Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Top 10 SF Stories by Women

Over on the old Twitters, @BellJarred for recommendation for short stories by women. As I've spent this year trying to read more scifi/fantasy (or speculative fiction if you're feeling all fancy) by women AND trying to read more short stories in general this lay within my general realm of expertise. I might have gotten a little bit excited and accidentally compiled a list of my current top ten short stories by women.  And because I have a blog doohicky and also to keep them all in one place, I'm posting the list here. Story time!

CaptainRaz's Current Top Ten SF Stories by Women (in no particular order)

Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast by Eugie Foster

This Nebula Award winning novelette by the sadly late Eugie Foster is difficult to describe.  It's about a future in which the masks we wear every day are literal and they change a person's lives and identity. No one is allowed to know who is really underneath the mask, though of course there are those who want to. This story is breathtaking and it's hard to put into words why I love it so much. It's the only story on my list I couldn't find on the web for free. It's only 99p though and well worth it. Just put it in your face holes.

Selkie Stories Are For Losers by Sofia Samatar

I listened to the audio version of this over on Escape Pod and loved it. It's a beautiful story that weaves folk tales with the modern day, and it kept me guessing right until the end. One of those where the SF elements are downplayed, but no less powerful for it. So far it's the only story I've read by Sofia Samatar, but I intend to change that.

Boojum by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette

I read this in The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women (a number of the stories on this list are also in that) and it was one of my favourites in the anthology. A story about a living ship and her crew—which I always love—with a surprisingly Lovecraftian ending. I remember basically forcing my spousal unit to read this because I loved it so much.

Spider the Artist by Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor is a writer about who I've heard good things about but not read very much. This story though. This story. Zombies and robots and a woman trying to escape an abusive household. This story packs such a punch and somehow left me grinning despite the subject matter.

The Narcomancer by N.K. Jemisin

Oh man how much do I love N.K. Jemisin. Well, I devoured her Inheritance Trilogy (which weighs in at approximately 1500 pages) in about three days, utterly wrecking my sleep cycle resulting in me emotionally tweeting Susan at 3am. That's how much I love N.K. Jemisin. The Narcomancer is actually the first thing I read by her, and is a lead in to her Dreamblood duology, which I desperately want to read. Set in Gujaareh, where peace is the only law, we follow a priest tasked with bringing down the Narcomancer of the title (sleep wizard–I could use one of those) in order to save a village. Only there are complications (aren't there always). Read. It. And also the Inheritance trilogy as well.

Effigy Nights by Yoon Ha Lee

(See edit)

Yoon Ha Lee is another writer I've been flailing about a lot this year. I bought her his anthology, Conservation of Shadows, on the back of another short story (Combustion Hour) and this ended up being my favourite. Lee's strength is in the interplay of her his words; I just love the way she he puts them together. I can flail for hours over the second line in this story. The second line! The story is about books, and is haunting and moving. I don't want to say any more. Read this story, then Combustion Hour, then buy her his anthology. You won't regret it.

Astrophilia by Carrie Vaughn

Another entry from the Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women from the author of some of my favourite werewolf stories. No werewolves in this one though. Set after some cataclysm in which the human race has lost almost everything, this story is about one woman's search for knowledge and her struggle to fit in, with a little bit of romance as well.

The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu

This is one of those stories I wish I'd written. It is so, so good. Look at that title. Just look at it. Map-making wasps, bees rising up to overthrow their oppressors. Go. Read.

Goodnight Stars by Annie Bellet

This is an interesting one, having been caught up in the Hugos shenanigans this year (which I stayed the fuck away from thankfully), but I didn't hold that against it. From the middle book in John Joseph Adams' Apocalypse Triptych, this story is set smack bang in the middle of the end of the world. It's small scale, focussing in on a few people amid all the tragedy. It's a great story and made me want to get all three books in the triptych.

The God of Au by Ann Leckie

I am a massive fan of Leckie's Imperial Radch Trilogy, the first of which, Ancillary Justice, won literally all the awards. The second, Ancillary Sword, is even better and I am looking forward to the third even though it comes out about three days after my thesis is due in. 'The God of Au' is very different from the space opera setting of the Imperial Radch. Set mostly on the island of Au, this is a story about gods and promises and patience. It's the story that made me want to read Leckie's novels in the first place. I promise you this isn't the last on the list because it's less good than the others. It really isn't.

So there we go. Ten(ish) story recs, most of them free, and a few bonus novels to boot. Go, get thee to a book store (and also the internet, which I guess you're already on if–never mind.)

Have stories. Go read.

Edit: Since I wrote this post I found out that Yoon Ha Lee is in fact a trans man and not a woman. I'm electing to keep the entry up there because a) his stories are bloody amazing and I love them and b) there are also not enough SFF stories by trans folk that get showcased.

But so I am fulfilling my promise of having 10 SF stories by women here is one further recommendation:

The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal

This story won the Hugo for Best Novelette in 2014 and can see why. It's good. Very good. The story centres around an ageing astronaut longing for one last adventure. It's poignant and bitter sweet and made me cry my eyes out. You will not regret reading this, I promise.

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