At first, this was going to just be a blog about who I considered to be the top science-fiction authors who influenced me, but as I was organizing my thoughts and ideas, it turned into something altogether different. The sci-fi authors I was choosing happened to be all female. It’s not that the more famous and very male ones didn’t influence my love of the genre. The incredible Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, and Robert Heinlein all played a role. How could they not? Their world-building, the way they tackle important topics, and vivid imaginations set the foundation for why the genre has skyrocketed in recent years. Even meeting one of my favorites at a workshop couldn’t dissuade my blog from turning wholly female (Walter Jon Williams is the best and writes very distinct and unique stories, to be sure. I love digging into his worlds). So, in no particular order, here are my five favorite female science-fiction authors.
1. Sheri S. Tepper
I was a fan from the first moment I opened A Plague of Angels. Not only because of the unique characters but because she has a very different take on the dystopian/post-apocalyptic theme. The book begins by sounding like a high fantasy hero’s journey but soon turns into something altogether different.
And different is Sheri S. Tepper in a nutshell. Her unique and sometimes bizarre stories cover some hard truths about faith, climate change, and our social constructs in such a way you’re left contemplating what the heck you just read. Then the words absorb into your soul, and you’re shook. That’s the beauty of her writing, it’s a slow burn, and most of the subjects she tackles are woven in such a way they don’t slap you in the face with her opinion. They just make you think.
In an interview with Strange Horizons, she calls herself an ecofeminist. It’s a term I can get on board with. She is also one of the authors that made me want to become a writer.
For more stories, check out: https://sheri-s-tepper.com/
2. Nancy Kress
I had the pleasure of meeting Nancy at the workshop she and Walter Jon Williams host each year. The workshop renewed my love of her earlier work, including Beggars in Spain, which is probably what she is best known for, and to which she won a Hugo and a Nebula. With many awards under her belt, she is one of those authors who contributed to breaking the barriers for women in Science-Fiction. If you really want to get a taste for the wonderful writer she truly is, her book of collected stories in The Best of Nancy Kress is worth the buy.
Her most recent novel, Observer, which she co-wrote with Robert Lanza, is a more scientific take on what the meaning of life and reality really is. An absolutely fascinating book that’ll get you thinking and leave you questioning everything. (Plus, it’s now a bestseller).
And on a side note, if you want to become a better writer, her books on writing are top-notch and include Beginnings, Middles, and Ends and Dynamic Characters. www.nancykress.com
3. Andre Norton
Need I say more? The Grande Dame of Science-Fiction and Fantasy is guaranteed a spot on any top list. Talk about a trailblazer in a primarily male-dominated genre back in the day; this woman’s prolific back catalog is the stuff of legends. Her stories suck you in and keep you there all the way through until the end.
Though I was introduced to her work through two of her fantasy series Witchworld and Elvenbane (written with Mercedes Lackey), I grew fascinated by her science-fiction stories. Two in particular, Time Traders and Galactic Derelict, are, in my opinion (and I’m sure I’ll get some push-back on this), some of her best works.
4. Octavia E. Butler
I honestly need to read more Octavia Butler. Her Parable series has resonated with me since I opened the Parable of the Sower. The…heaviness of the series is what stays with you long after you’ve closed Parable of the Talents. She has such a powerful voice in her main character, as she struggles through the aftermath of devastation and finds her way through to a new way of life. It’s post-apocalyptic, but how that affects the smaller world and what people do to survive is thought-provoking and a little heart-wrenching.
5. Becky Chambers
Another author I’d like to read more of. She made my list for two of her books (which were debut titles, I do believe). The first is The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, and the other is A Closed and Common Orbit, both of the Wayfarers series. First, I have to say I envy her ability to title her books. Next, her characterization is phenomenal. These aren’t let’s-go-to-space-with-light-sabers types of space drama. These are fully formed characters who are written in such a way that they don’t just jump off the page; they bound and then come sit by you for months after you close the book. Space is simply a backdrop for exploring friendships, relationships, and personal growth and development.
There are so many fantastic female authors in science fiction, breaking boundaries and leading the way in a genre that is always right on the edge of ingenuity.
Denise Spain is the author of the Crossroads Series and is currently writing a variety of other stories and novels. She loves creating adventures for her characters and readers alike. Whether it is surviving in some dystopian future or teaming up with Sasquatch and other mythical creatures, all her stories involve people discovering just how amazing they already are. Life and good storytelling should be about the fundamentals: living life to its fullest, love, and self-discovery.