Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sci-fi for Girls

I'm over at The Book Smugglers today reviewing The Warrior's Apprentice for a guest dare. I gave Ana and Thea a list of genres outside my comfort zone and they suggested a book that would hopefully change my mind. I tend to avoid male protagonists, sci-fi and epic tales (among other things) and they came back with the third(ish) book in Lois McMaster Bujold's space opera. I loved it! I'm now a sci-fi convert (what do you know, it's not just for nerds!) and am on the lookout for more sci-fi of a YA bent, especially featuring female protagonists. Here's what I've come up with so far:

Enchantress from the Stars, Sylvia Louise Engdahl (1970)

Elana, a member of an interstellar civilization on a mission to a medieval planet, becomes the key to a dangerous plan to turn back an invasion. How can she help the Andrecians, who still believe in magic and superstition, without revealing her own alien powers? At the same time, Georyn, the son of an Andrecian woodcutter, knows only that there is a dragon in the enchanted forest, and he must defeat it. He sees Elana as the Enchantress from the Stars who has come to test him, to prove he is worthy. One of the few science fiction books to win a Newbery Honor, this novel will enthrall teenage and adult readers.

Podkayne of Mars, Robert A Heinlein (1962)

While accompanying their uncle, a wily politician, on a trip from Mars to Earth, Podkayne and her brilliant, but pesky brother are caught in a plot to keep Uncle Tom from an important conference.

This Place has no Atmosphere, Paula Danziger (1986)

It's the year 2057 and fourteen-year-old Aurora couldn't be happier with her life on Earth—she's part of the "in" crowd, her best friend is a celebrity, and Matthew has asked her to Homecoming. But Aurora's parents have new jobs on the moon, and she and her little sister must leave their friends and schools to go with them. Aurora is sure she will hate life on the moon, because there are only 750 people in the whole colony. What if none of them is a cute boy her age?

Friday, Robert A. Heinlein (1982)

Engineered from the finest genes, and trained to be a secret courier in a future world, Friday operates over a near-future Earth, where chaos reigns. Working at Boss's whimsical behest she travels from far north to deep south, finding quick, expeditious solutions as one calamity after another threatens to explode in her face....

Alien Secrets, Annette Curtis Klause (1993)

Puck, expelled from boarding school on Earth, is on her way to stay with her parents on the planet Shoon. On board the spaceship she befriends Hush, a native Shoowa who is also returning home in shame. He is desperately seeking a stolen treasure that was entrusted to him, a symbol of freedom for his people.

Puck and Hush must find the precious Soo before they reach Shoon. But who can they trust? And how will they save their own skins as they hurtle through space on a ship haunted by terrifying ghosts?

Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey (1968)

To the nobles who live in Benden Weyr, Lessa is nothing but a ragged kitchen girl. For most of her life she has survived by serving those who betrayed her father and took over his lands. Now the time has come for Lessa to shed her disguise—and take back her stolen birthright.

But everything changes when she meets a queen dragon. The bond they share will be deep and last forever. It will protect them when, for the first time in centuries, Lessa’s world is threatened by Thread, an evil substance that falls like rain and destroys everything it touches. Dragons and their Riders once protected the planet from Thread, but there are very few of them left these days. Now brave Lessa must risk her life, and the life of her beloved dragon, to save her beautiful world. . . .

Cordelia's Honor, Lois McMaster Bujold (1996)

In this two-part story, Cordelia Naismith, made an outcast after being forced into marriage with her arch enemy, finds further trouble when her husband is made the guardian of the infant heir to the imperial throne.

Beggars in Spain, Nancy Kress (1993)

Leisha Camden was genetically modified at birth to require no sleep, and her normal twin Alice is the control. Problems and envy between the sisters mirror those in the larger world, as society struggles to adjust to a growing pool of people who not only have 30 percent more time to work and study than normal humans, but are also highly intelligent and in perfect health. The Sleepless gradually outgrow their welcome on Earth, and their children escape to an orbiting space station to set up their own society. But Leisha and a few others remain behind, preaching acceptance for all humans, Sleepless and Sleeper alike. With the conspiracy and revenge that unwinds, the world needs a little preaching on tolerance.

