I imagine Catherine Asaro must be rather disconcerting to meet in person--a former physics professor and successful ballerina, she now runs Molecudyne Research and writes science fiction. Her sf books and stories reflect this strange background with a weird combination of corny space opera, Ursula K. Le Guin feminism, Harlequin romance, and good old-fasioned hard science fiction.


A native Californian, Catherine Asaro grew up in El Cerrito and earned a BS with Highest Honors in Chemistry from UCLA, and an MA and PhD in Physics from Harvard. She worked as a physicist at the University of Toronto, the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics until she founded Molecudyne Research in 1990. When not pondering the mysteries of the universe or writing unusual space opera, Asaro is a ballet teacher, wife of a NASA astrophysicist, and mother.


Other than The Phoenix Code, all the books below are set in the Ruby Dynasty/Skolian Empire universe. (However, for the most part they can be read separately.)

Asaro has also published several short stories in Analog Science Fiction Magazine, many essays and non-fiction articles, and several scientific papers (one of which proves the validity--mathematically, at least--of the FTL drive used in her novels).

Catherine Asaro on Feminism & Romance

...What the heroine values is given priority. It is, in fact, the driving force of the story. She is rewarded for what she values by achieving her goals, as well as winning the hero, who is usually a hunk, among other things ("I do too appreciate your mind," she insisted. "Really. I do. I appreciate all of you." :-).

...I noticed this with my first and second novels, both of which are hard science fiction (that is, science oriented sf) that center around a romance. In the first book, Primary Inversion, the woman is a space-fighter pilot with a rank equivalent to admiral; she's almost fifty years old, but biotech has kept her young. The hero is more than twenty years her junior and in the end she is the one who rescues him. In the second book, Catch the Lightning, the heroine is a seventeen year old Latina from the barrio in East L.A. and the hero is a space-fighter pilot.

Exerpt from The Quantum Rose

With Lyode at her side, Kamoj entered the forest. Walking among the trees, with tubemoss soft under her bare feet, made her more aware of her precarious position. Why had Lionstar come riding here today? Did their lands now also risk forfeiture to his wealth? She had invested his rent in machinery and tools for farms in Argali. As humiliating as it was to depend on a stranger, it was better than seeing her people starve. But she didn't think she could bear to lose any more to him, especially not this forest she so loved.

Drapes of moss hung on the trees and shadow-ferns attended their trunks. Far above, the branches formed a canopy that let only stray sunbeams reach the ground. Argali vines heavy hung everywhere, heavy with the blush-pink roses that gave her home its name. Argali. It meant vine rose in Iotaca.

At least, most scholars translated it as rose. One insisted it meant resonance. He also claimed they mispronounced her middle name, Quanta, an Iotaca word with no known translation. The name Kamoj came from the Iotaca word for bound, so if this strange scholar was correct, her name meant Bound Quantum Resonance. She smiled at the absurdity. Rose made more sense, of course.

Catherine Asaro on the jacket art of Ascendant Sun

I like the way the artist, Julie Bell, plays with traditional styles. She has reversed the male and female roles, as compared to most art. That's true in both The Radiant Seas cover and this one. It's particularly evident here because Kelric is looking to the side, slightly startled, whereas the female character is the central focus.

It's a subtle reversal; the woman is simply sitting on the divan, whereas Kelric is standing, listening to someone talk, and he's moving slightly too. Yet the woman is the viewer and controls the picture, whereas in most art, new or old, the design of the picture suggests it is for a man's view, or else it has the man staring straight out of the picture. That design holds as much for women's fiction/romance as it does for science fiction, other genres, and mainstream.

Personal Opinions

I've copied a lot of wordage above about Asaro's reversal of typical male/female roles in her Ruby Dynasty/Skolian Empire series because its unusual, but her books read more like straight-forward extrapolation of initial conditions in the time-honored hard science fiction tradition than overtly feminist political statements. They tend to contain a large amount of truly cliched space opera and romance novel, but she manages to deftly integrate these into the science fictional backbone of the story and the resulting mix distinguishes her books from the ordinary and strikes a good balance between thought-provoking hard sf and mindless-and-lighthearted dreck.

Noded for Everything Quests: Favourite Authors. This is my first quest entry so forgive me if I've done anything stupid...


  1. http://www.sff.net/people/asaro
  2. Google searches

Editor's note: As outlined by Lucy-S at SFF Net, the site referenced above has gone offline. As of March 2017, you can find Catherine Asaro at http://www.catherineasaro.net.

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