Today I’m happy to welcome the author of some of my favorite books, Freda Warrington! The first of her novels I read, Elfland, became one of my favorite books for its beautiful writing, memorable main characters, and sheer readability. I’ve wanted to read more of her previous books ever since discovering it, and I was thrilled when I learned her Blood Wine Sequence was being republished since I’d heard this vampire series was especially good. The first two of these novels, A Taste of Blood Wine and A Dance in Blood Velvet, are now available in both the US and the UK with the third book, The Dark Blood of Poppies, coming out in the UK on May 9 (and the US this fall).  A brand new fourth book in the series, The Dark Arts of Blood, is coming out next year. Since I love A Taste of Blood Wine even more than Elfland—it’s currently my favorite of her books I’ve read—I am delighted she is here to talk about vampire fiction today!

A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington A Dance in Blood Velvet by Freda Warrington The Dark Blood of Poppies by Freda Warrington

Vampire Fiction – Where Next?

“Every age embraces the vampire it needs.” – Nina Auerbach, Our Vampires, Ourselves.

The mythology of the vampire has existed throughout human history and in every culture. Now that vampires have become a staple of romantic fiction, it’s interesting to reflect how utterly horrific the original folklore actually was: rooted in a fear that your dead relatives might claw their way out of the grave and come back to suck out your life force! In past ages when people died of plagues, when illness, infection and death were not properly understood, and “magical thinking” reigned – a failure to connect cause with effect – this fear must have had a ghastly hold on the imagination. All sorts of terrifying things may dwell in the darkness beyond the safety of our fireside, but vampires have proved singularly powerful and enduring. When your crops fail or your cows die, how much easier to blame this on a conscious, evil force – the witch, the vampire, the grumpy old woman who lives with her cat – than to accept your misfortune as the caprice of nature.

The Vampyre (1819, John Polidori) is acknowledged as the first piece of vampire fiction published, marking a shift from superstitious belief towards the vampire as a literary metaphor: the foreigner, the outsider who inveigles his or her way among humans and upsets the social order. There are earlier works of poetry from the eighteenth century, revealing how folklore found its way from oral storytelling into early modern literature. An example is the hypnotically sensual poem “Christabel” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge), which seems likely to have inspired the story Carmilla by JS LeFanu. If only STC had finished that poem!

Carmilla is one of my favourite vampire tales. In turn, it was acknowledged by Bram Stoker as a major influence on Dracula. Rereading the story recently, I realised how flawed it is – the ending is rushed, leaving many loose threads – but the character of Carmilla remains compelling. As a beautiful, vulnerable, needy, very human-seeming girl who latches onto the narrator Laura like a best-friend-come-lover, Carmilla caught my imagination when I was young, and still holds a place there. It was only on rereading, however, that I realised what an incredibly creepy character she is. Her vulnerability is a sham. She is actually pretending to be human by mimicking Laura. I should have noticed first time round, right? But Carmilla took me in, as she did her prey. She is actually a kind of intelligent, calculating leech, doomed to kill the one she loves. Has any vampire since sent such a shiver down the spine? Like Laura, I still hear her soft footstep outside the drawing room door…

And that’s why I count Carmilla as a major inspiration of my own vampire novels.

We’re all familiar with Dracula, of course, and over the course of the twentieth century we’ve seen him morph from horrifying old man in the original novel, to dangerous foreigner (Bela Lugosi), to dark but disturbingly sexy villain in the Hammer Horror films (thank you, Christopher Lee!) to romantic idol in the 1979 Dracula film, starring Frank Langella – who, I must confess, remains my favourite Dracula. But – he’s more attractive than horrifying, no?

I’ve always found vampires more intriguing than monstrous. It drove me nuts that they must be hunted down and staked, and never allowed to explain, to put their own side of the story, to enjoy some plot and character development before the stake went in!

In the late 1970s, along came Anne Rice to change all that. Here were vampires as thinking, feeling creatures with their own stories to tell. They also had supernatural beauty and poetic souls that Ms Rice’s readers found utterly captivating.

