Themes in his work include the effect of culture on individual morality, the effect of technology on culture, and ... well, let's just say there's a reason one of his Fan Nicknames is "S&M Stirling".
Works by S. M. Stirling include:
- The Draka series, describing an Alternate History in which a melting-pot society of the losers from several wars forms itself into an Evil Empire and conquers the entire world.
- Emberverse series, in which a mysterious phenomenonnote renders inoperable all technology on Earth, leaving humanity to survive (or not) without it.
- The Flight Engineer trilogy, co-written with James Doohan, a Star Trek-influenced Military Science Fiction series.
- The General Series, co-written with David Drake, a future history inspired the actual history of 5th-century Byzantium.
- Island in the Sea of Time (Series), in which a mysterious phenomenon transports the island of Nantucket from modern times into the Bronze Age.
- The Lords of Creation series, in which the space probes of the 1960s discovered that the Planetary Romances were right all along: Mars and Venus are habitable, and inhabited by Humanoid Aliens. And dinosaurs.
- The Peshawar Lancers, stand-alone novel in which a series of comet strikes in the 19th century destroyed much of Europe and North America, and what's left of the British Empire is ruled from India.
- Two novels in The Ship Who series
- The Shadowspawn, about an Always Chaotic Evil evolutionary offshoot of humanity that is the source of both the vampire and werewolf, and more generally every monster legend.
- The Black Chamber series, an Alternate History spy thriller with a re-elected Theodore Roosevelt led progressive America facing off against Imperial Germany and Japan.
- The T2 Trilogy, a tie-in series of sequel novels to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, exploring the ongoing struggles of the Connors after the film.
His writing provides examples of the following tropes:
- Author Filibuster: Averted, at least according to him. His standalone novel Conquistador contains a response to criticism of The Draka that reads, "There is a technical term for someone who confuses the opinions of a character in a book with those of the author. That term is idiot." (He has variously attributed the line to Larry Niven and Robert A. Heinlein.)