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Today’s guest is another of my favorite bloggers, Janice from Specfic Romantic! As indicated by her blog’s name, Janice often reads and reviews speculative fiction with a romantic element or subplot, though she also reads a variety of interesting books in general. I met Janice at the first Book Blogger Convention and was delighted to discover we had similar taste in books. She’s enthusiastic and fun to talk to and it comes through on her blog. It is a joy to read, and always features  thoughtful reviews, good taste, and a friendly atmosphere. You can also follow her blog on Livejournal.

Janice is here to give us a quick tour of some of the great science fiction and fantasy books by women that she remembers fondly as her early introduction to SFF.

Specfic Romantic

When Kristen asked me to post here for Fantasy Cafe’s Women in SF&F Month, it got me thinking about the authors that I first read when I was discovering this genre. I grew up somewhere where we didn’t have the biggest library, but by the time I graduated high school, I knew the four rows of shelves that housed the Fiction section backwards and forwards and I’d tried ALL the SF&F I could get my hands on. I’m probably similar to a lot of readers in that my introduction to Fantasy was when someone give me a copy of The Hobbit. I think that was in fifth or sixth grade. A couple of years later, my brother, and maybe 2 or 3 boys would share copies of Dragonlance books and talk about the latest David Eddings. Throughout high school I was a reader – I liked to just have quiet time to myself during lunch by slipping off to the library and reading for a few minutes. I know I just name-dropped a lot of male authors, but there were a lot of women writers that I was exposed to and they all left an impression too. I think when something is your “first” anything, it stays with you for a long time. Here are some of the SF&F books by women that made an impact on the early years of my reading life:

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy – Laura Chant knows her little brother’s sickness has a supernatural cause – so she asks for help from a boy at school that she thinks is a witch. Mahy writes some of the best coming-of-age scary-first-love-and-burgeoning-sexuality stories out there. The Changeover sits somewhere between contemporary fantasy and YA, and is the one I reread the most, but I remember reading and liking The Catalog of the Universe and The Tricksters too.

The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley – These were books I was obsessed with. I remember that the fact that a GIRL was a hero out there doing physical things made an impression on me with Aerin, but I may have related to Harry a little bit more for her “quietness”. Years later I still dream of having a window seat to curl up in like the one in Harry’s room at the Residency.

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy
The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – I’m the oldest of three and a reader, so I was a little sick of fairy tales where the youngest was always the ‘fairest’ and the one having adventures. I liked that Howl’s Moving Castle deliberately goes against that trope, and does so without it just being about an ‘eldest child’: Sophie’s sisters got to defy their pigeonholes too. I know that Howl gets a lot of the love (I like him too), but it’s Sophie’s character arc that got me. After this I went and read Fire and Hemlock and Dogsbody and loved them both, but Castle in the Air didn’t quite leave the impression the first book did. I think that was the sum total of the Diana Wynne Jones books our library had, so I didn’t read her other offerings until college.

By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey – I bought this at a school fair and I don’t think I ever read any of the Valdemar books (even though this one is a side story to that series) because they just weren’t available. I probably would have gone through them all like a knife through butter, because this was pure swashbuckler adventure. I adored reading about mercenary life from a female point of view, and I adored the Companions. Also, despite the bright colors of the cover, I liked its composition, with Kerowyn in front, sword out, protecting those behind her.  You don’t quite see many covers like that.

Star of the Guardians series by Margaret Weis – I already mentioned the whole Dragonlance thing, which explains why I read Weis’ Star of the Guardians (it was a full on glom for both Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman for a few years there), and this is where I fell in love with space opera. I haven’t read this series in years so it’s all very vague in my head but it involves an orphaned heir to the throne of the galaxy and his protectors who have a very complicated relationship. It was epic and awesome and I wonder if it holds up. I remember it all with happy nostalgia – just talking about it makes me want to go out and find myself copies.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey
The Lost King by Margaret Weis

That’s my list and it probably reflects when I was in school (eighties/nineties), and it has me wondering what’s on other people’s lists of their first SF&F reads written by women. Do yours overlap with mine, or are they completely different?