Personally, though, I remained frustrated that relationships between humans and vampires were still shown to be impossible – that’s part of their tragedy, of course. But I kept wondering how it would be if you could break through the barriers and come to know this alluring creature, not as predator and prey, but as an equal? I couldn’t find that book, so guess what – I decided to write it myself! And that, in the early 1980s, inspired me to begin my own vampire series (A Taste of Blood Wine, A Dance in Blood Velvet, The Dark Blood of Poppies and (coming in 2015) The Dark Arts of Blood).

When Interview with the Vampire became huge in the late 1980s, I told my agent I’d got this novel that I’d written just to please myself… Only to be told that “Vampires are over!” I’ve been hearing that vampires are “over” for the last twenty years, yet they still keep rising from the grave!

Can this continue indefinitely?

To examine the lasting appeal of the vampire requires essays, theses, academic tomes – of which there are many. In short, I believe the answer lies in their paradoxical nature. They represent things we fear – death, blood, illness, the dead rising from the grave to suck out the life force of the living – and also things we may desire, such as immortality, eternal youth, and power over others. We love to be scared, and we love the erotic undercurrents of forbidden love. Put these together, and you can appreciate why vampires remain so eternally appealing.

Over the last thirty years or so, vampire fiction has spread like the plague that overtakes humankind in Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. Vampires branched out into new genres: science fiction, comedy, occult detective thrillers, romance, alternative history. In the Anno Dracula series, Kim Newman presents a post-modern twist in which Count Dracula – rather logically – is not defeated but goes on to conquer Great Britain and marry Queen Victoria. Why wouldn’t he? Authors like myself are faced with the dilemma of finding convincing reasons why vampires, if they’re so powerful, DON’T take over the world! Answers? Maybe they don’t want to. Maybe they’re not as strong as they seem. Perhaps some external control puts a brake on them. Or they’re fighting among themselves too much… and so on.

From Anne Rice to Brian Lumley to Stephen King to Nancy Collins to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Blade to Charlaine Harris and authors too numerous to mention, the versatility of the undead has become overwhelming. A veritable vampire overdose, even before the phenomenon of Twilight hit us! A glance at Amazon’s new releases reveals a teetering avalanche of paranormal romance, mostly American, mostly aimed at the Young Adult market, and mostly (it seems to me) written in a similar tone of voice: street-smart, flippant, heavy on sexual content but short on emotional depth. And nearly always battling werewolves, witches, faeries, demons…

Do I sound a bit judgmental? I’m a fine one to talk, having authored three (nearly four) romantic gothic novels in which the vampires are elegant, sexy, and conflicted rather than black-and-white in their morality. In mitigation, I first wrote the books twenty-plus years ago, and I wrote them from a place of deep, dark daydreams and passions that owed nothing at all to the new wave. I had a lot to express about psychology and mythology and gender issues, and it all came out through the adventures of Karl, Charlotte and Violette.

They were the vampires I needed at the time.

I don’t think us “veterans” of the genre could have predicted, let alone understood, the mass appeal of Twilight. I did eventually read the first three, and although they were better than I’d been led to expect, they left me faintly nauseous, like too much candy floss. Every rule of good storytelling was broken, yet all that teenage angst struck a nerve with millions! Some commentators have fretted that Ms Meyer’s work has ruined vampires forever, turning them into the horror equivalent of My Little Pony.

No. We’ll get over it. All fads fade, and the good stuff, the atmospheric cobwebby classics, endure.

But has the genre been diluted too far by endless teen paranormal fantasies? Over the past few years we’ve seen the market grow and grow, like a balloon filling up with water until it’s wobbling dangerously on the verge of going *sploosh* over everything… and yet it keeps on getting bigger, swelling and wobbling away.

One problem with vampires no longer being the “bad guys” is that they have, in some portrayals, become (excuse the term) emasculated. We see vampires drinking blood from bottles, only preying on animals, or abstaining completely. Fine, if that’s what the writer wants to do – each to their own – but personally I like my vampires to be vampires! Yes, they can have moral struggles over how they live, but I don’t see the point of having a blood-drinker as a character, only to defang him.

