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Not-so-Invisible Ninjas

Or: Recent and Upcoming Debuts in Fantasy and Science Fiction... that just happen to be written by women.

Charlie invited me to come by and join in the posts helping those who may not already be in the know to find the wealth of writers who also happen to be female that they can't otherwise find when they are writing those excellent "where are all the women writers of fantasy and science fiction" posts.

I began to make a list of 'next-generation writers' who also happen to be women. (Since we don't write with our gender identities or genitalia, I figured it would be fine to not modify the word "writer," but for the search engines, I'll add it at in the end, so you know, they can find us. When they look.)

The problem seemed to be that there were so many of us who were otherwise hard to find! The entire list would crash the Internet out of pure hard-to-findness! And so Charlie set me a boundary, limiting me to 20, leaving off many excellent writers. I've thus kept this list focused on 2014 and 2015 English-language debut books in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and YA SFF. Many of these authors have new books coming out in 2015 and 2016 as well. I'll let the comments about those I've not put on this very short list stand as a reminder to you that we are NOT, in fact, hard to find.

  • Andrea Phillips - Revision (Fireside Fiction 2015) Science fiction
  • Zen Cho - Spirits Abroad (Fixi Novo, 2014) Linked short stories/Fantasy
  • Silvia Moreno Garcia - Signal to Noise (Solaris 2015), Fantasy/Slipstream
  • Ilana C. Myer - Last Song Before Night (Tor, 2015) Fantasy/Epic
  • Stephanie Feldman - Angel of Losses (Ecco, 2014) Historical Fantasy/Slipstream
  • Genevieve Cogman - The Invisible Library (Tor, UK) Fantasy/Alternate Worlds
  • Beth Cato - The Clockwork Dagger (Harper Voyager, 2014) Steampunk
  • Alyc Helms - The Dragon of Heaven (Angry Robot, 2015) Fantasy
  • Karina Sumner-Smith - Radiant (Talos, 2014) Fantasy
  • Stacey Lee - Under a Painted Sky (Putnam, 2015) Alt-Historical Western, fantasy
  • Sabaa Tahir - An Ember in the Ashes (Razorbill, 2015) YA Fantasy
  • Jacey Bedford - Empire of Dust - (Daw 2014) Fantasy
  • Susan Murray - The Waterborne Blade (Angry Robot 2015) Fantasy
  • Carrie Patel - The Buried Life (Angry Robot, 2015) Fantasy
  • Heather Rose Jones - Daughter of Mystery (Bella, 2014) Romance/Historical Fantasy/Queer
  • Nicola Yoon - Everything, Everything (Delacorte, 2015) YA Science Fiction
  • A.C. Wise - The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again (Lethe 2015) Linked short stories/Sci-fi/Queer
  • Monica Byrne - The Girl in the Road (Crown, 2014) Science Fiction
  • Camille Griep - Letters To Zell (47 North, 2015) Fantasy
  • me - Updraft (Tor, 2015) Fantasy

As I stipulated above, this list is defined purely by time, debut-status, and the number 20.

I'd love to add the writers who debuted in the years before us - including but not in any way limited to: N.K. Jemisin, Ann Leckie, Marjorie Liu, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Jodi Meadows, Genevieve Valentine, Justina Ireland, Jaime Lee Moyer, Stina Lecht, Jacqueline Koyanagi, V.E. Schwab, Mur Lafferty, Nene Ormes, Sarah McCarry, Leah Bobet, Natania Barron, Aliette de Bodard, Emma Newman, Alyx Dellamonica, Jaye Wells, Emily St. Jon Mandel, Kameron Hurley, Charlie Jane Anders...

AND the writers who came before that, including Nnedi Okorafor, Elizabeth Bear, Nisi Shawl, Kate Elliot, Kandace Jane Dorsey, Jo Walton, Martha Wells, Laura Anne Gilman, Amanda Downum, Gwenda Bond, Suzanne Collins, Nalo Hopkinson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Sarah Monette, Naomi Novik, Caitlín R. Keirnan, Rae Carson, Linda Nagata, Catherynne Valente, Kelly Link, J.K. Rowling,...

