For last 18 months, those of you who follow me on Facebook saw my frustration at my discovery that many classic sf stories are impossible to find. Not only are the stories hard to find, but mention of them in places like Wikipedia and other online information sites is also hard to find. I decided to do something about that on a variety of fronts. John Helfers and I will be editing books that will take on this problem with a series of reprint volumes, focused on the award winners and nominees in the field. That will come in 2016 (earliest).
The first project to appear, though, is one I sold to Baen earlier this year. I’m doing a companion website with the volume, which you can find here. But rather than repeat myself, I’m going to append the introductory post right here, so you can see what I’m doing.
Women in Science Fiction (the name of the website) is the lofty and pretentious name I’m giving to a rather loose project that will extend over several volumes.
…I’m the former editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. The first and only female editor of that magazine, by the way. I’ve worked as an editor off and on for years on other projects as well. In addition to this editing project, which I’ll explain below, I’m also editing a best-of mystery volume, Fiction River (both as occasional volume editor and series editor with Dean Wesley Smith), and several reprint anthologies coming up in late 2016. More on those later. I’ve won a Hugo award for my editing, been nominated for many other awards, and won a special World Fantasy award as well. I’ve also done a lot of ghost editing for others behind the scenes.
Why am I giving you my editing credentials? Because this website was born from an as-yet-unnamed editing project I’m doing for Baen Books. I pitched the book to Toni Weisskopf under this unwieldy title: Tough Mothers, Great Dames, and Warrior Princesses: Classic Stories by the Women of Science Fiction.
That title may stick. We’ll see.
My goals with the Tough Mothers anthology are complex. In short, I want to compile a volume of excellent science fiction stories by women, including some classics, that could have been published today. I don’t want this volume to look like something you have to read in a college literature class. I want it to be something you’ll grab off the shelf immediately, thinking you’re in for some marvelous reading—and I want that impression to be right. I want stories impossible to put down, stories with heart. They don’t have to be “by women about women” the way that the Women of Wonder volumes were. I want these stories to be by women, yes, but about anything. And I want them to be rip-roaring good reads.
The project came about because of a science fiction class I taught in 2013. I wanted my students to read some classic stories in sf before the class. I had no trouble finding endless reprints of favorite stories by men. But when it came to classic stories by women, most weren’t in major collections. Even the retrospectives of the best stories of the 20th Century only mentioned these stories; they weren’t reprinted in the volumes.
When I was a young writer, I read all of the Hugo-award nominated stories in collections compiled by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg. Those volumes ceased with Isaac’s death in 1992. (The remaining volume in the contract was co-edited by Connie Willis. There were no more after that.)
The end of those volumes created a huge vacuum: So many of the classic stories that I loved from sf were published in the 1990s and never collected. Ever. The older Hugo volumes also went out of print, and that led to something I never thought I’d encounter—the perception that women had had no success in the science fiction field until the 21st Century.
In fact, when I went to Wikipedia as I was writing the proposal for this anthology I’m editing for Baen, I discovered the Women in Speculative Fiction listing only had a few female writers listed from the 20th Century, but several new writers from the late 2000s were prominently listed.
If anyone wants to use this site to update Wikipedia, I would appreciate it.
Why do I care? Two reasons, I guess. I want these stories to live and continue to be read. I don’t want them to be lost. I’m focusing on women in the Tough Mothers volume, but I’ll also be editing reprints of award-nominated stories starting in 2016, emulating the volumes that Isaac published over 20 years ago.
Classic (and future classic) stories by women and men shouldn’t get lost in dusty old magazines and broken web links. We need an easy way to find these stories. Anthologies will do that.
But I wanted to start with Tough Mothers and this website, since I’ve been told repeatedly by young female writers in the sf genre that women never did anything in sf until the year 2000 or so. Our history is being lost and, as someone with a B.A. in History, I find that offensive in the extreme.
This website isn’t meant as the be-all and end-all of women in science fiction. Most of the posts will be from me, noting the stories as I read them for this volume and, I hope, for future volumes. The website is, as I say in the tagline, an exploration. It’s my exploration of the history of part of the sf field.
I only have 100,000 words in Tough Mothers, which doesn’t even scratch the surface of what I’m trying to do, which is why I’m setting up this site. I want to call attention to great stories that I’ve read and pieces that I’m thinking about for the volume (and for future projects). I also needed a place where you readers can suggest your favorite stories, a place with a broader reach than my Facebook page, a place that isn’t my personal website. Go to the Suggestions page and leave a comment. Or mention something on one of the posts. I’ll see your ideas. I promise.
I hope that the site will outlive the original project and will continue as a home for other projects, which I can’t yet mention.
Right now, this site is new. It doesn’t have a lot of material yet. It will. Please be patient with me….
On the new website, I have a place for suggestions. I’ll be blogging about my journey of discovery and rediscovery of some classic old stories and some great new-to-me stories. I won’t clutter up this website with that information, so if you’re interested, join me over there. I’ll be updating often, as I read and work.