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Today’s guest is interfiction writer Kiini Ibura Salaam! Her short story collection Ancient, Ancient was one of the two winners of the 2012 James Tiptree, Jr. Award, an annual award for science fiction and fantasy literature that explores gender. While I have yet to read this collection, I was intrigued by her prose after reading some samples of her speculative fiction writing. I’m excited she is here today to discuss The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambara and the profound influence it had on her as a writer whose work spans genres!

Ancient, Ancient by Kiini Ibura Salaam

The Salt Eaters and Me

When I was younger, my mother’s bookshelf was my library. It was home to many novels that are central to Black woman’s literature. I could grasp plots that featured grown-up experiences, but much of the subtext and external references escaped me. This didn’t stop me from voraciously consuming everything I could get my hands on for I was too young to know the limits of my comprehension. There was one novel, though, that even the obtuseness of youth failed to carry me through.

There was not much of Toni Cade Bambara’s impenetrable novel The Salt Eaters that I could comprehend. After I graduated from my mother’s bookshelf, I went to Spelman College, where I was assigned other books central to Black woman’s literature. The Salt Eaters was referenced in my classes, but never assigned. Years later, Bambara’s American Book Award-winning work was selected for my book club. I was threatened by the mere mention of it, but deep down, I relished the idea of grappling with this enigmatic and illusive narrative.

When I started to read, I recognized the book’s merits: intriguing and engaging language; colorful, humorous, and perceptive characterization; a widely ranging fountain of references, which romp through Afrosyncretic religions, scientific concepts, Greek gods, activist culture, Southern life, and more, leaving no stone unturned. But within twenty pages, I was reacquainted with The Salt Eaters’ challenges.

The story structure is completely nontraditional. It is a whirlwind of memory, stream of consciousness, internal reflections, flashbacks and social commentary. The front story is supremely simple: over the course of the novel’s entire arc, a woman who has tried to commit suicide sits on a stool in an infirmary while a nontraditional healer tries to heal her. From there the narrative accepts no limits. We journey through the main character’s life (both past and present). Through the healer’s internal conversation, we meet a spirit woman who resides in the healer’s head. The main character’s husband gives us new perspective on the main character and introduces us to a local arts center along with its characters and coalitions. We bounce along with the thoughts and reflections of travellers, pausing to jump into their bus driver’s head where the spirit of his dead friend resides. The point of view is omnivorous, featuring many, many more characters than can be absorbed with ease.

Here is a novel that demonstrates complete disdain for the temporal. This is not due to an inability on Bambara’s part to frame a narrative—none of her other works follow this nontraditional structure. She insists on communicating one of the core tenants of the novel—that everything is linked to the larger whole and nothing exists without everything else—through the reader’s experience. There is no time or space that enjoys primacy; there is no privileging of the “now.” In the world of The Salt Eaters, nothing and no one can be understood without unraveling several strands of history and memory—strands that, when touched, further unravel, splicing into numerous directions so that you are left scrambling to keep pace with the vastly diverging and multiplying points of view that emerge from the fleet imaginings of Bambara’s pen.

Due to my advance knowledge that The Salt Eaters would be a challenging read, I started reading three weeks before book club (I usually devour a book in a week with time to spare). Initially, I felt as if I were doing more wrestling than reading. The spiraling thoughts and references are—quite frankly—exhausting. However somewhere around page 100, I developed a strategy for engagement. Whenever the plot strands were too splintered or we dove too deep into one character’s effusive point of view, I jumped ahead. When I found a plot point to pull me back down to the ground, I returned to the passage that had disoriented me. Whenever a new character was introduced, I bestowed imaginary space before the point-of-view shift, thereby treating each character’s vignette as a stand-alone story rather than part of a novel.

Once I was over the hurdles, there was plenty to fascinate in The Salt Eaters. When I am indulging myself as a writer, I love to play with point-of-view, visceral images and spirituality—and I recognized that impulse in Bambara’s work. There were a slew of quotable passages that I unearthed and shared with others. I found her bravura stimulating—the guts to write an entire novel in your own language with dizzying references and a spare narrative structure stunned me.

DARING TO WRITE WHAT COMES THROUGH YOU
Bambara’s daring to write what came through her exactly the way she wanted to did not just intrigue me as a reader, it energized me as a writer. The Salt Eaters does not situate itself in any specific genre. It’s not quite mainstream fiction, nor is it quite speculative; while it’s experimental in structure, it is not experimental in content. There is a tension between her wide-ranging intellectual references, her avant guarde approach, and her unapologetic concern with people of the earth—the salt eaters. Reading it was like downing a bracing double shot of something homegrown and bathtub-brewed. “Do what you want to!” it flashed at me in bright letters.

