On Tuesday 21st June, the British Library hosted the latest in its series of events linked to its current free exhibition, Out of this world – Science Fiction but not as you know it.
Roz Kaveney (b. 1949) is a critic and author of books including Superheroes! Capes and Crusaders in Comics and Films, From Alien to the Matrix: Reading Science Fiction Film, and the forthcoming Hobbits, Dinosaurs and Dead People: Enjoying Fantasy Film.
After listening to much discussion by the panel, Roz pointed out that they had mentioned NO female science fiction authors, when naming the classics of the genre. Several members of the audience concurred, and the assembled authors collectively sang the praises of American author and academic Joanna Russ (1937 – 2011), whose works include The Female Man, The Hidden Side of the Moon, and We Who Are About To. Ursula K. Le Guin (b. 1929) and Doris Lessing (b. 1919) were also mentioned.
Clute named Camp Concentration as a classic novel that should be read by all.
Moorcock and the others lamented the way that the genre term “science fiction” can limit a book’s audience, and blamed Hugo Gernsback, creator of Amazing Stories magazine and author of Ralph 124C 41+ , for kickstarting this genre trend in the early 20th century.
He spoke about his time editing New Worlds magazine, and how he did his best to publish not only what was ‘good’, but what others had refused to publish. He described the New Wave period as ‘a nice time’, but not a particularly congenial one, as far as relationships between writers was concerned.
Moorcock also said he did his best to get women published in New Worlds, but that there was a lack of material to choose from.
Aldiss said he remembered the New Wave as a time where ‘daggers were drawn’, echoing Moorcock’s assessment of a lack of conviviality between writers.
He said many science fiction authors from that period were from a military background, and admitted that it was very much a ‘boy’s club’ that might have scared off potential women writers.
He also mentioned the personal reasons for writing his novel, Greybeard – it came at a time when he was going through a painful separation and faced losing access to his children. He described his forthcoming novel, Finches of Mars, which is about a predominantly female colony on the red planet. Some men are kept there for reproductive purposes, but the women always deliver stillborn babies – the low Martian gravity is just not conducive to proper foetal development.
The team at Forbidden Planet prepared a book stall to accompany the author signing which followed the discussion.
The event was recorded, and should soon appear as a podcast/webcast here.
To check out upcoming British Library events, click here.