Women writers like Neal Stephenson, are there any?
October 5, 2008 9:24 PM   Subscribe

Women writers like Neal Stephenson, are there any?

I love the way his books seem to be such a reflection of what he is interested in and wants to write about, and how he is perfectly willing to take 900 pages to explore whatever he feels like. Like, a lot of other writers would take out that section in Anathem about the folding chairs, or in Cryptonomicon about the cereal, etc. but those are some of my favorite parts.

Infinite Jest has a lot of this kind of thing too, (plus footnotes, yay).

However, lately I just feel like reading more women authors. No special reason, I guess.

So: long, digressive, complicated, somewhat humorous, fun novels that teach you stuff you didn't know about...but written by women?
posted by exceptinsects to Writing & Language (18 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Long, digressive, complicated, somewhat humorous, fun novels that teach you stuff you didn't know about:
Yes, somewhat, a bit, fuck yes, hells yes, and true if you don't mind getting a bit of fantasy in your history.

posted by cowbellemoo at 9:50 PM on October 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

The Historian maybe? Also a bit of fantasy with history, but not in the same way. And, the ending is sort of a let down. Well, but what am I saying, it's no Neal Stephenson "I've run out of gas so I'll just stop here" letdown ending.

Don't get me wrong I'm a big Stenpgenson fan too.
posted by sevenless at 10:48 PM on October 5, 2008

err...Stephenson fan
posted by sevenless at 10:50 PM on October 5, 2008

Seconding Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange is a fantastic, multi-layered book. As a major Neal Stephenson fan I'd say it's on a par with Cryptonomicon in terms of scope, and a lot like the System of the World in tone. Ace book.
posted by Happy Dave at 10:54 PM on October 5, 2008

Ursula K. LeGuin is a seasoned science fiction worldbuilder. I've never read any of her novels, but I have read several of her short stories and found them to be enjoyable little bundles of imagined social histories and exotic xenobiologies.

Some recommendations you can read online:

"The Building" - An advanced species recovering from industrial and ecological collapse is mystified by an expansive, seemingly purposeless labyrinth of a building that is being compulsively constructed by a lesser species on the planet.

"The Seasons of the Ansarac" - The intricate social/biological calendar of a birdlike race is endangered by the interference of off-worlders.

"Coming of Age in Karhide" - An alien child deals with the stressful coming-of-age rituals of its near-human society.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:39 AM on October 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

Connie Willis' short stories are a bit Stephenson-like--not so much her novels, although "Domesday Book" is the closest. Definitely not as close as Susanna Clarke, but very smart nonetheless.
posted by timoni at 1:43 AM on October 6, 2008

Seconding Connie Willis. To Say Nothing of the Dog and Passage both remind me of the things I like about Neil Stephenson, including the intense obsession with detail, without the problems I've found with his books, like the endings and the weird ideas about women.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:47 AM on October 6, 2008

She wrote historical fiction, not SF, but Dorothy Dunnett's series share some of these traits. Start with the first Lymond book, The Game of Kings.
posted by dfan at 6:31 AM on October 6, 2008

While she doesn't remind me of Stephenson, Karen Joy Fowler's Sarah Canary is largely digression and may fit the bill (and her Sister Noon arose from research she did on things that didn't fit into Sarah Canary, but I haven't read that one yet.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 8:24 AM on October 6, 2008

Pat Cadigan's Tea From an Empty Cup reminds me very much of Stephenson's earlier work, especially Snow Crash. It fits almost all your criteria; it's only average in length.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 10:15 AM on October 6, 2008

Ursula LeGuin is a great author, but she has a very different style than Stephenson. Susanna Clarke is a much closer bet.
posted by voltairemodern at 11:25 AM on October 6, 2008

I recommend CJ Cherryh for complex, multilayered storytelling. Her style is hard to get into at first, but well worth it once you understand what's going on. Cyteen is probably my favorite of hers. There's a lot of fascinating stuff on mental programming there, which does somewhat remind me of Stephenson.
posted by cereselle at 12:42 PM on October 6, 2008

You should check out these two threads for female authors. There aren't many, but there are some.

And as an alternative point of view I didn't think Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke) was worth it. I really wanted to like it, but I think it would have been better if cut by 1/3 to 1/2, and I'd never say that about Cryptonomicon.
posted by salvia at 1:25 PM on October 6, 2008

Response by poster: I did enjoy Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, but somehow I don't feel like it has the same sort of gleeful self-indulgence that I'm looking for...I think Connie Willis is probably a better example but unfortunately I've read all of hers already! (Same with Le Guin)

I tried reading The Historian but I couldn't really get into it.

I'll check out Cadigan, Fowler (I did read The Jane Austen Book Club, which I thought was just okay, but I hear all her books are very different) and Dunnett, and please give more suggestions!
posted by exceptinsects at 2:52 PM on October 6, 2008

Best answer: The last Samurai, by Helen DeWitt, who I learned about on languagehat's blog.
posted by louigi at 2:10 AM on October 7, 2008

Response by poster: Oh, that sounds interesting, louigi! I'd heard of the book but I just assumed it was the one that that stupid Tom Cruise movie was based on. Thanks!
posted by exceptinsects at 11:21 AM on October 7, 2008

Very good list of female SF writers here, notsure any of them strike me as very Stephenson like though.
posted by Artw at 9:30 PM on October 7, 2008

Response by poster: The Last Samurai was exactly what I was looking for. I highly recommend it.
posted by exceptinsects at 9:00 AM on December 10, 2008

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