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Today, I’m delighted to welcome Rowenna Miller! Torn, her recently-released debut novel and the first book in the Unraveled Kingdoms series, was largely inspired by her research on women’s fashion during the late eighteenth century, particularly apparel created in the midst of the French Revolution. It’s set in a historically-inspired fantasy world featuring a city on the brink of revolution—and a seamstress who literally sews magic into clothing!

Torn by Rowenna Miller

Women and the Authenticity Falsehood in Fantasy

Some people assume that there is a conflict between including strong, empowered, and diverse female characters in our work and retaining historical “authenticity” when writing fantasy. Readers seek “authentic” experiences and writers strive to provide them, and typically in a fantasy framework they are generally at least partially inspired by historical realities. But what do we mean by “authenticity”?

“Authenticity” is of course a moving target of perception—does this “feel” like the past? Much of what we assume we know about “the past” comes from a very narrow sliver of history, both chronologically and geographically.  When we begin to think about gender roles in history, our assumptions tend to emerge from European and American nineteenth century norms that were then challenged, re-established, and (partially) rejected in the twentieth century—and never existed in much of the rest of the world.  Though pervasive in our attitudes about gender roles, many of these norms were, in fact, specific to certain locations in the nineteenth century.

Yet writers who eschew assumptions about historical gender roles may be criticized on the basis that it doesn’t “feel authentic.” Why do we assume what we do about the historical roles of women?

Of course, when you’re writing fantasy, there is that whole worldbuilding aspect where, even though you’re inspired by or mirroring certain historical periods, you’re allowed to craft new social and cultural norms. You are allowed—encouraged, even—to make a world in which women hold positions that they didn’t in your historical cognates.  And if that isn’t enough permission, you can also certainly find examples in historical scholarship for a full range of real-life female involvement (thanks for already covering this one beautifully, Kate Elliott).

Prior to the age of industrialization, most Europeans worked in the same physical space that they lived, or very close to it.  Farmers are a clear example of this, but even tradespeople tended to work close to or in the spaces they lived.  This meant that tradesmen didn’t leave home to work, and women were not left alone to work in the home all day.  Breakdowns of tasks between housekeeping and trade/livelihood related tasks were often more fluid than “male” and “female” roles.  Both men and women participated in agrarian work or tending for animals.  Both men and women participated in trades.  Women were often silent partners in trade—which we know because widowed women were often “unsilenced” on the passing of their husbands, or worked in a trade on their own, including trades we often envision as strictly male, like shoemaking and blacksmithing.

When people began, however, to “go to work” outside the home more regularly in the wake of the industrial revolution, the dynamic changed.  The domestic sphere became more fully separated from the public one.  Suddenly we have very distinct roles and spaces for men and women—men in the public, commercial, occupational sphere, and women in the private, domestic, and familial sphere.  With this comes a lot of baggage—the concept of women as “the angel of the household” who provides not only household maintenance but nurturing and positive influence on men. She stays home, she delights in her household, she is a pillar of virtue for men to lean on.  This concept is reinforced in, for example, postwar twentieth century attitudes that cast Mrs. Cleavers as ideal and Lucy Ricardos as humorous deviations.

In short, the idea of women as cloistered domestic angels is inaccurate for most places in most periods of history. However, much of the media we consume—most of the “canon” of classic literature and film, as well as many contemporary works—is steeped in this tradition. We read, disproportionately, nineteenth century works when we read work produced in the past—our school curriculae and our general “well-read brownie points system” encourages this. This in turn becomes our touchstone for the past. When we think “historical” is it any wonder that the world of Little Women, Jane Eyre, or Great Expectations comes to mind?

What does this mean for fantasy writing? As we often tap our understanding of history to write believable fantasy, we often default to this understanding. This version of “authentic” follows us around like a persistent puppy, dogging our readings and whining when they challenge a particular perception, despite its limited roots in one particular historical reality.