So what does the future hold?

Well, I don’t think vampires will go away – the genre’s now as well-established as any other, be it romance, crime, historical, science fiction, epic fantasy et al. On the positive side, there has been a massive moral shift within society that is mirrored by what authors and their vampires are getting up to these days. From Victorian times, right up until the 1970s, the sensual element of vampirism was shown to be wrong, out of order, part of the Evil. Yes, titillating (in its hypocritical way), but still BAD. Women were (mostly) victims, and any female character acting on her sexuality – perhaps displaying a little too much cleavage, going out for a midnight tryst, or enjoying Dracula’s attentions – would be punished by death. The “good girl” who stuck to society’s norms would be rescued (by her heroic man) and saved.

That, thank heaven, has changed. In my novel, The Dark Blood of Poppies, Violette (who identifies with the demon-goddess Lilith) has been “brainwashed” in a sense by her deranged father to believe that All Women Are Evil. Her journey involves deconstructing the lies she’s been told, and part of that means coming to understand Lilith as an archetype who represents everything women are not “supposed” to be. When I wrote the book, those old patriarchal ideas were receiving an almighty challenge (from feminist scholars) that was long overdue. Although society still has a long way to go on the equality front, it’s finally okay for female characters to be equal, to be sexy, to take the lead, to slay the vampire, love the vampire or to BE the vampire, without being punished.

That’s a good direction to be heading. I can’t predict the next big revival – if only! – but what will keep the genre going, as ever, is good authors telling strong stories.

Modern vampire fiction has come to embrace all shades of fluid gender and sexuality, with the vampire as a sharp focus for questions of morality. Men are no longer just macho cardboard heroes or villains, women are no longer mere victims. All are free to be human.

Even the vampires.

Women in SF&F Month Banner

The third annual Women in SF&F Month here at Fantasy Cafe has come to an end. Thank you to all of this year’s participants—without each of them, this monthly series of guest posts would not be possible, and I’ve been blown away by the amazing articles that were written for it!

For the last post of this year’s event, I just want to talk a bit about why I’ve begun this annual event and share some resources that show there all all kinds of science fiction and fantasy books written by women.

Like Trudi Canavan and Beth Bernobich, I’ve seen comments that “women don’t read/write science fiction and fantasy.” A large part of why I started this annual event was in response to those comments, which are mind-boggling when there are so many wonderful writers of these genres who are women—when there are women like N. K. Jemisin, Kate Elliott, Patricia A. McKillip, Lois McMaster Bujold, Karen Lord, Tanya Huff, Elizabeth Bear, Tananarive Due, Freda Warrington, Robin Hobb, Karin Lowachee, Laini Taylor, Martha Wells, Kristin Cashore, Nancy Kress, Carol Berg, Rachel Neumeier, Marie Brennan, Teresa Frohock, Catherine Asaro, Rachel Hartman, Courtney Schafer, and so many more writing excellent science fiction and fantasy books. I was also dismayed to see comments that women did not read and review these genres when I myself do and also read many blogs by women who do the same—Angieville, The Book Smugglers, The Little Red Reviewer, My Bookish Ways, Sci-Fi Fan Letter, Spec-fic Romantic, and many more.

It’s a bigger problem than a few people on the Internet who wrongly believe there are not women writing, reading, and discussing science fiction and fantasy, though. In general, women’s books are often reviewed less than men’s in a variety of publications containing book reviews. Strange Horizons has also compiled stats showing that nearly half of the science fiction/fantasy books Locus receives for review are by women but a lot of SFF venues that review books are not even close to covering an equal proportion of books by men and women. There are some caveats mentioned regarding the book count, such as some of them being reprints instead of new books published that year, but the 2012 count did show that about 46% of books received from the US and UK combined were written or edited by women and about 53% by men (with a few books that were by both and a few unknown). Over half of the SF venues they tracked reviewed books by women roughly 1/4 of the time or less. (After I wrote most of this post, they released the 2013 count.)