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Today I’m absolutely thrilled to have a guest post from one of the great modern masters of genre writing, Lois McMaster Bujold! Her mastery of and influence on science fiction and fantasy are hard to overstate. Her best known work, the Vorkosigan Saga, is a series of novels, novellas, and short stories that is massive in scope but executed with finely crafted attention to the people that make up her universe.  She has penned may other stories as well though: to put her career into perspective, her book Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance was recently nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel. It is her tenth nomination for Best Novel, and if she wins she will tie Robert Heinlein’s record for five wins (one of his was retroactive).  So, yeah, she’s pretty good.

She is here today to talk about the long view of this question of women who write sci-fi and fantasy and how today’s conversations on the subject have a very familiar ring to them.

Paladin of Souls Cordelia's Honor Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

As chance would have it, the invitation to write this guest blog post came in just as I was wrestling into shape an e-collection of all my old nonfiction writings. In the course of this I had revisited my introduction to the Women at War anthology that Roland Green and I edited for Tekno Books and Tor, and which was published in December of 1995; so I would have written it in 1994—in round numbers, almost twenty years ago. In the course of editing the anthology (a learn-by-doing experience for me, as so many things in my writing career have been), I confronted a number of the issues women writers were facing in the day. I thought might be amusing to check out this blast from the past in full. The 44-year-old Lois had this to say:

 

“An earnest young (male) fan once blundered up to me at a convention to offer his own impression of my military science fiction tales: “Ms. Bujold,” he said, “you write like a man.” To which I should have replied (but didn’t, because I don’t think fast on my feet—that’s why I’m a writer, the pencil waits) “Oh, really? Which one?”

I’m still trying to work out whether or not it came to a compliment. In all, since I write most of my adventure books from deep inside the point of view of a male character, Miles Vorkosigan, I’ve decided it’s all right; if I’m mimicking a male worldview well enough that even the opposition can’t tell for sure, I’m accomplishing my heart’s goal of writing true character. The comment worried me for a long time, though. A trip through the essays of Ursula Le Guin also shook my self-confidence. Was I doing something wrong? But then I wrote Barrayar, returning at last to the full range of a female character’s point of view, and I haven’t been troubled by such comments since.

When Roland Green and Marty Greenberg first pitched to me the project of coediting Women at War, which would be a collection of original military science fiction stories by women writers, my initial thought was that this was a concept that would have been startlingly original—twenty-five years ago. Then the idea began to grow on me. As one of the world’s more pigheaded writers (as my own editors can testify), it seemed to me absolutely necessary to give our own invited authors the maximum possible scope and range over which to work while still embodying the theme. That way, I reasoned, we would get not work-to-order but the best possible stories, from the heart’s passion and the mind’s most fundamental convictions. Thus the reader will find here of both science fiction and fantasy, light (and dark) adventure, and deeply pondered themes, short and long, from as many different worldviews as Roland and I could round up and cram in.

So I’ll turn my earnest young fan’s comment on its head—What does it mean to “write like a woman”? Not one damned identifiable thing, as far as I can tell. As any competent statistician can testify, from a general statement about any group of people (such as a gender) nothing reliable can be predicted about the next individual to walk through the door. The pleasures of editing this anthology have proved it to me; writers, if they are any good, write like themselves, and like no one else. And I thank them for it.”

Also back about then, SF writer and scholar James Gunn was hired to write introductions to some of my early Easton Press signed editions. (The first time I ever met James Gunn, he handed me the Nebula for Falling Free; it made a lasting impression on both of us.) With due courtesy, he ran the introductions past me for comments before he sent them in. In the second paragraph of the introduction to The Vor Game (1990), he started off, unthinkingly, hailing me as this brave new creature on the scene, a woman SF writer. Found new-formed and motherless under a cabbage leaf, presumably. “Wait,” I wrote him back (or words to that effect). “What about Andre Norton, Leigh Brackett, C. L. Moore, Zenna Henderson, Mary Shelley for Pete’s sake, and a host (hostess?) of other early role models? I’m nothing new just for being female!” To which he sort of said, “Oh. Yeah. You’re right…” and revised the paragraph to mention about half-a-century’s worth of the on-going sisterhood of my fellow female genre writers. All of whom he knew about perfectly well; but somehow when the narrative compulsion of the essay was upon him, he’d blanked.

