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There were some great recommendations and discussions thanks to last week’s guests! Before announcing the next week of guest posts, here’s a quick overview of what happened last week in case you missed anything:

Upcoming Guests: April 13 – 17

Time to announce the guests for the third week of April! They are:

womeninsff_week3_2015

April 13: Memory (In the Forest of Stories)
April 14: Alison Croggon (The Books of Pellinor, Black Spring)
April 15: Wendy (The BiblioSanctum)
April 16: Michelle Sagara (Chronicles of Elantra, The House War)
April 17: Lisa (Over the Effing Rainbow)

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For Women in SF&F Month 2013, Renay from Lady Business came up with the idea of compiling a list of recommended speculative fiction books by women. (You can read more about this project in a few different posts written by Renay: 2013, 2014, and 2015.) During that year’s event, she asked readers to submit up to 10 of their favorite SFF books by women to create a list of recommendations. The result was a list of over 800 individual books, many recommended by multiple people (the number of recommendations for each book can be seen on the current list). Last year, we accepted more submissions and the list grew to include over 1,000 titles!

We’re accepting more submissions of favorite individual SFF books by women throughout this month so we can continue to expand this list. So far, we have almost 500 new submissions to add to the list, but the more people who recommend a few of their favorite books, the better the list will be!

Big List of Fantasy and Sci-Fi Books by Women

In today’s giveaway, the winner gets to choose one book from this list of fantasy and science fiction books by women as the prize. This book must be available for purchase through The Book Depository for $20 or less (in US dollars). Anyone who lives in a country eligible for free shipping from The Book Depository can enter this giveaway. If you’d like to enter, check out the list, see what looks interesting, and if you haven’t already this year, maybe even submit some of your own favorite SFF books by women while you’re over there!

As a starting point, here are the books on the list that have been recommended the most:

Dawn by Octavia Butler

Octavia E. Butler’s Dawn has been submitted as a favorite book 14 times.

The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells and Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones have each been recommended by 15 people.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner

Graceling by Kristin Cashore and Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner have each been submitted as a favorite book 16 times.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

17 people recommend To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke has been submitted as a favorite 19 times.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle

Each of these 3 books have been recommended by 22 people: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin, Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling

Tied for the most recommendations at 24 submissions each are Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold and Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone by J. K. Rowling.

 

Note: In some cases, these may have been recommendations for series since several entries were for entire series instead of individual books, especially before the current system of using Goodreads to search for titles. In those cases, they were added as recommendations for the first book in that series since that’s where new readers would most likely want to start.

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Readers’ Recommendations Giveaway” and the book of your choice. One entry per household and one winner will be randomly selected. Those from a country that is on the list of those with free shipping from The Book Depository are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Sunday, April 26. The winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a mailing address).

The winner can choose one book from the list as the prize, but this book must be available for purchase from The Book Depository for $20 or less (in US currency).

Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Good luck!

Name
Email
Book
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Today’s guest is fantasy author Nicole Peeler! She is the author of the Jane True series, an urban fantasy set in Maine beginning with Tempest Rising. Jinn and Juice, her latest novel and the first book in a new urban fantasy series, was just released in paperback after an earlier digital release.

Jinn and Juice by Nicole Peeler Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler

I Knew I Wanted to be a Witch When I Grew Up

Well…sort of. I actually knew I wanted to be Diana Tregarde. For those of you not familiar with the character, she’s the hero of a series of books by Mercedes Lackey. I read them when I was very young, after I’d already fallen in love with her hero, Vanyel. But these books were different: I may have loved Vanyel, but I wanted to be Diana Tregarde.

Diana, after all, had so much to admire. She was a witch; a Guardian, tasked by the universe to keep the balance; and a bit of a ninja. She wore leotards and drove fast cars fast and even had a vampire for a boyfriend, way before having a vampire boyfriend was cool.

She also starred in a series of urban fantasy novels, before there was such a genre. Instead, Lackey was just another writer, like Charles deLint, who wrote some fantasy books about mythological stuff in our world. And, while Diana is one of my all time favorite characters, and many other readers have reiterated this opinion to me, according to Lackey they never sold very well.

