Speculative Fiction Reading Recommendations

There is, I think, a bit of a misconception about who reads and who writes speculative fiction. Because of the roles of gatekeepers in the larger publishing houses, many of the people being published and seeing a lot of widespread success are white cis men. But they’re not the only ones writing incredible books and they’re definitely not the only ones reading SFF.


Martha Wells‘ tweet inspired me to build a list of some of my recent favorites, many of which are by women, POC, and trans folx. There are some cis het white men on here, but not in any dominating percentage.

Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman I first heard about this book from the author on a panel at DragonCon several years ago. I was lured in by the aesthetic of the old west mixed with some magic and superstition. The main character, Isobel, decides to leave the only home she’s ever known and work for the Devil in territories west of the Mississippi. She learns the ways of lies and magic as she trains to become the left hand of the Devil.

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017 edited by Joseph Adams and Charles Yu Some of the authors included are E. Lily Yu, Nisi Shawl, Jeremiah Tolbert, A. Merc Rustad, Leigh Bardugo, and N.K. Jemisin.

All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells A mystery unfolds around a band of scientists on a distant planet, who have hired the titular Murderbot for security. We see things from her delightfully dry perspective and we learn she has hacked her own systems to have agency and also to watch a lot of tv.

Transcendent: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction edited by K.M. Szpara K.M. is someone I know from area genre writing conferences and, in addition to being a great dresser, he has assembled a wonderful collection of spec fic. Some is by trans authors, some is about transgender characters, and some examines gender, identity, and transformation through the lens of fantasy or the far future.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin Set in an ever-moving, ever-shifting, ever-quaking continent which is mockingly called The Stillness, we follow three women who have the greatly feared power to move and shape the earth with their minds. The book opens with the end of the world and only gets more incredible from there.

Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie This is, I confess, still only on my To Read list. I have heard so many wonderful things about this distant future SF novel, not to mention that it won the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.

Six Months, Three Days by Charlie Jane Anders This Hugo-winning novelette follows two people who can see the future as they fight through and for their relationship. Judy can see every possible branching future while Doug only sees one possible outcome of all events. The story examines themes of free will versus determinism with wonderful, enchanting dialogue.

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy Hard to classify, I’d call this novella a naturalistic punk fantasy, featuring a community of anarchists, a vengeful nature spirit, and action that moves at breakneck speed (in the good way). It is haunting and vivid and more than a little creepy. A wonderful quick read.


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