Kit Reed has been quietly writing first-rate genre-bending work for more than half a century, yet every new novel or collection seems like a brand-new discovery, because she has never received the critical recognition her work so richly deserves.
Lisa Goldstein wrote, in Tourists, one of the finest Borgesian fantasies I can recall. During the 90s her intricate works became weaker because they were never large enough to contain all she was trying to do, but they were never less than glorious. She has not published a book under her own name this century (though there is a suggestion that an ebook is due to appear).
Maureen McHugh’s first novel, China Mountain Zhang, was one of the most spectacular debuts of the early 90s. She hasn’t produced a novel under her own name in a decade.
Vonda McIntyre produced a whole string of award-winning stories and novels throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s, and has been silent since 1997.
Pat Murphy wrote one of my favourite works of sf, The City, Not Long After, along with all sorts of other great stuff. As one of the moving forces behind the Tiptree Award she is phenomenally important in science fiction, but other than one children’s novel she has published nothing in nearly a decade.
Karen Joy Fowler, co-founder with Pat Murphy of the Tiptree Award, wrote Sarah Canary, which should be enough to guarantee her immortality in any half-way rational world. She continues to write award-winning short stories that challenge the very nature of science fiction, but apart from that first novel (and elements in her third) all of her novels have been mainstream.
The male writers who are the contemporaries of these women (and many, many more) are the forces who dictate the terms of contemporary science fiction. The six writers I’ve named should be up there with them. In terms of the quality and ambition of their work, these six writers are at least the equal of any of their contemporaries, and better than many of them. The genre we read today should be sculpted on the model set by Fowler and Goldstein, McHugh, McIntyre, Murphy and Reed. So why isn’t it?