The foremost thing that strikes me, looking back on these pieces and this period, is that we’re still having much the same conversation about women’s SF writing that we were having two decades ago, which is much the same as the one we were having two decades before that. Whenever it recurs (and it does), I am put in mind of a scene from the Disney movie of Alice in Wonderland. Alice, lost, follows a trail of animal footprints along a path – only to encounter a dog-like creature with whisk-broom whiskers walking backward over its own prints, shaking its head and sweeping out its trail into oblivion behind/ahead of it. Women have been here in these genres right along; why do conversations about its history keep erasing them?

(Although, derailing my own argument, in all fairness I have to observe that the vast majority of all writers in all genres are purged by history. The winnowing of time has always been intense.)

I am by no means sure that the issue is entirely a feminist one. It has an analog in another, similar conversation that has, to the best of my observation, also stayed identical through the years. A decade ago, Gardner Dozois, in his introduction to The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Twentieth Annual Collection (2002), says in his opening line: “Although critics continued to talk about the “Death of Science Fiction” throughout 2002 (some of them with ill-disguised longing) the unpalatable fact (for them) is that science fiction didn’t die this year, and doesn’t even look particularly sick.”

And like-minded critics were making much the same remarks in 2012, 1992, 1982, 1972, and 1962; my personal observation of the field does not go back farther than that, so I can’t speak for the prior decades. But I know which way I’d bet.

I have begun to suspect the structure of these two conversations actually creates the pictures that their narratives demand, regardless of the facts, perhaps through some kind of mind-ray. In each case, the demand is dramatic: we see the stricken SF genre on the longest deathbed scene in history, or the poor-little-match-girl of female F&SF writers, crying out for the essayist to rescue them (and thus grab the heroic role). I don’t know of any way to counter this other than to keep reciting the boring facts, although one has also to remember that one knows them. Which can be hard to do, when the mind-ray strikes out of the blue of some genre argument. Possibly it would be worthwhile to keep a list of fifty or a hundred female SF writers of note in a handy e-file, and just cut-and-paste it into the conversation whenever that bewhiskered dog pops up.

The emperor: pretty well dressed, actually. Can we please move this conversation along? My pick would be: “Science in science fiction—let’s have some!”

SidelinesLois McMaster Bujold’s e-book collection of three decades of her nonfiction writing, Sidelines: Talks and Essays, is now available in the Nook, iPad, and Amazon Kindle stores.

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Today’s guest is Sue from Coffee, Cookies and Chili Peppers! I actually discovered Sue’s blog because I met her through my local library. Now we frequently get together for lunch and coffee—and to chat about books.

One of the things that draws me to the book blogs I visit is an enthusiasm for reading, and I think “enthusiasm for reading” perfectly sums up why I read Sue’s blog. She gets involved with reading and discussing books as part of read alongs that go on throughout the book blogging community. Also, she writes great reviews and has a weekly feature for gathering books featured elsewhere on the web that sound interesting with the nicely alliterative name “Sue’s Saturday Suggestions.” Today she is sharing some of her favorite fantasy and science fiction books written by female authors—and considering the few I’ve read are among my own favorites, I’m definitely quite intrigued by all her recommendations!

Coffee, Cookies, and Chili Peppers

So You Want To Read Female SF&F Authors?

