Reading the Sci Fi “Canon”

Ugh, we’re talking about the “canon” of science fiction literature, again, for reasons (most imminently the recent Hugo award ceremony and its fallout), and whether, basically, newer writers and readers should and must slog through a bunch of books in the genre that are now half a century old at least, from a bunch of mostly male, mostly white, mostly straight writers who are, shall we say, not necessarily speaking to the moment.”

–John Scalzi, Taken from his essay Oh, Christ, Not the Science Fiction Canon Again, August 2020

Selections from the recent Penguin Science Fiction collection

Maryam, over at The Curious SFF Reader, wrote a great post about the science fiction canon, asking if we should read it or not. Her essay and all of the comments made for a fascinating read and got me thinking about what this “canon” is. Is there a canon for science fiction like there is for literature? If so, who decided which books make up this canon?

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‘2016 Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge’

 

(c) Worlds Without End.com

Here are the rules: read 12 books by 12 new-to-you women authors in 12 months. One of your author choices should be totally random. Have a friend pick one for you and you pick one for your friend.”

On the wonderful Worlds Without End website they offer a number of Reading Challenges each year. This year, I am joining three of them. The one I am looking forward to the most is the ‘Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge’. The main reason for this is my unintended neglect of reading female authors up until now. I have only read a few works by authors including Ursula K. LeGuin, Hope Mirrlees, Margo Lanagan, Virginia Woolf, Susanna Clarke and Mary Shelley. Compared with the number of works by male authors that I’ve read, it’s pretty paltry.

There are a number of lists of recommended books by “women of genre fiction” available on the net, but I decided I’d rather ask my fellow speculative fiction bloggers for their suggestions. I put the word out on Twitter and got enough responses for two years of the challenge. Thank you! Continue reading