Feminist Science Fiction

Feminist science fiction is interested in world-making and world-exploring. How would alternative socio-technical worlds work and unfold? What can we learn for our own techno-scientific societies and futures? Here is an overview of books that adress these question and that I enjoyed reading — mainly feminist science-fiction, with some sprinkles of speculative fiction and hope punk. The books with an asteriks are graphic novels. As you will see I am big fan of Ursula K. Le Guin, Becky Chambers and Martha Wells.

Year of PublicationTitleAuthorSome thoughts about how the books relate to themes important to my research
1818FrankensteinMary ShelleyA tale about the male pursuit of innovation in relation to competition and dominance; and a warning about the ways in which a neglect of care creates socio-technical monsters. I think Ursula Le Guin’s “Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction” is a great complementary reading to Frankenstein.
1905Sultana’s dreamRokheya HossainThis is an amazing book that dreams about feminist ways of knowledge production, technology design and use. The foreword by Michelle Murphy is very insightful.
1968Do androids dream of electric sheep?Philip K. DickA classic.
1969The left hand of darknessUrsula K. Le GuinThis classic has been criticised for its dichotomous gender representation and Le Guin herself acknowledged this later. However, it is great storytelling that captures the readers imagination.
1972The Word for World is ForestUrsula K. Le GuinA book about colonialism its exstractivist logics. How can people respond to systemic violence and oppression?
1974The DispossessedUrsula K. Le GuinRead also: “The Day Before the Revolution”.
1975The Female ManJoanna RussI found this book challenging to read as it jumps between different perspectives and is clearly situated in second wave feminism. It’s a classic of early feminist science fiction and interesting to read with this perspective in mind.
1976Woman on the edge of timeMarge PiercyI came across Marge Piercy at EASST 2018 during a panel on feminist techno science. The novel is captivating and deeply moving. Her vision of a future, more equal society challenges many assumptions the protagonist holds about her place in the world.
1979KindredOctavia E. ButlerThis is a book that challenges assumptions about identity and the extent to which our agency is determined by the socio-political and material structures around us.
1985The Handmaid’s TaleMargaret AtwoodAnother classic.
1991He, she and itMarge PiercyA must read for anybody interested in questions around the relation of AI, autonomy and a better future.
1993Parable of the SowerOctavia E. ButlerSet in a post-apocalyptic world, the violence the book describes is at times difficult to bear. But it is also hopeful and thought-provoking.
1995I who have never known menJacqueline HarpmanVery dark and dystopian book about a group of women who find themselves isolated on a distant planet and need to survive. It raises questions around gender identity, social norms and roles.
2009The Windup GirlPaolo BacigalupiThe world building is fascinating, but the storytelling and story are awful.
2009Corpus DelictiJuli ZehA dystopian novel about a health dictatorship. What if we are obliged by law to live a healthy life and resist? Considers the ways in which monitoring and (self-)tracking devices impact on our autonomy.
Ancillary Justice
Ancillary Sword
Ancillary Mercy
Ann LeckieAnne Leckie’s Radch trilogy is brilliant storytelling with the protagonist being a spaceship AI. The Radch only know the female pronoun, making it interesting to read & reflect on the ways we imagine.
2014Station ElevenEmily St. John MandelI loved this novel for its poetic language and its world building. Set in a post-pandemic world it considers questions about intergenerational conflict and future making.
2015BintiNnedi OkoraforLoved Binti for its world making and its main character: a Himba girl who embarks on a (space) journey to find answers to questions of identity and belonging. Very mystical.
2015Bitch Planet*Kelly Deconnick, Valentine de LandroGreat fun!
2015Children of TimeAdrian TchaikovskyChildren of Time questions narratives about progress, empathy and religion. A (the last remaining?) human spaceship desperately searches for a new home. Yet the only suitable one is already occupied by a matriarchal society of intelligent spiders.