These have contributed to my decision to spend the month of April highlighting and hearing from some women writing these genres. Before then, I felt like women’s books were not reviewed as much on book blogs so I already reviewed a lot of books by women. This was before I saw these statistics for blog reviews by gender compiled by Renay at Lady Business, but that was also a contributing factor in the first Women in SF&F Month. I do think I see more books reviewed by women on blogs than I used to as more people have become aware of this issue—and that’s why looking at statistics like these is so important. I don’t think many people do pay attention to whether or not the authors of the books they are reading are men or women—I know I never used to think about it, and it wasn’t until I saw a discussion about women writing speculative fiction that I realized I found it a lot easier to name men writing these genres than women. Only by knowing about it can we begin to change it.

Fortunately, there are lots of places to find information on women writing speculative fiction and recommendations for their books. During the three months total that have comprised Women in SF&F Month, there have been guest posts by many authors and bloggers who are women—and mainly different women during these three months since I have been trying to invite (at least mostly) different guests from year to year. Many of these guests have mentioned some of their own favorite books by women so there have been lots of recommendations as well. In particular, I’d like to point out:

The 2013 List of SFF Books by Women
Last year, Renay from Lady Business asked for people to submit some of their favorite speculative fiction books by women. The response was amazing, and it resulted in a list of over 800 individual books by women (many people recommended the same books multiple times and the list shows how many times each book was recommended). After this year, we’ll have a 2014 list and that will eventually be merged with the 2013 list to make an even bigger list.

The Book Smuggler’s List of Female SFF Authors Writing YA/MG
Last year, Ana and Thea of The Book Smugglers recommended some of their favorite lesser known YA/MG books by women and also shared a Goodreads shelf containing over 100 recommendations total.

Trudi Canavan’s List of Australian Women Writing Alternate World Fantasy
Trudi Canavan discovered that about 2/3 of Australian fantasy fiction is written by women, and she also compiled a list of Australian fantasy writers with links to their Goodreads pages.

There are also a variety of resources elsewhere on the Internet that show the great number of SFF books by women:

SF Mistressworks
Ian Sales began this site to collect reviews of science fiction books written by women published during or before the twentieth century.

Andrea K. Höst’s List of Female Authors with Books on Her Keeper Shelf
Andrea K. Höst provided a list of 99 authors on her keeper shelf at The Book Smugglers. There are also many more authors mentioned in the comments.

Non-European Fantasy by Women
This list, compiled by Martha Wells and hosted at The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf and Book Review, contains a lot of recommendations for fantasy books by women set in non-European settings.

Science Fiction Romance Authors
Heather at The Galaxy Express has a list of authors of science fiction romance by decade, starting with the 1930s. While not all of these authors are women, many of them are. (You can also read her guest post from this year to find additional resources for discovering more science fiction romance.)

Female Science Fiction Author Reading List
Jessica at Sci-Fi Fan Letter started a reading list of science fiction books by women with their subgenre.

FeministFantasy.com
While this site has books by both male and female authors, it is a great place for finding recommendations for books that are feminist friendly.

It’s been a very busy month and I haven’t read a single book (eek!). I am now going to take a break from blogging and spend some of my weekend reading, but check back on Wednesday for a guest post on vampire fiction written by Freda Warrington, author of the Blood Wine Sequence!

Women in SF&F Month Banner

As Beth Bernobich said in her eloquent article “The Invisible Woman” toward the beginning of April:

 

Women write SF/F, but if no one talks about us, it only perpetuates the myth we don’t write in the genre. So. Tell your friends about that amazing author you discovered. Write that review on Amazon. Add that author and their books to the next Goodreads list you make. And maybe, with all the talk, the next conversation about books in the genre will include their names.

