Sci-fi and fantasy queen N.K. Jemisin made history when she became the first author to win the prestigious Hugo Award three years running, for her epic Broken Earth trilogy. She was also the first Black author to win Best Novel, and spoke out against right-wing gatekeeping in her powerful 2018 acceptance speech:

“I look to science fiction and fantasy as the aspirational drive of the zeitgeist. We creators are the engineers of possibility. And as this genre finally, however grudgingly, acknowledges that the dreams of the marginalized matter and that all of us have a future, so will go the world. (Soon, I hope.)”

A veritable expert in the genre, find a list of immersive, inclusive SFF books Jemisin’s reviewed and recommended over the years. For a deeper look at her process, from worldbuilding to character development, check out her Masterclass on the art of science fiction and fantasy writing.

The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

“What looks like a stock story isn’t. But that isn’t this story’s greatest asset; the worldbuilding is. This is a rich, complex, plausibly exotic fantasy world like nothing on earth, described so vividly that I’d love to go visit it. (Except I’d get eaten in 5 minutes.) Moon’s people are one of the most intelligently-constructed fantasy races I’ve seen in awhile — science fictionally so, though the story manages to retain the wonder and magic of fantasy. Add to that characters who stick with you and whose motivations you really care about, and this is a real winner.” –NKJ

Galactic Empires by Neil Clarke

“A collection of compact space epics anthologized by Neil Clarke and written by some of the biggest stars and up-and-comers in the genre…over all this anthology is mostly hits, remarkably few misses. Highly recommended.” –NKJ

Octavia Butler’s Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Damian Duffy and John Jennings

“A worthy and powerful supplement to a classic.” –NKJ

The Unreal and The Real & The Found and The Lost by Ursula K. Le Guin

“While all 39 of the stories and all 13 of the novellas have been published previously, many haven’t appeared in print in decades — which alone makes this collection worth the price…Fans of Le Guin should get both books. People who have read one story of hers on a college syllabus but nothing else should get both books. Critics should get both books as well as her recent essay collection Words Are My Matter.” –NKJ

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

“It’s soaring, high-minded stuff, and Shawl does a marvelous job of demonstrating the capabilities of the steampunk subgenre, which too often sacrifices the richness of actual, global history in favor of Victorian fetishization and racial exclusion.” –NKJ

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

“Darkly ironic worldbuilding is the real treat of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things, which posits that vampires are a species that coexists with humans, most recently amid the human underworld. The core of the tale is a parallel of colonialism, in which indigenous vampires of Mexico — once partnered with the Aztecs — are threatened by amoral, disease-carrying European vampires encroaching on their drug trade and feeding territory.” –NKJ

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

“The story is dense, the pace intense, and the delicate East Asian flavoring of the math-rich setting might make it seem utterly alien to many readers — yet metaphors for our own world abound…Readers willing to invest in a steep learning curve will be rewarded with a tight-woven, complicated but not convoluted, breathtakingly original space opera.” –NKJ

The Devourers by Indra Das

“A chilling, gorgeous saga that spans several centuries and many lands…Readers will savor every bite.” –NKJ

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

“An adorable little set of almost old-school science fiction.” –NKJ

Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler

(via Book Riot & Vox)

Categories: Writers