57 Mind-Blowing Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Books

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.
m

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

September 3, 2014

…how’s that for a clickbait title?

So there was a community post on Buzzfeed today–although as far as I’m concerned that makes no difference whatsoever–that listed 39 SF/F/H books coming out this month. Oh yay, I thought, as I went to see what was on the list. And then I noticed it. Noticed that there were a lot of male names and that the preponderance of the titles were of a–how do I say this?–of a more apparently literary bent than specifically genre in terms of their covers and blurbs.  Did some counting. Ranted on Twitter.  Did a bit of very shallow searching on Amazon (seriously, their advanced search is pretty good for casting a wide net with a few specific criteria) and came up with a lot of speculative fiction written by women. 57 titles, in fact.

Astronaut Hello Kitty tours the lady SFF in my library, starting with Lois McMaster Bujold.

Astronaut Hello Kitty tours the lady SFF in my library, starting with Lois McMaster Bujold.

Got home from work and did some more tabulating.

Of the 39 titles listed in the Buzzfeed post, there were 45 unique author names (one name appears twice).

Seven of these titles were anthologies. Two were edited solely by women, three by a mixed-gender editorial team, and two solely by men. Okay, that’s not completely terrible except: on two of the mixed-gender editorial teams, the female name appears last. Which can give the appearance that they were not the primary anthologist working on the book.

So of the 32 remaining books.  Three were non-fiction, including–inexplicably–a biography of Tennessee Williams.  One of the novels is an reprint omnibus and another is a graphic adaptation. All the YA titles are by men.  Of the 29 novels/single-author collections, twelve are by women.

Astronaut Hello Kitty's tour of lady SFF continues to the Kage Baker shelf.

Astronaut Hello Kitty’s tour of lady SFF continues to the Kage Baker shelf.

I know, by now you’re all saying, “Natalie, aren’t you making a really big deal out of a Buzzfeed listicle?” Sure. And the reason for that is pretty simple, actually. Buzzfeed drives a massive amount of traffic–their stuff is eminently shareable and the fact that so few women are included–and so few writers of color, too–shapes the conversation. These sorts of easily shareable meme-units contribute to women and other marginalized people’s invisibility within the genre(s). A list that a casual SF reader posts to their Facebook page, that might be the only list of SF/F/H titles that some people may see that week or month.

This list can send a few messages–it draws lines around who is and is not included in the genre. What kinds of stories–and readers–are acceptable. Notably absent are urban fantasy and paranormal romance titles. I wonder why?

The compiler of the list, Andrew Liptak, is himself an anthologist and editor. And he’s writing a history of science fiction so one would think he’d be more aware of this issue and the ongoing discussion around it. I am really saddened that this list is so heavily weighted towards male writers. A quick look at Liptak’s bibliography shows that he’s extremely well-read in a few specific subgenres of SF/F/H and this may be a contributing factor to the books he’s selected for this listicle. However, he’s not writing just for readers of his preferred subgenres, but for all of Buzzfeed’s audience. Which I think we can safely assume is quite diverse.

Astronaut Hello Kitty continues the tour, this time to the land of Sharon Shinn.

Astronaut Hello Kitty continues the tour, this time to the land of Sharon Shinn.

So, back to my experiment with the advanced search tool on Amazon to see how many SF/F/H books written by women I was able to find that were being released in September.  I’m including a handful of reissues and some short story collections and one non-fiction title.  These are in no particular order and I’m sure some of them aren’t very good.  I also excluded self-pub titles on the grounds that I don’t know very much about that segment of the market to be confident that the titles aren’t 20 pages of story for $2.99. But there are certainly more than 14 SF/F/H books solely authored or edited by women coming out this month.

You’ll note that a lot of these titles are urban fantasy or paranormal romance. Interesting, no?

