Female science fiction writers have made significant contributions to the genre from its earliest days. Whether offering classic works of broad science fiction and fantasy, or inventing provocative and important new sub-genres of science fiction, the contribution of women cannot be overstated. If you discover your next science fiction title while checking out this list, you can access it for free using Audible's one month free trial.
By Madeleine L'Engle
The first book in The Time Quartet series is based around a young lady who is visited by a mysterious being. This is the start of a mysterious quest which promises to uncover the truth about the heroine’s father’s vanishing while working on mysterious scientific research. A Wrinkle In Time works well as a story in its own right as well as the start of the wider series. This is sure to appeal to fans of time travel science fiction.
By Joanna Russ
The Female Man by Joanna Russ is widely regarded as one of the earliest classic works of science fiction by a female author. The story is based around the question of what would happen if different versions of a single self from alternate realities were to come together and meet. The Female Man frequently appears on lists of essential science fiction classics and is a must read for all fans of the genre.
By Ursula K Le Guin
Usula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness is widely regarded as one of the most intellectually rich works of science fiction in print. It draws upon a deep knowledge of psychology, sociology, and classic literature, to offer an engaging story of integration into an alien culture. This is a great choice of story for fans of demanding science fiction which engages the brain as well as the emotions.
By CJ Cherryh
CJ Cherryh is one of the most prominent and widely respected female authors of science fiction, and Down Below Station is the first installment of her The Cherry Wars series. The story is an epic tale which features many characters with rich lives and interwoven backstories. The book itself is part of a larger universe and is perfect for fans who want to get lost in a rich science fiction universe full of drama, rebellion and intrigue.
By PD James
The Children of Men became more widely known due to its film adaptation, but PD James’ original work remains worthy of reading. The story is set in a world where humankind has lost the ability to reproduce, and the last generation of children to be more have now reached maturity. However, something happens to disrupt the status quo and offer a glimpse of hope to those who are around at this bleak time. A riveting story ideal for all fans of imaginative science fiction.
By Mary Shelley
It’s essential to remember that women have made a crucial contribution to the science fiction and horror genres for a very long time. One of the earliest and most famous examples is Mary Shelley and Frankenstein is a landmark work in the science fiction genre. The famous tale explores themes relating to the relationship between creator and creation, the need for freedom, and the advisability of man deciding to meddle with the laws of life and nature for his own purposes.
By Pamela Sargent
Pamela Sargent uses The Shore of Women as a platform to tell an interesting feminist tale of a world where men have been expelled by women from the cities to the wilderness. The story explores what happens when a man encounters a woman and human feelings begin to overrule the social norms of the time. The post-apocalyptic setting is the backdrop for interesting social commentary which is also a worthy story in its own right.
By Octavia Butler
The first book in the Earthseed series from Octavia Butler is set in the near future, the year 2025 to be exact. The story tells the tale of a dystopian world where humanity has totally broken down. The heroine of the story is safe with a group of humans in an enclave which is free from the chaos of the wider world. A fire destroys their safety and forces them to band together as refugees on a quest for safety.
By Margaret Atwood
The recent TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s terrifying portrayal of a dystopian future has received a lot of attention, but fans would be advised to read the original as well. The story is set in an America which has been taken over by religious fundamentalists. The few women who are able to give birth in society are enslaved as handmaids, whose only function is to provide children to the ruling class.
By Marge Piercy
Marge Piercy sets He, She and It in a dystopian future where malign corporations control the world and cyborgs exist with extraordinary capabilities. The heroine of the story is forced out of her normal life by a powerful company, but she meets a cyborg who may be able to help her extract a measure of revenge. He, She and It is a brilliant example of the feminist cyberpunk genre which is sure to also appeal to fans of wider science fiction in general.
By Connie Willis
Although not purely a work of science fiction, Bellwether draws upon ideas such as chaos theory to present an amusing tale of two scientists thrown together by unpredictable circumstances. The story makes many insightful but funny observations about human and animal behavior and engages the reader for the entire duration of its relatively short length.
By CS Friedman
CS Friedman’s This Alien Shore received glowing critical praise from The New York Times Upon its release, and rightly so. The story is set in a world where intergalactic space colonies are locked in a power struggle. The plot focuses on both a human element, in the form of a young girl who must confront her identity and purpose, and a science element, in the form of a virus which threatens to disrupt reality as it currently exists.
By Jo Walton
The first book in the Small Change series by Jo Walton introduces an alternate history world where Great Britain made peace with Hitler in the years prior to the story. The tale is a murder mystery where the main character is married to a Jewish man who has been invited to a gathering in order to be a patsy. The alternate history backdrop is a fine setting for a page turning mystery which is difficult to put down and has an amazing ending.
