Sci-fi written by women in the 2000s?
February 20, 2012 7:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for the best sci-fi and speculative fiction written by women in the past 10-or-so years. I don't care if it's hard or soft sci-fi, merely that it creates a realistic world and is well-written. If it helps, my favourite authors include Umberto Eco, Susanna Clarke, and George R. R. Martin. I'm still chewing through Perido Street Station, so I don't quite know if I like Mieville or not. Any recommendations?
posted by flibbertigibbet to Writing & Language (38 answers total) 93 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Maureen McHugh's Nekropolis is just a little too old (2001), but she has a new short story collection out, After the Apocalypse, which has some very realistic takes on various apocalyptic scenarios (bird flu, economic collapse, zombies, a really heartbreaking one involving a prion disease).
posted by dinty_moore at 7:23 AM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I would take a look at Lauren Beukes, Nalo Hopkinson, and Kelly Link. Only her very late work fits your ten-year requirement, but if you haven't read Octavia Butler I'd definitely pick her up as well. I read everything she wrote and loved it all.
posted by gerryblog at 7:26 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Off the top of my head:

Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake (2003) and The Year of the Flood (2009 - not precisely a sequel to Oryx but takes place in the same world).

Lauren Beukes' Zoo City (2010).
posted by fight or flight at 7:27 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: From 2000, so 12 years old:
The Telling by Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin is a must-read IMHO.
posted by Thug at 7:37 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe Mira Grant? It's more zombies -- well written zombies, but zombies. Officially I think she calls herself horror. (As fantasy she's Seanan McGuire.)

Nalo Hopkinson is great. Lois McMaster Bujold is fun. Ekaterina Sedia is, I think, a vastly underrated talent. I am among the few who don't totally adore Cat Valente. I really enjoyed Laini Taylor, Karen Healey, Elizabeth Bunce, Erin Bow, Rae Carson, Kristin Cashore as YA sff. Connie Willis is hit or miss, but the stuff of hers I like I love (very little other than Blackout/All Clear is recent). Jeanette Winterson, Kit Whitfield.

You've mentioned fantasy authors in your post, so I have given fantasy authors as well.
posted by jeather at 7:41 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would recommend Connie Willis. Her two-volume novel Blackout/All Clear just won the Hugo last August.
posted by DaddyNewt at 7:41 AM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

I've read and really liked all of these...

The Hunger Games (2008) by Suzanne Collins
Feed (2010) by Mira Grant
Dante's Equation (2003) by Jane Jensen
Backbite (2011) by Adrienne Jones
The Speed of Dark (2003) by Elizabeth Moon
Shelter (2007) by Susan Palwick
Horizons (2006) by Mary Rosenblum

Notable absences but which I have read titles from prior to the 2000s include Nancy Kress and Connie Willis.
posted by dgeiser13 at 7:47 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sheri S. Tepper is still writing and being nominated for awards, for what that's worth. To be honest, I've only ever read one of her books (The Gate to Women's Country, which I loved) but I can't vouch for any of the others.
posted by Eumachia L F at 7:51 AM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Linda Nagata has written some of the best science fiction I've read. Her books were published between 1995 and 2003. I particularly liked Vast.
posted by daisyk at 7:53 AM on February 20, 2012

argh, totally broke the html on the nebula awards link. sorry about that, link to copy/paste if you want it is:
posted by lyra4 at 7:55 AM on February 20, 2012

Lois McMaster Bujold: the Vorkosigan saga. Space opera, great characters. This is cheating a little as first book in series was published in 1986, but most recent was from 2010.

Jacqueline Carey: Santa Olivia (2009). dystopian novel set on borderland between US and Mexico, with teenage genetic mutants. I haven't heard great things about the sequel.

Jo Walton wrote an interesting trio of alternate-history novels, starting with Ha'Penny (2007).

Nicola Griffith: Ammonite (1993). Ok, so this is outside of your time parameters, but I have a soft spot for it. Interesting world-building.
posted by maryrussell at 8:09 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you haven't read Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow and Children of God yet, you're in for a treat. Speculative near-future sci-fi about what happens when we finally make contact, and when the Jesuits, of all people, get there first.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:13 AM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think Martha Wells would meet your requirements.
posted by Aquaman at 8:16 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing Connie Willis and Octavia Butler. Some works may be closer to 20 years old - but both are outstanding authors. Butler's Kindred and Lilith trilogy are excellent.
posted by gnutron at 8:21 AM on February 20, 2012

Jo Walton's historical novels, are smart as hell and cracking good reads, for someone who hates dragon novels, her Tooth and Claw, is more Trollope than Dragons, an exquisite comedy of manners, with an elegant world view.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:24 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

R.A. MacAvoy (Damino's Lute, Lens of the World) has a new book out after almost 20 years away from writing: Death and Resurrection (2011). I've not seen it yet, but I'm really stocked to get a copy.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch does near-future procedurals very well. Her Retrieval Artist series, The Disappeared, Extremes, Consequences, Buried Deep is great.