When Kristen asked me to provide a guest post for this year’s event I was both surprised and proud. The feeling of euphoria survived about five minutes and then the panic set in. I am relatively new to blogging and still struggle to believe that I have anything interesting to say, so my fear of failure looms large. However, I find it really sad that there is still a gender divide in my preferred genres, so I want to take this opportunity to talk about some of my favorite authors. I also want explain how I discovered them, because finding female authors can be difficult if your only resource is Amazon or an exhausting walk around your local library.

I am very fortunate that my husband shares my gender-blindness when it comes to selecting books. When we first met he introduced me to a lot of SF&F authors: male, female and undetermined. He was the person who had already bought a ton of Anne McCaffrey and Julian May titles, which I happily devoured. Since then he has introduced me to many wonderful authors, but two of them are my particular favorites.

Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten is the first in her Women of the Otherworld series and a book that I simply could not put down. It deals with Elena Michaels, the world’s only female werewolf, and presents a rather interesting twist on the typical shifter trope. Elena is wonderful character, who is amazingly strong emotionally and mentally but is nowhere near perfect. She is compelling and sympathetic as she struggles to make sense of her life. Later books in the series introduce more paranormal races that are often represented by strong females, making this fantasy world feel far more egalitarian than many others.

Bitten
His Majesty's Dragon

The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik begins with His Majesty’s Dragon. This series is set in an alternative history where dragons are real and are used as air transport. We first meet the dragon Temeraire as an egg being transported to Britain as an asset in the war against Napoleon. Given the male lead character and the strong military backdrop, this may not be your typical Fantasy title, but the dragons are such wonderful, ‘non-human’ characters that they make it thoroughly worth the effort. There are also some delightfully modern female dragon-riders who are kept secret so that they do not offend the delicate sensibilities of the males of the period.

After arriving here in the US, I made the effort to make friends by joining Not Your Ordinary Book Group at my local library. This wonderful group of women has introduced me to many entertaining female authors, although we do tend to steer clear of hard or epic SF&F and stick to Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. However, one of the other members shares my love of SF&F and I want to mention two authors that I have read because of her recommendations. I really appreciate finding people whose opinions I can trust, and she has never steered me towards a poor title.

Sherri S. Tepper has written many titles with an ecofeminist slant and has also published under various gender-neutral pseudonyms. So far I have only read one of her titles, Six Moon Dance, but I have many more sitting on my TBR pile. This title is set on a human colonial planet in the far future, where many girls die shortly after birth. This has molded the society into one where women are the dominant gender and men are their subordinates, wearing veils to prevent their attractiveness overcoming the females who see their faces. It is an intriguing glimpse of what our culture could become if women were more highly valued, but also shows the problems inherent with gender inequality.

Six Moon Dance
Elfland

Freda Warrington is another author with a large number of titles in her back catalogue. Elfland is one of her newer titles and presents a world where the fae are real. These Aetherials are magical and once they travel to the Other World they reveal themselves to be creatures much more connected to nature than we humans. They take on the aspects of certain animals, depending upon their family inheritance, but can also become much more connected with the world around them. Although they have many human problems, their world is beautifully imagined and I look forward to reading the second and third titles in The Aetherials series.

Finally, I want to thank the great blogosphere itself for providing the last two authors in my post. Last year I took part in the Once Upon A Time VI Challenge over at Stainless Steel Droppings. As part of the challenge I needed a Fantasy title based in Folklore and I found a recommendation for The Wood Wife by Terri Windling. This title is set in Arizona and incorporates aspects of both Celtic and Native American folklore to build a wonderfully evocative and magical world. It also captures the truly neutral aspect of nature magic, in the language of Dungeons & Dragons Alignment. It makes you realize how transitory and insignificant we each are when compared to the vastness of nature: something that I think we have lost in our modern world of instant gratification. For those of you unfamiliar with Ms Windling, she has been an influential editor and publisher, being responsible for the direction that Charles de Lint took in his career.

