Female sci-fi writers have absolutely shaped the genre and written many fantastic masterpieces in this genre. So, we have created this list of the top nine female sci-fi writers of all time! These writers have published some of the best books ever written and have interpreted the genre in their unique way.
“Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it.”
Mary Shelley wrote one of the most iconic and arguably best sci-fi books of all time ‘Frankenstein’ (1818), which is about the advancement of technology and science that goes beyond the control of humans. Frankenstein is an early example of sci-fi written during a period of rapid scientific progress, religious turmoil, and rampant imperialism. All of these themes are explored in this book and intertwine to create this masterpiece. Also, Shelley wrote ‘The Last Man’, which is a fantastic dystopian sci-fi book.
“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”
Margaret Atwood is one of the best female writers of the 20th and 21st century, and most of her books focus on themes of feminism and a woman’s role in this patriarchal world. In particular ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, which is a dystopian sci-fi book that looks at the oppression of women in terms of reproductive rights with a religious totalitarian government in power. The Handmaid’s Tale has been made into a top-rated TV show and is loved around the world. Atwood has worked on other great sci-fi books too such as ‘The Testaments’ (sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale), ‘Oryx and Crake’, ‘The Heart Goes Last’, and many more masterpieces! Atwood truly is a pioneer in modern sci-fi literature.
Octavia E. Butler
“Science fiction lets me do both. It let me look into science and stick my nose in everywhere.”
Octavia E. Butler is an excellent American writer who tackled the sci-fi genre as a black female despite it being a white male-dominated field and did so with grace and talent. One of the best book series that she wrote was called ‘Xenogenesis’, which is set after a nuclear holocaust and some humans are saved by aliens. Lilith Iyapo wakes up centuries later to find that Earth is habitable again. This series explores biological science and identity in a wonderfully creative way, and has gone down in history! Butler has written other books too such as the ‘Earthseed’ series, ‘Kindred’, and ‘Patternmaster’.
“As for courage and will – we cannot measure how much of each lies within us. We can only trust there will be sufficient to carry through trials which may lie ahead.”
Andre Norton changed her name to a gender-neutral one to try and find success in a male-dominated genre. She was born as Alice Mary Norton and was the first female to receive the title of Gandalf Grand Master Award from the World Science Fiction Society. Andre has written over 130 novels and many short stories as well the series: ‘Halfblood Chronicles’, ‘Timetraders’, ‘Central Control’, and many more.
James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Bradley Sheldon)
“I’ve had too many experiences in my life of being the first woman in some damned occupation.”
James Tiptree Jr. is a pseudonym of a woman named Alice Bradley Sheldon, and she is one of the most famous women writers who did this. She did this to keep her academic and literary life separate, and so she would not be discriminated against in either of those fields. She kept the pseudonym up for many years and once her real name was revealed – she carried on using the false name. Tiptree mainly wrote sci-fi short stories like ‘Houston, Houston, Do You Read?’, ‘The Women Men Don’t See’, and ‘The Girl Who Was Plugged In’. But, she also wrote two novels before her death called ‘Up the Walls of the World’ and ‘Brightness Falls from the Air’ which were both very successful.
“That’s what literature is. It’s the people who went before us, tapping out messages from the past, from beyond the grave, trying to tell us about life and death! Listen to them!”
Connie Willis was one of the most prolific short story writers back in the 1970s and 1980s! She submitted her short stories to sci-fi magazines, and her most famous short story collection is called ‘the Time Travel series’, which is about University students travelling through time. Throughout her very successful career, she has written many short stories, books, and won a considerable amount of awards!
“We want people to understand that they’re choosing a set of policies and principles, a way of life, not a person.”
Malka Older is a modern sci-fi writer whose work is surrounding politics. Her first novel was released as ‘Infomocracy’ (the first book in ‘The Centenal Cycle series)’, which was published in 2016 and became an instant hit! Older explore the government’s reactions to disasters and how they choose to govern. There is much more to come from Malka Older as she is a fantastic writer with a vast imagination.
“But for a society built on exploitation, there is no greater threat than having no one left to oppress.”
N. K. Jemisin is an abbreviated name for a very successful science fiction writer, and she has gone against conventional expectations for sci-fi to create some fantastic novels! Before becoming a writer, Nora Keita Jemisin worked as a counsellor, which has influenced her writing in a number ways by introducing psychological and cultural themes in her books. Some of her best novels are ‘The Fifth Season’, ‘The Obelisk Gate’, and ‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’.
“We embrace those things that make us unique or odd. For only in these things can we locate and then develop our most individual abilities.”
Nnedi Okorafor is a sci-fi and fantasy writer, who has seen a lot of success in America by winning many awards. Many of her books have been influenced by her background (she has a Nigerian and American heritage). Some of her best and most recommended books are ‘Who Fears Death’, ‘Zahrah the Windseeker’, and ‘Akata Witch.’