Search SFE    Search EoF

  Omit cross-reference entries  

Kowal, Mary Robinette

Entry updated 19 December 2022. Tagged: Author, Editor.

Icon made by Freepik from


(1969-    ) US author and professional puppeteer, known for her series of Jane Austen-inflected fantasies beginning with Shades of Milk and Honey (2010); see Checklist below for full listing. She has also written short fiction, some of it sf. Her first published story of genre interest was "Just Right" for The First Line in 2005; early short fiction was collected in Scenting the Dark and Other Stories (coll 2009). Kowal received the John W Campbell Award for best new writer in 2008. Her most notable stories include "Evil Robot Monkey" (in The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume Two, anth 2008, ed George Mann), which movingly explores the plight of an Intelligence-augmented monkey (see Uplift). In "For Want of a Nail" (September 2010 Asimov's), an AI and its human co-worker aboard a Generation Starship winningly tackle a mutual problem. "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" (February 2013; rev September 2013; 2014 ebook), an Alternate History in which humanity reached Mars in the 1950s, glows with affection for the dreams of the space age without becoming sentimental. Both of the latter two stories won Hugo awards, for short story and novelette respectively; "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" had been shortlisted in the same category a year earlier after featuring in the spoken-word anthology Rip-Off! (anth 2012 audiobook) but was transferred by the Hugo administrators to the very heavily contested category Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), effectively disqualifying it and leading to some controversy. As one of several presenters of the Audiozine Writing Excuses, Kowal additionally shared the 2013 Hugo for Best Related Work awarded to Writing Excuses, Season 7. The Spare Man (2022) shares a Mars-oriented backdrop, though it is set on an interplanetary cruise ship (see Ship of Fools), starring an heiress whose first name is Tesla (see Nikola Tesla).

Kowal has also worked as a professional puppeteer, including work for Jim Henson Productions, and has served as Vice President and President (from July 2019) of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Should she choose to concentrate more on sf, there is little doubt that her work would be warmly received. Her novel The Calculating Stars (2018) depicts an Alternate History in which a 1952 meteor-impact Disaster has obliterated the eastern USA and initiated a process of Climate Change that could ultimately make Earth uninhabitable; this threat kick-starts a Space Flight programme whose long-term aim is to colonize space, and the female protagonist comes into conflict with the default assumption that astronauts must be male (see Feminism; Women in SF). This book won a Hugo, Nebula and Locus Award as best novel, and also a Sidewise Award. [GS/DRL]

see also: Apex Magazine; Cosmos; Asimov's Science Fiction; Eastercon; Fantasy Review; Skylark Award.

Mary Robinette Kowal

born Raleigh, North Carolina: 8 February 1969



Glamourist History

Lady Astronaut

  • The Lady Astronaut of Mars (New York:, 2014) [novelette: ebook: first appeared February 2013 following audio version in Rip-Off! (anth 2012 audiobook): rev 11 September 2013 Lady Astronaut: na/Richie Pope]
  • The Calculating Stars (New York: Tor, 2018) [Lady Astronaut: pb/Jamie Stafford-Hill]
  • The Fated Sky (New York: Tor, 2019) [Lady Astronaut: pb/]
  • The Relentless Moon (New York: Tor, 2020) [Lady Astronaut: hb/]

individual titles


works as editor


previous versions of this entry

This website uses cookies.  More information here. Accept Cookies