In some ways, this is a very specific but particularly insidious version of The Tiffany Problem, where a reality doesn’t pass the sniff test of an “authenticity” seeking readership, thus is considered “unrealistic.”  (The Tiffany Problem gets its name because Tiffany, or variations thereof, is an actual medieval name, but anyone using the name for a medieval or medieval-inspired fantasy character would be laughed out of the room.)  Just as that medieval noblewoman might be a Tiffany, a seventeenth-century woman might be a blacksmith—yet the authenticity-radar blips for these violations of our incorrect understanding of the past.  Write a fantasy with a female blacksmith, and the reactions will include criticism of an unrealistic world and praise for a gutsy, inclusive challenge to the status quo—but acknowledgement that this isn’t really anything new is less likely.

They say that the past is a foreign country; in fact, it’s myriad foreign countries, and we could likely stand to earn a few more stamps on our passports when it comes to representation of women and women’s roles. In writing fantasy, we have the opportunity to play with our historical antecedents, but also to embrace them more fully in ways that reject monolithic representations of “authenticity.”

Rowenna Miller
Photo Credit: Heidi Hauck
Rowenna Miller grew up in a log cabin in Indiana and still lives in the Midwest with her husband and daughters, where she teaches English composition, trespasses while hiking, and spends too much time researching and recreating historical textiles.

RowennaMiller.com | @RowennaM

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It’s my pleasure to welcome Peng Shepherd to the blog today! The Book of M, her upcoming debut novel, is partially inspired by Zero Shadow Day, during which peoples’ shadows temporarily vanish in certain parts of the world due to a combination of the current angle of the sun and their latitudinal location. Though this absence of shadows usually lasts only a few minutes, The Book of M features a near-future scenario in which some mysteriously lose them for far longer and gain a power—but at the cost of their memories. I’m looking forward to The Book of M releasing on June 5!

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

The Time-Traveling Book That Made Me Love SFF

“There’s no time,” my mother said, flashing her ticket at me.

It was 1998 and I was eleven years old, all knees and elbows and braces, standing in the bookshop of the San Juan, Puerto Rico airport. My family was on its way to Tobago for spring break vacation, about to board the final leg of the flight. I edged deeper into the shop, racing the clock, searching desperately for something in English and for kids.

Then I saw it amid the cluttered stacks—not shelved properly, but tucked on top of a row of other paperbacks. The book looked old. Very old. As if it had been sitting there for decades. It had no price tag, and didn’t seem like something that was supposed to be there at all. The cover was faded blue, a pale clouded sky reflected against an ocean. In front hovered the face of a woman wearing some kind of steampunk helmet. Purple and white letters proclaimed, ‘Perchance: The Chronicles of Elsewhen, by Michael Kurland.’ It was a story about time travel and parallel universes.

My stepdad’s voice jolted me back to reality. “They’re closing the gate!”

I grabbed the book and dashed to the front of the shop, where my mother quickly fished some cash from her purse. Once squished into my window seat, I cracked the cover, drawing the irresistible musty scent of pages long unopened into my nose. The book already seemed important even then—the way I’d found it hidden backwards on the shelf, the lack of a sale sticker, the ancient smell of it. “Delbit grabbed hold of Exxa’s arm. ‘They’re coming up here. Take a deep breath and let’s go somewhere else,’” was the opening line.

I was hooked.

Perchance: The Chronicles of Elsewhen Cover

Perchance was the start of my love affair with science fiction and fantasy. I liked reading before, but my selection had been limited to whatever my parents bought for me. This was the first time I’d chosen a book myself, and it made me finally realize what kind of stories called to me, and what I wanted to do when I grew up. It was like magic.

Literally, actually.

I’d like to pause here on that note and say, yes, the title of this essay is written correctly. I didn’t mean the “time travel” book. I meant the “time-traveling” book.

A year later, my family moved across Phoenix, to the other side of the city. I’d since read everything I could get my hands on at the library, but Perchance still had a special place in my heart. I packed it into a box of books wrapped in paper towels, worried about it getting damaged, and taped the lid closed. But at the new house, when I opened the same box to unpack, somehow, Perchance wasn’t there.

