil Gaiman.
The Fifth Season — N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
A Hugo Award winner for best novel in 2016, The Fifth Season builds upon a long SF literature tradition presenting Science Fiction as Fantasy by creating a future setting that has long-since forgotten its origins but where themes of community, power and environment are still strikingly urgent.
Everything Belongs to the Future — Laurie Penny (Tor.com)
Best known as a journalist, essayist and activist, Penny’s debut novella rips its narrative drive from today’s headlines and couples it with a compelling science fictional what-if setting in a world where self-perpetuating wealth for the one percent is coupled with exclusive access to the ultimate technology of life extension.
The Shining Girls — Lauren Beukes (Harper)
Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Zoo City, Beukes’s follow up is as high-concept as it comes. A time-travelling serial killer stalks his ‘shining girls’ across the decades in a novel that refuses to cast its victims as simple plot points and turns a powerful lens on our culture of violence.
Planetfall — Emma Newman (Gollancz)
Set on Mars, possibly science fiction’s favourite alien planet, Newman couples an exploration of state-of-the-art colonization technologies like 3D printing with a plot that delves into the often dark motivations that underlie humanities need to expand and conquer new territories.
Sisters of the Revolution — Editors: Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer (PM Press)
Award-winning editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer curate an often explicitly feminist collection of science fiction stories ranging from the 1970s to the present day.
Women Destroy Science Fiction — Editor: Christie Yant (Lightspeed Magazine Special Issue)
Launched as a highly successful Kickstarter, this special edition of Lightspeed Magazine took a shrill cry of fannish complaint from certain corners of the Internet and spun it on its head, creating one of the best modern anthologies of fiction and essays in the process. This collection proves that if women are indeed the destroyers of one mode of Science Fiction, they are also the creators of something more powerful than we could ever imagine.
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage — Sydney Padua (Penguin)
A joyous visual romp through a re-imagined alternative history of the first computer, Babbage’s Difference Engine, and Ada, Countess of Lovelace, the patron saint of computer programmers. Graphic artist Padua’s art and visual effects work have appeared in films such as The Iron Giant, Clash of the Titans, and John Carter.
Bitch Planet — Kelly DeConnick and Valentine De Landro (Image Comics)
Mashing up exploitation film riffs with a deeply satirical sci-fi scenario best described as Margaret Atwood meets Inglourious Basterds, this ongoing graphic novel series showcases the power of speculative futures to make vicious (and often painfully hilarious) comment on the present.
Non-Fiction — A deliberately broad recommended reading list of science fiction theory and biography coupled with STEM and popular culture.
In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination — Margaret Atwood (Virago)
In this collection of essays, the author of the classic The Handmaid’s Tale creates an essential exploration of SF and speculative fiction, dystopia and the power of human imagination.
James Tiptree Jr: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon — Julie Phillips (St Martin’s Press)
Often cited as an inspiration by other science fiction writers, James Tiptree Jr’s writing was hailed for his steely prose, tight plotting and keen social commentary. Surprise then when the world discovered that James was actually Alice, 61 year old ex World War II intelligence officer, CIA agent and an experimental psychologist. This fascinating biography digs into Alice’s story and the growth of her influence on Science Fiction both before and after her secret was revealed.
The Glass Universe: The Hidden History of Women Who Took the Measure of the Stars — Dave Sobel (Fourth Estate)
Longitude author Sobel explores the forgotten history of astronomy’s female ‘human computers’ whose calculations, research and categorisations of scientific data helped shape our modern understanding of the universe and our place within it.
Adventures in the Anthropocene — Gaia Vince (Vintage)
The first ever female winner of the Royal Society Prize for Science Books, Vince creates a compelling global travelogue to the heart of the planet we have made, seeking both signs of humanity’s impact on its environment and clues to our possible future survival in the corners of a world where the ravages of human impact and climate change are already a daily reality.
Gender Identity and Sexuality in Current Fantasy and Science Fiction — Editor: Francesca T Barbini (Luna Press Publishing)
This collection of essays from leading Science Fiction and Fantasy authors and critics explores how society, as reflected in real life, literature, movies, TV, games and cosplay, is currently dealing with gender identity and sexuality in speculative fiction, asking an important question: do we have a problem?
The Science of Game of Thrones — Helen Keen (Coronet)
Award-winning comedian and popular-science writer Helen Keen puts the pop-culture juggernaut under the lens of science. Essential reading for all fans of the series (so pretty much everyone).
A Passion for Science: Stories of Discovery and Invention — Editor: Suw Charman-Anderson (FindingAda)
A stellar collection of human stories, edited by the founder of Ada Lovelace Day, that introduces us to the frequently unsung, often underpaid and under-appreciated, and sometimes misrepresented, women who defied social convention and endemic sexism to excel across the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths.
Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture — Ytasha L. Womack (Chicago Review Press)
An engaging and entertaining primer to the creators and key works of this burgeoning cultural and critical movement that takes in art, film, fiction, music and multi-media. Womack presents a timely review of African futures that breakdown past social, ethnic and racial patterns in search of a newly imagined, more optimistic future with Africa at its heart.
On Writing — For those who want to venture forth beyond recommended reading to invent their own futures, these books are the guides you’re looking for.
Steering the Craft — Ursula K. Le Guin (Mariner Books)
One of Science Fiction’s most acknowledged and influential writers, Le Guin unpacks the essentials of her craft in a series of short and focused chapters that you’ll want to come back to again and again across every stage of your career.
Writing the Other — Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward (Aqueduct Press)
How do we write that not of ourselves with conviction, understanding and empathy? For those creators seeking to move beyond their own cultures and experiences, this is a much cited and respected guide to the complexities of truly imaginative storytelling.
Get Started in Writing Young Adult Fiction — Juliet Mushens (Teach Yourself)
The future belongs to the next generation, and that’s nowhere better expressed than in the ongoing rise of Young Adult fiction and film properties dominating our imaginative cultural landscapes from The Hunger Games through to the quite popular adventures of a certain student wizard. Mushens unpacks the essential elements for creating a sense of wonder and adventure for humans of all ages.
How to Write Killer Fiction — Carolyn Wheat (Perseverance Press)
Many of the most popular science fictional narratives are constructed upon the plot engines of the thriller, which is the storytelling subject of this book. There is almost a science to the creation of a thriller, and the key to unlocking it lies somewhere within these pages.
A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling — Andrea Phillips (McGraw-Hill Education)
The rise of the Internet has enabled narratives to proliferate across exciting new mediums and means of communication. Is the future of storytelling one of hybrid combinations of forms and channels? Phillips charts an exciting course of emergent narrative possibilities combined with personal insights and case studies to show the potential futures that await the creators of tomorrow’s imaginative fiction.