So there’s this thing going around of women not writing science fiction or fantasy. And if we do, we do it badly. Andrea K Höst wrote a long list of great female authors in these genres that, while completely fabulous, forgets all about the new generation of great female writers who, while established, aren’t yet legendary in the manner of Anne McAffrey and Lois McMaster Bujold. I am, of course partial toward many of the women on this list but that shouldn’t stop you from getting to know their work better.
Mary’s novels are mainly historical fantasy set in the Regency but whose science fiction short stories are the most incredibly beautiful examples of her writing. My own favorite is either For Want of a Nail or The Lady Astronaut of Mars. Along with writing, she’s an incredible audio book reader as well as an excellent puppeteer. Mary is also very possibly one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and I am also one of her writing students. So naturally I’m biased.
Valente’s work is brilliant everywhere but her fairyland series (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There etc) is especially charming in a way that in my opinion nothing since Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been. The series is beautiful and whimsical and sad and funny and full of glorious language, all at the same time and everyone should read it.
McGuire is arguably one of the hardest working people in genre literature. She has four active series under her own name as well as an active series as Mira Grant. I have a deep, one-sided love affair with her through her work so I’m entirely partial to everything she writes but I would especially recommend her October Daye series which is urban fantasy and the new Parasitology trilogy (starting with Parasite). Her shorter work is also entirely gorgeous but I’m (still) obsessed with Homecoming
Pinborough a British author who writes a lot of good horror but whose fairytale retellings are especially amazing. Poison is the first in the series, retelling the story of Snow White with sex, drugs and violence while at the same time making pretty much every one of the characters seem very human. And yes, that includes the evil stepmother who is evil but not in the mustache-twirling way the original is. The rest of the series is just as gorgeous and down to earth as the first one and entirely a must-read.
Okorafor is a Nigerian American author who writes awesomely on matters of race and ethnicity while at the same time creating believable worlds of fantasy and science fiction. She is best known for the World Fantasy Award winning Who Fears Death. The next generation’s answer to Margaret Atwood, she is literary enough to be considered both literary and genre but she is all awesome.
Beukes has written both genre fiction in the form of for example Zoo City as well as comics such as Rapunzel’s gorgeous run in Fairest. Zoo City has one of the most interesting magic systems I’ve seen in a while, taking place in an alternate version of a modern day Johannesburg with a main character who is wonderfully flawed and active and human.
Priest is definitely best known for her Clockwork Century series which is one of the biggest must-reads for any steampunk list. It’s full of varying characters, all with a driving purpose. Priest was my first introduction to Steampunk and as such her place can never be questioned but my favorites of her work are the two vampire thief books that never did get any huge attention. Bloodshot and Hellbent both had wonderfully quirky and unique characters whom I will always love. I can only hope that some day Priest will write more to Raylene’s story.
Rowland writes pretty widely in the urban fantasy genre but her White Trash Zombie series is not only completely hilarious, brings a breath of fresh air into a subgenre that’s been completely overdone. It tells the tale of Angel Crawford who has pretty well fucked up her life before she wakes up in a hospital, only to find out that she actually died and was made into a zombie. She gets a job that she actually likes and is good at that also happens to keep her well stocked in brains.
Naomi Novik took the world by storm when she sold the first three books in her Temeraire series (dragons in the Napeoleonic wars!) and her publisher flooded the Earth with them. We’ve all been trying to catch up since then. Captain William Laurence becomes the reluctant owner of a dragon captured in a naval action against the French but soon grows fond of young Temeraire and the two go on to have amazing adventures together, all set in a background of the world during the time of English Regency.
Kameron is another one of the author’s on this list I’m partial for since I got to hang out with her during World Fantasy Convention in Brighton and let me tell you the lady is AWESOME. I must admit, I’d never heard of her before her man-servant (possibly husband but my memory fails me) sat next to me at the newbies table but I’ve since read her and she is now even more awesome! Best known for her novel God’s War, which is an incredible look into the life of an 80’s action hero type woman in a far-future dystopic world.
Jemisin writes complex and incredible worlds and even Brandon Sanderson seems impressed with her magic systems. Her first novel A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was the winner of the Locus award as well as the World Fantasy Award.
Do you have any more recommendations?
I’m probably missing some names that should absolutely be included. The point being yes, women do write science fiction and fantasy and they do it well and they will continue to do so. Lucky for us readers.