Writers need difficult books on their shelves—we need writers who throw tantrums, who disregard conventions, who make unwieldy works, not so that we can pattern ourselves after them, but so that we can dive headlong into our own version of inconsistent, indignant, messy creativity. For me, it’s not the content that I want to emulate, but Bambara’s bold decision to go her own way. I have spent too much time standing between genres, frozen like a rigid pillar of salt. I fear that my speculative readers will not read my mainstream works, but the truth is, I am not either/or. I have always operated in erotica, speculative fiction, and mainstream fiction at once. I am interstitial—I am a writer of speculative stories who is writing a conventional novel. I don’t know what that will mean for my career and my identity in the public eye, but I do know that a paradoxical novel like The Salt Eaters frees me to birth stories that range from the “normal” to the weird, and to claim them all unapologetically as my own.

Kiini Ibura Salaam

KIINI IBURA SALAAM is a writer, painter, and traveler from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work is rooted in eroticism, speculative events, women’s perspectives, and artistic freedom. She has been widely published and anthologized in such publications as the Dark Matter, Mojo: Conjure Stories, and Colonize This! anthologies, as well as Essence, Utne Reader, and Ms. magazines. Her short story collection Ancient, Ancientwinner of the 2013 James Tiptree, Jr. award—contains sensual tales of the fantastic, the dark, and the magical. Her micro-essays on writing can be found at www.kiiniibura.com.

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Today’s guest is fantasy author Juliet E. McKenna! She has written the books in the following series: The Tales of Einarinn, The Aldabreshin Compass, The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution, and The Hadrumal Crisis. While I haven’t yet read any of her books, I have recently been convinced I should read The Thief’s Gamble, the first book in the Tales of Einarinn, by Elizabeth from DarkCargo. Earlier this month, she discussed some of her favorite heroines in science fiction and fantasy and cited Livak, a thief from The Tales of Einarinn, as one of them and made her sound like a very fun character to read about. I’m thrilled that Juliet E. McKenna is here today discussing the visibility of women writing science fiction and fantasy—and what we can do to help make them more visible!

(Note: unlike most posts on this site, this one was long enough that the whole thing isn’t on the main page. Either click on the title of the post or the ‘more…’ link at the bottom to get the whole thing.)

The Thief's Gamble by Juliet E. McKenna Southern Fire by Juliet E. McKenna Dangerous Waters by Juliet E. McKenna

Inequality of Visibility for Women Writers.
What does it mean and what can we do about it?

In January 1999 I had the wonderful experience of going into my local Ottakar’s bookshop and seeing my debut novel The Thief’s Gamble on display as the SF&Fantasy Book of the Month and piled high right at the front of the store. That wasn’t all; a tempting discount sticker, still a novelty in those days, encouraged potential readers to yield to their curiosity and give this new author a try. Enough book buyers did just that to ensure that my second novel got the same level of promotion. After that my successive releases got their month of helpfully noticeable display on the New Releases fixture just inside the door. Meantime my backlist books could all be found on the SF&Fantasy shelves for browsing fans to find when they’d read the latest releases from their favourites and they were looking for something new. Not because I was getting any particular special treatment but because that’s how books were sold back then.

Fast forward fourteen years and how many new books are granted that level of visibility? How often are any debut novels outside the mainstream flagged up to potentially interested readers by Waterstones, the only remaining national bookselling chain on UK high streets? SF&F newcomers may still be shelved in the relevant section but the odds are increasingly stacked against them attracting enough attention to launch a sustained writing career these days. Readers simply don’t browse bookshops in the way they used to. Why pay full price to take a risk on an unknown author when perfectly good reads are on offer at the front of the shops and cheaper? Once such a useful promotional tool, discounting now cuts the retailer’s own throat.

(more…)

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Thanks to last week’s guests, it was another great week of articles and recommendations! There are only three guests left, although this month’s event won’t officially be over right at the end of April. I’ll be writing one or two more related posts, plus we will be releasing the final list of favorite fantasy and science fiction books by women that Renay from Lady Business is working on. (You can add your favorites here if you have not already!)

Before announcing the final guests, here’s what happened last week in case you missed any of these guest posts.

