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Science Fiction/Fantasy

Women Who Imagined the Future: Science Fiction Anthologies By Women

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James Wallace Harris

Staff Writer

James Wallace Harris is a retired computer guy. Jim dreamed of writing science fiction in his social security years, but discovered he loved writing essays more. Life is short and novels are long. He’s written over a thousand essays for his blog Auxiliary Memory. Jim wrote about science fiction for SF Signal before it folded, and now for Worlds Without End. BookRiot gives him the opportunity to write about all the other kinds of books he loves. Finally, he has all the time in the world to read and write, but he never forgets poor Henry Bemis. (Who also found time enough at last, until an evil Twilight Zone fate took it all away.) Twitter: @JimHarris28

Science fiction has a reputation for excluding women writers, but recent science fiction anthologies suggest that wasn’t always true. Library of America (LOA) is taking pre-orders for The Future Is Female!: 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women, from Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. Le Guin edited by Lisa Yaszek. Being published by LOA is literary recognition, see “Library of America Recognizes Ursula K. Le Guin (and Science Fiction)” to understand why.

But if you don’t want to wait until September 25, 2018, there’s are several retrospective science fiction anthologies that focus on women writers you can read now, including another co-edited by Lisa Yaszek.

  • Women of Futures Past: Classic Stories (2016) edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • The Feminine Future: Early Science Fiction by Women Writers (2015) edited by Mike Ashley
  • Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology (2015) edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
  • The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women (2014) edited by Alex Dally MacFarlane
  • Daughters of the Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century (2006) edited by Justine Larbalestier

    Out-of-Print Science Fiction Anthologies

    Sadly, science fiction anthologies go out of print quickly – I assume because editors only buy limited rights. Since the following books are out-of-print I’m going to list them with links to the Internet Science Fiction Database ( so you can read their table of contents. If you click on the story title link, you’ll be taken to the story’s publication history. That will show you when and where the story was first published, and how often it was collected in other anthologies.

    This is very useful for discovering the popularity of a story. For example, just look at all the places “That Only a Mother” by Judith Merril has been reprinted. If you study these listings, you’ll also see how often some stories are repeatedly used, or even if the story has never been reprinted before.

    Pamela Sargent edited a series of groundbreaking anthologies on women science fiction writers starting with Women of Wonder back in 1974 and updated them in 1995 to the two-volume Women of Wonder: The Classic Years and Women of Wonder: The Contemporary Years. These are well worth searching for on the used market. It’s a shame they haven’t stayed in print, and I’d love to hear them on audio. (Hint, hint, Audible.)