Hey Geeky Girl (Updated)

The memed up version of the Guardian’s phallocentric 20 best geeky novels list has inspired some interesting discussion (in the comments to that post). Christopher Rowe and Chris McLaren have responded by making lists of geeky books by women. (See also the discussion at this LJ.) (The update is Meghan McCarron’s list added at the end of the post.)

This is going to be embarrassing, but I’ll meme up these behind the cut. (My own list would have a lot more books I’ve read. But many of these are books I have long had every intention of reading and just haven’t, or have read other books by the authors instead.)

Christopher’s List

Wild Seed by Octavia Butler
Synners by Pat Cadigan
Downbelow Station by CJ Cherryh
Heritage of Hastur by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
Rats & Gargoyles by Mary Gentle
Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Ann Goonan
Slow River by Nicola Griffith
Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
Life by Gwyneth Jones
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
China Mountain Zhiang by Maureen McHugh
Golden Vanity by Rachel Pollack
Natural History by Justina Robson
Harry Potter and the AlchemistPhilosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge

Wow, I suck. It’s highly troubling to me that I’ve read more of the random, somewhat crappy, definitely boring Guardian list and less off this one. Let’s see about the other one.

Big-Headed Canadian Whiskey Man’s List

K.J. Bishop – The Etched City
Emma Bull – Bone Dance

Pat Cadigan – Mindplayers
Pamela Dean – Tam Lin
Karen Joy Fowler – Sarah Canary
C. S. Friedman – Madness Season
Mary Gentle – Ash
Lisa Goldstein – The Dream Years
Eileen Gunn – Stable Strategies and Others
Margo Lanagan – Black Juice
Ursula K. LeGuin – The Disposessed
Kelly Link – Magic For Beginners
Julian May – Intervention
Maureen McHugh – China Mountain Zhang
Linda Nagata – Memory
Melissa Scott – Trouble And Her Friends
Sherri Tepper – The True Game
Joan D. Vinge – The Snow Queen
Martha Wells – Death Of The Necromancer
Connie Willis – Doomsday Book

A tie! What are the odds? (Yes, must read China Mountain Zhang immediately.) I must admit that one of these lists feels geekier than the other; which do you think I mean?


Meghan McCarron has come up with her own list, that I’m adding to this. I think Meghan’s list is more cool than geeky (putting aside C’s excellent point about what the hell geeky is even describing here), but that’s just because I’ve read more books on it.

Meghan’s List

Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engel
The Mount, Carol Emshwiller
Magic for Beginners, Kelly Link

The Falling Woman, Pat Murphy
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
Lioness Quartet, Tamora Pierce
The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper
Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold
Magic or Madness, Justine Larbalestier
Tithe, Holly Black

Catherine Called Birdy, Karen Cushman
Dealing with Dragons, Patricia C. Wrede
The Hero and the Crown, Robin McKinley
The Ear, The Eye, and the Arm, Nancy Farmer
Weetzie Bat, Francesca Lia Block

The Egypt Game, Zilpha Keatley Snider
Sexing the Cherry, Jeanette Winterson
Orlando, Virginia Woolf

(Definitely adding the Pat Murphy to the TBR stack.)

8 thoughts on “Hey Geeky Girl (Updated)”

  1. It’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by the way (or Sorcerer’s Stone, if you’re American and not a purist).
    I admit to reading only a few of those myself, and intending to read even less (Marion Zimmer Bradley? Anne McCaffrey?) and anyway it’s hard to say that any of these novels, with the possible exception of the Le Guins and the definite exception of the Shelley, are iconic in the way that the books on the Guardian list are.
    Still, I’ve noticed in the last few years that I don’t read a lot of books by women – only about 20-30% of my yearly reading in the three years since I’ve been keeping track of it. It’s something that troubles me, but I’m not quite sure how – or even whether – to go about correcting it.

  2. I actually love a lot of these books (and yes, MZB and AMcC are not exemplars of literary style, but at their best they’re both pretty gripping–esp. if you read when you’re a teenager…) Pat Cadigan is a genius. Joan Vinge’s “The Snow Queen” is a particular favorite of mine; do read it ASAP, Gwenda! Diana Wynne Jones surely belongs on this list as well. Say “Howl’s Moving Castle” because of the movie?

  3. I was definitely using a much broader definition of “geek” than the Guardian used.
    Tam Lin, for example, definitely has appeal for the literarily geeky (and the kind of classics geeks who know different translations of Homer, etc.) but maybe not for the stereotypical high tech geek.
    Still, as Mr. Rowe points out, there are definitely more problems with the Guardian list than just the lack of women…

  4. Oops on the HP title. Thanks for the catch, Abigail. I went and fixed it on my entry but the error had already escaped into the wild in several different directions.
    On your comment–I actually think my list is iconic in almost exactly the same way that the Guardian list is, in that it points out that the books that mark our geekdom can be both brilliant and not so much. And while, yeah, there are some books on my list (and to a lesser extent on Chris’s) that aren’t Great when looked at with our now more widely-read eyes, they’re still important.
    Actually, even putting aside all the questions of what geeky means, and whether in this case we’re using the word to describe the book, the reader, the writer, the reading experience or some matrix that encompasses all of that–even putting that aside…
    Top to bottom, the books on our lists kick the books on the Guardian’s list ass in terms of quality. Only about half of those books succeed on their own terms, only about five of them are what I’d term truly good novels, and more than a handful of them are, in fact, desperately shitty. And more than that, some of them (and the crossover with the desperately shitty books is gratifyingly large here) will be deservedly forgotten long before Anne McCaffrey and Marion Zimmer Bradley, whatever their faults, leave the cultural consciousness.

  5. This is an interesting thread, because it relates to something Patrick and I had been discussing lately–both of us feel kinda guilty that we generally, automatically, do read according to gender lines. (So, for instance, I’d read every book on those new girl-geek lists, but only about half of the original Guardian list.) I read far, far more books by women than by men, and it makes me feel…well…a little uncomfortable when I think about it.

    t’s not that I don’t enjoy and appreciate lots of work by male writers–Sean Stewart and Brad Denton are two of my favorite spec fic authors in the world–but in general, when I’m browsing in bookshops, the books (or opening paragraphs of books) that catch my eye and make me go “Oooh! Must read this!” tend to be by women. And Patrick has the same experience with books by male authors. So my reading balances out to about 80-90% female authors unless I’m actually pushing myself to stretch my brain and read something that doesn’t immediately appeal to me on the same visceral level. (Which is part of why I don’t tend to read Black Static/Interzone/The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.)

    This makes me really uncomfortable as a person who doesn’t believe in inherent gender differences…but that doesn’t seem to change my gut reactions to the books I see.

  6. Oh, you must read the Pat Murphy! She tells my favorite stories (archeology! cruise ships!) in such a subtle, smart way. She was one of my Clarion prof’s, so I may be a little biased, but her stuff is such a pleasure to read.
    PS: this list is not cool. we are just similar kinds of geek.

  7. Christopher, I think one can regard the titles on the Guardian list as iconic without thinking they’re brilliant novels. Quality is not the issue; reputation within a certain subculture is.

  8. Sure, Ted. That’s what I was trying to say when I said that I feel like my list is iconic the same way that the Guardian list is–kinda answering Abigail’s parenthetical raising eyebrows about McCaffrey and Bradley. But what do you care? It’s not like you’re coming for Thanksgiving, punk!

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