Nerd Culture

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.