01/7Science fiction

When we think of science fiction we imagine aliens and astronauts, technology with the power to fulfill our greatest wish or nightmare and societies that show how humans can progress towards a better world, or cleverly highlight what holds us back. If we think of the founders of the genre, we mostly think of Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and even further back- H.G. Wells or Jules Verne. But as always, the truth is far from the white male-centric version history propagates. Many science fiction authors who have helped shape the genre are and have been women and here are some you should know about:

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02/7Margaret Cavendish

Born in England in 1623, Margaret Cavendish was a rarity of her times: a respected and published writer. She was born to an aristocratic family and thus had the privilege to be educated, if not formally. She would put her ideas to writing from a young age but kept silent about her intellectual pursuits outside her home for it wasn’t appropriate at the time for a woman to display her intelligence. She wrote plays, poems, prose, essays and her work was published under her own name when most women in her time would take a man’s name or write anonymously. She wrote a utopian book ‘The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World’ (Commonly abbreviated to ‘The Blazing World’) which is considered a forerunner of science fiction. It’s about a woman who finds a new world through the north pole filled with interesting talking animals. It’s got romance, adventure, and action and was an interesting commentary on politics as well. Mary was the first woman ever to attend a meeting at the Royal Society of London.
Photo: Wikipedia

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03/7​Octavia E. Butler

A very shy girl who grew up in a racially integrated community of Pasadena, USA in the 1950’s, Octavia found her solace in reading and writing. It took years to get her works published but it was popular throughout the Sci-Fi world, winning her multiple Hugo and Nebula awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award in Writing from the PEN American Center amongst many other awards. She is considered an Afrofuturist writer, though she hated being labeled by a genre. Her tales were often set in the future or on other planets, all with interesting cultures. She even has an asteroid and a mountain on Charon(A moon of pluto) named after her.
Photo: Wikipedia

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04/7​Ursula K. Le Guin

She is a slightly more known name than many of the others on this list.
Born in 1929, she was a renowned science fiction and fantasy writer who won 8 Hugo Awards, 6 Nebula Awards, 22 Locus Awards, amongst others. She was even honored as a Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
She was well educated and spent a lot of her life working in the literary world. Her books often explore themes of politics, war, gender, sexuality and she is known for her inclusion of dark-skinned protagonists. As the genre was becoming more popular, she was one of the few woman authors to gain the respect that she did and she has spoken of the pressure she felt due to that.
Photo: Wikipedia

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05/7Begum Rokeya

Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, better known as Begum Rokeya, is one of the first feminists who fought for woman’s liberation in South Asia. Born in 1880, she spent a lot of her life fighting for women to be educated and have better opportunities for employment, despite facing often life-threatening obstacles. She wrote essays and books on what women face and why equality is essential and one of her best-known ones is ‘Sultana’s Dream’, a story set in a future Utopia where woman have made a better world and are in charge. It was published in a 1905 in The Indian Ladies Magazine and later as a book.
Photo: Wikipedia

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06/7​Mary Shelley

Even those who don’t read science fiction, know of her classic English novel ‘Frankenstein’. Published in 1818 under the name, ‘The Modern Prometheus’, the story tells of a scientist who creates a living creature out of a scientific experiment. It’s also considered one of the first science fiction novels. Mary had a superior education for a girl from her time. She had a governess, a daily tutor and even attended boarding school for a while. She always had a voracious appetite for knowledge and her literary success makes one realise that all the women who were denied education throughout history could be having the potential to contribute to literature. She wrote many other short stories, biographies of notable Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French men and travelogues in her life as well. Her parents were involved in radical politics and her writing also took bold political viewpoints.
Photo: Wikipedia

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07/7Andre Alice Norton

Born Alice Mary Norton in 1912, she wrote under the pen name of Andre Norton or Andrew North or Allen Weston. She changed her name to Andre Alice Norton legally a little before she published her first book because men were a better market for fantasy and sci-fi books, but she is now known as the first woman Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy, the first woman to be SFWA Grand Master and the first inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. She wrote several series set in different planets or in alternate worlds under all her pen names and was incredibly popular.
Photo: andre-norton-books.com

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