Burning Water by Mercedes Lackey Children of the Night by Mercedes Lackey

But the essence of Diana stuck with me. Decades later I saw elements of her in Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse. I also saw that same spirit of storytelling, of contemporary mythmaking, that I also loved in Lackey and deLint, and I knew I really did want to be a witchy woman. A woman who created life out of words and brought succor to those seeking that wonderfully paradoxical combination of escape and enlightenment which is reading fiction.

And so I wrote my own book, and then I wrote more. They’re about magical women doing amazing things, and I am proud of them.

Maybe I did grow up to be a witch, after all.

Nicole PeelerNicole Peeler writes urban fantasy and is an associate professor at Seton Hill University, where she co-directs their MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. Having recently finished her award-winning Jane True series, her latest book is Jinn and Juice, the first book in a series about a cursed jinni living in Pittsburgh, out this month from Orbit. Nicole also lives in Pittsburgh, although she’s neither cursed nor a jinni.

Photo Credit: Robert Trudeau

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Today’s guest is Tiara from The BiblioSanctum! She, Mogsy, and Wendy run an excellent blog—The BiblioSanctum is a great place for speculative fiction and graphic novel fans with lots of reviews, interviews, and discussions. It’s one of my favorite book blog discoveries of the last year or two due to the fantastic work these three are doing. Besides writing for The BiblioSanctum, Tiara also blogs at DigitalTempest.net.

The BiblioSanctum

Before beginning, I’d like to say that this post is equal parts a love letter to science fiction and a review of the book The Feminine Future: Early Science Fiction by Women Writers edited by Mike Ashley, which the publisher provided me in exchange for an honest review.

Science fiction has always been a huge part of my life. From grand stories about future civilizations with technology I could only imagine to your every day comics about mutants and superbeings who police their cities, these stories are rooted firmly in my heart.

While other little girls wanted to be princesses and frolic in medieval castles (not that there’s anything at all wrong with that either), I wanted to be some space pirate raiding unknown galaxies or maybe an intergalactic bioengineer creating the latest organic technovirus or maybe I wanted to be one of the first humans to make contact with a new alien race or maybe I just wanted powers like my favorite member of the X-Men (Storm). Science fiction opened up a world of endless possibilities for me. From a very early age, science fiction stories showed me there was nothing I couldn’t achieve and there was nothing I couldn’t be.

Science fiction isn’t just about radical stories set in the future with aliens and a lot of hard science talk that’s hard to follow. Science fiction can be as simple as writing about how a flu pandemic has devastated the earth as in Emily St. John Mandel’s beautifully tragic science fiction novel, Station Eleven, or something as bold as Lois McMaster Bujold’s Falling Free, part of Bujold’s space opera the Vorkosigan Saga, which follows a human space engineer as he navigates life and morality with a group of humanoids coldly classified as “post fetal experimental tissue cultures.”

I always cite my favorite Ray Bradbury quote when discussing science fiction and what it means to me:

“Science fiction is the most important literature in the history of the world, because it’s the history of ideas, the history of our civilization birthing itself… Science fiction is central to everything we’ve ever done, and people who make fun of science fiction writers don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Science fiction is what inspired me to pursue tech related activities, hobbies, and studies, and there’s no end to my love of science and technology as we advance further and further. This love is something I’ve passed on to my own daughter as she gets starry-eyed about the world of Mass Effect‘s Commander Shepard or begs me to read Sanity & Tallulah: Plucky Teen Girl Space Detectives just one more time.

Diversity in the various medias I consume, from books to video games, is important to me, and as a mother of a young girl, it’s become doubly important to me that she sees representation of herself in these things, especially in areas considered “male dominated” as science fiction. I want her to see that women have always been involved in helping to shape the world of science fiction as a genre. I want her to know there have always been women who have gotten lost in the world of science fiction and that women will always have a growing impact on the genre in years to come, including her.