The Wood Wife
Range of Ghosts

The last author that I want to champion does not really need my help to raise her profile, but as her book Range of Ghosts was one of the most enjoyable titles that I read last year I feel that I cannot ignore her. I became aware of Elizabeth Bear through this event last year, which also makes her a suitable choice for this post, as she was one of the many authors that I added to my Women in SF&F shelf at Goodreads. Prior to reading the novel, I had thoroughly enjoyed her short story Tideline, which was published in Robots: The Recent A.I. edited by Rich Horton & Sean Wallace. This evocative and moving piece convinced me that I needed to read one of her longer titles, and when Kristen offered me an ARC of Range of Ghosts I nearly snatched her hand off! It was an amazingly imaginative title that grew increasingly impressive as the various aspects of her world were revealed. By the end I was totally hooked and will be making my way through all her other works ASAP, though they will have to wait until I have finished Shattered Pillars, which is one of my most anticipated books of 2013.

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This last week was a wonderful start to Women in SF&F 2013, thanks to all the contributors and their great guest posts! In case you missed any of the articles, they’re included in this post. I am also announcing the guests for the upcoming week and giving away seven speculative fiction books written by women. First, I’d like to bring your attention to another series that is going on this month that you may be interested in if you’ve been following this series.

Harry Markov is running a blog series “Women in Genre” dedicated to celebrating female genre creators. Throughout the month of April, he will be sharing one story a day about a woman in genre who impacted his life (examples so far include but are not limited to J. K. Rowling, Ursula K. Le Guin, Rachel Vincent, and Theresa Lucas from Fantasy and SciFi Lovin’ Reviews). I’ve been enjoying his personal stories, and if you read the comments on the announcement post I linked to, there are lots of female genre authors listed!

Week In Review

Here’s what happened last week:

Upcoming Guests: Week 2

I’m so excited about this week’s contributors. Guests for the second week are as follows:

Women in SFF Week 2 Guests

April 8: Sue from Coffee, Cookies, and Chili Peppers
April 9: Lois McMaster Bujold (Vorkosigan Saga, Chalion)
April 10: Janice from Specfic Romantic
April 11: Julie Czerneda (Species Imperative, A Turn of Light)
April 12: Rachel Neumeier (Griffin Mage, The Floating Islands, House of Shadows)
April 13: Deborah Coates (Wide Open, Deep Down)

YA Speculative Fiction Giveaway

Courtesy of Strange Chemistry, I have a set of seven young adult speculative fiction books written by women to give away! (This giveaway is US/Canada only.)

YA Speculative Fiction Giveaway

The books included in this giveaway are as follows:

Links go to each book’s page on Goodreads if you want to learn more.

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 “YA Giveaway.” One entry per person and a winner will be randomly selected. Only those with a mailing address in the US or Canada are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Monday, April 15. 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 place to send the book).

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!

(The giveaway is over and the form has been removed.)

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Today’s guest is fantasy author Lane Robins! She is the author of two fantasy novels inspired by the Regency era, Maledicte and Kings and Assassins, as well as four urban fantasy books in the Shadows Inquiries series as Lyn Benedict. While these two sets of books are very different from each other, the main reasons I’ve enjoyed reading both are the same: the flawed, human characters and the fact that neither shies away from darkness. The first Shadows Inquiries book, Sins & Shadows, is one of the stronger first books in an urban fantasy series I’ve read, and I particularly liked the inclusion of mythology and godly influence. Since I was rather fond of it, I’m happy to have her here to share three of the characters who influenced the development of her heroine in Shadows Inquiries.

Every character has her own sort of DNA, built not from the fictional parents a writer gives her, but the characters that writers have incorporated deep into our psyche.

Sylvie Shadows, my lead character in the Shadows Inquiries series, gained her DNA from three very distinct characters.

Mercedes Lackey is probably the writer I owe my writing career to, given that I was slaving along, trying very dutifully to write as my mentors demanded—pared down prose, adjective-free, adverb-free, smother-all-the-emotions, make-the-reader-work-for-everything prose—then I stumbled on Lackey’s books and said, this was what I wanted to do. Her writing felt free and fluid.

