Mothers in Science Fiction and Fantasy | Recommendations

Though mothers and motherhood are under-represented in science fiction and fantasy, today I’m recommending some great SFF books that do provide a selection of different portrayals of motherhood.

Things mentioned (affiliate links):
Soulless by Gail Carrier –
Blameless by Gail Carrier –
The Just City by Jo Walton –
Ammonite by Nicola Griffith –
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin –
The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers –
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan (print) –
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan (audio) –
The Awesome by Eva Darrows –
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix –
Planetfall by Emma Newman –
The Female Factory by Lisa Hannett and Angela Slatter –
Tough Mothers: Amazing stories of history’s mightiest matriarchs by Jason Porath –

Where else to find me:
Channel art by Luke Oram –


Amanda says:

As someone who does not want to have kids, I can appreciate the views given in Soulless and ALWTASAP. Childrearing does not have to be what we’ve made it.
Snow in Fables (the comic) is a mother I really like. Her pregnancy (of seven) happens very oddly and unintentionally and yet she completely rises to the occasion.

David Jerome says:

Interesting, I would have to go to my goodreads list to get the titles, but I happened to read a string of SFF books involving mothers, but I am in California not the UK, and Elizabeth does say they exist, but I suppose what I am trying to say is that I actually liked them. Oh yeah, I just finished reading SEVENEVES, which I thought was fantastic. I really dig some of these titles Lizabeth mentions, and Planetfall is excellent.

Anna says:

I love this topic, so many great books! I’m going to try to get my hands on Tough Mothers, I have a friend who could use some Mother Power.

Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon has an interesting take on motherhood. The Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang is also a little bit about that.

Emma Narotzky says:

The first one that came to mind for me is Tenar from Earthsea. She has a whole motherhood arc with Tehanu (although her bio kids are just sort of there… They’re part of another life and they also don’t really need a mother while Tehanu does.)

Also Hiroko from the Mars trilogy– she’s the biological mother of a whole lot of people and the spiritual mother of practically the whole planet, but she’s not personally a mother to anyone.

Jo Reads says:

The Female Factory was awesome! Just read it recently and I was so impressed with it!

Elizabeth Hopkinson says:

Lots of positive mother’s and grandmothers in Juliet Marillier’s novels (Sevenwaters series, Bridei Chronicles, Blackthorn & Grim etc.) From matriarchs to single mothers to mother’s who have lost their children. Many strong role models.
I would also give a shout out to Jasper Fforde’s literary detective Thursday Next (The Eyre Affair etc.). Even though her world is bizarre, her family relationships are very normal. Especially like the one where she struggles to get childcare while her husband has been eradicated, so pushing round a child in a pushchair while she is tooled up to fight crime.

Ju Transcendancing says:

This video is magnificent and I’m so glad you made it. I’ve echoed comments below with my recs and if I remember any others I’ll add to the list.

Natalie Sutton says:

Great list. I’m definitely interested in the ones I haven’t read yet! Other SFF books that deal with motherhood concepts: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin deals with a main character who is a mother and it drives a lot of her motivation. In a much more sci-fi concept Dawn (Xenogenesis #1) by Octavia Butler is a very interesting look into parenting, motherhood, and reproduction when your children might be entirely alien to you. In a very different but similar vein, I think that Butler’s other series Fledgling also deals with these concepts.

unmanaged mischief says:

The Broken Earth series is all about motherhood, the relationships between mothers and children, and how they change. It shows a wide range of relationships between mothers and children over a long period of time, and the exploration of this dynamic is one of the series’ strongest features.

Joanna Murray says:

Lois McMaster Bujold writes amazing mothers, my favourite book is Paladin of Souls, where a middle-aged mother goes on an adventure and finds true love.

Bill Foster says:

Literally just bought the Kindle version of Jo Walton’s ‘The Just City’ – great tip, that, thanks.

Mel's Bookland Adventures says:

This was awesome mainly because as a mother I often look into how motherhood is portrayed in books. My favourite this year so far has been Borne by Jeff Vandermeer. I am still thinking about it all the time, he explores what makes a mother a mother and how a mother loves even when things get hard and she has to make some tough decisions, but also how the „child“ loves back.

Meg MacDonald says:

Ista in Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls – Lois McMaster Bujold.
Fawn in Wide Green World /The Sharing Knife quartet – Lois McMaster Bujold
Cordelia in the Vorkosigan Saga – Lois McMaster Bujold
Yeine/Enefa and Nahadoth in The Inheritance Trilogy – NK Jemisin
Essun in Broken Earth Series- NK Jemisin
Binti’s mother in Binti, both Mother and Onyesonwu and Najeeba in Who Fears Death – Nnedi Okorafor
Shara Komayd in The Divine Cities series – Robert Jackson Bennett
Cersei, Catelyn and Danny in song of Ice and Fire GRR Martin

Haegar Hund says:

I instantly thought about A Close and Commen Orbit and the mother/Mothers Pepper/Jane ‘encounters’ in her youth. And how a motherly AI taught her how to be ‘human’.
Have you seen this article?

unfabgirl says:

As obvious as it is, I’m gonna suggest the Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin. Every decision made by Catelyn Stark and Cersei Lannister, whether good or bad, are made for their children. Cersei, specifically, is a deconstruction of the mother bear trope. Also Dany is pregnant in the first book, loses her child, and becomes mother to her dragons.

Jessticulates says:

Ahh I loved this! Mothers in general need more representation in fiction, I think, but I do agree that in a lot of SFF they tend to be dead or just not around – particularly in YA SFF. I can understand it because a young character has to be entirely self-reliant when they don’t have parents to turn to, or they need to learn how to make their own families within their friendship group, but I’d love to see more stories that involve parents. I love the sound of the mother and daughter relationship in The Awesome, I’ll have to read that one, and I have to agree that Alexia and Molly Weasley are Queens.

The Fifth Season explores motherhood in a really interesting way and, I haven’t actually started reading it yet, but I believe the heroine of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series is a mother. 🙂

Julia Wiggers says:

Lillith’s brood trilogy by octavia Butler (I forgot the original series name), the broken earth trilogy by NK jemisin, you mentioned Angela slatter (one of the writers of the female factory) – she wrote a short story or novella called Finnegan’s Field that is about a mother who has lost her child. While zen cho’s story The House of Aunts is not literally about a mother-daughter relationship, it does follow a teenage girl and her relationship with other female family members (aunts, grandmother) that have a sort of mother role in her life. I am sure I am forgetting a few.

Elizabeth Hopkinson says:

Curse you, autocorrect! I did not type those incorrect apostrophes.

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