There seems to be some debate that women have only started writing science fiction in recent years discounting the effort of such women as Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein in 1818 or Jane Loudon who penned The Mummy!: A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century in 1827. While there may be fewer female writers in science fiction, there have still been considerable contributions made by women that are a foothold to modern writers, and they shouldn’t be ignored or forgotten for what they’ve contributed. That’s why it’s so important that we have books such as The Feminine Future that are dedicated to bringing women pioneers in the genre to the forefront.

The Feminine Future: Early Science Fiction by Women Writers

The Feminine Future is a collection of short stories by women writers mostly pre-1920. Each story gives a brief history of its author’s life, if she went on to write more science fiction (or just more works in general), and a brief glimpse of what the story is about. Many of these women, I hadn’t heard about before (like Mabel Ernestine Abbott) or I know them from other literary works (like Edith Nesbit who wrote many children’s books). These stories range from lighthearted future visions to stories that question the reliability, if not the sanity, of its character.

This book presented a wide range of themes and ideas. Along with the science fiction, you find many other literary elements weaved into these stories such as horror and the supernatural. There are stories that explore life happening in reverse with a deeply human explanation, predating F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Benjamin Button.” You have stories with the burgeonings of hard science stories such as Harriet Prescott Spofford’s “The Ray of Displacement” that toys with atomic theory. There are stories about experimental drugs creating superhumans (“The Third Drug” by Edith Nesbit), stories that explore Utopian feminist societies (“A Divided Republic” by Lillie Devereaux Blake), stories about suspended animation and telepathy (“The Painter of Dead Women” by Edna W. Underwood), stories about cyborgs (“The Artificial Man” by Clare Winger Harris), and even humorous stories about “Automatic-Electric Machine Servants” (“Ely’s Automatic Housemaid” by Elizabeth W. Bellamy).

My personal favorite in the bunch was a story called “The Automaton Ear” by Florence McLandburgh. This was a dark, lyrical story that asked, “What if sound is never lost?” The protagonist of this story believes that sound is diffused to a point where it is no longer able to be heard by the normal ear. Subsequently, he ignores the visual beauty of the world as he tries to regain these sounds. This story was an unsettling, psychological romp that left the readers to decide if the protagonist was brilliant or mad.

Despite how readers feel about the stories, there’s no denying that in this book you see hints of the modern stories that we’ve read, and it’s a shame that many of these writers’ offerings have been lost to time. Many of these women were considered bold and imaginative for the subjects they tackled in these stories, as many of these concepts were rarely explored or new. Any argument that women are not interested in reading or writing about science fiction is debunked a multitude of times by our historical sisters in this book. As with any anthology, the stories can be hit or miss, but I appreciate the effort made to bring these women, some very obscure, to the attention of science fiction fans.

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Today’s guest is fantasy, science fiction, and horror author A. C. Wise! She’s written numerous short stories, some of which have appeared in a variety of “Best of the Year” collections. Her story “The Double Bind” will be included in the upcoming anthology The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk, and her first short fiction collection,  The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, will be released later this year. She also writes the wonderful monthly column Women to Read: Where to Start on SF Signal.

The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 4 The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk

Women in SF&F Month: Debut Authors

Women write speculative fiction. It shouldn’t be news to anyone anymore; yet on a slow news day, or any day, really, the topic is still dragged into the spotlight and women are once again asked to prove themselves. Lists are trotted out, and they are fantastic lists, but frequently they feature the same few names over and over again – Ursula K. Le Guin, Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree, Jr., Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, and so on. Of course they are all worthy of your time and attention, but they’re well-established names, too. They should already be in your canon. There are so many exciting works being written today, it’s time to update our lists. More and more often, when asked to name authors who inspire me, I turn to contemporary authors publishing works today. In that spirit, I want to focus on a few debut authors whose first novels were released within the past few years, or will be released this year.