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

And of course, there was the character who captivated me: Diana Tregarde, guardian witch ready to face malignant occult forces. A tough but amiable heroine who could and did do it all: magic, martial arts, shoot a gun, drive like a demon, give useful advice to people in need, write popular novels, and fight for social justice. She was a superhero in a leotard and jeans.

The Diana Tregarde books were proto urban fantasy—still labeled horror & dark fantasy, but definitely moving into the urban fantasy territory. They were a mixture of detective story and magical malfeasance.

Then there was Tanya Huff’s Vicki Nelson. Oh, Vicki. If there were any single influence on Sylvie Shadows, it would be Vicki Nelson, heroine of the Blood books. I adored Diana Tregarde, don’t get me wrong, but in so many ways, Vicki Nelson felt like a weird and successful rebuttal to Diana.

Diana could do it all—take care of her friends and protect the world and practice witchcraft and martial arts and oh, yeah, make a living as a prolific romance writer, and still have time to date Andre the vampire. Lackey describes her as looking like a dancer, and Diana does dance through these books, light and confident. She knows her place in the world and never doubts it.

Blood Price by Tanya Huff Blood Trail by Tanya Huff Blood Lines by Tanya Huff

Vicki Nelson, on the other hand, is an ex-cop who had to give up her job due to health reasons, desperately trying to make a go of her new career as a private investigator. She’s abrasive and disinclined to take the change in her life well, juggling family and friends with variable degrees of success. Like Diana, she ends up dating a vampire (though also dating a police officer, go Vicki!), but in these books, the vampire is the romance writer which actually makes sense—given the long hours of his nights. Vicki’s life is cluttered and complicated and messy. Vicki has something to prove.

Diana Tregarde was a superhero, but Vicki Nelson….

I realized when Vicki came around that there was something I could love more than a witch fighting supernatural evil—a regular human, a human with a distinct weakness, mustering up the determination and courage to do the same. I loved that. It hits me in one of my happy spots—the idea that humans have the capacity to do amazing things. When it came to putting Sylvie on the page, I gave her a tiny, supernatural edge—a tinge of something not quite human in her bloodline—because unlike Diana and Vicki, Sylvie wasn’t going to get a vampire boyfriend of her own.

The last character that left DNA in Sylvie’s make-up may sound like a strange one. Diana Tregarde and Vicki Nelson are urban fantasy heroines after all; the lines drawn between Sylvie Shadows and them are direct.

But then there is Agatha Christie’s Miss Jane Marple. A diffident, fluttery spinster arguably dependent on other people’s good will. Sylvie is brash, outspoken, often rude, fiercely independent. Nothing in common, right?

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie The 13 Problems by Agatha Christie The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

Except Miss Marple is also observant, decisive, intelligent, and has a frankly terrifying moral rigidity. Poirot, Agatha Christie’s other protagonist, might occasionally let killers off the hook if the person they murdered “deserved” it. Not Miss Marple. There is right and there is wrong and there is wickedness, which must be rooted out. She’s merciless in the cause of Justice, calls herself Nemesis, and means it without any irony. Miss Marple is a force of nature. I loved the Miss Marple books. How could I resist letting her influence Sylvie? (I’m certain that Miss Marple would be dismayed at Sylvie’s actions. Dismayed, though not shocked. Miss Marple is unflappable.)

So Sylvie was born into print with a rigid black and white view of the world. I’ve taken great joy in blurring her world view into greys, but there’s still that cold, certain core: the wicked must be punished. That’s all Miss Marple.

Behind these great characters are three equally impressive authors. Mercedes Lackey has written or put a hand to over a hundred novels, spawned multiple popular series, and given us insanely memorable characters. Tanya Huff has written books all over the map: urban fantasy, second world fantasy, science fiction, humorous, serious, everything in between. Agatha Christie… well, she’s one of the best selling novelists in the world. Her mysteries are beautifully structured, and her characterization is compelling.

Three amazing authors.
Three amazing characters.
If you haven’t met these characters yet, go ye forth and read.