And those who came before that: Emma Bull, Judith Tarr, Elizabeth Lynn, Jo Clayton, Robin Hobb, Suzy McKee Charnas, Pamela Dean, Ellen Kushner, Brenda Cooper, Tanya Huff, Janet Morris, Robin McKinley, Michele Sagara, Tricia Sullivan, Delia Sherman, Sherwood Smith, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Karen J. Fowler, Cecelia Holland, Nicola Griffith, CS Friedman ...

And the Grands and Great Grands and so on, like Pat Cadigan, Joan D. Vinge, Margaret Atwood, Kate Willhelm, Jane Yolen, Connie Willis, Andre Norton, Nancy Kress, Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Lois McMaster Bujold, Doris Pischeria, C. L. Moore, Carol Emshwiller, Leigh Brackett, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree Jr., Anne McCaffrey, Diana Wynne Jones, Joan Aiken, C. J. Cherryh, Andre Norton ... all the way to Mary Shelley and beyond. AND everyone here:, here:, and here:

AND the coming wave of 2016: here are just a few - Ada Palmer, Laura Elena Donnelly, Mishell Baker, Malka Older... And the editors. And the critics. And the publishers.

And and and... (honestly, I asked five friends to list their favorites and after fifteen minutes had to beg them to stop because my buffers overflowed.)

Oh my goodness, you would think it hard to find women writing fantasy and science fiction given those blog posts and articles.




Thanks very much! ...

I've read almost all of the great-grands, and fewer and fewer of each of the more recent generation. This shows 2 things (1) sooner or later a good writer will be found/read, and (2) it's time for me to catch up!

Between this and the previous topic thread, I have my shopping list for today's book purchases ... will also keep a tally of what I was able to find on-shelf.


Can we add some more we know of? I'd add another debut novel, Moira Fowley-Doyle's 'The Accident Season' (YA Fantasy)


I've been hearing good things about The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. Debut novel this year, originally self-published, then bought up by Hodder & Stoughton, so there's your editorial filter. It's on my Amazon wish-list as a placeholder for when I run out of stuff to read right now ...


DapperA - absolutely - this list was made to be added to!


@charlie - that looks like a really good one, now on my TBR as well


Whoah, according to the description, this is a science fiction novel set in space which isn't about a grimdark future marked by a bloody spacesuited foot stomping on humanity's face forever?

Is that still permitted? Do people at least wear black leather and communicate solely via snarky insults?

I guess I'll have to read it to find out...


I just finished Dreamwalker by C.S. Friedman. It's a portal fantasy, and the first book in a planned trilogy. Pretty good.


... from @mrbelm on Twitter: Ahem. Elizabeth Hand.


Your list is large, but it could go on for pages. For example, you are missing a great number of women writers who work primarily in the Urban Fantasy or Fantasy genres, and who's work tends to be "romance-adjacent" or for whom large parts of their SF/F work is published in the Young Adult field.

Just going by the writers I find on my own shelves, I came up with the following:

Bestsellers Laurell K Hamilton Charlaine Harris Kim Harrison (Dawn Cook) J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts) Richelle Mead

Well-Established Writers Kelley Armstrong Patricia Biggs Marion Zimmer Bradley (Even though truly disturbing details have emerged about her life, she was very influential and was historically important writer.) Nancy Collins Carole Nelson Douglas P.N. Elrod Esther Friesner Kate Griffin (also writes as Claire North and Catherine Webb) P.C. Hodgell Sarah Hoyt Seanan McGuire (as Mira Grant, she writes SF/Horror) Julian May Elizabeth Moon Cherie Priest Laura Resnick Patricia Wrede

Newer Writers Ann Aguirre Philippa (Pip) Ballantine Amber Benson Rachel Caine Gail Carriger Karen Chance Virginia DeMarce Jennifer Estep Jeaniene Frost Faith Hunter Stacia Kane Katherine Kerr Caitlin Kittredge Gini Koch Chloe Neill Diana Rowland Lilith Saintcrow Gaie Sebold Jeanne C. Stein

The difference between the categories above is subjective and based on my limited knowledge—and very likely flat-out wrong in places. I omitted Ilona Andrews as "she" is a collaboration of a husband and wife team, and is not strictly speaking, a woman writer.

This list, like Fran Wilde's original, is quite incomplete. It just reflects female writers I read and who's work I have purchased and enjoyed.


Is Katherine Kerr a newer author? Because I think she'll find herself suffering for the confusion from older folks like me with Katharine Kerr, whose book Daggerspell I read back in the 80s.