Thanks to my dad for a few of these. Who else has recommendations for me? I sense a reading challenge coming on!


  1. You've got some awesome titles there :) My other recommendations for scifi with female protagonists are:

    - anything by Linnea Sinclair - in particular, give Gabriel's Ghost, Games of Command, The Down Home Zombie Blues a try
    - Ark by Stephen Baxter - you should read Flood first, but both books feature strong female protags, and Ark is pretty heavy on the physics aspect
    - SL Viehl's Stardock books are solid (but are very Gene Roddenberry in terms of believablilty - light on science but great on story, if you catch my drift! Still, great characters, good medical/space mysteries)
    - Sandra McDonald's The Outback Stars is ridiculously good military SF. Seriously. Try it.
    - Elizabeth Moon's Vatta series (start with Trading in Danger) is decent. Compulsively readable, even if the characters are a bit lacking.
    - Ann Aguirre's Sirantha Jax series is really popular (though I personally cannot stand the books, a lot of people like them so it's worth looking into, I suppose!)
    - The Hannish Cycle by Ursula Le Guin - I probably should have started the list with Le Guin. She's a phenomenon, really.
    - Catharine Asaro's Primary Inversion and further books in the Skolian series. Not only is she an immensely talented author, but she also has a freaking Ph.D. from Harvard in chemical physics. Her Skolian Saga books blend hard SF with compelling characters and...well, are pretty damn good (despite the craptastic covers!). So, definitely worth checking out!

    That's all I can think of right now...but I'm sure I can come up with more eventually! Glad to be of service though, and to see you branching out!

  2. OH also, try Jaran by Kate Elliott - great mixture of science fiction and fantasy (which always equals WIN). Ok. I'll shut up now!

  3. SF for girls, maybe with a YA bent? This sounds like a dream concept to me. If you create a challenge for it, I'm in.

    It's midnight here, so I totally must go to sleep, but I'll have a think in the morning and see what titles I can come up with.

    And Jaran is brilliant and well worth reading. It also always reminds me of The Gate of Ivory by Doris Egan.

  4. I've been told this is too long, so will cut it into two pieces and try to post again.

    Okay, so I should have gone to bed, but I didn't. I've just skimmed through my book catalgoue to see what I could come up with. Here's some titles - as I said, these have pretty much all come out of my personal book collection so I don't know if they are all currently in print. I've had some of them for years.

    * A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle (YA; Meg Murray and friends go looking for her scientist father who disappeared while trying out a new mathematical concept)
    * Primary Inversion - Catherine Asaro (Adult; Jag Fighter Soz Valdoria gets caught up in interstellar politics in a big way after a chance meeting on a neutral planet)
    * Jaran - Kate Elliott (Adult, but I think okay for YA; Sister of high-ranking human in an alien controlled government crash lands on a backwards planet and must make her way back to civilization with upsetting the culture of the natives)
    * The Gate of Ivory - Doris Egan (YA to Adult; A Young woman stranded on the only planet where magic seems work tries to get home, a great blend of SF and fantasy but to me this is definitely a SF title)
    * In the Garden of Iden - Kage Baker (Adult; Immortal botanist Mendoza gets caught up by history in 16th (I think) century England)
    * A Thousand Words for Stranger - Julie E. Czerneda (Adult but would give to a YA; A woman finds herself on a strange planet with no memory and only one person she dares to trust as they try to solve the mystery of who and what she is)
    * Wraiths of Time - Andre Norton (YA; So long since I read it I don't remember much but that it had a stong female protagonist and travel to an alternate world/history with a focus on Egyptian historical culture)
    * Andre Norton in general; she wrote heaps of children's and YA SF so check out a website on her
    * The Price of the Stars - Debra Doyle and James McDonald (Adult but quite fine for YA; a young starship pilot who has turned away from her family, finds herself working with them to solve the mystery of her mother's death - among other things)

