Top female writers dominating the sci-fi genre

The science fiction genre is often the avenue through which children first discover their interest in STEM, as they hope to build the real world in a way that resembles those in their favorite books. It is particularly important when written from the perspective of an underrepresented community, because stories tend to be about what the world should be rather than what it is. In recent years, the dominance of women and other minority groups has been so remarkable, that a significant number of anti-diversity groups have been formed to counter the trend. However, given how female sci-fi writers swept the 2017 Hugo Awards, that task seems unlikely to result in anything. DiscovHER brings you a list of top female writers who molded, or are continuing to mold this sci-fi into the diverse and inclusive genre it has become.

Octavia Butler

As the first black female sci-fi writer to reach national prominence in the US, Butler has written herself inextricably from the genre’s history. Inspired to become a writer by a B-rate movie which made her realize she could write better and get paid for it, she insisted she did not have any ambitions to become the first of anything, but that is what she became. In addition to winning 2 of both the Nebula and the Hugo Awards, she is also the only writer in the genre to have won the MacArthur Fellowship so far. Her ability to combine elements of science fiction with historical issues such as slavery resulted in the creation of thoroughly-researched and well-written books, such as her Kindred series, that have stood the test of time, secured her legacy as a sci-fi pioneer, and inspired new generations of black female sci-fi writers.


Nnedi Okorafor

Winner of both a Nebula and a Hugo award, Nnedi Okorafor is one of the products of Butler’s legacy, discussed above. Like her, she creatively intertwines her experiences with imagination rooted in science fiction to create stories that are simultaneously relatable and otherworldly. In her award-winning trilogy Binti, she explores issues of identity, the idea of home, and conflict, both personal and external, subjects that are clearly informed by her living a dual culture as a Nigerian-American, or a “Nigamerican” as she likes to refer to herself. Though she has already made a name in the genre, her time has only just begun, and fans look forward to seeing what she’ll do next.


L. Timmel Duchamp

On top of being a successful sci-fi writer, known best for her Marq’ssan Cycle series of books, Duchamp is also an editor and publisher. Her publishing company, Aqueduct Press, is known for its publishing of material featuring a feminist viewpoint, something which she is unapologetic about. While her publishing house does not exclude work based on political stances, Duchamp does require that the authors challenge the status quo in their writing, allowing a departure from the expected narrative. She especially encourages female writers not to feel pressure to write their female characters according to society’s gender expectations. Duchamp’s work, both as a writer and editor, are pushing the boundaries of what women should be able to write within science fiction, as well as beyond.


Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine L’Engle was a young adult fiction writer whose work was known for combining her Christian faith with her strong interest in science. This meant that for those who loved to fit their books into well-defined boxes, L’Engle’s work was unpalatable. For the more adventurous and intellectually curious, her work was sheer brilliance. Her work shaped generations of women, and continues to do so today. One of her best known books, A Wrinkle in Time, first published in 1962, has been in continuous print since then, and has been adapted into a film that will be released in March 2018, eleven years after L’Engle’s death, ensuring that the legacy of her work will get passed on to a whole new generation of young children.


NK Jemisin

Rounding of the list is NK Jemisin, who won the Hugo Award two years in a row, in 2016 and then 2017. While Octavia Butler was the first black woman to win these awards, she won in the Novelette and Short Story categories. Jemisin on the other hand, became the first black woman to win the best Novel category in 2016. She is best known for her Inheritance trilogy, although her Broken Earth books seem set to also become very famous as they resulted in her winning of these previous awards. The latter are set in a world that is constantly threatened by seismic activity, and where humans oppress the mutants who can control the environment. While her series differ greatly from each other, cultural conflict and oppression are common themes running through them, and which Jemisin loves to explore.


Who are your favorite female sci-fi writers? Let us know @4womeninscience


L’Oréal–UNESCO
For Women in Science

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