If we're listing new women SF authors first published in the last year then:

Harriet Truscott's dystopian Changed Souls is rather good.


Who are these people who complain that Women writing SF/F in general are hard to find? I keep seeing complaints about that, not sure I've seen someone saying that in real life. Granted, I live in my own liberal bubble, maybe there are people like that outside.

What I AM seeing is people who have a hard time finding female writers in specific subgenres. Charlie, if you want an idea for future posts in this series, maybe devote one for each subgenre? For example, Alternate history, Gritty/dark fantasy, post-human SF, high-concept (that hard to define subsection of SFF that Zoo City and the First 15 Lives of Harry August belong to - a book with a clever idea or a new twist on an established idea) etc.


Who are these people who complain that Women writing SF/F in general are hard to find?

Yellow card, team walrus. (Read the moderation policy already!)

Don't do it again, or you're banned.


"Debut novel this year, originally self-published, then bought up ..."

How common is this, and what is the process? Do "real" publishers trawl the self published market looking for stuff or was it submitted to them after self publishing (presumably with attached sales record)?


Hugh Howey, Andy Weir, Amanda Hocking... some big-splash examples.


Charlie, I wasn't sea-lioning, I swear. What I meant was, as someone who gets up to date on SFF by reading websites such as or i09, and blogs such as this one, James Nicoll's, and occasionally Scalzi's, And having a similarly populated facebook feed, I'm continually exposed to a lot female SF writing. As I said, maybe I'm living in a bubble and I'm deluding myself that we're past the necessity of proving that female-written SF is out there and easy to find. I WANT to believe listing names is unnecessary, that we're living in a better world than that... but you writers are better aware of the mindset of the average reader, I guess.

Back on topic, for those who want to keep up with new releases, on you can find posts tagged "Fiction Affliction" that list dozens of new novels every month, many of them (of course!) by women - so many it's impossible to keep up. They're broken up roughly by genre so it's easy to find something you want to read. If only there was a way to filter out Book N>1 in a series...

Lastly, I want to add that I picked up Linda Nagata's The Bohr Maker after reading her post, so these posts are doing their job (I was aware of Nagata before but for some reason had the impression that she only wrote MilSF).


And there's even “An award encouraging the exploration & expansion of gender," now in its 25th year where many of these writers have appeared: The James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award.

(And recommendations are open for the 2015 award.)


It seems to be getting somewhat more frequent as a way some better material bypasses the slush pile. Effectively the work is self published, gets a buzz, then a proper agent or publisher will take a look. I imagine they probably all have an intern keeping an eye on the top dozen self published books across the categories they care about.

Andy Weir is a prominent recent example - his work was self published for free, then on the kindle store for a dollar, where it topped the best seller lists and got real attention, then an agent got in touch with him and it skyrocketed from there.


Thanks for the suggestions, I have just added a few new entries to an ever growing amazon wish list. :-) I've certainly known of some of the authors before and appreciated their work but I always like getting suggestions of new & upcoming authors that deserve attention.


You are correct. I had forgotten her successful series of Deverry novels (which I never read, having burned out of high fantasy at the time), and her Polar City Blues book (which I did read, and completely forgot about). Her Wikipedia page shows she's been publishing extensively since the mid-1980s.


Okay, just started new-to-me author #2 (first of two books) so three steampunk SF/F in a row.

Hmmm, how to say this nicely ... folks, I am unable to not compare reading experiences. No matter what I read, I'm always looking for another Asimov, Herbert, Heinlein, Bujold, Stross, Scalzi, etc.

Speaking of Asimov ... Asimov was born in 1920, so the 100th anniversary of his birth (2020) is not that far off especially when one considers that time works differently in situations where writers write, editors edit, writers re-write, etc. up to the point where a work finally lands on the bookstore 'shelf'. The anniversary year itself has lots of obvious title/story possibilities. Anyone know whether the Asimov estate (or whoever their publisher is) has any plans to do a 100th anniversary tribute? Asimov's Foundation series introduced psycho-history .. well, it's here a la the Internet, Google, the proliferation of algorithms, neuroscience, 23andme, and so forth. Then there's his Three Laws of Robotics ... robots are also here, but no idea what their psycho-social laws/underpinnings are.

Charlie - you mentioned that you've decided against more Halting State books ... really hope that you revisit this decision ... if only to put your and Asimov's different visions under the microscope.