Week In Review

Here are the discussions that took place over the last week:

Upcoming Guests: Final 3 Days

Although I’m sad to see the month come to a close, I’m very happy about the final 3 guests! Here’s the schedule for the last days of April, starting a little later today:

Women in SF&F Week 5

April 28: Juliet E. McKenna (The Tales of Einarinn, The Aldabreshin Compass)
April 29: Kiini Ibura Salaam (Ancient, Ancient)
April 30: Kate Elliott (Spiritwalker, Jaran, Crossroads, Crown of Stars)

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Today’s guest is Sarah from one of my must-read blogs, Bookworm Blues! Sarah reads and reviews a lot of fantasy and science fiction books, and she has an enthusiasm for reading that shines through her great, well-written reviews. Last year, she also hosted an amazing series on her blog in which she gathered some guest posts by authors and bloggers to discuss disabilities in science fiction and fantasy, and she is planning to do the same this year. Right now, she’s discussing sexism—and claims of sexism—in genre fiction!

Bookworm Blues

If someone asked me who my favorite female author was, I wouldn’t hesitate to say Elizabeth Bear and I’d have no problems discussing why she is such an important author. I could go on and on about her creativity, unique worlds, excellent cultures, well-rounded characters, stunning prose, and the list goes on. In fact, passion for the genre and the authors in it is the thing that fuels my website and keeps my reviews flowing.

Recently I got into a discussion with an author about sexism in fantasy. This was interesting because it’s not something I’ve really thought about before. There will always be discussions about how female authors are different from male authors, and those discussions will always aggravate me. While I’m sure sexism does exist in literature, I don’t actually think much of what people consider to be sexist is actually sexist.

Let me elaborate. I love Elizabeth Bear as an author. She’s in my top five and I get all fangirl excited every time she retweets something I said on Twitter. I read everything she writes and I tend to enjoy her books so much that I can’t actually review them. I just foam at the mouth about how wonderful she is and put that on my website. I’m that big of an Elizabeth Bear fan.

I have never really analyzed my enjoyment of Elizabeth Bear in terms of the fact that she’s a female author. I have never sat back and thought, “Well, since she’s a woman, her writing is different than a man’s because (insert reasons here).” That’s why I had such a hard time thinking of something to write for this event. I don’t think of authors as male and female in more than an observational way. The gender of an author doesn’t matter to me in the least. It has zero impact on the quality of their writing. Monet was a man who painted more water lilies than any other human being who has ever lived. Being a man had absolutely no impact on his ability to paint them.

After I had the discussion about sexism in SFF with that author, I became a lot more aware of people accusing authors of being sexist, or saying an author couldn’t write some character properly because the author was of the opposite gender. It actually shocked me how much of that sort of dialogue is floating around that I’ve never really been aware of before. Then I got aggravated and I’ve spent a while silently simmering in my aggravation and trying to figure out a way to put it into a blog post.

I think people are a little mixed up. That’s the crux of it. It seems to be a common belief that women are more emotional and character driven than men and men are more obsessed with action and adventure. Then there is a common belief that because an author is male/female they can’t properly write a character of the opposite gender because they aren’t of that gender and thus, just don’t get it.

Perhaps that is all true, or maybe it’s not (I tend to fall into the second camp). What bothers me about these conversations is that they seem to divide people more than unite them. When we focus on how genders affect an author’s ability to write, we highlight differences more than similarities, and we help cement old, often unnoticed habits of categorizing authors based on the kind of underwear they wear. For example, I don’t think I’ve ever cared what gender an author is, or noticed if being a male/female makes their writing more emotional or whatever. However, after this discussion about sexism, I spent days thinking about all the books I’ve read recently, and wondering if the female authored books were more emotional and character driven than the male authored books.

And the thing about it is that thought patterns like that are so incredibly subtle. They just sneak in on a whisper and a prayer and before you know it, you’re thinking about the female authored books in a different way than you think about the male authored books. For a few days, every time I picked up a male authored book, I focused more on the action and adventure more than anything else, and I hadn’t even realized it. In reality, some of the most emotionally raw books I’ve ever read have been written by men, and some of the most active and gory have been written by women. Then you can throw in the mysterious fish like K.J. Parker, who is whatever gender you want him/her to be and what do you have? A mess. You can insinuate anything about anyone, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.