I searched everywhere, but there was no book. My mother was skeptical, but I was sure I’d put it into the box, and the box had been still sealed when it arrived. For me, the explanation was clearly that Perchance disappeared itself. It was a book about just that very thing, after all.

I firmly believed it for a while, but eventually, the mysterious vanishing began to feel like a childish tale. Something I’d misremembered, or embellished. Magic wasn’t real, but grades were—and final exams, and SATs, and college applications. Like it does for so many of us at that age, my pleasure reading and writing took a back seat to course-mandated book lists. There was no place in serious literature for space ships or wizards, I was told. Then I graduated and got my first full-time job, where I read work emails all day, and wrote even more work emails all night. I had forgotten how much I loved the stories, loved discovering the worlds and cultures, loved the feeling of wonder. I had lost my imagination.

But a decade later, when I was moving from one apartment to another in Arlington, Virginia in my early twenties, my hands closed around the light blue cover of a weathered paperback novel. I pulled Perchance out of my suitcase and stared, awestruck.

It had come back to me, to prove magic was real.

I rediscovered my love of genre. I devoured novels by Ursula K Le Guin, China Miéville, Octavia Butler, Neal Stephenson, Ted Chiang, N.K. Jemisin, Charles Yu, Jeff Vandermeer, and more. I began writing my own fiction again, passionately, obsessively. I felt alive again for the first time in a long time. I felt magical.

Even after more jobs, more years, I remembered what Perchance had taught me. I kept reading and writing, beginning a novel of my own. I moved to New York, hand-carrying the thing onto the plane, having learned my lesson with boxes. In that new apartment, I carefully, purposefully put Perchance on the top row of a yellow bookcase I’d bought off Craigslist, where I could see it whenever I came into the tiny living room. But I kid you not: one day, I went to retrieve Perchance from the shelf while jokingly telling a friend about “my time-traveling book”…


But this time, I wasn’t upset. If anything, it reminded me even more of how important these kinds of books are. Books that open your mind to new realities; books that bend the world, or do away with it for something completely new; books that tell deeper truths precisely because they are fantastical or unbelievable. Impossible or not, I wished Perchance well on its adventures, and believed I would see it again someday.

When I was nearly finished writing the manuscript that would become my first novel, The Book of M, it finally appeared again, as suddenly as it had vanished. I found it in another room entirely, in a stack of books I hadn’t touched in years.

These days, I keep Perchance next to my current writing desk. I check on it nearly every time I walk by—it’s almost subconscious at this point, a quick glance that doesn’t even slow my step—but every time it makes me smile to see it still there, still with me. Maybe this time it’ll stick around. But even if it doesn’t, good books never really leave you. That’s the magic of them.

Peng Shepherd
Photo Credit: Rachel Crittenden
Peng was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where she rode horses and trained in classical ballet. She earned her M.F.A. in creative writing from New York University, and has lived in Beijing, London, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and New York. The Book of M is her first novel.

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Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Kim Wilkins! She’s a five-time Aurealis Award–winning author, having received it for The Infernal (which won both Best Fantasy Novel and Best Horror Novel), The Resurrectionists, Angel of Ruin, and “The Year of Ancient Ghosts.” Several of her other works have also been finalists for this award, including Giants of the Frost and both currently published books in her Blood and Gold series. Daughters of the Storm, the first Blood and Gold novel, is an engaging, character-centric book focusing on a royal family with five sisters with very different personalities and interests at its heart—and it was just released in the United States for the first time last month!

Daughter of the Storm by Kim Wilkins Giants of the Frost by Kim Wilkins


How I loved Princess Leia.

When my brother and I played Star Wars games, the year the first movie was released, he was sometimes Han, sometimes Luke, sometimes my supervillain-nemesis Darth Vader. (The dog always had to be R2-D2, but was rarely compliant.) But I got to be Leia and that was great. Easy enough to pin my hair in buns over my ears. I asked a couple of times to be Han, but my brother was always clear on this: I was a girl. I had to be Leia.

