Women in Speculative Fiction

What's your favorite science fiction/fantasy book? Tell us in the comments!

Women have been writing speculative fiction since the beginning. Many would say that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was the first science fiction novel!

As science fiction and fantasy grew in popularity, speculative fiction evolved as a genre that bends the rules of conventional fiction without adhering to the rules of science fiction.

We’ve collected some of our favorite quotes from works of science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction – all of them address, in some way, the role of women in these imagined worlds.


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From Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett
“The way I figure it, here in New Earth, men’s power has won out over women’s power, just like it’s done on Mainground. But men still fear women’s power. No one ever forgets their mother’s power to give them nourishment or withhold it. And men specially don’t forget it, because they never grow into women themselves, and never lose a child’s craving for the comfort of women’s bodies.”


From The Female Man by Joanna Russ
“I didn’t and don’t want to be a ‘feminine’ version or a diluted version or a special version or a subsidiary version or an ancillary version, or an adapted version of the heroes I admire. I want to be the heroes themselves.”


“From The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
“My name isn’t Offred, I have another name, which nobody uses now because it’s forbidden. I tell myself it doesn’t matter, your name is like your telephone number, useful only to others; but what I tell myself is wrong, it does matter. I keep the knowledge of this name like something hidden, some treasure I’ll come back to dig up, one day. I think of this name as buried. This name has an aura around it, like an amulet, some charm that’s survived from an unimaginably distant past. I lie in my single bed at night, with my eyes closed, and the name floats there behind my eyes, not quite within reach, shining in the dark.”


From The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
“The Gethenians do not see one another as men or women. This is almost impossible for our imaginations to accept. After all, what is the first question we ask about a newborn baby? ….there is no division of humanity into strong and weak halves, protected/ protective. One is respected and judged only as a human being. You cannot cast a Gethnian in the role of Man or Woman, while adopting towards ‘him’ a corresponding role dependant on your expetations of the interactions between persons of the same or oppositve sex. It is an appalling experience for a Terran.”

Congrats to Shari B., Stephanie L., Rhea W., Susan T., Leslee K., and 45 other members of the Read It Forward community! Their entries were selected at random to win a paperback copy of Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett.

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About Kira Walton

KIRA WALTON has been stalking books all her life as a college English teacher, bookseller, book club consultant, author, and editor.

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