2015The Long Way to a Small, Angry PlanetBecky ChambersThe four books of Becky Chambers’ wayfairer series were our happy sci-fi place during the Corona pandemic. My whole book club all fell in love with the first book and we decided to read them all. Wonderful world making, interspecies relations and questions about nature-culture | socio-technical agency.
2016A Closed and Common OrbitBecky Chambers
2016Black WaveMichelle TeaNot strictly sci-fi, rather speculative fiction. A quirky, fun, strange, relatable journey to the end of the world.
2016The PowerNaomi AldermanWhat if… women were physically stronger than men? Would the world be a better place? What are characteristics of gender-based violence and oppression?
2016InfomocracyMalka Older
2017The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems RedMartha Wells
2017Terra NulliusClaire G. ColemanWhat if we had records about the ways in which colonisation took place, not from the colonists’ point of view, but the view of those who were killed, enslaved, invisibilised and silenced.
2017AutonomousAnnalee NewitzThis is a fast read, a thriller about bio-politics, AI, autonomy and (human) agency in the face of increasing corporate and state power.
2018Before she sleepsBina ShahWe were not convinced.
2018Record of a Spaceborn FewBecky Chambers
2018SemiosisSue BurkeWhat if plants were sentinel beings? This book follows the survivers of the (last?) human space ship over several generations on the ways in which they make a new planet their home.
2018The Employees: A workplace novel of the 22nd centuryOlga RavnIt’s a very quirky and strange novel that keeps you wondering what is actually happening. Highly enjoyable!
2018Murderbot: Artificial ConditionMartha Wells
2018Murderbot: Rogue ProtocolMartha Wells
2018Murderbot: Exit StrategyMartha Wells
2019The TestamentsMargaret Atwood
2019Infinite DetailTim MaughanSet in Bristol this novel considers alternative ways of communal action in our hyperconnected world.
2019LaGuardia*Nnedi OkoraforFun graphical novel.
2020TentacleRita IndianaThis was the first book we read in our book club. It is a wild and quirky stories that takes place in post-apocalyptic Santo Domingo. “Tentacle is an electric novel with a big appetite and a brave vision, plunging headfirst into questions of climate change, technology, Yoruba ritual, queer politics, poverty, sex, colonialism and contemporary art.”
2020Murderbot: Network EffectMartha Wells
2020EntanglementAlina LeonovaLoved it! This book offers wonderful world-making in a post-apocalyptic world. It questions our sense of reality and how valid knowledge is produced.
2020Ministry for the FutureKim Stanley RobertsonClimate fiction that reads at times like a text book about geo-political or geo-engineering efforts. Interesting nevertheless.
2020QChristina DalcherThis is a novel that questions educational equity. Who determines what kind of education children should receive; and what happens if we increasingly rely on standardised tests and metrics.
2020Crone*Dennis CulverOne of the few books that has an older woman as its main hero.
2021A Psalm for the Wild-BuiltBecky ChambersAnyone for tea?
2021AmatkaKarin TidbeckLanguage is performative. In this world only those things continue to exist that are continuously named. The book’s atmosphere is very dark and at times depressing. It is, however, a super interesting read and great world-building.
2021Klara and the sunKazuo IshiguroIt’s an interesting book, but I enjoyed many of the others about human-robot relations a lot more.
2021The Galaxy, and the Ground WithinBecky Chambers
2021Murderbot: Fugitive TelemetryMartha Wells
2021DAVERaphaela EdelbauerInteresting, dystopian world-making. A hierarchical society that lives inside a building structure under very rigid rules. It is at times quite a long read, but in the end has great plot.
2021House of RustKhadija Abdalla BajaberFabulous book that takes you to a very different world and way of storytelling.
2022A Prayer for the Crown-ShyBecky Chambers
2022ThrustLidia YuknavitchI came across this book through the TinHouse podcast: “Crafting with Ursula” and really liked it. It aims to tell the stories not of heroes and heroic action, but of those who are usually forgotten and silenced.