  • Son of No One, Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson, Patricia Briggs
  • The Winter Long, Seanan McGuire
  • Dark Blood, by Christine Feehan
  • Night’s Honor, Thea Harrison
  • Black Water: A Jane Yellowrock Collection, Faith Hunter
  • The Witch with No Name, Kim Harrison
  • Night Unbound, Dianne Duvall
  • Wood Sprites, Wen Spencer
  • Ghost Layer, Robin D. Owens
  • Forged by Desire, Bec McMaster
  • Dragon Age: Last Flight, Liane Merciel
  • Love Bites, Angela Knight
  • House Immortal, Devon Monk
  • Dangerous, Jacquelyn Frank
  • Wickedly Dangerous, Deborah Blake
  • Beauty’s Beast, Amanda Ashley
  • Doctor Who: The Official Quiz Book, Jacqueline Rayner
  • Hunter’s Trail, Melissa F. Olson
  • Fortunes of the Imperium, Jody Lynn Nye
  • Rogue’s Paradise, Jeffe Kennedy
  • Chained by Night, Larissa Ione
  • Priestess Dreaming, Yasmine Galenorn
  • Battle for the Blood, Lucienne Diver
  • Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress
  • Stories of the Raksura: Volume One: The Falling World & The Tale of Indigo and Cloud, Martha Wells
  • The Clockwork Dagger: A Novel, Beth Cato
  • Species Imperative, Julie E. Czerneda
  • The City, Stella Gemmell
  • Generation 18, Keri Arthur
  • The Gifted Dead, Jenna Black
  • The Seventh Sigil, Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes
  • Summer Moon, Jan DeLima
  • Watermark, E. Catherine Tobler
  • Heir of Fire, Sarah J. Maas
  • Trial by Fire, Josephine Angelini
  • Shattered, Mari Mancusi
  • The Jewel, Amy Ewing
  • The Caller, Juliet Marillier
  • Illusions of Fate, Kiersten White
  • Mary: The Summoning, Hillary Monahan
  • Belzhar, Meg Wolitzer
  • The Vault of Dreamers, Caragh M. O’Brien
  • Winterkill, Kate A. Boorman
  • Of Monsters and Madness, Jessica Verday
  • The Perilous Sea, Sherry Thomas
  • Unmade, Sarah Rees Brennan
  • The Winter People, Rebekah L. Purdy
  • Winterspell, Claire Legrand
  • Tabula Rasa, Kristen Lippert-Martin
  • Firebug, Lish McBride
  • Falls the Shadow, Stefanie Gaither
  • Silvern, Christina Farley
  • Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty, Christine Heppermann
  • Love Is the Drug, Alaya Dawn Johnson
  • Lark Rising, Sandra Waugh
  • Color Song, Victoria Strauss

This list–a very fast, cursorily compiled list–makes me think of Joanna Russ and How to Suppress Women’s Writing:

The Double Standard of Content is perhaps the fundamental weapon in the armory and in a sense the most innocent, for men and women, whites and people of color do have very different experiences of life and one would expect such differences to be reflected in their art. I wish to emphasize here that I am not talking (vis-à-vis sex) about the relatively small area of biology–about this kind of difference in experience, men are often curious and genuinely interested–but about socially-enforced differences. The trick in the double standard of content is to label one set of experiences as more valuable and important than the other. This we have added to She didn’t write it and She did, but she shouldn’t have, a third piece of denigration: She did, but look what she wrote about. (40)

Astronaut Hello Kitty is a huge Joanna Russ fan. Huge.

Astronaut Hello Kitty is a huge Joanna Russ fan. Huge.

You may also like…

Changing Things Up

Changing Things Up

Regaining a small bit of confidence in my own competence through a website redesign.

Three Years and Counting

Three Years and Counting

Falling asleep is incredibly difficult for me these days. Once I get to sleep, I'm fine, but getting there--oof. There...

Saltiness and Other Topics

Saltiness and Other Topics

Things about which I am salty, an unordered list: WordPress. They did something with one of the recent updates that...