When I was in junior high school I read Tolkien for the first time. The weird, cool new girl in class who introduced me to his books insisted I read The Hobbit first, which I did. When I said I liked it but why couldn’t at least one of those thirteen dwarves have been female, she said you just have to pretend. She handed me The Lord of the Rings and told me, “Merry and Pippin are girls.” You know what? LOTR works just fine if Merry and Pippin are female. In fact, so well that I was almost surprised to see them cast with male actors in the Peter Jackson film adaptation.

Predictably, I started writing my first epic fantasy around the time of my first encounter with Tolkien. It was a cheesy quest narrative called Trek Into Freedom, in which the lowly seamstress Kai-Ann joins with the defecting senator Tamerlan to form a group of assassins with the goal of taking out the evil queen Lavinga (jet black hair, widow’s peak, cape with a high collar, commanded an army of bats: you get the picture). Along the way, they picked up rebel leader and wayward daughter of a nobleman Hila, magician Antara, a farm-girl (whose name escapes me but was likely equally improbable) with big hands great for strangling wolves, and assorted other assassins with fantastic skills and powers: all but one of them female. My token male, Antara’s brother Akturan, existed solely to be Kai-Ann’s love interest. I was barely into my teens when I started writing this, so I was making it up as I went along. I had no idea what I was doing in terms of gender representation or class representation (I was from a poor part of town, so apart from Hila, everyone had grown up without shoes). I just knew I wanted a story about girls like me because I was a girl like me.

Sadly, after 200 typewritten pages, the Trek Into Freedom fizzled out about twenty miles from Lavinga’s castle. I was flooded with adolescent cynical hormones and put aside my epic fantasy story to take up cutting class and smoking on the jetty with my friends, but I look back now and feel proud to remember how that story allowed female characters to be defined as more than just “female”. It bucked the Smurfette trend of the 80s, where all the male smurfs were named for what they did, but Smurfette only got to be a girl.

There is a lot of talk about this idea of “strong female characters”, and too often it means characters that act in traditionally male roles. That can be awesome: we all loved seeing Wonder Woman cross no-man’s land deflecting bullets with her wrist bands. But it’s complex female characters I’m interested in. Female characters with agency who respond to that agency differently from each other. They can kick ass, sure; that’s never going to not be fun. Or they can be conflicted. Or sneaky. Or annoying. Or frightened. Or defiant. Or eccentric. Or think with their vaginas instead of their heads. Or too loyal. Or not loyal enough. Or, or, or…. You get the picture.

When my daughter was 10, I took her to see The Force Awakens. At the end of the movie I said to her, “Wasn’t it great to see a young female character in the main role, making stuff happen?” She gave me a look that said, “Well, of course.” She’s grown up on Katniss Everdeen and Hermione Granger and Tris Prior and Clary Fray, and all those books and films where there’s more than one woman (one Smurfette), and they all do cool stuff for different and complicated reasons. When she and her friends play, she has plenty of roles to choose from. It only took one generation.

I still love stories about women. It’s not that I don’t like men: I actually think they’re awesome. I like good characters across the board, but it’s women’s lives I’m most interested in. That’s why Daughters of the Storm has five female protagonists—all sisters, all different. I don’t play make-believe games anymore, but as a writer I still have to imagine what it’s like inside other people. And the best part of my job is having a cast of many complicated, conflicted, strong, weak, and in-between women to choose from.

Just like in real life.

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Today, I’m delighted to welcome Cass Morris! From Unseen Fire, her debut novel and the beginning of a new epic fantasy series based on Roman history, will be released on April 17—exactly one week from today. While waiting for its approaching publication date, you can read an excerpt from the opening of From Unseen Fire on the Penguin Random House website (as well as her essay below, of course!).

From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris

Historical Resonance

Politics deeply divided between two parties. Rampantly rising inflation, and wages failing to keep pace. Armies hopelessly entrenched in foreign wars. Concern over the ability of the state to provide food and healthcare for the poor. Complaints from venerable elders about a degenerate and hedonistic younger generation. An influx of immigrants fueling the economy and unsettling the protectionists.

America in the 21st century? No, I’m talking about Rome in the waning decades of the Republic.