  5. * Golden Witchbreed - Mary Gentle (Adult, quite complicated as I reacall, but good female protagonist; a first contact story)
    * The People Collection - Zenna Henderson (classic fifties SF that would probably get classed as YA today; The People are refugees from another planet, trying to fit in on Earth without being noticed; lots of coming of age stories)
    * Scout's Progress - Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (Adult; the second book in the series, but first has male protagonist and still a fine place to start; a young woman tries to become a scout pilot against strong disapproval - and more - from her family)
    * Restoree - Anne McCaffrey (YA these days, classic SF; a woman is kidnapped by aliens, resuced and finds herself caught up in the fight to stop the original kidnappers)
    * The Ship Who Sang - Anne McCaffrey (YA these days, classic SF; Helva is a person inside a metal casing who is the heart and mind of a spaceship)
    * The Rowan - Anne McCaffrey (YA these days; start of a more recent series about telepaths - this series is kind of a continuation of her more earlier Pegasus books, but those don't specifically have female protagonists)
    * Damia - Anne McCaffrey (YA these days, sequel to The Rowan about her daughter; both of these were originally short stories collected in Get Off the Unicorn)
    * Moon-Flash - Patricia A. McKillip (Children to YA; originally two books - Moon-Flash and The Moon and the Face - now reprinted in one volume; a young girl sets off to find the end of the world and find much more than she bargained for)
    * Firebird - Kathy Tyers (I'd call it YA; originally published as the first in a two part series in the 1980s, later republished with a third volume around 2000 but with rewrites and a more religious bent to it. I prefer the original edition, but the second one is still a good story; a young space fighter pilot is captured by the enemy and has to learn if what she's always been told about the world is really true)
    * Darkchild - Sydney J. Van Scyoc (YA; a strange child shows up on a colony world, bringing the rest of the galaxy into their midst)

    So there's some ideas.

  6. WOW you two!! That list is gonna keep me busy for some time! Thanks so much. I'll look them all up and compose my reading list :D

  7. OMG I read This Place Has No Atmosphere when I was in 5th grade!!!

  8. Yeah it's a good-un Frankie! Only one of these that I've read.

  9. Holy moly! I never heard of these books. Even the ones left in the comments. I do admit that I am very picky about any sci-fi that I do end up reading...and now that I think about, I can't think of any right off the top of my head (i'm sure there are some though). More of the fantasy reading type, and even there I'm very picky about what I pick up. I too will have to check some of these out eventually.

  10. Okay first - yes, very weird us both posting about This Place Has No Atmosphere so close together! I've also read Alien Secrets. It's no Blood and Chocolate, and it's more of a middle-grade choice. I'm not sure what I think of it actually.

    I've read a ton of sci-fi, but I'm throwing a blank on female protagonists right now. I'll have to give it some thought and stop by another time. I do really like The Diary Of Pelly D, which is set on another planet, and features a race of 'people' who seem to have descended from humans but now have gills. I also really want to read Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi, which I think has YA interest.

  11. Well, you've already got some incredibly awesome titles there. Robert A. Heinlen and Anne McCaffrey are both FANTASTIC!
    It's not really YA, but you should check out On Basilisk Station by David Weber. If you like it, there's a whole series, and it's got the awesomest female protagonist ever!
    Hyperion by Dan Simmons is another AWESOME book! It's got a female and a male in the lead.
    I don't know why, but I often have trouble enjoying sci fi with female protagonists. I often feel like they're trying too hard.
    Oh, and then there is Spin by Robert Charles Wilson. This is one of the BEST books I read last year. Again, it's a female and a male. But seriously, it is AMAZING!

    Oh, and if you haven't gotten your copy of ender's Game yet, I'm giving it away at my blog (along with the city and the stars and several YA books), and I would love for you to check it out! :-)

  12. A newer book is The Host by Stephanie Meyers - it will take you only a bit to read. Its really chick lit disguised as Sci Fi.
    It will take you a very short time to read. Its that easy!

  13. Ooh thanks for even more suggestions! I'll look into all of these.

  14. Brizmus, I just got Ender's Game and I'm really looking forward to it!

    Shellie--good idea about the host. I'll check it out.

    Lauren, I hope you come up with a few! In the meantime I'll try Pelly D

  15. Friday is weird. Beggers in Spain is excellent if a little long winded there is a novella version that was the original and it won the Hugo. I have the book version if u wanna borrow.

    Ender's Game FTW :)