Early Female Authors of Science Fiction/Fantasy



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Home >> Special Collections & University Archives >> New Notable >> Early Female Authors of Science Fiction/Fantasy

Most well-known science fiction/fantasy authors are men but women have been contributing to the science fiction/fantasy genre since the 17th century. 

In 1666, Margaret Cavendish wrote the book, The Blazing World, also known as The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World.  This is the earliest example of what would eventually be known as science fiction. In Blazing World, Cavendish imagines a utopian kingdom that is only accessible via the North Pole. She writes herself into the fantastical tale where she becomes Empress of the kingdom. This book has been referenced by modern science fiction/fantasy works, such as, Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is often credited as the first science fiction novel, even though it is considered part of the horror genre. After a friendly challenge to see who could write the best horror story, Shelley dreamt of a scientist who created a creature that horrified him. The next day she wrote Frankenstein. First published anonymously in 1818, Mary Shelley's name appeared later on the second edition in 1823.

Gertrude Barrows Bennett was the first major American female writer of science fiction/fantasy, and is generally considered to be the creator of "dark fantasy," which influenced H.P. Lovecraft as well as other writers. Bennett wrote under the pseudonym Francis Stevens. Her book, Citadel of Fear, was praised by Lovecraft.

It is interesting to note that Metropolis is known to be Fritz Lang's creation, but it was his wife, Thea von Harbou, who not only wrote the book but also wrote the screenplay and helped produce the film. Oftentimes, Harbou would help peel potatoes and vegetables to help feed the film crew. Upon release of the film, H.G. Wells called it, "foolishness, cliché, platitude, and muddlement about mechanical progress and progress in general,"  and "quite the silliest film."

Other early female writers of science fiction/fantasy are C.L. Moore, Judith Merril, Leigh Brackett, Miriam Allen deFord, Katherine MacLean, Wilmar H. Shiras, Zenna Henderson, and Andre Norton.  To view a more complete list visit: http://www.feministsf.org/community/history.html

The majority of these authors can be found in the Chater Science Fiction Collection.

Written by Jesica Brubaker.

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