When I began writing From Unseen Fire in 2011, I had little notion how resonant some of its themes would feel a few years later. The book takes place in what would be, for us, the 60s BCE, the final decades before the collapse of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. The politics focus on economic insecurities, on a diversifying population, on the impact of colonization, and on women finding ways to make their voices heard in the public sphere. Those issues are perennial, of course, but they’ve all been magnified in the past couple of years, to the point where my editor and copy editor both commented on parallels they saw to figures from the 2016 election cycle. I didn’t intend that—no character in From Unseen Fire is meant to be an analog of anyone in the present—but I’m not sorry for it, if readers nonetheless see in them a reflection of our modern world. On the flip side, while nothing in From Unseen Fire is taken directly from history, it does all have historical precedent of some kind, none of it anachronistic by more than a couple of decades. The arguments in Aven’s Forum draw from those made in Rome’s by Cicero, Cato, the Gracchi brothers, and, yes, Julius Caesar himself.

It’s the job of sci-fi and fantasy to hold a slightly warped mirror up to reality, to show us ourselves through a tarted-up lens. It’s easier, sometimes, to swallow a political message when it’s wrapped in wizard’s robes or loaded into the cargo bay of a spaceship. It’s how Tolkien could get us to contemplate the purpose and nature of warfare, how N. K. Jemisin asks us to examine prejudice and power structures, how Terry Pratchett poked at nearly every aspect and assumption of society. Any number of articles have been written on the effect of the “Harry Potter generation”, positing that kids who read fantasy fiction grew into adults with a keener sense of social and political awareness. Think about the signs at any large protest from the past few years: chances are good you’ll see references to everything from The Handmaid’s Tale to The Hunger Games. At the same time, though, that fictional distance can also let people willfully ignore the message while taking on the aesthetic: witness the occasional attempts to co-opt the Rebel Alliance or Resistance out of Star Wars by people whose platforms are those of the Empire or the First Order (or worse, the subset claiming that the Imperials are the good guys and blowing up a planet was a totally justifiable response to a perceived threat).

The grounding that history can add to the SFF mix, I think, is a sense of just how often we as humans grapple with the same problems.

I’m something of a magpie historian, interested in many different eras and places, and I’ve noticed that again and again, the whole world over, the same questions crop up. Do we roll with cultural shifts, or resist them? What traditions are worth preserving, and which are inhibiting growth? How do we weather economic tides, both in our private lives and in the public state? Who gets to control our government: the wise, or the mighty, or the wealthy? How far can a political pedigree get you—and how far should it be allowed to? Democracy is great in theory, but what do you do when the people make choices that are less than stellar? Is some divine force guiding our nation and its destiny, or are we on our own?

There’s a trap here, too, though. History is largely written by the victors, and that’s not just about the victors in war: it’s also about socioeconomic victors. We know the most about the folk on the top rungs of the ladder.

There are prominent women in Roman history, of course, but because the histories were all written by men, it’s hard to sort out truth from propaganda. Women in the Roman historical record, whether Roman themselves or foreign, tend to fall into one of two categories: untouchably virtuous matron (Cornelia Scipionis, Octavia, Julia Domna) or power-hungry deviants (Livia, Agrippina Major, Plotina, Sabina, Boudicca), the latter often with a side of sexual intemperance (Messalina, Agrippina Minor, and of course Cleopatra). Creating fictional characters from a historical base often means stripping back layers of embellishment, then piecing together what’s left and patching the holes with guesswork, supposition, and invention. Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra: A Life does a wonderful job picking this apart from a historian’s viewpoint; the fiction author then has to apply that kind of work inside a narrative context.

The same problem crops up with other groups of people, too. Much of what we know about the Celts, for example, comes from what the Romans—their enemies—wrote about them. Caesar found the Gauls barbaric but thought they had the potential to be civilized (by, of course, Roman standards), but decided the Germans were beyond redemption. Diodorus Scaurus wrote that the Irish Celts ate their fathers, slept with their mothers and sisters, and generally believed them “complete savages [who] lead a miserable existence because of the cold”. Even the name we know them by was likely bestowed upon them by the Greeks, who called them the Keltoi, rather than being anything they called themselves.

