Stieg Larsson, women writers, and science fiction

John-Henri Holmberg, one of our co-authors of The Tattooed Girl and a friend of Stieg Larsson’s from the early 1970s until Larsson’s death in 2004, reminds us in one of his essays that in addition to being a huge science fiction fan and aspiring sf writer in his youth, Larsson was particularly interested in female characters and authors in sf literature, as was his life partner, Eva Gabrielsson. Holmberg says of Stieg and Eva:

They both also read Ursula K. Le Guin and the other new feminist sf writers who infused science fiction with new ideas and a social consciousness few authors previously had displayed. Some of these were Vonda N. McIntyre, Elizabeth Lynn, Pamela Sargent, Marge Piercy, and Lisa Tuttle.

The authors Stieg liked best were the radicals—Joanna Russ, whose The Female Man was an angry, irresistibly funny and brilliantly experimental novel, and Suzy McKee Charnas, in whose Walk to the End of the World women are kept as slaves in the male-dominated cities, while bands of free women dominate the wilderness and hunt men like animals…Joan D. Vinge fascinated him because of her depiction of the alien, a recurring theme in her early fiction where the “alien” can be seen as a metaphor for those not belonging, regardless of whether they are women, are mentally or physically different, or belong to a different race. In the reviews he published (mainly in Science fiction forum during 1979 and 1980), he lavished praise on Kate Wilhelm’s Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang and characterized Wilhelm as an author who “always returns to the dangers which absolute power poses to both individuals and collectives.”

Recently, an anthology of writings by pioneering female sf writers has been published: The Dreaming Sex: Early Tales of Scientific Imagination by Women. See below from Publisher’s Weekly:

The Dreaming Sex: Early Tales of Scientific Imagination by Women
Mike Ashley. Peter Owen, $15.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-7206-1354-4

Edgar-winning editor Ashley (The Mammoth Book of Mind-Blowing SF) counters the impression given by certain recent phallocentric anthologies: not only are female authors currently a significant part of the science fiction and fantasy landscape, they always have been. The 14 stories, all written by women, were published between 1834 (Mary Shelley’s “The Mortal Immortal”) and 1928 (Clare Winger Harris’s “The Miracle of the Lily”). Well-known authors like Shelley and Edith Nesbit are outnumbered by their equally talented but more obscure peers. Others are known for their activities outside writing; Roquia Sakhawat Hossein, for example, is more likely to remembered as a pioneering Indian feminist and founder of Calcutta’s Islamic Women’s Association than for her story “The Sultana’s Dream.” This worthy assortment of stories is diminished only by the unfortunate need to show yet again that women are just as creative and skilled as men. (Aug.)

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