LAST fall science fiction writers and fans attending the World Science Fiction Convention in Denver awarded Joan Vinge the Hugo for her novel ''The Snow Queen.'' Suzy McKee Charnas won the 1981 Nebula, sponsored by the Science Fiction Writers of America, for her novel ''The Vampire Tapestries.'' That women won these awards, which are the Pulitzers and American Book Awards of the thriving science fiction community, bolsters a claim made by Alexei and Cory Panshin in ''Expanded Universe,'' a collection of critical essays about the genre: For the six or seven major male science fiction writers who emerged during the 70's, there are at least 15 or 20 women. ''The best writers are the women,'' declares Harlan Ellison, the controversial writer and editor of ''Dangerous Visions,'' a multivolume anthology of science fiction.
THERE is, of course, a certain degree of backlash. Although Ben Bova was the editor who devised the all-female issue of Analog in 1977 before taking over at Omni, he nevertheless issued a strong attack upon woman sf writers in a 1980 speech at a Philadelphia convention: ''Neither as writers nor as readers have you raised the level of science fiction a notch. Women have written a lot of books about dragons and unicorns, but damned few about future worlds in which adult problems are addressed.''
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