Is it possible to see a blurb for Updraft written by someone who actually knowns what's in the book? I don't trust cover blurbs...


Like many others here, I could go on for ages listing women who write great fantasy. But, while I like fantasy, I prefer science fiction, and my list of women who write great science fiction, while also long, is relatively much shorter. So, if anyone would like to highlight which of these suggestions are SF, I would be eternally grateful.

Wasn't there something in one of the recent guest posts about a woman who wanted to write SF, but her publishers tried to force her into fantasy instead? I think something similar happened to my aunt, Melisa Michaels, who had published about half a dozen novels of two-fisted asteroid miners. Then she told us that her publisher had asked her to try urban fantasy instead, and she didn't really know anything about the genre, but was going to give it a try. Two novels later, she basically seemed to give up writing (at least till very recently). I haven't ever talked to her about the details, but it does seem like women who write SF are harder to find than they should be, and I'd like to find more so I can buy more and help encourage publishers not to be so stupid!

Oh, and you can throw Melisa Michaels on the list while you're at it. :)


I don't have anything more more substantive to say, but I thought that a regular commentator should at least thank Fran for the effort she's made in compiling the lists!

So Thank you Fran.


Which book(s) of Melisa Michaels do you recommend we start with?

Only about 100 pages into it and I'm really liking Carrie Patel's Buried Lives. Would be interested in learning more about her than the jacket blurb info. Unfortunately she doesn't have a Wikipedia page/entry, nor does she appear in the Wikipedia list of science fiction authors. (Vox Day - no DOB - does though.)


Here's a nice review on

Sounds interesting. Though I have to admit that one thing that came to mind was the Tower-City/Aerialist culture in Stapledon's "Last and First Men", but fleshed out* and without his unintentional silliness and other problems.

*after all his was only a few pages.


How is Radiant? I own a copy because I am apparently very distantly related to Karina Sumner-Smith (or related to a friend of her family or something -- I was never very clear on that) & I'm not sure where to place it on my very long to-read pile. It was tentatively at the end because of the cover material (and the fact that I had never heard of it or her before), but since she's being mentioned here, I figure somebody might have a strong opinion.


I have not read Radiant and I know the cube root of zilch about your tastes, but Karina's pretty good.


I just thought that I would share with everyone that I am now a Linda Nagata fan. Not a debut author, of course, but someone I had never heard of until this series of posts on this blog. So thanks for that, Charlie.


Yes, thank you Fran.

There's nothing I can add to this topic.


Of the writers I mentioned, I know that Sarah Hoyt, Mira Grant, Julian May, Elizabeth Moon, Ann Aguirre, J.D. Robb (SF/Mystery), have written science fiction novels.


Women writing specifically SF:

Even though I helped Fran with the list, I can still think of numerous others since then not listed--Judith Moffett, Janet Kagan, Zenna Henderson, though my definition of SF is often softer and/or more space opera than the standard, so my favorites usually fall closer to F on the spectrum.


No mention of Tanith Lee. Sheri S. Tepper has also written mysteries under the names A.J. Orde and B.J. Oliphant. Barbara Hambly, known more for fantasy, but has written Star Wars and Trek novels, also written mysteries. As has Kate Wilhelm, who has been mentioned.


Please include the inestimable Kage Baker, whose excellent "Company" series of time travel novels was cut short by her untimely passing in 2010.

"In the Garden of Iden", "Sky Coyote", "Mendoza in Hollywood", "The Graveyard Game", and more.


(Clears throat)

Tanith isn't a "next generation" writer. Neither are Sheri Tepper, Barbara Hambly, or Kate Wilhelm.

Her work is well worth reading but, alas, I don't expect to see any more of it.


Their stuff used to fill shelves at stores like Dark They Were And Golden Eyed (if you are old enough and London enough to remember)


I don't think Mary Shelley (also mentioned by Fran) is still writing either. Not unless her Baron was less fictional than we thought and has her head in a jar connected to a teletype somewhere.


Perhaps someone can enlighten me. Are the original Frankenstein and Dracula classics good reads?


"They're full of clichés"


Just like Shakespeare eh? I could get past him ripping off West Side Story for his Romeo and Juliet


Exactly. I didn't think the point of this post was to list only new women SF writers. I also got kinda stuck on the writers also working in other genres idea above, and saw that they weren't mentioned.