After the guest posts have all been posted, I usually write one post doing exactly this—talking about science fiction and fantasy by women. I thought a lot about which books to discuss this year. There are some excellent books written by women that I’ve read since this time last year (such as A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington, Warchild by Karin Lowachee, and The Silvered by Tanya Huff), but I kept coming back to how many great-sounding books are coming out later this year, many of which are written by women, and decided to write about upcoming 2014 releases.

Although there are many upcoming releases written by this year’s participants I’m very excited about (Tainted Blood by M. L. Brennan, Champion of the Scarlet Wolf by Ginn Hale, Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter, Thief’s Magic by Trudi Canavan, I could go on and on!), I’m going to write about books by authors not participating this month to get some different books and names out there. Some books are by favorite authors or in favorite series and others are by authors I’ve never read before, but they all have one thing in common—they all sound wonderful! In order of release date, here is my list.

Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold
Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold
Release Date: May 27

I haven’t yet read any of Jane Lindskold’s books, but I’ve heard good things about them and I love the sound of Artemis Awakening. Rediscovery of a forgotten planet of legend and a psych-linked puma companion?! I have to read this book!

 

Artemis Awakening is the start of a new series by New York Times bestseller Jane Lindskold. The distant world Artemis is a pleasure planet created out of bare rock by a technologically advanced human empire that provided its richest citizens with a veritable Eden to play in. All tech was concealed and the animals (and the humans brought to live there) were bioengineered to help the guests enjoy their stay…but there was always the possibility of danger so that visitors could brag that they had “bested” the environment.

The Empire was shattered in a horrific war; centuries later humanity has lost much of the advanced technology and Artemis is a fable told to children. Until young archeologist Griffin Dane finds intriguing hints that send him on a quest to find the lost world. Stranded on Artemis after crashing his ship, he encounters the Huntress Adara and her psych-linked companion, the puma Sand Shadow. Their journey with her will lead Dane to discover the planet’s secrets…and perhaps provide a key to give unimagined power back to mankind.

Unexpected Stories by Octavia E. Butler
Unexpected Stories by Octavia E. Butler
Release Date: June 24

Two new stories by Octavia Butler are going to be released as an e-book next month! I’ve only read her novel Parable of the Sower, but it was excellent and I’d like to read more of her stories.

 

Two never-before-published stories from the archives of one of science fiction’s all-time masters

The novella “A Necessary Being” showcases Octavia E. Butler’s ability to create alien yet fully believable “others.” Tahneh’s father was a Hao, one of a dwindling race whose leadership abilities render them so valuable that their members are captured and forced to govern. When her father dies, Tahneh steps into his place, both chief and prisoner, and for twenty years has ruled without ever meeting another of her kind. She bears her loneliness privately until the day that a Hao youth is spotted wandering into her territory. As her warriors sharpen their weapons, Tahneh must choose between imprisoning the newcomer—and living the rest of her life alone.

The second story in this volume, “Childminder,” was commissioned by Harlan Ellison for his legendary (and never-published) anthology The Last Dangerous Visions™. A disaffected telepath connects with a young girl in a desperate attempt to help her harness her growing powers. But in the richly evocative fiction of Octavia E. Butler, mentorship is a rocky path, and every lesson comes at a price.

Child of a Hidden Sea by A. M. Dellamonica
Child of a Hidden Sea by A. M. Dellamonica
Release Date: June 24

Indigo Springs, A. M. Dellamonica’s debut, is supposed to be very good, and I’m quite interested in her next book and reading about a smart, determined heroine facing the challenges of politics and a conspiracy.

 

One minute, twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley trying to save the life of the aunt she has never known. The next, she finds herself flung into the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world. Glowing moths fall to the waves around her, and the sleek bodies of unseen fish glide against her submerged ankles.

The world is Stormwrack, a series of island nations with a variety of cultures and economies—and a language different from any Sophie has heard.

Sophie doesn’t know it yet, but she has just stepped into the middle of a political firestorm, and a conspiracy that could destroy a world she has just discovered… her world, where everyone seems to know who she is, and where she is forbidden to stay.