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia Rings of Anubis by E. Catherine Tobler

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s debut novel Signal to Noise was released by Solaris in February 2015. Her short fiction made me a fan, so I couldn’t wait to pick up a copy of her first novel, focused on magic and music in Mexico City in the 1980s. At novel length, Silvia Moreno-Garcia kicks the power and emotional relationships found in her short fiction up a notch. Signal to Noise is fearless and brilliant in that it rests almost entirely on the charm of an “unlikeable” character – surly, prickly, sometimes emotionally distant – but one you can’t help but root for and want to follow on her journey. The magic spells cast through vinyl records serve as delicious frosting to the rich cake at this novel’s heart – the humanity of its characters.

E. Catherine Tobler’s Rings of Anubis debuted as a collected paperback in 2014 from Masque Books, after originally being released as a two-volume e-book series in 2013. If you’re a fan of pulpy adventure in the vein of Indiana Jones and The Mummy, this is the book for you. Egypt, archeology, steampunk – you name it, it’s here. The whole novel is soaked in the same level of rich, sensory detail permeating Tobler’s short stories. As a reader, you live alongside Folley and Mallory, the main characters, as they journey through Egypt and Paris, feeling the grit of desert sand and tasting the food. At the same time, it’s a highly visual work, giving the reader a sense of watching a movie based on the text even as they read.

Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer Updraft by Fran Wilde

Jaime Lee Moyer’s debut novel, Delia’s Shadow, released in 2013 from Tor, kicked off a trilogy with the third book due out later this year. The novels are set in San Francisco in the early 1900s, and like E. Catherine Tobler’s Rings of Anubis, they transport the reader to a particular time and place. Delia’s Shadow is set during the San Francisco International Exposition of 1915, and the author’s research makes every detail come alive. The novel also focuses on female friendship, a thread that continues throughout the series, which is something not seen often enough in either print or visual media, even today. The author gives us a world of strong characters, historical details, and throws ghosts into the mix – what’s not to love?

Fran Wilde’s debut novel, Updraft, will be published by Tor in September 2015. A city made of bone grows above the clouds, and the citizens of this world soar from tier to tier on wings engineered from silk. The novel blurs the line between YA and Adult fiction, proving that the divide is largely arbitrary to begin with, as there’s something here to appeal to everyone. The worldbuilding the author engages in here is incredible – detailed, rich, and deep. There’s intrigue and danger, and stakes high enough to shake the entire foundation of the world the characters are living in. Updraft is another highly-visual world, just begging to be made into a movie.

These are just a few of the incredible authors who have recently (or will shortly) make their novel debuts. All of these authors started their careers as short fiction writers, and are stretching into new dimensions now with longer works. Everything they’ve published – both short and long – is worth your time to read. And given that these works are all debut novels, we can expect great things from them in the future. This is the next generation of inspirational women writing speculative fiction. You will see their names on future lists. Hopefully, one day, those lists will not be the ones trotted out as women are forced to prove themselves and justify their place in the genre. Hopefully these women will be future canon for must-read lists that have nothing to do with gender, or even genre. We will read them and praise them because their work is worthy of praise. Period. They have nothing to prove.

A.C. Wise is the author of numerous short stories appearing in places like Clarkesworld, Apex, the Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and Year’s Best Weird Fiction. Her first collection will be published by Lethe Press in 2015. In addition to her fiction, she co-edits Unlikely Story, and contributes a monthly Women to Read: Where to Start column to SF Signal. You can find her online at www.acwise.net and on twitter as @ac_wise.

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Today’s guest is Mieneke from A Fantastical Librarian! This site is an excellent resource for speculative fiction fans, and clearly many others find it valuable as well: A Fantastical Librarian was nominated for a 2014 World Fantasy Award in the Non-professional Special Award category. It’s easy to see why given the great number of fantasy and science fiction book reviews and interviews with authors, bloggers, and editors. I especially enjoy the Blogger Query interview series in which Mieneke has conducted some fantastic interviews with book bloggers.

A Fantastical Librarian

“I am…?” : Representation of Mature Women in Fantasy

In the past few years I’ve read a lot about the importance of representation in fiction. From gender, to race, to sexuality, to disability, and any and all elements included under the umbrella of diversity. And while I very much believed in the importance of representation and that everyone should be able to find themselves in literature, I’d never felt myself very underrepresented. This may partially be because of what I read and because as a white, straight, cis woman, I am represented. And I know it was partially due to ignorance; I simply didn’t know it was a thing.