Maureen McHugh, like Ted Chiang, is one of those authors I wish I could pay to write full time. Unfortunately, she's only put out two collections in the last decade, Mothers and Other Monsters and After the Apocalypse, mentioned by dinty_moore above. She can be hard to track down, but she's one of the best authors working today, male or female. China Mountain Zhang (1992), and Half the Day is Night (1994) are amazing, if you haven't read them already.

Dittoing Jo Walton, NK. Jemisin and Nalo Hopkins as well. All worth seeing out.
posted by bonehead at 8:31 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's pushing "or so" part of "in the past 10-or-so years", but I'm nthing WidgetAlley's recommendation: Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow (1996) and the sequel Children of God (1998) feature human contact with an incredibly well imagined alien ecosystem, where a predator and prey species have developed a symbiotic relationship and joint civilization. (Russell's background was in paleoanthropology.)
posted by nangar at 8:35 AM on February 20, 2012

If you're willing to try military SF, Elizabeth Moon's Vatta books are by a woman about a woman. Similar in spirit to her earlier Serrano/Suiza books.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:41 AM on February 20, 2012

The James Tiptree Award lists are always good places to look for recommendations (some winners are men, but the majority of nominees and winners represent the cream of the crop in SF/F relevant to issues of gender.

In addition to names already mentioned above, I'd recommend Nnedi Okorafor, particularly Who Fears Death?, Nisi Shawl's Filter House, M. Rickert (her stories are collected in Map of Dreams), and Theodora Goss.

Eumachia's recommendation of Tepper based on Gate to Women's Country is a bit iffy from my perspective - Tepper's great stuff (that book, the amazing Grass, and others written around the same time) is really worth reading, but a lot of what she's written in the last ten years or so is much more (for lack of a better description) ideologically-driven. See the white guy in a suit? He's the bad guy. 100% of the time.
posted by Wylla at 9:15 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Another vote for the easily overlooked Kelly Link. Her excellent "Stranger Things Happen" is available free, here.
posted by jbickers at 9:28 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Chris Moriarty's Spin State and Spin Control are great. And yes, she is a woman.

As previously recommended, Jo Walton would probably also be up your alley.
posted by unsub at 9:34 AM on February 20, 2012

Connie Willis To Say Nothing Of The Dog is recent and hilarious and about time travel.
posted by The Whelk at 10:23 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Caitlin Kiernan. She is an amazing masterful writer who defies categorization. It's been fun watching her voice and style evolve over the past twenty years and her fiction since the turn of this century has been some of her strongest.
posted by Kitteh at 11:31 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

+1 Connie Willis (just reread Blackout/All Clear, actually), Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood

Sarah Hall's Daughters of the North is more spec than sci, but definitely worth a look.
posted by gnomeloaf at 11:34 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bujold's Vorkosigan books are a huge favorite of mine. The Chalion books and the Sharing Knife books are also good, but I don't find myself re-reading them quite as often.
posted by Bruce H. at 11:47 AM on February 20, 2012

The Sleepless Trilogy (Beggars in Spain, Beggars and Choosers, Beggars Ride) by Nancy Kress. Older than 10 years, as noted above, but I thought it was pretty brilliant spec fiction about the introduction of a surgery or alteration that lets people give birth to children who never require sleep.

Also, Doubleplus for Connie Willis, one of my favorite writers. Her Time Travel books are "Doomsday Book," "To Say Nothing of the Dog," and the two-volume story "Blackout" "All Clear," as well as the title story in the short story collection "Firewatch." ("Fire Watch?")

One of my guilty-pleasure SF series is the "Tour of the Merrimack" books by R.M. Meluch (R for Rebecca.) Not spec-fiction but future Space-Navy Warfare, a war between the United States (which operates a hegemony in space, as far as Earth is concerned) vs. the Palatine Empire, a former colony that models itself as a new Roman Empire. They're among the few books I've read about a space navy that resembled, in any real way, the 20th-century Navy. The first book, "The Myriad," is from 2005.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:13 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Naomi Novik's Temeraire books are fun alternate history that posit a Napoleonic period where wars are fought with sentient dragons. Highly recommended.
posted by nonasuch at 12:21 PM on February 20, 2012

CJ Cherryh!!

