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 Publication
|Some thoughts about how the books relate to themes important to my research
|A 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.
|This is an amazing book that dreams about feminist ways of knowledge production, technology design and use. The foreword by Michelle Murphy is very insightful.
|Do androids dream of electric sheep?
|Philip K. Dick
|The left hand of darkness
|Ursula K. Le Guin
|This 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.
|The Word for World is Forest
|Ursula K. Le Guin
|A book about colonialism its exstractivist logics. How can people respond to systemic violence and oppression?
|Ursula K. Le Guin
|Read also: “The Day Before the Revolution”.
|The Female Man
|I 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.
|Woman on the edge of time
|I 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.
|Octavia E. Butler
|This 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.
|The Handmaid’s Tale
|He, she and it
|A must read for anybody interested in questions around the relation of AI, autonomy and a better future.
|Parable of the Sower
|Octavia E. Butler
|Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the violence the book describes is at times difficult to bear. But it is also hopeful and thought-provoking.
|I who have never known men
|Very 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.
|The Windup Girl
|The world building is fascinating, but the storytelling and story are awful.
|A 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.
|Anne 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.
|Emily St. John Mandel
|I 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.
|Loved 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.
|Kelly Deconnick, Valentine de Landro
|Children of Time
|Children 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.
|The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
|The 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.
|A Closed and Common Orbit
|Not strictly sci-fi, rather speculative fiction. A quirky, fun, strange, relatable journey to the end of the world.
|What if… women were physically stronger than men? Would the world be a better place? What are characteristics of gender-based violence and oppression?
|The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red
|Claire G. Coleman
|What 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.
|This is a fast read, a thriller about bio-politics, AI, autonomy and (human) agency in the face of increasing corporate and state power.
|Before she sleeps
|We were not convinced.
|Record of a Spaceborn Few
|What 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.
|The Employees: A workplace novel of the 22nd century
|It’s a very quirky and strange novel that keeps you wondering what is actually happening. Highly enjoyable!
|Murderbot: Artificial Condition
|Murderbot: Rogue Protocol
|Murderbot: Exit Strategy
|Set in Bristol this novel considers alternative ways of communal action in our hyperconnected world.
|Fun graphical novel.
|This 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.”
|Murderbot: Network Effect
|Loved it! This book offers wonderful world-making in a post-apocalyptic world. It questions our sense of reality and how valid knowledge is produced.
|Ministry for the Future
|Kim Stanley Robertson
|Climate fiction that reads at times like a text book about geo-political or geo-engineering efforts. Interesting nevertheless.
|This 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.
|One of the few books that has an older woman as its main hero.
|A Psalm for the Wild-Built
|Anyone for tea?
|Language 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.
|Klara and the sun
|It’s an interesting book, but I enjoyed many of the others about human-robot relations a lot more.
|The Galaxy, and the Ground Within
|Murderbot: Fugitive Telemetry
|Interesting, 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.
|House of Rust
|Khadija Abdalla Bajaber
|Fabulous book that takes you to a very different world and way of storytelling.
|A Prayer for the Crown-Shy
|I 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.