And that’s where I get aggravated. I think there’s a lot less sexism in literature there than people think. Just because authors write different ways, and their books all have different tones, doesn’t mean anything. We are all different people. We think differently, live differently, love differently, read differently and write differently. There’s strength in that. It causes a lot of diversity and differentiation. It’s the reason why libraries and bookstores are filled full of books that are all so incredibly unique. I asked Stina Leicht a question in an interview that is applicable here:

 
Q: A lot of reviewers and readers think that authors have a hard time writing realistic characters of the opposite sex. Your character Liam is (obviously) male, and he is incredibly realistic, well rounded and beautifully created. Was it hard for you to write a male protagonist? Do you have any tips for individuals writing opposite sex protagonists?

A: It’s a genre writer’s job to write about Other, if you ask me. Monsters, aliens, fantasy creatures… they’re a huge part of what makes Science Fiction and Fantasy Science Fiction and Fantasy. If writing about the opposite sex is too overwhelming for you — a large group of people who are easily accessible — then I don’t know how you’ll ever make a believable alien. Always start with the mundane and then move into the unreal. People are people. Men do have unique characteristics that are different from women, but it’s really not that hard to find out what they are. Talk to men. Talk to women. Be observant. Above all, listen don’t talk.

If an author portrays a female character as physically weaker than their male counterpart, they aren’t being sexist; they are probably being realistic. I will use myself as an example. I can’t lift more than twenty pounds on a good day. That doesn’t make me weak, nor does it mean that I’m weak because I’m a woman. I’m weak because I have a joint disorder that has forced me through six surgeries and will force me through a lot more before I journey into the great beyond. If an author were writing me into a book, they’d have to accurately portray my strengths and weaknesses. I’m physically weak but I’m strong in many other ways and the fact that I’m a woman has nothing to do with it. There are plenty of men out there with the same disorder I have, and they are just as physically limited as I am. Portraying a character with certain limitations and other strengths doesn’t make an author sexist, as so many are fond of exclaiming. It makes them realistic.

I can round out this incredibly long diatribe by saying that just because people (characters and authors) are different, doesn’t mean that sexism is everywhere. Nor does it mean that an author’s gender is impacting their writing in any huge way. Yeah, I’m sure gender does play some role in things, but so does the fact that the writer woke up in a bad mood and drank really crappy coffee the morning before he/she wrote (insert scene here). By picking out genders and focusing so much on them, we are attributing differences to writing styles and books that just aren’t there, or aren’t that important. When we strip away the genders we really see what the author is capable of, and what the book is offering us. Sure, I’ve read some books with some sexist characters and scenarios in them, but that doesn’t mean the author is a sexist. The fact that Elizabeth Bear is one of my all time favorite authors doesn’t mean that I prefer swoony, emotion filled, character driven fantasy. It means I enjoy a damn good story and I like it when an author can sit down and tell a damn good story perfectly.

Sexism? Yeah, it exists, but I think the way to truly overcome any gender bias is to get rid of these gender-focused discussions. We need to focus on quality, rather than plumbing.

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Today’s guest is urban fantasy author Amanda Carlson! Last year, a prequel novella in her Jessica McClain series, Blooded, was released, and it was soon followed by the first book in the series and her debut novel, Full Blooded. The second book in her series, Hot Blooded, was just released earlier this week. I’ve been hearing that these books are riveting, and I’m thrilled that the author is here to discuss sex in urban fantasy—and I’m also quite excited to be giving away a set of both books in her series today!

Full Blooded Hot Blooded

Sex in Urban Fantasy

When I started writing my first book, FULL BLOODED, in 2008 I had no idea there was a difference between urban fantasy (UF) and something called a paranormal romance (PNR). I read both interchangeably, depending on what I could find at the library. I knew one followed the action and one followed the romance, but as a female reader I loved them both. It wasn’t until I started querying agents that I figured out they each had a separate name.

And it wasn’t until I was published I figured out readers had very strong opinions about how different they should read.

It wasn’t a conscious decision on my part to write urban fantasy over paranormal romance. I wrote what I loved the most, as most authors do. I’m an action junkie through and through, so my story was decidedly urban fantasy—with a shot of romance to spice things up. That’s what I love the most in a good read. Give me the adrenaline, give me a strong heroine, give me adventure, and give me a little sex. Why the hell not?

But not all readers felt the same. Especially those who love “action only” in fantasy.

FULL BLOODED is categorized as an urban fantasy and shelved as urban fantasy, but because of the sex element some reviewers sill refer to it as PNR. That surprised me.