12 Comments

  1. Paul (@princejvstin)

    You’ll note that a lot of these titles are urban fantasy or paranormal romance. Interesting, no?

    I think that’s part of why his list came out skewed. He might be writing for a general audience, but UF and PNR are not fields of SF that Andrew seems well versed in. (Sort of like me, that way). If you asked me to talk about 20 UF/PNR books coming out in September, I’d go “gah!”. I wouldn’t have anything *useful* to say, and to just regurgitate cover copy feels like a cop-out, you know? Maybe Andrew felt the same way.

    …is a regurgitation of cover copy for books in a subgenre that the writer knows little about better than not seeing them at all? Yes, but I can see why he’d shy away from doing it, since I’d be reluctant, too.

  2. Andrew Liptak

    All excellent points – Basically, I didn’t come up with all of those, probably because I looked in different places (I don’t use Amazon, for example, but a bunch of other sites). I’ve made some changes on my spreadsheet that’ll help me balance that out quite a bit for future posts.

    • Natalie Luhrs

      @Andrew: Thanks for taking this in the spirit it was intended–as I said, I did a very quick and surface level search. When I was reviewing professionally, I used many different places to find upcoming books, including NetGalley and Edelweiss. Locus’s upcoming books page is also a good resource, if you don’t know about it already.

  3. Heather Massey

    Thanks for this post. As a fan and advocate for the niche genre of sci-fi romance, I notice this kind of erasure all the time. And if lists like this have to be limited, at least be transparent about why. Otherwise, intentional or not, it’s sending a message of exclusion to underserved readers.

    I’m also guessing the list is comprised of only print-first/mainstream print titles. Excluding digital-first titles is another way these kinds of lists marginalize women/Poc authors.

    I’ll see your list and raise you 7 women-authored sci-fi romance titles releasing this month, which includes two PoC women authors:

    SHADOW WARS HOMEBOUND – LaVerne Thompson
    PARADOX – P.J. Dean
    MY NAME IS A’YEN – Rachel Leigh Smith
    RESCUING RORY – N.J. Walters
    TAKING STOCK – Barbara Elsborg
    RECAST, Volume 1 – Yolanda Sfetsos
    MASTER OF MYTH – S.A. Huchton

    • Natalie Luhrs

      There are at least three digital-first titles on my list, but thanks for these additions, Heather!

      As I said in my post, I really don’t have enough knowledge of self-pub SFF to know which books are actually long-form stories and not short stories being sold for $3 (which I consider a blatant grab for cash)–and I get the feeling that a LOT of digital-first titles are self-pub. Or smaller romance pubs that I’m not familiar with!

      It definitely does add to the erasure. No one person can understand the entirety of the market, that’s for sure. That’s why we need a multiplicity of voices and why folks with platforms/microphones should keep these factors in mind when making these lists. I think this was the third list of SFF I saw in the last month that was predominantly male writers/editors.

  4. SonomaLass

    *sniffle* Kage Baker *sniffle*

  5. Eric

    @Heather Massey: “As a fan and advocate for the niche genre of sci-fi romance, I notice this kind of erasure all the time.”

    Yeah, I’d love to see more reviews of science fiction romance. It can be a really fun genre: a love story, some spaceships, some adventure. And writers like Bujold have done some pretty amazing things with it, too. I love the way she uses technology and invented cultures to show the human condition from new angles.

    But it’s not always an easy subgenre for an outsider to navigate. I’ve spent some time trawling the web for reviewers and “best of” lists. But my tastes seem to be out of sync with the reviewers I’ve found so far. I generally like the SF elements of the story to be solid, and I don’t really enjoy stories where the hero feels like a bully. (On a scale of Bujold’s Dag to Christian Grey, my personal cutoff falls somewhere just after Ilona Andrews’ Curran. And he only sneaks in because Kate’s reactions are so hilarious.)

