Ladies... I'm starting to get a bit worried about science fiction. I mean, sure, it's fine for men to like sci-fi too. They're welcome to share it with us. But we all remember that the science fiction genre was invented by a teenage girl, right? It's always been a place for badass, brainy women. So, whether you're new to the sci-fi universe, or you're already a jumpsuit-wearing space explorer with a cybernetic eye, here are a few science fiction books that every badass woman should read.
After all, the literary greats of feminist sci-fi don't always make it into the mainstream media. We get the occasional Katniss or Princess Leia (we miss you, Carrie), but we also get a lot of white men running around in space looking sweaty. We get people claiming that Isaac Asimov was the first major science fiction author, when he wasn't even the first male major science fiction author. In fact, some people are even starting to think that science fiction is a male-dominated genre. And there are quite a few gifted science fiction authors who would beg to differ.
So if you're looking for more women dealing with robots, aliens, and post-apocalyptic futures, then these are the books to check out:
1'Lilith's Brood' by Octavia Butler
Octavia Butler is the queen mother of feminist science fiction. Lilith's Brood collects her Xenogenesis series, following the story of Lilith Iyapo, one of the few human survivors left on Earth. Lilith is rescued by a strange alien race, who want to help heal humanity... by joining their species with ours, to create something far stranger.
2'The Left Hand of Darkness' by Ursula K. Le Guin
Le Guin is another master of mixing gender fluidity with science fiction. In The Left Hand of Darkness, Winter is an alien world where gender is pretty much NBD. Inhabitants can choose and change their gender at will, and a lone Earthling must find a way to understand this culture if they are to join the great intergalactic civilization.
3'Saga' by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples
Saga. It's been described as Romeo & Juliet meets Star Wars, but that's only the half of it. One small family travels through a wonderfully strange galaxy, just trying to find safety. Filled with wild creativity, stunning art, and badass women of every kind, Saga is must-read sci-fi at its finest.
4'Midnight Robber' by Nalo Hopkinson
Hopkinson writes adventure sci-fi like no other. Young Tan-Tan lives on the Caribbean-colonized planet of Toussaint, where she loves to dress up as the Robber Queen at Carnival time. But when Tan-Tan and her father are banished to a harsh, barren world, Tan-Tan must become the true Robber Queen if she hopes to survive.
5'Anicllary Justice' by Ann Leckie
Breq used to be a starship: huge, powerful, and in service of a mighty empire. But circumstances have left her artificial intelligence in a fragile human body, stranded on a remote ice-planet. Ancillary Justice is an expansive space opera that explores the construct of gender, and what it means to be a human (or a starship).
6'The Fifth Season' by N.K. Jemisin
The world is ending (again). On an alternate Earth called the Stillness, the land is plagued by earthquakes that shatter civilizations. Essun, a mother of two, finds herself heading out into this latest apocalypse in pursuit of her missing daughter. The Fifth Season is a brilliantly dark novel, set in a world unlike any you've ever known.
7'Station Eleven' by Emily St. John Mandel
A plague has wiped out much of humanity, but that doesn't stop Kirsten or her band of traveling actors from trying to put some light back into the world. Mandel's post-apocalyptic story spans decades, always striving to find beauty in the darkest of times.
8'Who Fears Death' by Nnedi Okorafor
Set in a far-future Sudan, Who Fears Death? is not a story for the faint of heart. Onyesonwu is born into a world of brutality and genocide, but she is also born with the power to end all this violence. Mixing magic with the tale of a post-apocalyptic future, Who Fears Death? is a dark, engrossing retelling of the classic hero's journey.
9'The Ship Who Sang' by Anne McCaffrey
Who says all badass female sci-fi has to be dark? The Ship Who Sang is, quite simply, adorable. It's kind of like if Ancillary Justice was a rom-com: Helva is a spaceship with the brain of a human woman. She's also in love with her fully human co-pilot, but when tragedy strikes, she must find a way to recapture her life of adventure on a voyage through the galaxy.
10'Frankenstein' by Mary Shelley
Sorry, I just had to. Mary Shelley is the original badass woman in sci-fi. Frankenstein may focus on men, but let's not forget that it was written by a teenage girl. And that's it's widely considered the first science fiction novel. If you've never read it, you might be surprised to find an intellectual, heart-wrenching sci-fi epic, and not a Hollywood horror story.