Didn't Mary Shelley kick off the whole SF genre?


Some people think she did, i.e., Frankenstein in 1818. There's also The Last Man (1826) '... an apocalyptic science fiction novel by Mary Shelley, which ... tells of a future world that has been ravaged by a plague.' (Wikipedia)

Depending on how you define SF, the origins go back to the ancient Greeks (at least). Most world-origin stories/myths could be considered SF ... for a given value of 'high tech'.


... Steph Swainston, until she decided to become a full-time chemistry teacher...

... I'm still hoping for more one day.


Not sure I'd be prepared to go as far as origin myths, but there's an excellent case to be made for Johannes Kepler as the first SF author, for Somnium (1634).


Probably. However, did either inspire other authors directly, and in their lifetimes, to enter the genre?


I was going to suggest The Other World: Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon by Cyrano de Bergerac. But I had a vet appointment to take the dog to. And I see it's a little later than Kepler's.


There's also The Last Man (1826) '... an apocalyptic science fiction novel by Mary Shelley, which ...

Is a real slog to get through, at least for me. I much prefer "Frankenstein" and some of Shelley's shorter work. And I also like Stoker's work.


Really happy to see this post! Except it's going to be expensive: so far I've put 4 new books in my basket, and I guess I'm going to have to put a budget cap on this :)

As it stands the post makes its point about the number of women who write SFF - but with so many names, it'd be great to have some more focus. This thread seems a good place for sharing/eliciting reading tips, so maybe (if I'm not breaking the comment rules) I can pick the community brains...?

Can anyone comment on which of the many named authors are writing hard SF, cyberpunkish stuff, grimdarkesque fantasy, or some intersection of these? (Kameron Hurley would be a good example of what I mean by 'some intersection.') An LGBT angle is welcome but not essential...

I have a feeling (just a feeling: nothing substantiated) that on the whole these types of SFF are particularly male-dominated in terms of market share and reader awareness. I'm sure that doesn't mean that women are not writing this stuff too, but I know less of it than I'd like. I can't google 50+ names though, so... tips, anyone?


Well, off the top of my head (and assuming you're already familiar with really big names like Cherryh, Willis, and Bujold):

Nancy Kress is one of my very favorite authors—one whose works I'll buy sight unseen—and she generally falls into the hard SF category, with an emphasis on biotech and genetic engineering. I think she may be one of the most underrated women in SF today.

(I was a little disappointed with the first book of her "Probability" trilogy, Probability Moon, but the second was much stronger, and the third blew me away!)

One of my very favorite cyperpunkish-with-an-LGBT-angle works is Melissa Scott's Trouble and Her Friends. Its a fun romp that I re-read regularly. And since LGBTishness is not something I really factor into my reading preferences either way, you can take it that this one succeeds on pure storytelling.


Since comments here seem to have died, and thinking about the retro-Hugo awards next year, for 1940.

My knowledge of fandom for that era is pretty much limited to recognising the names of men who were, or became, authors, or show up in 'first fandom' awards. I know that some of them met their partners through fandom. The letter columns of the pulps of the time show that there were female fans. And of course there were women writing for the pulps and the comics (and illustrating them).

So, a question: Is there a handy reference somewhere of women who were actively involved in SF fandom in that era?


Off-topic, but of the many ways we might purchase these various books, which send more or less money to the author? (I just bought one, so maybe it's not completely off-topic) This was not the sort of question that had a quick and easy hit from an internet search engine, and the pages it sent me to were also a few years old and I suspect this answer changes over time.

Options for me (that I know about) include: Google Nook/B&N Kindle/Amazon Apple dead trees

And is the answer much different for new versus established authors?


Very late to the party but I recently read & thoroughly enjoyed "Archangel", Marguerite Reed's debut novel.

It's SF with a bunch of different elements (older female protagonist, ecology, MilSF, genetic engineering, an Earth colony that actually has diverse colonists and not just white Christian heterosexuals) that come together well and gets the thumbs up from me.


YES there is more on the way.



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This page contains a single entry by Fran Wilde published on August 30, 2015 3:10 PM.

How I learned to stop worrying and love the concept of punitive slating.... was the previous entry in this blog.

Introducing guest blogger: Aliette de Bodard is the next entry in this blog.

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