5 Women Writers Who Have Made Space Opera their Own


cold welcome

Elizabeth Moon’s new novel Cold Welcome is a sci-fi thriller about a space fleet commander unexpectedly thrown into a life-or-death situation with an untested crew. It’s the first space opera that Moon has written since her Serrano’s Legacy novels wrapped up about a decade ago.

In the early days of science-fiction, space opera was largely dominated by male writers, excluding a few notable exceptions like Leigh Brackett and James Tiptree Jr (Alice Bradley Sheldon). Things have changed, though, particularly over the last several decades. Moon is just one of many female writers who have come to claim the genre for their own. Here are four more of them, and the books you should read to start.

  • The cover of the book Shards of Honor

    Shards of Honor

    Lois McMaster Bujold has won the Hugo Award for Best Novel four times — more times than anyone else in the industry. She’s best known as the author of the Vorkosigan Saga, a long-running space opera series revolving around mercenary admiral Miles Vorkosigan and others. If you’re a science-fiction reader who like to binge-read, then the Vorkosigan Saga will be a dream come true: there’s over a dozen books in the series and counting. The series jumps back and forth across its internal timeline, and there are plenty of debates online regarding where you should begin to read. The consensus seems to be that Shards of Honor is a pretty good point at which to begin. Your mileage may vary.

  • The cover of the book Foreigner


    C.J. Cherryh writes across genres, with space opera being only one of them. Like Bujold, she’s scooped up her fair share of awards and accolades — among the unique honor of having an asteroid named in her honor: 77185 Cherryh. If you’re looking for an entry point into Cherryh’s space operas, then the Foreigner series should be your first stop. The novels — there’s nearly 20 now — explore the complexities of communication between two intelligent species: humanity and the Atevi. Cherryh is a heck of a world-builder, so if the idea of a deeply realized alien species intrigues you, then jump on in. Begin with Foreigner, book one.

  • The cover of the book The Stars Are Legion

    The Stars Are Legion

    Compared to the careers of veteran authors like Bujold, Cherryh, Moon, and Travis, Kameron Hurley is a relative newcomer. That said, she’s already made a place for herself with imaginative and sometimes difficult to classify works of speculative fiction, like her God’s War trilogy. She just released her first space opera: The Stars Are Legion. Already earning comparisons to Frank Herbert’s Dune and Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos, The Stars Are Legion is a galaxy-spanning saga that will likely cement Hurley’s status as one of sci-fi’s greats.

  • The cover of the book City of Pearl

    City of Pearl

    Karen Traviss, like her comrade in literary arms Elizabeth Moon, has a lot of irons in the fire. She’s written comic books, novels in various well-known franchises — HALO, Star Wars — and even served as lead writer on the video game “Gears of War 3”. If you’re looking for space opera, then Traviss’ Wess’Har series won’t disappoint. There’s plenty here to dig into: distant planets, complex alien species, and tons of intrigue. Start with City of Pearl.