Five SFF Authors Who Debuted at a Surprisingly Young Age

would agree that artistic accomplishment is reserved for the mature, people whose age confers upon them the perspective and experience required to excel in this field.   by their elders’ creations.

Yet a few people have not only disagreed with this reasonable expectation, but have gone so far as to provide actual proof that it is wrong by creating works of art at unfashionably young ages. Consider these five speculative fiction authors, none of whom saw fit to defer their debuts until a demure middle age.


Although , he nevertheless managed a forty-four-year career simply by beginning earlier than the vast majority of writers. Enamored of science fiction ever since he encountered The War of the Worlds at age six, Brunner wrote his first science fiction novel, Galactic Storm, at sixteen. While the novel is not without its flaws (it is in fact a pretty awful potboiler about global warming and malevolent Venusians), Brunner did improve greatly with experience. That first sale was sufficient to convince a young Brunner to abandon his studies (and a scholarship to Oxford) to focus on professional writing.


these violent delights

Born in 1988, Chloe Gong began writing novels at age thirteen. However, her first salable novel manuscript was not written until she was a comparatively venerable nineteen; publishing lag time delayed publication of These Violent Delights until 2020. Her Romeo and Juliet tale of lovers on opposite sides of a 1920s Shanghai gang war delighted readers, earning her a position as one of the youngest authors ever to appear on The New York Times Best Seller list. Her career is, I am happy to say, ongoing. [He said, quietly sliding 2023’s Immortal Longings onto the to-be-read pile.]



Mark S. Geston appears to have set aside writing science fiction to focus on his legal career. Perhaps he foresaw this possibility and this was why he chose to write his first novel, Lords of the Starship, when he was a nineteen-year-old second-year college student. Published in 1967, Lords of the Starship details the efforts of a declining civilization to trigger a renaissance with a vast, starship construction project. Or so the backers are told… What at first seems a melancholy tale of civilization’s autumn proves decidedly darker by its end.


strange evil gaskell

Jane Gaskell was fourteen when she wrote Strange Evil and only sixteen in 1957, when it was published. Gaskell’s tale of a mortal carried off to a decadent faerie world was and still is widely praised …which makes it all the odder that the novel appears to have been last printed in the 1970s. For reasons not entirely clear to me, Gaskell’s popularity appears to have come to a screeching halt about forty years ago.



Although Charles Stross may be best known today for his award-winning science fiction and fantasy fiction, he got his start in the closely related field of table-top roleplaying games about a decade before his first published story, “The Boys,” appeared. Then a member of what must have been one of the earliest cohorts of Dungeons and Dragons players, Stross created some notable monstrous antagonists including (later featured in The Fiend Folio, with the Githyanki detailed on the cover), when he was fifteen.



In fact, there are quite a number of authors who debuted when they were teens—the above is a very small sample and omits such obvious examples as Mary Shelley and Catherine Webb. Perhaps you have your own favourite younger-than-average authors. If so, comments are below.

In the words of fanfiction author Musty181, four-time Hugo finalist, prolific book reviewer, and perennial Darwin Award nominee James Davis Nicoll “looks like a default mii with glasses.” His work has appeared in Interzone, Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times as well as on his own websites, James Nicoll Reviews (where he is assisted by editor Karen Lofstrom and web person Adrienne L. Travis) and the 2021, 2022, and 2023 Aurora Award finalist Young People Read Old SFF (where he is assisted by web person Adrienne L. Travis). His Patreon can be found here.

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