Making Lists: Mindblowing SF by Women and People of Color

By now most people are familiar with the objections raised to Mike Ashley’s Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF and its all male (and most likely all white) contributors. There’s no need to rehash all of that again, but the debate and discussion surrounding the issue prompted me to write two blog posts soliciting science fiction genre readers considered mindblowing written by women or people of color. The response was about what I expected: commenters had no trouble naming both authors and specific works of fiction they felt were mindblowing or otherwise amazing.

As you’ll see, the lists are long. Very long. Some fantasy stories/novels and fantasy-only authors may have snuck in, but this is mainly just science fiction. Had I asked for a similar list of fantasy fiction, I’m sure it would be more than twice as long.

One of the best posts I read during the Mindblowing antho discussion was by Claire Light. She laid out, in great depth, how editors should be going about putting together reprint anthologies of this nature. It’s also good advice for any short fiction editor, be it of anthologies or of a magazine. One of the first steps involves going out and reading diverse stuff. But since someone always finds a way to claim that they just don’t know where to find such or who the women and/or people of color writing in the genre are, I hope that this list will go a long way toward alleviating that problem.

Short Works Mentioned

  • “The Sin Eaters” by Sherman Alexie
  • “Knapsack Poems” by Eleanor Arnason
  • “The Space Traders” by Derrick Bell*
  • “Redemption Deferred: Back to The Space Traders” by Derrick Bell
  • “Speech Sounds” by Octavia E. Butler
  • “Bloodchild” by Octavia E. Butler
  • “The Evening and the Morning and The Night” by Octavia E. Butler
  • “Congenital Agenesis of Gender Ideation” by Raphael Carter (a non-gendered author)
  • “Seventy-Two Letters” by Ted Chiang
  • “Tower of Babel” by Ted Chiang
  • “Division by Zero” by Ted Chiang
  • “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang
  • “Liking What You See” by Ted Chiang
  • “Driftglass” by Samuel R. Delany
  • “Time Considered as a Helix of Semiprecious Stones” by Samuel R. Delany
  • “Aye, and Gomorrah” by Samuel R. Delany
  • “In the Late December” by Greg Van Eekhout
  • “Solitaire” by Kelley Eskridge
  • “Etiolate” Craig Laurance Gidney
  • “Arkfall” by Carolyn Ives Gilman
  • “The Natural History of Ferrets” by Angelica Gorodischer
  • “The Old Incense Road” by Angelica Gorodischer
  • “Hopeful Monsters” by Hiromi Goto
  • “Slow River” by Nicola Griffith
  • “Ganger (Ball Lightning)” by Nalo Hopkinson
  • “A Habit of Waste” by Nalo Hopkinson
  • “Glass Bottle Trick” by Nalo Hopkinson
  • “My Mother, Dancing” by Nancy Kress
  • “Beggars in Spain” by Nancy Kress
  • “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • “The New Atlantis” by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • “Newton’s Sleep” by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • “The Rock That Changed Things” by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • “A Fisherman of the Inland Sea” by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • “The Birthday of the World” by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • “Paradises Lost” by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • “Maggies” by Nisi Shawl
  • “Deep End” by Nisi Shawl
  • “Good Boy” by Nisi Shawl
  • “Infinities” by Vandana Singh
  • “The Pretend” by Darryl A. Smith
  • “The Groove Runner’s Wife” by Tais Teng
  • “The Screwfly Solution” by James Tiptree, Jr.
  • “Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death” by James Tiptree, Jr.
  • “A Momentary Taste of Being” by James Tiptree, Jr.
  • “We Who Stole the Dream” by James Tiptree, Jr.
  • “L’oiseau de cendres” by Elizabeth Vonarburg
  • “Even the Queen” by Connie Willis
  • “Last of the Winnebagos” by Connie Willis
  • “At the Rialto” by Connie Willis
  • “Daisy, In the Sun” by Connie Willis
  • “Spice Pogrom” by Connie Willis
  • “Blued Moon” by Connie Willis

Also recommended

  • Patterns (collection) by Pat Cadigan
  • The Story of Your Life and other Stories (collection) by Ted Chiang
  • So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy (anthology) edited by Nalo Hopkinson
  • Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (anthology) edited by Sheree R. Thomas
  • Dark Matter: Reading the Bones (anthology) edited by Sheree R. Thomas