Lyn Benedict

About Lane Robins:
Lane Robins was born in Miami, Florida, the daughter of two scientists, and grew up as the first human member of their menagerie. She attended the Odyssey workshop, both of the CSSF workshops, and has a BA in Creative Writing. As Lyn Benedict, she writes the urban fantasy Shadows Inquiries series: Sins & Shadows, Ghosts & Echoes, Gods & Monsters, and Lies & Omens. Her website is lanerobins.com.

Maledicte by Lane Robins Sins and Shadows by Lyn Benedict Lies and Omens by Lyn Benedict

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Today’s guests are Ana and Thea from The Book Smugglers, a long-time favorite of mine! These two constantly impress me with both the quantity and quality of their reviews, as well as their insightful commentary and discussions. Their enthusiasm for books and reading just enhances all their wonderful content, which isn’t just limited to their site—they also have a monthly newsletter and write a weekly science fiction and fantasy column at Kirkus. Ana and Thea review a lot of books, both new and old, and they recently started an Old School Wednesday feature dedicated to books at least 5 years old. They’ve just begun a monthly read-a-long for some of these older titles, and they will be hosting a discussion of Terrier by Tamora Pierce on April 24th.

During last year’s event, they wrote about agency in fiction and offered recommendations for science fiction and fantasy books featuring female characters with agency. This year, they are engaging in their specialty—making me add books to my wish list in mass quantities—with recommendations for amazing young adult and middle grade SF&F stories written by women!

The Book Smugglers

Female SFF Authors Writing MG & YA

First, let us start this post by saying how thrilled and honored we are to participate in Fantasy Cafe’s annual Women in SF&F Month for the second year in a row!

When Kristen invited us to contribute an article this year, we ran through (and discarded) a number of possible topics until we alighted on one that is very close to our hearts. Often times, you’ll hear the dreaded “c” word regarding books under the speculative fiction umbrella: crossover.

How many lists have you seen espousing the wonderful, many merits of adult science fiction or fantasy books with “crossover appeal” for younger readers? How many times have you seen articles and posts that cherry pick titles that adults deem are appropriate for younger audiences?

We’ve seen plenty. And we want to flip that notion on its head.

Today, we present you with our list of female SFF authors who write explicitly for the Middle Grade and Young Adult readers, but whose books transcend age categorization. Simply put, these are awesome authors who create amazing works of speculative fiction.

We shouldn’t discount or separate MG and YA from the genre overall when we are talking about great works of speculative fiction. This becomes even more important in the larger context of great SFF and female authorship – because when we talk about women writers in the genre, we are also talking about visibility and recognition. We simply CANNOT ignore the fact that there is a vast (and growing) number of female authors writing SFF for young readers. Also, we should not ignore these titles because, hey, there is so much AWESOME being written in these categories.

We’re calling attention to some of our favorites, but you can see our goodreads shelf full of SFF Female Authors and their wonderful MG and YA books HERE.

All books on this shelf have a rating of at least 3 stars (or in Book Smugglerish, 6/10), and is meant as a resource for anyone new to SFF written explicitly for young readers. And, because everyone knows about Suzanne Collins and J.K. Rowling and Cat Valente and Kristin Cashore and Tamora Pierce, we’re limiting our list below to lesser-known female authors.