Not exactly what we would call unbiased source material.

And then there are the people no one bothered to write about at all. Rome’s poor and slaves were by far the largest classes of its inhabitants, but they leave the least behind in the historical record. To find out what their lives were like, you have to go past written sources and into the real guts of archaeology—making inferences from the stories left on tombstones, from graffiti unearthed in long-buried walls, from the detritus of everyday life ground into the earth and forgotten for centuries. Mary Beard’s documentary series “Meet the Romans” is a wonderful example of a historian determined to bring social history to life rather than relying upon the broad, blinding strokes of the “great men” model of viewing the world, as is Alberto Angela’s book A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome.

I’m using Roman history for my examples here, because that’s where my mind has been living for several years, but the same holds true no matter what the place and era we’re talking about. In the author’s notes for The Girl in the Tower, Katherine Arden talked about facing similar challenges and excitement when re-creating the world of medieval Russia. Rowenna Miller’s recently-released Torn, though it takes place in an invented world, is clearly based upon meticulous research into the lives of average citizens in 1780s/90s France and England, just as Lara Elena Donnelly’s Amberlough invokes the atmosphere of 1930s Berlin. Any author dealing with historical inspiration, even at a tangent, has some wrangling to do.

SFF and history are often seen as separate genres, separate fields, fact versus fiction and never the twain shall meet. I’m not sure that’s ever really been true. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was a social commentary as much as the progenitor of science fiction, and Tolkien based the cultures of Middle Earth on those of Europe throughout the centuries. But I have a sense that the intersection of the fantastical and the historical is becoming even more potent here in the dawning decades of the new millennium.

Maybe it’s because the world we’re living in is one that puts the art of storytelling into a particular kind of crucible, where readers and writers alike are reaching for truth in a narrative that is part-cautionary tale, part-reflection, part-aspiration—and, perhaps, where we might be able to find the key to keeping our own republics from collapse.

Cass Morris Cass Morris currently lives and works in central Virginia and on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart. From Unseen Fire is her debut novel. Find her on Twitter: @CassRMorris.

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As has become the tradition since she first began the ongoing recommendation list project in 2013, Renay is once again opening this month’s series of guest posts! Renay writes for the wonderful blog Lady Business, the 2017 Hugo Award winner for Best Fanzine and one of my personal favorite sites for science fiction and fantasy-related recommendations. She also co-hosts the Fangirl Happy Hour podcast—one of this year’s Hugo Award finalists for Best Fancast!

Lady Business Logo

My journey with diversifying my reading started small—read more women—and it worked perfectly. I had several tactics to offset the noise from Culture, like adding two books by women to my TBR when I added a book by a man, checking out a book by a woman from the library if I checked out a book by a man, and a similar tactic with bookstores (although that became dangerous fast because romance ebooks are Tempting).

Times have changed, though, and my understanding of people and their complicated, fascinating, messy experiences became deeper. I found myself in the comfortable position where I read lots of women, but they were white women, cis women, and straight women. And worse, I would reread the same comfortable authors in these categories, diving into back lists and rereading books I loved. There’s no wrong way to read; I’m always adamant about that. But for me (and maybe for other people) reading is a kind of continuing education, helping me imagine the world more complexly. When my reading stagnated, spinning its wheels in the diversity grooves I had worn trying to make my reading more equitable between cis men and cis women, I knew I needed to change something.

The last two years, I’ve been challenging myself to read differently in a way that has been incredibly successful and rewarding. I do a challenge each year to read new to me women writers, with a focus on women of color and trans women (my goal is 30 but I recommend smaller goals to start). Now more than ever I believe it’s important to make it a priority to listen to voices so drastically different than mine, hear the stories they want to tell, and meet the characters they imagine. Reading, more than anything else I do, is the way I open the world and its vastness up to myself. Nonfiction is relevant to this, too, but fiction even more so, because of how powerful stories can be in humanizing other people and communities.