So while theoretically the need for representation made sense to me, what made it fully real to me was something I noticed in my children. I have two girls, aged 3 and 5, and in the past year or so I’ve noticed that the eldest always picks someone to be when watching TV. For example, they’ll be watching Frozen and she’ll say: “I’m Elsa.” Or when watching Princess Sofia: “I’m Sofia.” And then she will tell her sister she is Anna or Amber, depending on what they are watching. At first I thought this was just a natural kid thing, identifying with the hero of the film or show. But when I started paying attention, I began noticing something else. She always picks a female character for her and her sister to ‘be’ and if there is only one female character, well then they both have to be the same one. For example, watching Jake and the Never Land Pirates, she’ll always ‘be’ Izzy. Funnily enough, her little sister will happily pick Jake, because she doesn’t want to be the same character as her sister and Jake is the hero. Yet, they’ll fight over who will get to be Dora, when watching that show. And it’s not just my eldest, when her best friend comes over, she’ll do exactly the same. When I realised what was happening it was as if a light bulb went on in my head: this is the need for representation in action. If my girls have to double up on who they can ‘be’ in TV shows specifically aimed at little girls, how much harder will it be when they grow up and in other situations?

Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey Arrow's Flight by Mercedes Lackey

This made me think about my own feelings of identification with fictional characters over the years. While there have been several, the one that I connected the strongest to over the years and who has grown with me, was Mercedes Lackey’s Talia, the main character in the Heralds of Valdemar trilogy and an important character in the books that follow on from that series chronologically. When I first met Talia, I was a bullied, fat 14 year old, who loved horses and was living in an unsettled home. Talia was pretty much me, although she was pretty and slim, and her situation was a whole lot worse than mine. Most importantly though, Talia was saved from her situation by a magical horse and in her new home she was praised for exactly those characteristics I shared: being a good and conscientious student, skilled at handling small children, and being caring of others. While I realised that there wasn’t going to be a Companion clomping up to my front door to whisk me away, Talia’s story did make me realise that things would improve and that I shouldn’t let the bullies win.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself still identifying with Talia, but on a whole new level. In Arrows Flight Talia goes out on her internship in the field and discovers that her grip on her Gift is tenuous at best and slipping from her control. This sends her spiralling into self-doubt and finally a deep depression. In my twenties, I went through a long period of deep depression as well and when I finally got help it was hard and painful work to work through my issues. And once more, here was Talia lighting the way, showing me that doing the work was worth it, and that I should hang in there. And things got better.

Talia remained a character to identify with as we both grew older. Like Talia, I became a mum, and while her love for her children was very recognisable, Talia also disappeared to the background of the Valdemar books, a figure of authority and beloved certainly, but not so much in the spotlight anymore. This leaves me without my go-to figure of representation in literature for the first time in 20 years. Because off the top of my head I can’t come up with a mother with an active role in a fantasy novel. And by an active role I mean, not one limited to being someone’s mum, but being someone’s mum and being the hero of their own story as well.

King's Dragon by Kate Elliott Miserere by Teresa Frohock

Because mature and older women? They are not so well represented in fantasy. There are some; Kate Elliott makes a point of including them in her books and stories, Rosvita and Mother Anne are just two of those included in the Crown of Stars series, and more recently I loved Anna, the protagonist of Elliott’s short story “Leaf and Branch and Grass and Vine.” I know Teresa Frohock has wonderful mature characters in her book Miserere, which I confess is still languishing on my To Be Read pile. Robin Hobb has the brilliant Kettle in her Farseer books and Trudy Canavan’s Sonea returns as an adult in her later books, but those are the only ones I can think off when I glance at my shelves, without actually picking up any of the books.

So where are the older women in fantasy? Mature women who are the hero of their own story? In a bid to find them, I turn to you, dear reader. What are your reading recommendations for stories with mature women as the hero?