I admit, I am an absolute fan of Nicola Griffith. While doing a bit of research of my own, I came upon an old blog post of Nicola’s where she shared her thoughts on Classic Lesbian Sci-Fi books. I thought that this was well worth a share. Taking from her blog Nicola writes:
I think the heyday of lesbian sf is still to come. I think it will be astonishingly good, partly because it won’t need to be about being queer. That battle is ending. It’s essentially won. (Lots of tidying up to do, of course.) It was a battle named and begun by the mothers of our genre. Here are a handful of the classics, from the 1970s to the 1990s. The first two are short story collections, the rest novels; I’ve talked about several of them, and others, on my enormous List of Things I Like.
- Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, James Tiptree Jr (aka Racoona Sheldon, real name Alice Sheldon). Stories. Some of these pieces will rip your heart out; some will make you think; some will help you see the world anew. Tiptree does love and science, dire warnings and the real world in equal measure, and she has no peer.
- Extra(Ordinary) People, Joanna Russ. Short science fiction, including “The Mystery of the Young Gentleman,” which is, for me, the most fun hey-gender-is-a-game story ever. And I suspect “Souls” might have had a tiny bit of influence on Hild.
- The Chronicles of Tornor, Elizabeth A. Lynn. This is a loosely connected sequence of novels starting with Watchtower. Fantasy, but no magic, unless you call love and aikido magic; I think this book influenced the way I write about bodies in the real world; it certainly paved the way for to learn aikido a few years later.
- Gossamer Axe, Gael Baudino. Fantasy. An ageless Celtic harper forms a heavy metal band to free her lover from the faerie. Great music and magic writing. No holds barred lesbian romance (but definitely with a fantasy lineage). Fabulous. When I picked up this book I read the very first writer’s bio that said something like, Baudino lives with her lover xxxx in xxxx. (I can’t find my copy or I’d quote.) And I knew, right then, that I wasn’t the only writing dyke in the genre world who felt no need to hide.
- The Holdfast Chronicles, Suzy McKee Charnas. Sequence of dystopian novels. The first and most important (in my opinion) are Walk to the End of the World, and Motherlines. Charnas is ostensibly a straight writer, but she gets dykes and gay boys right. I couldn’t have written Ammonite if this book, and work by Tiptree and Le Guin and Russ, hadn’t come first. The first is an unsettling dystopia, but not claustrophobic—like, say, Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale—and a ripping good read.
- Thendara House, Marion Zimmer Bradley. Science fantasy. Set on Darkover, a recolonised world of spaceports and native polities, Free Amazons and psi powers, swords and energy weapons. Fabulous stuff. Occasionally clunkily written. It is a sequel to The Shattered Chain, but I read TH first and like it better.
I could have chosen any of another couple of dozen, but these struck me as representing the heart of the (US) genre. (There are many wonderful UK novels—Fairbairns’ Benefits, Jones’s Divine Endurance—and Australian, and Canadian, and others.) I’m hoping readers will have some suggestions in the comments below—not just for good lesbian sf but good lists of same.
I have long lists on various genres, but when I found Nicola Griffith’s I had to share this with you.