For so many of us, our understanding of who women are has shifted and changed over the last decade in ways we could have never have predicted. The way we think about gender itself has expanded. That means the way we engage in list-making, reccing, and reading will shift too, if we approach the change with curiosity and make space for different perspectives.

Here, on Fantasy Book Cafe, Kristen has worked so hard to create a space like that over the years, following the seed of idea I had that she has made into a massive recommendation list of women writers—over 2500 recs! The Giant List of Books by Women in Science Fiction & Fantasy started small, but because it’s our list—the people who read SFF and love rec lists and follow projects like this—we can make it a priority to choose recommendations that reflect our changing world. So this year, as you go to submit books you’ve loved over the last 12 months, consider the marginalized women writers writing speculative fiction that you’ve read and loved and share them with us. Let’s keep working on inclusivity, reading new-to-us voices, and then celebrating those voices when we find work we love.

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Since 2012, the month of April at Fantasy Cafe has been dedicated to highlighting the wonderful work women have been doing in speculative fiction. When closing last year’s series, I mentioned that it may be the last series of April guest posts—but I’m happy to say that 2017 will not be the last one and the seventh annual Women in SF&F event begins tomorrow!

However, it will be slightly different since I did make the possible adjustment also mentioned in that post from the end of 2017: keeping it a little smaller than it has been during the past six years. This year, it will be taking place on weekdays during the second and third weeks of the month plus part of the fourth week instead of extending across all four full weeks of April.

Next week’s schedule is below, but first, here is some background on Women in SF&F Month in case you’re not familiar with it:

For the last few years, I’ve set aside reviews and other book coverage during the month of April and instead held a month-long series of guest posts highlighting some of the women doing amazing work in speculative fiction. Throughout the month, guests will discuss a variety of topics—many of which will be related to women in science fiction and fantasy but not necessarily all since the goal is simply to gather a group of women invested in the genre in one place for a month and showcase the wonderful work they are doing. Past contributions have ranged from women discussing their own work and process to what they find best about the works of other women to issues of representation and equity in fandom.

Before the first Women in SF&F Month, I had been making an effort to read and review a lot of speculative fiction books by women on this blog—but it wasn’t always that way. After I started reading fantasy and seeking more book recommendations online, I found that very few of the books I heard about the most were written by women. I didn’t actually notice this for quite awhile since I just read the books that were supposed to be good without giving much thought to who wrote them beyond whether or not I considered them an author worth reading.

It wasn’t until I saw an online discussion about women writing science fiction and fantasy that I realized I found it a lot easier to name men writing books in these genres than women. After that, I started paying more attention to women’s names when they were mentioned (which was usually here and there instead of everywhere like a lot of well-known fantasy and science fiction authors). I discovered there were all kinds of women writing speculative fiction that I’d missed out on since I read a lot of the (mostly male) authors praised all over the Internet. While many of these recommended authors do write books I enjoy, there are also many women who deserve to be read and lauded just as often.

Once I realized women’s books did not seem to be discussed as much, I turned to reading and reviewing more books by women to try to make my small corner of the Internet a place where some of these books were featured. Then, in 2012, there were a couple of discussions on the Internet about both review coverage of books by women and the lack of blogs by women suggested for Hugo Awards in the fan categories. After these discussions and some of the responses to them (one of which was that women weren’t being reviewed or mentioned because they weren’t writing and reviewing science fiction and fantasy), I wanted to show that there were lots of women writing, reviewing, and discussing speculative fiction whose work should be recognized. I decided to see if I could pull together enough guest posts to spend about a month highlighting women in science fiction and fantasy. At the time this decision was made, it seemed most reasonable to aim for an April event—and that’s how April became Women in SF&F Month on Fantasy Cafe!

I’m looking forward to the next few weeks, and I’m thrilled to announce this week’s schedule:

Women in SF&F Month 2018 Week of April 9 Schedule

April 9: Renay (Lady BusinessFangirl Happy Hour)
April 10: Cass Morris (From Unseen Fire)
April 11: Kim Wilkins (Blood and Gold, The Infernal, Giants of the Frost)
April 12: Peng Shepherd (The Book of M)
April 13: Rowenna Miller (Torn)