Life as we Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer Susan Beth Pfeffer
Notable Books: Life as We Knew ItThe Dead and the Gone
These apocalyptic science fiction books are among Thea’s favorites of ALL TIME. Epistolary novels from the perspective of two very different teens in very different parts of the country (one in the isolated countryside, one in the bustle of New York City), these books examine what happens to the world when a catastrophic astronomical event changes the orbit of the moon.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth Carrie Ryan
Notable Books: The Forest of Hands and TeethThe Dark and Hollow Places
Besides having amazingly evocative titles, Ryan’s books are haunting tales of a future world ravaged by the undead. Horrific but surprisingly beautiful at the same time.
Bleeding Violet Dia Reeves
Notable Books: Bleeding VioletSlice of Cherry
Bleeding Violet is one of Ana’s favorite books, and Slice of Cherry is one of Thea’s. Both take place in the nightmarish world of Portero, Texas and feature disturbing heroines who are more at home with blood and madness than anything else. Trust us – read the books.
The City in the Lake Rachel Neumeier
Notable Books: The City in the LakeThe Floating Islands
Rachel Neumeier is a noted author of adult fantasy, but we adore her YA books even more - The City in the Lake is a darkly romantic fantasy yarn reminiscent of Juliet Marillier and Sharon Shinn, and The Floating Islands features complex protagonists and political machinations on a grand scale (and dragons, too).
Kat, Incorrigible Stephanie Burgis
Notable Books: Kat, IncorrigibleRenegade Magic
These delightful, Regency era fantasy books are told from the perspective of one incorrigible twelve-year old named Kat Stephenson. Not only does she have a skill for magic, but she is charged with the tiresome task of saving her older sisters from their own nonsense. We dare you to read these books and not be charmed and amazed. We DARE you.
The Darkangel Meredith Ann Pierce
Notable Books: The DarkangelA Gathering of GargoylesThe Pearl at the Soul of the World
Meredith Ann Pierce is an old school fantasy author, whose work bridges the realms of magical fantasy and science fiction. Her Darkangel trilogy is elegiac and ethereal – while we haven’t this prolific author’s other work, we plan on running through her extensive backlist very soon.
The Boneshaker Kate Milford
Notable Books: The BoneshakerThe Broken Lands
We’re going to come out and say it: Kate Milford is one of the most criminally under-read and under-rated authors currently writing books today. Both of her Arcana books are jaw-on-the-floor AMAZING and we vow to do everything in our power to make sure people discover this exceptionally talented author. Don’t know what to read next? READ THE BONESHAKER. Please. DO IT.
Ultraviolet R.J. Anderson
Notable Books: UltravioletQuicksilver
Another criminally under-read author (at least in the United States), R.J. Anderson is an author of both traditional fantasy and science fiction. Her recent books, Ultraviolet and the newly released Quicksilver are psychological thrillers with a distinctive science fiction twist.
Vessel Sarah Beth Durst
Notable Books: Vessel
Set in a desert world where gods take over the bodies of willing teenage vessels, Vessel is one of those keeper books about coming of age, identity, and choice.
A Long Long Sleep Anna Sheehan
Notable Books: A Long Long Sleep
This is one of those sleeper books that flew under the radar in 2011 – but it’s one of the best science fiction books Thea’s read in a very long time. What happens when you retell Sleeping Beauty, but add a horrific, science fictional twist? You get some approximation of this masterful book, that’s what.
The Chaos Nalo Hopkinson
Notable Books: The Chaos
A wonderfully surrealist Fantasy tale of self-identity and discovery that mixes stories from the Caribbean and from Russia. It’s quite unlike anything we have ever read in YA (or anywhere).
The Thief Megan Whalen Turner
Notable Books: The Queen’s Thief series starting with The Thief
A brilliant series that gets better and better with each book. Playing with narrative formats in really smart ways and featuring a plethora of unforgettable characters in a Fantasy setting that examines politics and religion, this is one of Ana’s all-time favourite series.
A Wish After Midnight Zetta Eliott
Notable Books: A Wish After MidnightShip of Souls
Beautifully written Speculative Fiction with a Historical bend and exploring Brooklyn’s incredible, poignant history both now and in the Civil War era, Elliott’s books are always a pleasure to read.
Ash Malinda Lo
Notable Books: AshAdaptation
Fairytale retellings, Fantasy and Science Fiction: Lo has been writing a bit of everything and always featuring LGBT main characters.
A Face Like Glass Frances Hardinge
Notable Books: her entire back list but most notably A Face Like Glass and Fly By Night
Frances Hardinge is another criminally under-read author who everybody with even a remote interest in great Fantasy should be reading right now. Her books are mind-blowing, creative, incredibly thought-provoking and downright fun.