What I found most interesting were the male readers who picked up my book expecting action and getting a dose of sexy. They seemed the most put off that I had included a brief scene, some of them even encouraging me to write more like fantasy and less PNR in the future.

In trying to dissect why readers don’t always appreciate sex in UF, I tried to understand why and came up with a few of my own ideas. I think a bit of sex is expected, even if it’s not always appreciated, but the “romance” element is what can get in the way. Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books were decidedly UF in the beginning, but I’ve found most readers who love to read her are rooting for Sookie to have her happily ever after. Does that make them UF or does it change them to PNR? Or maybe they fall somewhere in between?

That’s an interesting thought. And maybe there is a difference. Maybe some current UF authors are falling into a hybrid area of UF, something more mixed with PNR? Maybe a UFR? I see Kim Harrison going in that direction, and Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews have already given their heroines mates/husbands.

I find it all very interesting. Especially when it comes to sex, which I happen to love reading and writing. And I guess that makes me a firm believer that UF can have it both ways.

To me, urban fantasy is still urban fantasy even with a little romance. If the heroine follows her journey, stays with the conflict, is the strong and dominant character, I believe an author has licence to make it as close to reality as she can. That’s what I am always shooting for. In real life many of us have spouses, boyfriend and girlfriends, we kiss and make love. It’s a part of our daily lives. To me, if you leave out all the angst and the “does he love me or not” internal struggles I think it still qualifies as UF.

But, in the end, I’m extremely interested in what you readers think. Do you think sex belongs in urban fantasy or should it stay in PNR? Is there a balance you prefer? Does it depend on the story/plot? Do you think UF with a shot of romance should be categorized at UFR?

Amanda Carlson - Credit- Paige CarlsonA Minnesota girl, born and bred, Amanda began writing in earnest after her second child was born. She’s addicted to playing Scrabble, tropical beaches and Ikea. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and three kids. Find out more about Amanda at www.amandacarlson.com or on twitter @AmandaCCarlson.


Jessica McClain Giveaway

Courtesy of Orbit, I have a copy of both novels in the Jessica McClain series, Full Blooded and Hot Blooded, to give away! (The giveaway is open to those with US and Canadian mailing addresses.)

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 “Blooded Giveaway.” One entry per person and one 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 Saturday, May 4. 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!

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Today’s guest is Heidi, who runs the excellent blog Bunbury in the Stacks! I discovered her blog last year and it quickly became one of my favorites. Heidi is very friendly and responsive to comments, plus I love her reviews and the insightful observations she makes about the books she reads (and as a bonus, she has stellar taste in books!). I also find interesting books highlighted in her “With Bated Breath” feature, and I’m a fan of her feature “Salute Your Shorts”—which is, of course, dedicated to reviews of short stories and novellas. I’m excited she’s here today discussing exposure to science fiction and fantasy written by women and recommending some books that sound incredible!

Bunbury in the Stacks

Growing up, the nearest bookstore was (no exaggerating) 180 miles away.  Needless to say, my exposure to books was largely restricted to the library and friends’ bookshelves. Imagining this, it should come as no surprise to you that I was allowed into adulthood with some massive blind spots as to women in SciFi and Fantasy.  I devoured Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Jennifer Roberson–that was what my library had, and I loved them. When on rare occasion I did enter a bookstore, I became intimidated by the sheer number of possibilities and usually selected something from one of these authors I knew rather than trying something new. And so, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I didn’t so much as hear staple names like Ursula Le Guin, Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, or even Margaret Atwood until college or later. Forget about being exposed to any lesser-known or established authors.

It wasn’t until somewhat recently that I realized a lack of exposure to women in SciFi and Fantasy wasn’t just a reflection of my childhood, but of the general reading culture. When I began dating my boyfriend a few years ago, I was horrified to hear him say he didn’t really read female authors. I was appalled at what I immediately saw as sexism coming from this person I had immense respect for.  How could you not read these women who had become my lifeblood? These authors that speak to my heart and connect me to characters in ways unparalleled. But then I realized it wasn’t that my boyfriend was being sexist, it was that he really didn’t know anything about women in SciFi, and didn’t care for Fantasy. As far as he knew, there really weren’t women SciFi writers–in a way his childhood had been every bit as restrictive to him as mine had to me. I shoved Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood in his hands immediately, and am happy to report that it was a successful experiment (we’re still working on getting him to read Fantasy).

