cover of The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction

“Justine Larbalestier plunges into her account of the sex-wars that have emerged in the pages of science fiction magazines since at least the 1930s with intelligence, much information and a good deal of common sense. In light of today’s interest in the development of the position of women, she reports on this conflict not only with fascinating documentation and a cascade of insights but also with great intellectual richness and readability.”

—Samuel R. Delany

“A fresh look, without bitterness, at science fiction’s lengthy engagement with issues of sex, sex roles, and gender rivalry.”

—Carol Cooper, Village Voice

“[Larbalestier’s] book, The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction, breaks exciting new ground and streams like a breath of fresh air through the fusty, fossilized discussion about feminism in SF. . . . Without any axes to grind, Larbalestier wields a sharp wit and perceptive insights on a huge mass of material, forcing us to re-see what was in front of our eyes all the time.”

—Paul Di Filippo, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine

“This is one of those rare books that makes itself indispensable as soon as it appears. So obvious are the gaps that it covers in its historical work and so central to the mapping of science fiction as both genre and community is this work, that I couldn’t help but wonder, as I was reading it, why no one had written it before. Whether or not you are a feminist reader, whether or not you are interested in issues of gender as they have been represented in sf narratives, whether or not you care about the roles of fan communities and the contents of fanzines, if you have any interest in the historical beginnings of the genre and in the role played by the American pulps in concretizing something originally known as ‘scientifiction,’ you will want to read this book. You will definitely learn new things, and you will almost certainly have a good time learning them.”

—Veronica Hollinger, Science Fiction Studies

“Larbalestier dramatically opens up the field to reveal that the underlying debates about men and women in SF are as old as the first tentative gropings toward community among pulp authors, editors, and forgotten letterhacks.”

—Gary K. Wolfe, Locus

“My fondest hope for Larbalestier, identified on the jacket of this, her first book, as a research fellow . . . , is that she get out of academia. A smart, assiduous writer with a good eye for telling detail, she uses her talents well in laying out the science-fiction landscape from the 1920s to the 1990s. . . . Nobody knows the intergalactic landscape better.”

Wilson Quarterly

“Writing in clear and entertaining prose and including fascinating anecdotes, Larbalestier approaches this vexing subject with critical authority. . . . Science fiction afficionados and newcomers alike will find this book interesting, amusing and sometimes surprising.”


“Larbalestier’s study is an important contribution to our understanding of feminist science fiction, pulp science fiction, the historical development of the genre, and the fan community. It’s synthesis of the various influences which shape science fiction, then and now, makes for fascinating reading. The magnitude of the scholarship and the wealth of documentation are also impressive. Of the many fine works of criticism that have appeared this year, this is one of the best.”

—Javier Martinez, Extrapolation

“An excellent and original book.”

—Robin Roberts, Modern Fiction Studies

“Two keys to successful scholarship are choosing a subject sufficiently narrow and well-defined to allow for thorough investigation and redefining that same subject in some novel or eye-opening way. Justine Larbalestier has done both.”

—Cecilia Tan, Women’s Review of Books

“Larbalestier’s immersion in her field of study has enabled her to produce a clear-sighted, astutely theorized, and impeccably argued account of how gender relations have been addressed throughout the history of the U.S. science fiction community. . . . She [is] a politically engaged scholar practicing the most demanding, discriminating, and rewarding variety of cultural studies.”

—Josh Lukin, MLN

“The clarity and liveliness of this work confounds another erroneous commonplace that feminist criticism can be dense and convoluted. The thoroughness and gradual progression of the book, combined with a personal approach and an open engagement with critical predecessors, means Larbalestier’s work is both a good introduction to women in science fiction, as well as a new voice amongst those already part of the feminist sf conversation. From a more general point of view, the book also offers fresh, text-based approaches to archival research, biography, and the analysis of fandom. Not only is Larbalestier reconfiguring historical accounts of women in sf, she is also beginning to shape the future of women in the sf community.”


“This book is a highly valuable contribution to science fiction and gender studies, both in its research into the pulps and its criticism of more ‘literary’ science fiction. It rightly upsets the notion of SF as a boy’s club; and also that of literary texts as separate from the communities of their consumers, fans and (amateur) critics. Australians have written very few critiques of science fiction; The Battle of the Sexes may well be the best.”

—Lucy Sussex, Australian Book Review

“[Larbalestier] does an excellent job of writing for multiple audiences, including readers who are not knowledgeable about sf or her theoretical approaches, defining specialized terminology (as much from sf fandom as from theory) both within the text and the glossary. Larbalestier bridges the gap between the two approaches in sf criticism: focusing solely on the books and ignoring the fans (and writers) and the recent and growing ethnographic scholarship (focusing on the fan communities). This book is a must-have for anyone interested in feminism and sf and for anyone interested in sf as a scholarly endeavour.”

SFRA Review

“Solidly grounded in the primary sources, Battle of the Sexes takes a fundamentally historical approach . . . . [It will] appeal to a fair number of science fiction readers, not just to gender studies and literature students. As well as learning something about the history of the genre, they may find new insights into familiar works and discover some new authors—and many of the stories Larbalestier tells are entertaining in their own right.”

Danny Yee

“A thorough, engrossing, and valid study, well worth reading and with fascinating revelations for old and new SF readers alike.”

Foreword Magazine