Women are a huge presence in what was considered a male-dominated genre, many estimates putting SFF readership at a 50/50 split between women and men. I won’t bore you with studies or data but there’s plenty on Google should you wish to do a little research. With fiction in general, the percentage of women readers shoots up higher towards 60%.
Women love Science Fiction and Fantasy. So you can’t tell me that less women write it (or want to write it) – yet disappointingly, on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and other online spaces, when people ask for recommendations or an article is published on the best books in fantasy, it is overwhelmingly male dominated.
There are thousands of science fiction and fantasy books being published, and the people writing them are becoming more and more diverse. Many of these authors are women.
On International Women’s Day, perhaps you already do this, but try and consider recommending newer books and considering when you’re making recommendations whether you’ve properly representing everyone. I’m not telling you to turn down reading or recommending Mistborn, The First Law, The Wheel of Time, Malazan, Kingkiller, the Expanse etc. (or lesser known male authors especially). Nobody is suggesting recommending women for the sake of it – that would be disrespectful – but are you giving women authors a chance; are you reading their books? If you are, there will be some that you loved. Recommend them!
Here are some great women authors you should have a look at reading this year:
N. K. Jemisin
N. K. Jemisin is the multi-award winning author of a number of highly rated books, including The Broken Earth Trilogy, starting with The Fifth Season. She has written enough books to keep you busy for a few months infact, and even in the brutal world of Goodreads ratings has an exceptionally high average rating and is already immensely popular. Despite this popularity, I’ve heard it said a number of times that the quality of her writing is so good that her success should be astronomical, and I’ve encountered a number of readers in the genre who still haven’t heard of her! If you’ve already read some of her work, she has a new book coming out very soon – The City We Became, which is already getting rave reviews as the ARC readers finish up their copies.
Start with: The Fifth Season
“This is the way the world ends. Again.
Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.”
Anna Smith Spark
Everyone I know who has read Anna Smith Spark loves her work, and I count among one of them. Anna Smith Spark is seriously accomplished, as well as coming across as a really nice person. She has a PhD in English Literature, a Masters in History and a Bachelor of Arts in Classics. Such a background has to be the perfect concoction to writing fantasy books that people will love?
Start with: A Court of Broken Knives
“They’ve finally looked at the graveyard of our Empire with open eyes. They’re fools and madmen and like the art of war. And their children go hungry while we piss gold and jewels into the dust.
In the richest empire the world has ever known, the city of Sorlost has always stood, eternal and unconquered. But in a city of dreams governed by an imposturous Emperor, decadence has become the true ruler, and has blinded its inhabitants to their vulnerability. The empire is on the verge of invasion – and only one man can see it.
Haunted by dreams of the empire’s demise, Orhan Emmereth has decided to act. On his orders, a company of soldiers cross the desert to reach the city. Once they enter the Palace, they have one mission: kill the Emperor, then all those who remain. Only from ashes can a new empire be built.
The company is a group of good, ordinary soldiers, for whom this is a mission like any other. But the strange boy Marith who walks among them is no ordinary soldier. Marching on Sorlost, Marith thinks he is running away from the past which haunts him. But in the Golden City, his destiny awaits him – beautiful, bloody, and more terrible than anyone could have foreseen.”
S Kaeth is an indie author who released her debut novel, Windward, last year. She has a new book, Between Starfalls due for release at the end of March 2020 which promises to be the start of an exciting fantasy series. I feel it’s especially important to give indie authors a chance because it takes people reading their books to earn the payoff of success they’ve worked so hard to achieve.
Start with: Windward
“When dragons fight, mountains weep.
In nests high in the mountains, dragons and dragonbonded share their lives, thoughts, feelings, and ambitions.
Palon and her partner, the dragon Windward, are renowned among their nest for their flying skill. Their days are filled with everything she loves, especially riding the wind. Even being tasked with teaching their way of life to Tebah, a rebellious newly bonded teenager, can’t bring her down too much.
But when treasures from the dragons’ hoards are found in Palon’s collection, her idyllic life comes crashing down. She battles to prove her innocence, while her every move is cast as further evidence against her. Tebah’s suspicion, homesickness, and defiance would be frustrating even in easy times. With Palon in the spotlight while her rivals smear her name at every turn and stir up plots of revenge, her teenage charge’s behavior proves dangerous.
Dragon tempers shorten, and challenges and disputes shake the ground. Palon will have to trust more than just herself if she hopes to once more own the sky.”
