Five Fascinating Matriarchies in SFF By G.R. Macallister - SciFiNow

Five Fascinating Matriarchies in SFF By G.R. Macallister

To celebrate the release of her epic fantasy Scorpica: The Five Queendoms author G.R. Macallister runs down her top matriarchies in science fiction and fantasy.

Fantasy and science fiction are the genres where we can imagine absolutely anything – so why don’t we more frequently imagine matriarchal societies as the settings for our stories?

The good news is that within the matriarchy-centered novels that do exist, there’s something to please everyone. Do you prefer your fantasy novels as long as two books put together or as short as a novella? Utopian, dystopian, or neither? Inspired by pre-Columbian history or set in an imagined future off-world?

Each of the five novels recommended below tells a fascinating, unique story set in a society where women run the show…

The Priory of the Orange Tree

Samantha Shannon’s 2019 doorstopper of a fantasy novel (800+ pages!) blends dragons, prophecies, spycraft, magic and so much more. Queen Sabran of the House of Berethnet rules the Queendom of Inys, as her mother and her mother’s mother did before her, but she has no female heir—and legend says that without one, the ancient dragon known only as “the Nameless One” will return to destroy the world. Sabran’s matriarchal queendom isn’t the only society in the novel, but it’s the one we spend the most time in, and Shannon’s careful, detailed worldbuilding pays off.

The Power

Most of the action of Naomi Alderman’s 2017 novel takes place in the same patriarchal world we live in today, with a single twist – women and teenage girls develop the ability to unleash dangerous, potentially fatal electrical power from their bodies, and it changes everything. The framing device establishes the wider world of the novel as a matriarchy, so you have some idea of where the story’s going, but how it gets there will both mesmerize and shock you.

The Foretelling

This slim YA novella is quite a departure from the acclaimed Alice Hoffman’s usual style, but it’s an intriguing coming-of-age tale. A girl named Rain, daughter of the queen in an all-female warrior society similar to the mythological Amazons, must find her place in society in the face of her mother’s indifference and her own ambivalence about their society’s practices and priorities. Rain’s choices don’t get any easier when the time comes for her to decide whether and how she herself will rule.

A Single Stone

Some fantasy novels are fascinating because of their epic, detailed worldbuilding, but others manage to intrigue with a highly limited, even claustrophobic society. Meg McKinlay’s spare 2015 YA novel is the latter. A village cut off from the rest of the world by a rockslide relies on an annual harvest of mica from within the mountain tunnels to survive the deadly winters—and the all-female council in charge takes drastic action to make sure the girls who undertake that harvest come back successful or die trying.

The Moon and the Other

If your tastes lean more toward science fiction than fantasy, you’ll want to pick up John Kessel’s 2017 novel set in the 22nd century, in a world where millions of people live in underground cities below the moon’s surface. Only one of these city-states is a matriarchy, and Kessel’s story explores the ramifications of the ebb and flow of people, ideas, movements and morals between the matriarchal Society of Cousins and the areas known as the Patriarchies. Political and personal conflicts abound, then build, then erupt. The result is a great example of how speculative fiction set in an alternate world explores and informs our understanding of the world we live in today.

Scorpica: The Five Queendoms by G.R. Macallister is out now from Titan Books