Novels Mentioned

  • Ring of Swords by Eleanor Arnason
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  • Iron Shadows by Steven Barnes
  • Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
  • Xenogenesis trilogy by Octavia E. Butler
  • Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler
  • Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
  • Mindplayers by Pat Cadigan
  • Synners by Pat Cadigan
  • Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter
  • Hunter of Worlds by C J Cherryh
  • Cyteen by C J Cherryh
  • Voyager in Night by C J Cherryh
  • Chanur’s Homecoming by C J Cherryh
  • The Fires of Azeroth by C J Cherryh
  • Heavy Time by C J Cherryh
  • Stars in the Pocket like Grains of Sand by Samuel R Delaney
  • Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
  • The New Gulliver by Esmee Dodderidge
  • Age of Ruin by John M. Faucette
  • Life by Gwyneth Jones
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The Lathe of Haven by Ursula K Le Guin
  • Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
  • Blue Light by Walter Mosley
  • Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Body of Glass by Marge Piercy
  • Natural History by Justina Robson
  • The Female Man by Joanna Russ
  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russel
  • Beauty by Sherri S Tepper
  • Silent City and In the Mother’s Land by Elizabeth Vonarburg
  • The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
  • Bellwether by Connie Willis
  • Passage by Connie Willis

Authors Mentioned

All of the authors of the works above plus those whose body of work was recommended in the posts.

  • Ali Smith
  • Andre Norton
  • Angelica Gorodischer
  • Anne McCaffrey
  • Audrey Niffenegger
  • Brenda Cooper
  • C J Cherryh
  • C.L. Moore
  • Carolyn Ives Gilman
  • Catherine Asaro
  • Chris Moriarty
  • Colson Whitehead
  • Connie Willis
  • Craig Laurance Gidney
  • Darryl A. Smith
  • Derrick Bell
  • Diane Duane
  • Eleanor Arnason
  • Elizabeth Bear
  • Elizabeth Hand
  • Elizabeth Moon
  • Elizabeth Vonarburg
  • Eluki bes Shahar
  • Esmee Dodderidge
  • Greg Van Eekhout
  • Gwyneth Jones
  • Haruki Murakami
  • Helen Oyeyemi
  • Hiromi Goto
  • James Tiptree, Jr.
  • Jane Emerson / Doris Egan
  • Joan Sloncewski
  • Joanna Russ
  • John M. Faucette
  • Justina Robson
  • K.J. Parker
  • Kage Baker
  • Kate Elliott
  • Kathe Koja
  • Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Kelley Eskridge
  • Kelly Link
  • L. Timmel Duchamp
  • Leigh Brackett
  • Lois McMaster Bujold
  • M. A. Foster
  • Madeleine L’Engle
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Marge Piercy
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • Mary Doria Russel
  • Mary Gentle
  • Melissa Scott
  • Minister Faust
  • Nalo Hopkinson
  • Nancy Kress
  • Nicola Griffith
  • Nisi Shawl
  • Nnedi Okorafor
  • Octavia E. Butler
  • Pat Cadigan
  • Raphael Carter
  • Rebecca Ore
  • Rosemary Kirstein
  • Salman Rushdie
  • Samuel R. Delany
  • Sherman Alexie
  • Sherri S Tepper
  • Steven Barnes
  • Suzy McKee Charnas
  • Tais Teng
  • Tanith Lee
  • Ted Chiang
  • Tobias S. Buckell
  • Vandana Singh
  • Walter Mosley

If there’s a mindblowing science fiction story, book, or author you feel should be included in the list, please say so in the comments. This list is by no means exhaustive or written in stone.

If you want to keep up with what women and writers of color are publishing in the genre right now, keep an eye on the Carl Brandon Society and Feminist SF wikis, where there are ongoing efforts to keep track of what’s being published.

The Bottom Line: There is no longer any excuse for editors (or readers) to not know who the women and POC writing notable science fiction are, anymore. Here we have writers of hard and soft SF, of far and near futures, of Earth and planets beyond. If you cannot find at least one story or one author from this list to include in your anthology, you’re not trying. At all.

Thank you to all of the people on The Angry Black Woman and Feminist SF: The Blog who contributed to this list. Interested parties should also check out the descriptions and discussions that went along with a lot of these recommendations, as they delve deeper into why they’re loved or considered mindblowing.

*This story gets my vote for the most mindblowing thing I’ve ever read. It should certainly be reprinted more often and included in anything labeled Mindblowing. Everyone needs to read The Space Traders, period.


K. Tempest Bradford is an African-American science fiction and fantasy author and editor who loves lists but currently has a severe distaste for putting things in alphabetical order.

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