Where Are All the Female Epic Fantasy Authors?

When you think of epic fantasy, what authors come to mind? Robert Jordan? George R. R. Martin? J. R. R. Tolkien? Men. It always seems to be male authors. So, where are the female epic fantasy authors?

Here’s a list of them on Reddit. Oh, C. J. Cherryh. C. S. Friedman’s a woman? I didn’t know that. I know Jacqueline Carey and Janny Wurts. There’s Lois McMaster Bujold. N. K. Jemisin is a newer one, and she’s African American, too! And there’s Robin Hobb. Did you know she’s a woman? There are some big names there, but the list is incredibly short.

On Leona Henry’s blog, I found that list, and her post inspired me to write this. It’s unfortunate that female fantasy authors seem to be stereotyped as YA authors or romance authors. It’s a shame that epic fantasy novels written by female authors have romance style covers when there is no romance in the novel.  Sounds like publishers are to blame with that.

I want to see more epic fantasy novels written by female authors. Although not really fantasy, one of my favourite authors is Anne McCaffrey, and she had some wonderful books based on the world of Pern. They are dragon-themed, but it is science fiction. I want more variety in the books I’ve been reading. It just seems I pick up books that look good based on the description and cover, and pass over the ones that look like they’re more romantic. I see the error in that now.

There’s another thing that I’ve been inspired to do. You see at the top of the page, a menu option called Reviews? I’m going to add another page that lists books by the author’s gender. As I tend to read mainly science fiction and fantasy, you’ll get to have a good list of female authors as I read their books. So, if that page isn’t there now, it will be shortly. I’ll get that done within the next hour, I think.

And I think I’m going to try get into using Reddit, especially the fantasy and science fiction sections.

So, I would like to ask you a question. Which female epic fantasy authors would you recommend? Let me know in the comments.

23 thoughts on “Where Are All the Female Epic Fantasy Authors?”

      1. The fantasy ones are Games of Thrones-esque warring factions, lies, intrigue, magic. The Sci Fi is very mind warpy…. Tron like…. fantasy world’s within computers. Hard to describe. Maul is a particular favourite.

  1. Oh, they’re definitely out there. They’re just unfortunately getting squeezed out by dwindling shelf space and a bloated stock of Martin and Tolkien. [I could also complain that Horror often gets lumped in with genre in tiny browser shops, so in its tiny three-shelf plot, a giant handful of King books get thrown in there as well, leaving very little space left.] Some of it has to do with the store looking more at the sales numbers than taking any chances with a genre they may not be familiar with, which makes sense to a point. Again, it’s like music–often you won’t see the outliers and the indies in a department store because often they’re not a quick turnaround saleswise.

    The fascinating thing is that if you go to a good used bookstore worth its salt, or a genre-dedicated store (like Borderlands here in SF), you’ll see the balance is ever so slightly more even. They’re out there, you just need to actively search for them sometimes.

    That said…Kate Elliott is a lovely friend of mine and definitely worth reading. Her world building is absolutely phenomenal. 🙂

    1. I should probably clarify: not that women authors are all indies and outliers, nor should they be. Just that they tend to be treated as such, which is not a good thing at all.

      1. And like that post I linked to said, many of them have their book covers disguised as romance, even though there’s no romance in the books.

  2. I usually refrain from plugs for my own books when responding to posts, but in this case I’m going to be shameless and recommend myself. I’ve been working on writing and world building for my epic fantasy series, Records of the Ohanzee, for 10 years, but just recently taken time away from my career to try my hand as an author. The predominance of male writers in the genre is definitely apparent. I gave brief consideration to using initials or taking on a masculine-sounding pen name, but ultimately decided to “live or die” as myself.

      1. Thank you! I’m really glad that I came across your blog. I’m a big fan of Japan and have traveled there several times. Your posts about life in Japan will help hold me over until I can go back again!

        1. I have so many pictures, too. But it’ll take a while to get to them, because many of them are on my old computer, which has a corrupt Windows XP. I’ll get them off someday.

  3. Meeee.
    Ahem. I mean Robin Hobb, definitely; C.J. Cherryh is great but I’ve only read her sci-fi so far, so can’t speak for her epic fantasy. Mercedes Lackey — I’m not sure if her stuff is ‘epic’, but the early stuff is great high fantasy. Mickey Zucker Reichert is a lady — I loved the Renshai books. Not sure if Martha Wells is epic, but she was writing stuff like the Locke Lamora series ten years before Scott Lynch got into it. Margaret Weis was one of the great founders of the Dragonlance series, which is what got me into fantasy in the first place. Lynn Flewelling has several series under her belt. Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series was another one I was very into as a teen. Marion Zimmer Bradley too. …I’m going through my Goodreads list, if you can’t tell. I should pick up some more recent female writers’ stuff once I extricate myself from Cherryh’s Foreigner series.

    1. Yup. Some of those are kind of old. I’m surprised Margaret Weis wasn’t on the list, but maybe they don’t consider that epic?

      And of course, you.

  4. There are great many female epic fantasy authors who are severely underrated. I recently found out they are not given the same treatment by big publishers, they don’t get the big book launches and prime shelf space, and worst of it all they get romancey, girly covers due to the terrible gender bias, which turn off the epic fantasy readers (both male and female.) Even if the book is pure sword and sorcery, they get the romancey covers. I have written a long blog article addressing this issue, where I also included links to lists of great epic fantasy books written by female authors. Here is my blog post: https://leonahenry.wordpress.com/2015/08/17/why-are-female-fantasy-authors-pushed-to-the-back-of-the-bus/

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