Jen Williams is the down-to-earth author of two successful fantasy trilogies; The Copper Cat and The Winnowing Flame. She’ll make you laugh both within her books and on social media (and I imagine if you met her, too). Her British sense of humour shines through in her work, but there are serious and important themes addressed too. The Winnowing Flame Trilogy also features one of my favourite fictional women since Ellen Ripley in ‘Vintage’.
Start with: The Ninth Rain
“The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine.
When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind.
But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war. For the Jure’lia are coming, and the Ninth Rain must fall…”
K. T. Davies
K. T. Davies is the author of the Chronicles of Breed novels, an action packed and fun-filled adventure series, combining dark fantasy with humour. I’m not sure there’s a review for Breed that doesn’t feature the word ‘fun’ in fact! There are dragons, which is always a reason to read, as well as an array of other magical creatures. Definitely a series to read when you want a bit of a break from big, serious tomes.
Start with: Dangerous to Know
“After Breed, an thief-assassin of small renown is chased by a dragon, tricked by a demon, almost killed by a psychopathic gang boss, and hunted by a ferocious spider, life really takes a turn for the worst.
Sentenced to five years bonded servitude to a one-handed priest magician, Breed must find the hammer of the ancient hero known only as The Hammer of the North within a year and a day…
So, with only a drug-addicted vagrant, a rat-faced child, and a timid priest for backup, Breed sets out for the mighty city of Valen and the tomb of the Hammer.
What could possibly go Wrong?
Grim, dark and funny, Dangerous To Know is an epic sword and sorcery adventure.”
Becky Chambers is the author of the widely acclaimed Wayfarers series. Her books have been nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, The Locus Award and the Women’s Prize for Fiction. She’s now being spoken about amongst the upper echelons of sci-fi writers. Goodreads isn’t the be all and end all and there are plenty of great authors with lower ratings but an average of 4.2 stars from 117,000 reviews is elite level stuff. There are always the assholes who give a book a 1 star due to one little thing they disliked, so to keep such a high average from so many reviews is a definite indicator of Becky Chambers’ quality as a writer. Read for wholesome, character driven space opera!
Start with: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
“Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.
Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.
Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.”
Nnedi Okorafor has loads of books published, and I think one of the first things to note is just how unique and interesting the premises are. You’re bound to find something that you think you’d enjoy reading. Her Hugo and Nebula winning Binti trilogy is going to be made into a movie and having read book one, it would translate brilliantly to the silver screen! Many of her books are novella length, which is perfect for when you want to read an exciting story without the slog of a big 500 page + book to get through.
Start with: Binti
“Binti is a young Himba girl with the chance of a lifetime: to attend the prestigious Oomza University. Despite her family’s concerns, Binti’s talent for mathematics and her aptitude with astrolabes make her a prime candidate to undertake this interstellar journey.
But everything changes when the jellyfish-like Medusae attack Binti’s spaceship, leaving her the only survivor. Now, Binti must fend for herself, alone on a ship full of the beings who murdered her crew, with five days until she reaches her destination.
There is more to the history of the Medusae–and their war with the Khoush–than first meets the eye. If Binti is to survive this voyage and save the inhabitants of the unsuspecting planet that houses Oomza Uni, it will take all of her knowledge and talents to broker the peace.”Synopsis of Binti, (Book 1)
Robin Hobb needs no introduction to most fantasy fans but she had to be included in this post. Known for her Realm of the Elderlings series (consisting of a number of series within it) Hobb is truly at the top level of the genre. The books also look amazing on the bookshelf. Just saying.
Start with: Assassin’s Apprentice
“In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.
Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals – the old art known as the Wit – gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility.
So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.”
S. A. Chakraborty
S. A. Chakraborty’s books have been nominated for multiple awards, and she’s best known for her Daevabad trilogy, a magical series set in 18th century Cairo, giving a more unique setting than most of the genre, no doubt influenced by Chakraborty’s interest in history, politics and Islamic art. Read to be taken back in history to an Arabian influenced world inhabited by Djinns and magic.
Start with: The City of Brass
“Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.
But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.
In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.
After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for…”
Rebecca Roanhorse doesn’t have a huge back catalogue of published novels, but her Sixth World series has started off with a bang. With two books in the series so far, there are at least two more planned, so now would be a great time to jump on board. She also has a brand new fantasy series titled Anasazi planned, which looks really interesting. Writing an official Star Wars novel, Resistance Reborn, won’t have hindered her growing fame within the SFF genre either. Did I mention she’s also a Hugo and Nebula award winning author, as well as being a finalist in a host of other prestigious awards and the recipient of the 2018 Campbell award for best new writer?
Start with: Trail of Lightning
“While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.
Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.
Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.
As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.
Welcome to the Sixth World.”