An A to Z of Speculative Fiction by Women

Strange Charm is one year old! Over the past year we’ve reviewed everything from SF classics to hot-off-the-press new releases, we’ve driven the Cotswolds in search of books to fill our shelves, and we’ve even had a shelf at our local independent bookshop featuring the very best of speculative fiction by women.

To celebrate our birthday, we thought it would be fun to compile a list of some of our favourite books, many of which we’ve discovered over the past year. So without further ado, we present the inaugural Strange Charm A to Z.

A to Z logo and covers

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Alternately a compelling, galaxy-spanning adventure, and a carefully considered meditation on identity and selfhood.

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
Three intertwined stories about three very different women, based on the fairytale of Rapunzel.

Chasing Ravens by Jessica E. Paige
A gentle, thoughtful fantasy with Russian roots and a focus on friendship and family.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
A time-travelling historian accidentally travels back to the time of the plague in England, while a similar crisis unfolds in the present day.

The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas
A student finds a long-lost book, and falls into a fantastical adventure.

The Fire Mages by Pauline M. Ross
Unusual and well-developed social structures underpin this scholarly fantasy.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Action adventure featuring a reluctant assassin with an inborn talent for fighting.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
A young woman is summoned to participate in a battle for political power in which she wishes no part, but having been required to join the fight, she won’t give in easily.

The Immortals by S.E. Lister
Intelligent time travel story which becomes a moving look at destiny and death.

The Just City by Jo Walton
Apollo and Athene collect a group of volunteers from across time and space, to create the idealised society described in Plato’s Republic.

Keep the Stars Running edited by Samantha M. Derr
Five stories for the price of one, this is an adorable anthology of gay love stories in space.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
A sci-fi classic featuring a genderless society and interplanetary politics.

Miss Landon and Aubranael by Charlotte E. English
Regency romance, set in an alternate England where faery realms are more easily reached.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Two children are bound into a magical contest centred on an itinerant circus.

On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard
Confucian-inspired political drama in space; an excellent short introduction to de Bodard’s work.

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
A young woman is saved from certain death to face only uncertain death in the role of poison-taster (don’t miss our interview with Maria V. Snyder).

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
A young woman discovers she’s a princess, and must learn to be a Queen.

Rite of Rejection by Sarah Negovetich
Young adult dystopian adventure with a fresh take on a number of genre tropes.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
A fantasy of manners set in Regency England, featuring a black man and a mixed-race woman who together must take on the white men of the English magical community.

The Threads of the Heart by Carole Martinez
A magical realism tale, set in Spain and Africa, where a young seamstress with an uncanny talent for dressmaking is forced to flee her home after being hounded as a witch.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
One of our joint favourites: a beautiful fairytale that takes on an epic scale with compassion and charm.

A Vanishing Glow by Alexis Radcliff
An attempt to change the course of history turns into a political murder mystery, in this fantasy steampunk world.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
Historical fantasy with a philosophical bent, featuring a Home Office clerk whose life is saved when a mysterious stranger gives him a beautiful watch.

XBestia by Melissa Conway
Animal skin grafts have become the most popular body mod in this near-future action adventure.

The Year of Our War by Steph Swainson
A drug-addled narrator describes his part in the war against a swarm of gigantic, mindless insects.

Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang
Using only her mathematical superpowers and a reluctant alliance of not-quite-friends, a young woman must stop a criminal with terrifying, mind-altering powers.

In case anyone is interested in a bit more detail, here are the ground rules we set ourselves along the way. We deliberately limited ourselves to only featuring one book by any given author, and for series titles, we only considered the first book in a series. In some cases we immediately agreed on an obvious choice: A for Ancillary Justice was never in doubt. For letters where we were overwhelmed with options (H and S really stood out in this regard), we had more work to do. We gave priority to titles and authors that we’ve both read and enjoyed; we also lightly prioritised recent books and diverse titles and less well known authors. And we’re particularly chuffed that we didn’t even have to cheat on any of the traditionally difficult letters like Q or X!

5 thoughts on “An A to Z of Speculative Fiction by Women

  1. These are all fantastic choices, but I was a little surprised not to see any of Lindsay Buroker’s impressive collection of offerings! So in accordance with making suggestions, there you have it — she has something like 30 books in circulation that are all speculative fiction, plus a romance pen name.

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    1. Thanks Mouse, we’re always delighted to hear recommendations :-) We only included books we’ve read, and it happens we haven’t picked any of hers up yet. But Encrypted was suggested to me just a couple of weeks ago, so that’s on my list!

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  2. Nice! I’ve found several books that I’d never even heard of before that sound right up my alley. I’m always looking for more good spec fiction and it’s even better if it’s by women – so, thanks so much. I’m off to read more about them.

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