Vastly underrated author who has written some of the grittiest sci-fi out. She has a well-developed universe most of her stuff takes place in, does great aliens and is a master of constant unremitting tension (and telegraphic sentences, which not everyone likes).

The Morgaine trilogy was my starting point - fantasy, though it becomes clear that it's actually science fiction as you move through it.

The Pride of Chanur is probably the best bite sized example of her hard sci fi, Cyteen is the one that garners the most praise.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:47 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just popped in to say C. J. Cherryh! Plus nthing Sheri S. Tepper and Lois Bujold!
posted by Lynsey at 1:19 PM on February 20, 2012

Nthing Connie Willis and Lois McMaster Bujold - my two favourite authors, judging by number of recent rereads.

+1 also for Jo Walton, Maureen F. McHugh, Susan Palwick (here's one of her short stories), Elizabeth Moon and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. And Sheri S. Tepper - I grant that she has some favourite themes that are getting to be a bit well-worn, but her imagination's still going strong, and I still enjoy the way she writes.

And seconding Martha Wells, who's excellent; closer to fantasy than science fiction, so probably outside the scope of your question, but don't let that stop you.

Not yet mentioned, I think:

Have you read Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman series? If not, you should. The first two volumes must be a good twenty years old by now, but volumes 3 and 4 came out in the last decade, so hooray, they fit your criteria! I would recommend them to anyone who enjoys good world-building, engaging characterisation and clever, skilful plotting. Or, you know, reading anything at all. She's that good.

(Look, Jo Walton says so too!)

Ellen Klages wrote a very interesting book of short speculative-fiction stories, Portable Childhoods. Mary Robinette Kowal has also written some thought-provoking short SF, and her novel Shades of Milk & Honey might well appeal to someone who enjoys Susanna Clarke. (I haven't read it yet, but it's on the shelf looking enticing...)

Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm has written mostly fantasy in the last ten years, but I'm pretty sure her recent short story collection, The Inheritance - "by Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm" - includes some SF.

And Kage Baker's Company novels present an interesting slant on time travel, with an engaging cast of characters and a certain lightness of touch. It took me a couple of tries to get into them (I don't recommend starting with the second one, Sky Coyote), but I'm very glad I persisted. Her fantasy novels are great fun, too.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:10 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another nth for Connie Willis, Jo Walton and Kage Baker. You might also like Elizabeth Hand - I adore her but her work is kind of hard to categorize; the really hard sci fi stuff is from the 90s and the newer work is. . um. Literary horror sort of? I like Tanya Huff as well; her Valor series is very space opera / space military. Elizabeth Bear is also very good; I've only read the Promethean Age books but they were excellent.

I also love Wilhelmina Baird with all my heart but she only ever wrote three excellent books and they were all from the 90s, drat. Still! I am throwing her into the mix! This previous question might have some more answers as well.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:44 PM on February 20, 2012

I can't believe I forgot Pat Murphy. Only Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell is from this century but all her work is great and very well worth checking out.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:50 PM on February 20, 2012

I just finished reading Slow River by Nicola Griffith and found a very compelling near-future world, great pacing, technically strong flashbacks/cut-forwards. It ends up being a little bit of a detective/mystery-ish novel. Also, a science fiction novel with not eye-bleedingly horrible sex scenes.

If "steampunk" is speculative-fictioney enough for you, I found Boneshaker by Cherie Priest to be a pretty fun novel set in an alternate Seattle circa the gold rush.

Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis was a dual Hugo/Nebula winner in 2010, and on my to-read list.
posted by porpoise at 4:24 PM on February 20, 2012

+1 on Margaret Atwood - even if she insists on separating herself from science fiction. Oryx and Crake is breathtaking.
posted by remixnine at 6:47 PM on February 20, 2012

Kelly Link has already been mentioned twice but deserves to be mentioned, like, six more times.
posted by Rinku at 2:17 AM on February 21, 2012

Seconding Ursula K. Le Guin, one of my favorite writers of any and no gender. She has saved relationships for me. I strongly recommend you start with either The Left Hand of Darkness (probably the best speculative fiction on gender and love ever written), or The Lathe of Heaven, about a man who can alter reality with his dreams (shorter and lighter).
posted by crookedneighbor at 7:29 AM on February 21, 2012

Nthing Lauren Beukes.
posted by Artw at 11:32 AM on February 21, 2012

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