02 April 2011

On Australian Women Writing SF

a guest post by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Australians writers aren’t particularly known for their science fiction, especially right now with fantasy dominating the bestseller shelves, and more of a slipstreamy, speculative fiction sensibility prevalent in the small presses. But it’s there - it has always been there - simmering beneath the surface. As is common where a genre is perceived as marginal, those few examples most people can remember tend to be the ones written by men, just as the majority of books reviewed or considered historically to be “important” also tend, on the whole, to be those written by men.

But I am not most people!

Among my favourite and best beloved works, the first one that comes to mind is the classic feminist-lesbian-shakespearian-dystopian short story by Lucy Sussex, “My Lady Tongue.” There’s also Less Than Human, an industrial-robots-in-near-future-Japan novel by Maxine McArthur, which I love for its characterisation and sense of place as well as a kick-ass crime plot.

Speaking of kick-ass, well, you can’t talk about Australian science fiction without mentioning Marianne de Pierres, who has kept the space opera flag flying in recent years, even as the rest of Australia’s meagre handful of SF writers leap aboard the fantasy ship instead.
Nylon Angel is an Australian classic (dytopia again, we do that so well), and her Sentients of Orion series comes well recommended. Even her recent YA debut, Burn Bright, which has all the hallmarks of a vampire paranormal, is science fictional in the extreme.

I always get annoyed when people put together lists of “important” or “classic” science fiction works and deliberately leave out the YA or childrens books, because that’s often where the women authors are to be found. Certainly, when it comes to science fiction, Australia has a long and marvellous history of children’s authors writing brilliant, disturbing work. Gillian Rubenstein’s Space Demons, for example, is a true Australian children’s classic, very much of its time but still chilling in the depiction of a computer game that can swallow you whole.

Right now, I’m hanging out for what I believe will become a new Australian SF classic. Sue Isle’s Nightsiders was published this month by Twelfth Planet Press, the first in a series of short story quartets by Australian women writers. I haven’t seen the finished book yet, but I have read a couple of the stories and am excited to see more. Nightsiders is another Australian dystopia, centred around a future Perth which has been evacuated by the majority of its population due to climate change, in which only a few stragglers remain, sleeping by day and living by night. The stories I have read of this suite already are harsh and touching, and I can’t wait to receive my book in the post!

One thing is for certain - we have some great Australian women SF writers, but not nearly enough. I’m hoping that the next decade will bring some great new work from established and new voices, and that readers return to the genre in droves.

Tansy Rayner Roberts is the author of Power and Majesty (Creature Court Book One) and The Shattered City (Creature Court Book Two, April 2011) with Reign of Beasts (Creature Court Book Three, coming in November 2011) hot on its tail. Her short story collection Love and Romanpunk will be published as part of the Twelfth Planet Press “Twelve Planets” series in May. It is a little bit science fiction.

This post comes to you as part of Tansy’s Mighty Slapdash Blog Tour, and comes with a cookie fragment of new release The Shattered City:

Macready laughed, stepping back, out of range. “Does the sword not feel like she belongs to you?”

Skysilver, that was the trick to it. Didn’t matter how fast it took you, being a sentinel, it was skysilver that drew you in and made you belong. It had a song you couldn’t quite hear, a heat that connected you to the sky and the Court. If Delphine could just listen to the song of the skysilver, she would understand.

“No, she belongs to you, and I don’t take gifts unless I know their price.”


Anonymous said...

Awesome post! I'm an Aussie writer who is currently writing my debut novel and it's SF. And I'm a woman!

I admit I'm not one to read a lot of SF to begin with (unless it's classic dystopia) and that's one reason why I believed I didn't come across many Aussie women SF writers, but it's true about there being so many fantasy authors. I go into the book store or look online and feel inundated with fantasy (I find this problem when it comes to horror as well).

I also have quite a few writer friends and come across quite a few, but few of them are Aussie female writers and out of those I can't think of any that are actually writing SF. It's feeling a little lonely here at the moment, which is why I have to check out all of these authors you mentioned and why I really appreciate this post. Thanks!

greenspace said...

glad you liked Tansy's post, Bonnie.
I wish you well with completing your novel and finding a publisher for it.