10 Arizona Sci-Fi and Fantasy Authors You Should Know — Besides Diana Gabaldon and Stephenie Meyer

Tempe teacher and YA author Suzanne Young.
Tempe teacher and YA author Suzanne Young.
Dawn Goei

Between Stephenie Meyer and Diana Gabaldon, Phoenix has produced a pair of writing superstars who dominate the charts with everything they release. You may not like sparkly vampires or kilted Scottish lovers, but there is no denying the impact these two authors have had on speculative fiction.

But Phoenix also has a strong crop of less-famous authors who are making their marks on bestselling charts and award shortlists as well. Here are 10 other sci-fi and fantasy authors who spend their time commuting between the Valley and the bestseller lists.

Suzanne Young
Most Recent Work: Hotel Ruby (2015)

Blame Stephenie Meyer perhaps, but the Valley has a strong YA contingent among its speculative fiction community. This Tempe teacher hit the bestseller lists with her dystopian romance, The Program.  Set in a world where a third of teens commit suicide, Sloane is enrolled in a government treatment program designed to prevent suicide by erasing painful memories. The 2014 hit was followed last year by The Treatment, with the latest installment, The Epidemic, hitting stores on April 19. She has also explored teen horror in her most recent novel, Hotel Ruby. It has been compared to The Shining, and follows a girl trying to uncover the secrets of a haunted hotel. However, Young might be best known for starting a firestorm when she posted a picture of the abstinence sticker in her son's biology textbook to Twitter. The backlash was swift and fierce, with Young being forced off social media for a time.

Fantasy author Sam Sykes.EXPAND
Fantasy author Sam Sykes.
Libby Rich

Sam Sykes
Most Recent Work: The Mortal Tally (2016)

While he may not be a household name, if you’ve been to a book panel at Phoenix Comicon, you’ve probably seen Sykes. The author of the “Aeon’s Gate” and “Bring Down Heaven” trilogies, Sykes writes audacious fantasy adventures, following a band of adventurers (little more than criminals, really) led by the warrior Lenk. Imagine a Dungeons and Dragons game hosted by Quentin Tarantino, and you have some idea of the bloody, dark humor in his work. He has recently branched into comics as well, penning scripts for the hack-and-slash parody, Munchkin. The second book in the "Bring Down Heaven" trilogy, The Mortal Tally, is available as of March 29, while an omnibus edition of “Aeon’s Gate,” An Affinity for Steel, is available June 7.

Buckeye steampunk author Beth Cato.
Buckeye steampunk author Beth Cato.
Corey Ralston Photography

Beth Cato
Most Recent Work: Wings of Sorrow and Bone (2015)

Originally from California's Central Valley, this steampunk author and cookie-pusher now calls Buckeye home. She debuted in 2014 with The Clockwork Dagger, which was shortlisted last year for the Locus Award for Best Debut Novel. Blending murder, mystery, airships, and magical healers, the novel and its 2015 sequel, The Clockwork Crown, were refreshingly upbeat in today’s era of dark, morally questionable fantasy. Her most recent work in the Clockwork universe, the Nebula Award-nominated novella Wings of Sorrow and Bone, is a lighthearted look at animal rights, independent publishing, viral marketing, and cheese, featuring a pair of young women attempting to help abused magical gremlins. Her next novel, Breath of Earth, an alternate universe story set in turn-of-the-century San Francisco, is out August 23.

Prolific Valley author Gini Koch.
Prolific Valley author Gini Koch.
Nancee Lewis Photography

Gini Koch
Most Recent Work: Alien in Chief (2015)

The prolific Koch works in a variety of genres from romance to sci-fi under a variety of pseudonyms, but whatever name she's using, you're sure to recognize her irrepressible nature and pink sequined cowboy hat. Aside from her infamous "Evening Erotica" events at Phoenix Comicon, she's best known for her "Alien"/"Kitty Katt" series. Clocking in at 12 books so far (the 13th, Camp Alien, is due May 3, and there are at least four more in the pipeline) these humorous and sexy sci-fi romps follow the titular Katherine "Kitty" Katt as she defends her family and the galaxy from supervillains and alien threats, along with Jeff Martini, her Alpha Centaurian husband and President of the United States. You can also find Koch writing paranormal romance under the nom de plume Jemma Chase or her horror stories as J.C. Koch.

New York Times bestselling author Rae Carson.EXPAND
New York Times bestselling author Rae Carson.
Michelle Daniel Photography

Rae Carson
Most Recent Work: Walk on Earth a Stranger (2015)

Carson and her husband, C.C. Finlay, editor of the storied Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, are recent migrants to the Valley from upstate New York, but they are welcome additions to the writing community. Carson's debut, 2011's The Girl of Fire and Thorns, follows a teenage "chosen one" bearing a magical navel ring (authors can find inspiration in strange places) and was shortlisted for numerous YA awards. It spawned a pair of sequels. (But, no, they weren't related to other piercings.) Her latest novel is an alternate history set during the 1800s, and it follows Lee, a runaway girl with the magical power to sense gold. Fleeing those who want to exploit her power, Lee disguises herself as a boy and heads to California to find her freedom and fortune during the gold rush. The sequel, Like a River Glorious, is out September 27.