By Leigh Bracket
Leigh Brackett uses The Long Tomorrow to paint a picture of American civilization that has been devastated and changed beyond all recognition. CIties have been banned and science has also been forbidden as a result of the previous destruction that occurred. The story focuses on the quest of the main character to reach a rumored city where science has been able to continue without obstruction.
By Kameron Hurley
God’s War is the start of Kameron Hurley’s fascinating trilogy which mixes elements of science fiction and fantasy to superb effect. The tale is set in a world where a long-running religious war of incredible brutality has left the world a truly cutthroat place. The heroine of the story is Nyx, an assassin who is forced into the middle of a government deal. She has the one chance of potentially ending the war for good, but at a truly great cost.
By Ursula K Le Guin
The Dispossessed is a landmark work of intellectual science fiction from a female author. The story focuses on a physicist who decides to try and reunite his ostracized world with the rest of the planets. To do so, he must make a perilous journey in which he attempts to shake up the social constructs which keep his world apart from the others.
By CN Lesley
CN Lesley uses the legend of King Arthur as the inspiration for a fascinating blend of science fiction and fantasy set in the undersea world of Avalon. The surface world is far less technologically advanced than Avalon, and is also engaged in a struggle for its very survival. The story reworks the Arthur story into a fascinating science fiction setting which makes use of captivating characters to keep the reader gripped until the very end.
By JC Accini
Baby tells the story of a girl in rural America who is thrust into contact with an alien being during an escape from her abuser. They are able to communicate via telepathy and the alien is also able to heal. The two meet a stranger who they heal and protect. The main character is eventually found by her abuser, and the story reaches a truly shocking conclusion that will be sure to emotionally resonate with the reader.
By Elizabeth Moon
Remnant Population is set on a faraway planet where the main character has lived her entire life. The powerful company that controls the planet decides that it is no longer needed, and makes the decision to transport the residents elsewhere. The story’s heroine, Ofelia, decides to remain on the planet to live out her days alone. However, she soon discovers she is not alone, and a gripping story ensues.
By Beth Revis
Across the Universe is the first book in the series of the same name by Beth Revis. The main character of the story is Amy. Amy is aboard a ship which is intended to reach a planet. The inhabitants of the ship have been put to sleep and are supposed to wake up 300 years into the future. However, Amy awakens too soon, and is soon thrust into a quest for her survival, forced to discover the inner secrets of the ship where she resides.
By Sheri S Tepper
Beauty features a main character of the same name, and makes use of ideas taken from fairy tales to blend science fiction and fantasy into a spellbinding story. Beauty travels back and forth through both time and location, gradually discovering more about herself and what she must do. The story is a must read for fans of fantasy and science fiction alike, as the author is one of the best female science fiction writers ever published.
By Joan Slonczewski
A Door into Ocean is a landmark work of feminist science fiction from female author Joan Slonczewski. The story is set on an alien moon where a pacifist society of only women dwell. Their peaceful, utopian existence is disrupted due to the presence of a civilization on a nearby world who decide to invade. The story explores grand themes such as the nature of society and conflict and also offers an emotionally and intellectually engaging story.
By Allie Condie
Matched is the first book in the series of the same name by Ally Condie. The story is set in a dystopian future where the all powerful Society controls all the choices in their citizens’ lives. Matched explores what happens when a resident of this world decides to question the logic of the choices which are made for her for the first time.
By Tanith Lee
Biting the Sun is a powerful portrait of the consequences of a society which has dedicated itself totally to pleasure and hedonism. The practical, moral, and spiritual consequences of such a world are explored in a gripping science fiction tale which sees the main character rebel against this supposed bliss for something of true meaning.
By Iona Visan
Human Instincts is a powerful, post-apocalyptic tale set in a world where a lone female scientist has both risked Earth and has the chance of saving it. Ioana Visan’s story makes use of ideas taken from broad science fiction, genetic science fiction, and post apocalyptic dystopian future to make this an appealing choice for a broad range of science fiction fans.
Defining Female Science Fiction
This list recognizes any title written by a female author. The titles don’t have to be feminist or comment on the female experience to be included, although some do. Women have proven to be masters of all genres of science fiction, so fans of any taste will find something suitable.
How were these Best Cyberpunk Novels Selected?
This list is formed from a mixture of the author’s own personal favorite reads and those which have been suggested by fellow fans and critics as well. The list is intended to be a mix of famous, classic works, and lesser known authors, so fans of any level of knowledge can discover their next brilliant book.
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