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Spurred by complaints from the Sad Puppies, I’ve been discussing the effect that changes in SF have had on the genre. There are different sub-genres in SF, of course. There were adventure stories that first appeared in pulp magazines about the turn of the 20th century, but in the 1950s hard SF began to take over. Despite Mary Shelley, SF in the early days was all pretty much written by men. Typically they had science degrees of some kind and used the stories to explore the subject matter they were interested in. However, women took a different route into the field. Generally they came in with literary degrees. Let’s look at a sampling:

• Isaac Asimov – PhD Biochemistry
• Robert Heinlein – BS Naval Engineering
• Arthur C. Clarke – BS Math and Physics
• Ray Bradbury – No degree
• Samuel Delaney – No degree
• Ursula LeGuin – PhD. Literature
• Anne McCaffrey – BA Literature
• Nancy Kress – MFA English
• Connie Willis – BA English
• C.J. Cherryh – MFA Classics
• Andre Norton – No degree
• Octavia Butler – No degree

Norton and Butler did study at university level, Norton in history and Butler in English, but neither completed their degree program. All of these people have won Hugo Awards (some retro) except for Norton, who received the Grand Master Award in 1984 instead.

This difference in background means that men and women writers in the genre brought different approaches to science fiction. This also means the BA/MFA Hugo Award winner isn’t really anything new. In past years, the men typically won Hugo Awards with stronger science content and women with stronger characters.

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