When Kristen asked me to participate in Women in SF&F Month I remembered this occasion and became curious about the exposure to women in SciFi and Fantasy among my other reading friends not in the blogging community. I asked around, and was shocked to find that the predominant response I received was that they don’t really pay attention to who wrote a book period, unless it’s so amazing they must instantly read everything by said author. On the one hand, I’m happy to know that not caring about/noticing the gender of an author doesn’t result in gender playing into their reading choices, but on the other hand it makes me sad to see how few female authors’ names they could even list. They knew J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Stephanie Meyer, Mercedes Lackey, and Anne McCaffrey, but that was about it (one blessed friend did tout her love of Patricia Briggs, a woman whose writing I’ve only just begun to devour myself).

Residing in the online bubble of my own personal book community, I read predominantly female authors and predominantly female-run blogs. It has become easy to forget that women are still the underdogs in SciFi and Fantasy, and that there are so many amazing contributing writers out there that are underknown and underread. So today I will endeavor to share and recommend a few of the women authors in SciFi and Fantasy whose work has most struck me in recent years.

Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey

Kathleen Duey’s A Resurrection of Magic Series

Kathleen Duey’s books are heartbreaking and desolate, but strangely beautiful. The type where the tiniest kernel of hope forces you to hold on and keep turning the pages. Completely unique, some readers will find A Resurrection of Magic too bleak to stomach, but those who do will be rewarded with a stunning prose, a plight so real it will grip you, and the growth of power and strength that one woman can endure.

Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow Fly Into Fire by Susan Jane Bigelow The Spark by Susan Jane Bigelow

Susan Jane Bigelow’s Extrahumans Series

Susan Jane Bigelow’s series is a wonderful amalgam of SciFi and Fantasy elements, blending them marvelously to create a futuristic superhero minority struggling against government misuse and oppression. Bigelow’s work takes on topics of gender and sexuality, conformity, identity, and free will. Despite having many elements of dystopian/superhero stories I’ve read elsewhere, Extrahumans manages to stand on its own as an utterly original creation.

Blackout by Connie Willis All Clear by Connie Willis

Connie Willis’ Oxford Time Travel Books

Despite being one of the bigger female names in SciFi, I myself wasn’t familiar with Willis’ work until the past few years, and find far too many SciFi/Fantasy fans who haven’t picked her up. These books all work as stand alones (with the exception of the duology Blackout and All Clear), but also tie into one another in a fantastic blend of SciFi and Historical Fiction. I think this is a fantastic series for readers who enjoy Historical novels and are looking to read a bit outside of their comfort zone (or vice versa for SciFi fans).

And All the Stars by Andrea K. Host

And All the Stars by Andrea K. Höst

Despite my proclivity for both SciFi and Fantasy, I’ve never much gone for the alien books. Andrea K. Höst blew away all of my preconceptions of the niche by infusing her story with a character-driven humanity and a completely surprising plot. Höst writes in both SciFi and Fantasy, and quite frankly I don’t know a soul who’s read her and not wanted to pick up more of her work–she has that Aussie author magic.

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

Make that anything (and everything) by Frances Hardinge. Hardinge creates these fantastical worlds that will leave readers gasping in awe. Yes, she is technically a Middle Grade writer, but the absolute best kind. The kind that challenges young and adult readers alike through story, setting, and character. Hardinge’s heroines move from grudgingly naive to intrepid leaders, identifying in words that bittersweet function of the heart and mind that is coming of age.

Fairyland #1 by Catherynne M. Valente The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There Fairyland #3 by Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland Series

If we are to talk of Fantasy authors who create books that can span generations, I would be remiss not to mention Cat Valente’s Fairyland series. Though again, absolutely anything by Valente is recommended–she writes for various age groups in both SciFi and Fantasy, tackling short fiction and full-length novels with consistency, receiving many accolades. Valente is able to reflect how the world looks through so many varying sets of eyes, and is a gem for those of us who love to see folklore infused in our books.

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier

Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters Series

Finally, another hard hitter and popular name in the Fantasy world, Juliet Marillier is not to be overlooked. Her Sevenwaters series has revolutionized who I am as a Fantasy reader–it has made my standards higher by capturing my heart utterly and completely. Marillier understands that heroines cannot be put into neatly labeled boxes. That strength and resolution comes in many forms that need not always be in agreement with one another.

I’ll leave you there, hoping that you will sit up and take note when a woman has written a book you love, and that you will seek out more. A huge thanks to Kristen for organizing and playing host to this wonderful event, and for letting me take part!