 

Star Wars author Michael Stackpole.
Star Wars author Michael Stackpole.
Michael C. Pearo

Michael Stackpole
Most Recent Work: Pathfinder Tales: Crusader Road (2014)

A veteran Valley writer, Stackpole has written dozens of tie-in novels for such properties as World of Warcraft (Vol'jin: Shadows of the Horde). He got his start designing games in the '70s and graduated in the '80s to writing novels in the BattleTech universe, but is best known for his Star Wars novels. Stackpole penned the popular "X-Wing" series, including the bestseller Rogue Squadron, as well as I, Jedi, a first-person tale of a young Jedi's training and adventures. He also penned stories about Luke Skywalker and his Expanded Universe wife, Mara Jade, for the graphic novel Union. In recent years, he has been involved with ASU's Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, but he has still found time to return to writing role-playing game-inspired novels, like his recent Pathfinder Tales: The Crusader Road.

Amy K. Nichols, author of Now That You're Here and While You Were Gone.
Amy K. Nichols, author of Now That You're Here and While You Were Gone.
Robrt Pela

Amy K. Nichols
Most Recent Work: While You Were Gone (2015)

This Greenway High School graduate has had a whirlwind year. Her debut novel, Now That You're Here, came out in December 2014. Inspired by her love of Doctor Who and fascination with quantum physics,  it is the story of Danny, a delinquent graffiti artist in an alternate, dystopian Phoenix who is pulled through a wormhole to our universe where he is befriended by Eevee, a girl he recognizes from his universe.The sequel, While You Were Gone, which tracks the Danny from our world and his adventures with the dystopian version of Eevee, came out in August. The duology has recently been rereleased as a flip-book omnibus as well. Nichols is currently writer-in-residence at the Glendale Public Library Main Branch as well — she will be writing at the library, hosting workshops, and answering visitors' writing questions through May 1.

Bestselling YA author Aprilynne Pike.EXPAND
Bestselling YA author Aprilynne Pike.
Georgia Cranston, Gypsy Rae Photography

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Aprilynne Pike
Most Recent Work: Earthrise (2015)

Pike burst onto the YA scene in 2009 with her acclaimed debut, Wings, about a homeschooled girl who discovers she is actually a faerie when she starts sprouting wings. The fantasy spawned four bestselling sequels and made Pike a YA star. The blurb from Stephenie Meyer and comparisons to Twilight probably didn't hurt. Since then, she's written the Earthbound trilogy, about a psychic girl trying to stop a shadowy secret society bent on world domination and the Charlotte Westing duology, about a girl who can see the future and must use her power to stop a serial killer. Her next novel, Glitter, described as Marie Antoinette meets Breaking Bad, is due October 25.

Award-winning horror and fantasy author Joseph Nassise.EXPAND
Award-winning horror and fantasy author Joseph Nassise.
Dawn Nassise

Joseph Nassise
Most Recent Work: Fall of Night (2016)

This bestselling horror author has earned multiple Bram Stoker Award nominations and served as president of the Horror Writers of America. Nassise first garnered acclaim with his 2003 debut, Riverwatch, but is best known for his ongoing "Templars" series, the latest of which, The Fall of Night, hit stores in early January. He has also delved into the zombie craze with his undead during World War I alternate histories By the Blood of Heroes and On Her Majesty's Behalf. Under the pen name Matthew Caine, he has explored epic fantasy in the ongoing "Aspect Cycle," which kicked off in 2015 with The Ghosts of the Conquered. Most recently, he edited the anthology Urban Allies, due out July 26. The collection features collaborative works by some of horror and fantasy's hottest authors, including Charlaine Harris (The "Southern Vampire" series) and Larry Correia (Monster Hunter Nation).

Recently published Valley author Ryan Dalton.EXPAND
Recently published Valley author Ryan Dalton.
Ron Hash

Ryan Dalton
Most Recent Work: The Year of Lightning (2015)

A newcomer to the Valley's author scene, Dalton was a regular volunteer at Phoenix Comicon before publishing his debut, the YA thriller The Year of Lightning, last year. The first installment of the "Time Shift Trilogy" follows a pair of twins who move into a new town and are immediately intrigued by the old house across the street. Soon electrical storms are erupting all over town, somehow tied to the mysterious house. The novel has already gone into its second printing, and the sequel, The Black Tempest is due in early 2017.

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