Following on from Rowena’s great post over at, Beneath a Thousand Skies, I want to add to her list with recommendations of my own. Female authors I’ve read over the decades, encompassing science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. But what I want to do, to be just a little different, is not highlight individual books from these authors, but the authors themselves.
URSULA K. Le GUIN (SFF) — I think just about everybody who reads SFF knows who she is and just maybe, has read at least one book, or series, written by her. To me she will always be the standard by which others are measured. From how well she told a story, to characterisation, world building, and tackling subjects that only a science fiction writer would dare too. Try her LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS or THE DISPOSSESSED.
BARBARA HAMBLY (SFF/Horror) — I don’t think there is a genre Hambly hasn’t tackled but with a difference, always choosing to tell her stories through the eyes of the under represented and unusual characters with lots of emotional depth and angst, and always with a keen, observational eye to stories rich with detailed descriptions. Try THE DARWATH series or her DRAGON series.
C. J. CHERRYH (SFF) — Cherryh has been turning out superb fantasy and SF reads for a few decades now, and I have never been disappointed with anything I have picked up from her. From here THE MORGAINE SAGA to the FADED SUN cycle, to her FOREIGNER series, it seems like she’s written something for everyone.
S.A. CHAKRABORTY (Fantasy) — Chakraborty’s DAEVABAD SERIES, I have to say, is one of the best damn fantasy series I’ve ever read, by any author, male or female. This author knows how to write compelling characters, kick-ass stories, set in a world of mythical Djinn that just suck you in to the world from the very first page. Well, that’s how it was, for me at least.
PATRICIA A. McKILLIP (Fantasy) — McKillip is one of the first authors I read who introduced me to fantasy and made me fall in love with it. Able to create intricate worlds filled with characters we longed to be friends with, if not, to become. And take us on wild magical journeys to realms that only exist in imagination. Truly a gifted story teller. Try THE RIDDLE MASTERS OF HED, THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD or THE BOOK OF ATRIX WOLFE.
JOAN D. VINGE (SF) — Known probably more for her fantasy novels, THE SNOW QUEEN and sequel, THE SUMMER QUEEN, like Cherryh, Vinge wrote across the board, and it’s more of her SF work that I enjoyed. Her novella, TIN SOLDIER, started me down the rabbit hole of reading her work.
ANNE McCAFFREY (SFF) — Another name that many know, like Le Guin, but maybe, haven’t read. But her Pern Series of books were my reading material of choice way back when. I couldn’t get enough of her science fantasies that featured genetically engineered dragons on a colonised world always under threat. Try the DRAGONRIDERS series or the DRAGONSINGERS series.
ELIZABETH MOON — Moon is probably less known by many, but she still continues to write, prolifically. I think many don’t realise here is a women writing Military SF and doing it with a women’s flare and touch. Yes, there’s a little romance in there, but mostly, she gives her male counterparts a good run for their money. Try her FAMILIAS REGNANT series (SF) or PAKSENARRION series (fantasy) and VATTAS WAR (SF). All rip roaring fast paced adventures.
MARY GENTLE (Fantasy) — It was Gentle’s ORTHE duology featuring GOLDEN WITCHBREED and ANCIENT LIGHT (very Michael Moorcock in style) that stood out for me. But here again is a female author taking on every sub genre of speculative fiction, from high fantasy, cyberpunk, to science fantasy.
SUZY McKEE CHARNAS (Science Fantasy) — Although MOTHERLINES and HOLDFAST CHRONICLES were probably marketed as SF, back in the day, when I bought them. I would say they lean more towards being classified as science fantasy these days. Her work was the first to introduce me to female centric feminist science fiction, as apposed to the action adventures I’d read up until then.
I hope you find someone new to read from amongst these authors. So please, check out their work and open yourself to a whole set of new worlds and experiences.