    I’d love to see more SF romance reviews, and I’d love to find reviewers I could trust to have usefully similar tastes. But at least for now, I feel a lot more confident in my ability to find first-rate book in the regular SF section—-I know the major authors, I know how to interpret cover art, and I know whose blurbs to trust. SF romance is still unfamiliar terrain.

  6. Bluegreen Circles

    A new Lish McBride story?
    *adds to Amazon pre-order list*

    Loved “Hold me Closer Necromancer” and its sequel. Really looking forwards to this new one.

  7. Heather Massey

    @Eric: >SF romance is still unfamiliar terrain

    I hear you! It’s also relatively young, so choices are limited compared to more established genres. SFR has expanded from what it was in the 80s and 90s (and from the romantic SF which came earlier), but I often have conversations with readers and authors about the genre’s *potential* (especially regarding diversity). I’m constantly bugging authors to experiment with this, explore more of that. 😀 Needless to say, it’s going to take a while for it to build. So I’m not always surprised when readers can’t find enough SFR titles that match their interests–or when the genre gets left off of lists. 😛

    >I know how to interpret cover art

    You raise a good point, because sometimes SFR cover art doesn’t accurately represent the story. I’ve been blogging about that issue for years. In fact, I just finished one book with a beefcake guy on the cover and the story is *nothing* like the cover art at *all*. It’s not erotic or even steamy–actually, it’s more like a romantic SF tale, and quite serious in terms of tone. So some stories aren’t connecting with readers because of such extreme marketing disconnects. Hopefully it’ll get more sorted out as the genre matures.

  8. TrishEM

    I’m planning to buy Cherie Priest’s “Maplecroft” tomorrow — I enjoy epistolary novels, and Lizzie Borden fighting Chthulhu with an axe, as written by the author of “Boneshaker” and “Not Flesh Nor Feathers,” sounds fantastic.

  9. Rachel Leigh Smith

    Yes, I am the Rachel Leigh Smith in Heather Massey’s list. My book is not for those who want a short read. It clocks in at almost 110,000 words.

    I also want to make a massive shout-out about the awesomeness of The Books of the Raksura series by Martha Wells. The book that came out this month (which I’ve already devoured) is a novella collection. The series itself is The Cloud Roads, The Serpent Sea, and The Siren Depths.

    The Raksura are a shapeshifting race in the Three Worlds, with a human type form and a winged form with scales and a tail. The novels are told entirely from a male POV, Moon, who has been lost to the Raksura most of his life and he has no idea what he is when The Cloud Roads opens. It’s his story of finding out who he is, and figuring out how to fit into this strange, totally alien culture he belongs to.

    Part of what makes the Raksura so intriguing is their default orientation is bisexual. They’re also matriarchal, and it’s a very VERY complex hierarchy of social interaction and diplomatic relations between the various Raksuran groups, called courts. And there’s a lot of gender role reversal.

    I’ve read the whole series twice, and will read it again later this year between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s become one of my personal holiday traditions, I guess. DRM-free versions are available at Baen’s website.

    If you’re a fantasy fan, or a fan of diversity in fiction, read The Books of the Raksura! They’re amazing. The world-building is outstanding and blew me away. I personally don’t give a flip about the diversity aspects of the series. I think it’s a rip-roaring good story and it hits my sweet spot of a strong preference for male POV. Moon is who he is and he doesn’t care what others think about it, which is how I am in real life. Another part of why I connected with him.

  10. Paul Weimer (@PrinceJvstin)

    @Rachel Leigh Smith:

    I am a longtime fan of Martha’s work (having read her entire oevure to date except for the newest Raksura book just out). I firmly and completely agree with what you say. I liked the Raksura enough to borrow them for a RPG scenario I ran. The PCs ran into a clan of them, very far from their homeworld…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Amazing Stories | AMAZING NEWS: 9-7-2014 - Amazing Stories - […] Book Promotion Diss […]

Archives

Words of Wisdom

"It's chaos, be kind."
Michelle McNamara