But Sophie is stubborn, and smart, and refuses to be cast adrift by people who don’t know her and yet wish her gone. With the help of a sister she has never known, and a ship captain who would rather she had never arrived, she must navigate the shoals of the highly charged politics of Stormwrack, and win the right to decide for herself whether she stays in this wondrous world . . . or is doomed to exile

One-Eyed Jack by Elizabeth Bear
One-Eyed Jack by Elizabeth Bear
Release Date: Late June to Mid-August*

Elizabeth Bear is one of my favorite authors, and her Promethean books are special to me because the first of her books I read was Blood and Iron. She had plans for a lot of different books in this setting, and a second pair of books taking place long before the first duology was released fairly soon after I read them. I enjoyed those as well and was sad when I learned no more Promethean books were forthcoming, so I am thrilled a new one is coming out this summer!

* I’m not certain what the release date for this one is since Barnes and Noble says it will have copies on June 25, Amazon says July 8, and the publisher’s website says August 13.

 

The One-Eyed Jack and the Suicide King: personifications of the city of Las Vegas—its history, mystery, mystical power, and heart…

When the Suicide King vanishes—possibly killed—in the middle of a magic-rights turf war started by the avatars of Los Angeles, a notorious fictional assassin, and the mutilated ghost of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel–the King’s partner, the One-Eyed Jack, must seek the aid of a bizarre band of legendary and undead allies: the ghosts of Doc Holliday and John Henry the steel-driving man; the echoes of several imaginary super spies, decades displaced in time; and a vampire named Tribute, who bears a striking resemblance to a certain long-lost icon of popular music.

All stories are true, but some stories are truer than others

Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews
Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews
Release Date: July 29

Kate Daniels is one of my favorite series and the seventh installment is very high on my list of books I can’t wait for! The authors (Ilona Andrews is actually a husband and wife writing team) have done an amazing job of building up a character it sounds like we might finally meet in this book, and Kate is a wonderfully developed protagonist with a naturally humorous narrative voice. I cannot gush about this series and how fantastic it is enough (especially book 3)!

 

No matter how much the paranormal politics of Atlanta change, one thing always remains the same: if there’s trouble, Kate Daniels will be in the middle of it…

As the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran, former mercenary Kate Daniels has more responsibilities than it seems possible to juggle. Not only is she still struggling to keep her investigative business afloat, she must now deal with the affairs of the pack, including preparing her people for attack from Roland, a cruel ancient being with god-like powers. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has come out into the open, no one is safe—especially those closest to Kate.

As Roland’s long shadow looms ever nearer, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, apparently at the hands of a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear…

Dust and Light by Carol Berg
Dust and Light by Carol Berg
Release Date: August 5

Carol Berg is a fantastic fantasy author, and I’m always happy to hear about a new book by her. My favorite of her books, Transformation, has both a unique world and wonderful characterization. I also very much enjoyed her Lighthouse Duet, and Dust and Light is the first book in a new duology set in the same world as that one.

 

National bestselling author Carol Berg returns to the world of her award-winning Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone with an all-new tale of magic, mystery, and corruption….

How much must one pay for an hour of youthful folly? The Pureblood Registry accused Lucian de Remeni-Masson of “unseemly involvement with ordinaries,” which meant only that he spoke with a young woman not of his own kind, allowed her to see his face unmasked, worked a bit of magic for her….After that one mistake, Lucian’s grandsire excised half his magic and savage Harrowers massacred his family. Now the Registry has contracted his art to a common coroner. His extraordinary gift for portraiture is restricted to dead ordinaries—beggars or starvelings hauled from the streets.

But sketching the truth of dead men’s souls brings unforeseen consequences. Sensations not his own. Truths he cannot possibly know and dares not believe. The coroner calls him a cheat and says he is trying to weasel out of a humiliating contract. The Registry will call him mad—and mad sorcerers are very dangerous….

Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb
Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb
Release Date: August 12

Assassin’s Apprentice was one of the earlier fantasy books I read when I first starting reading the genre. I went on to read the rest of the Farseer novels, then Liveship Traders, and then the first Tawny Man book. This was followed by impatiently waiting for the rest of the books to come out, and I even ordered the last two books from the UK once they were available since they came out there before the US! I love these books, and I’m excited to read a new series that takes place after Tawny Man.

 

Nearly twenty years ago, Robin Hobb burst upon the fantasy scene with the first of her acclaimed Farseer novels, Assassin’s Apprentice, which introduced the characters of FitzChivalry Farseer and his uncanny friend the Fool. A watershed moment in modern fantasy, this novel—and those that followed—broke exciting new ground in a beloved genre. Together with George R. R. Martin, Robin Hobb helped pave the way for such talented new voices as Scott Lynch, Brandon Sanderson, and Naomi Novik.

Over the years, Hobb’s imagination has soared throughout the mythic lands of the Six Duchies in such bestselling series as the Liveship Traders Trilogy and the Rain Wilds Chronicles. But no matter how far she roamed, her heart always remained with Fitz. And now, at last, she has come home, with an astonishing new novel that opens a dark and gripping chapter in the Farseer saga.

FitzChivalry—royal bastard and former king’s assassin—has left his life of intrigue behind. As far as the rest of the world knows, FitzChivalry Farseer is dead and buried. Masquerading as Tom Badgerlock, Fitz is now married to his childhood sweetheart, Molly, and leading the quiet life of a country squire.

Though Fitz is haunted by the disappearance of the Fool, who did so much to shape Fitz into the man he has become, such private hurts are put aside in the business of daily life, at least until the appearance of menacing, pale-skinned strangers casts a sinister shadow over Fitz’s past . . . and his future.

Now, to protect his new life, the former assassin must once again take up his old one. . . .

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
Release Date: August 26

This doesn’t appear to have a cover yet, but I had to include it! I haven’t yet read any of Kameron Hurley’s books even though I’ve heard God’s War is excellent, but I’ve very much enjoyed every single blog post I’ve read by her (she is very deservedly one of this year’s Hugo nominees for Best Fan Writer and Best Related Work). Her upcoming book also sounds fantastic, and it’s been on my list of books I want to read ever since I first heard about it.

 

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin.

As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war, a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

In the end, one world will rise – and many will perish.

Stories of the Raksura: Volume One by Martha Wells
Stories of the Raksura: Volume One by Martha Wells
Release Date: September 2

The Cloud Roads, the first of the Books of the Raksura, was a book I could not put down. I loved the original world and found the main character’s plight easy to sympathize with, and the other two books in the trilogy were also very good (especially the last one, my favorite of the three). More novels in this world would be great, but I’m just as happy to know I’ll soon be able to read two novellas about the Raksura!

 

In The Falling World, Jade, ruler of the Indigo Cloud Court, has travelled with Chime and Balm to another Raksuran court. When she fails to return, her consort Moon, along with Stone and a party of warriors and hunters, must track them down. Finding them turns out to be the easy part; freeing them from an ancient trap hidden in the depths of the Reaches is much more difficult.

The Tale of Indigo and Cloud explores the history of the Indigo Cloud Court, long before Moon came to Court. In the distant past, Indigo stole Cloud from Emerald Twilight. But in doing so, the reigning Queen Cerise and Indigo are now poised for a conflict that could ruin everything.

Stories of Moon and the shape changers of Raksura have delighted readers for years. This world is a dangerous place full of strange mysteries, where the future can never be taken for granted, and must always be fought for with wits and ingenuity, and often tooth and claw. With two brand-new novellas, Martha Wells shows that the world of Raksura has many more stories to tell…

Summer Moon by Jan DeLima
Summer Moon by Jan DeLima
Release Date: September 30

Jan was my local librarian and is my friend. Of course, I was incredibly excited for her when Ace picked up her first book, the romantic urban fantasy Celtic Moon! I enjoyed it a lot, particularly her resilient “older” heroine Sophie (36 is practically ancient in fantasy heroine years!). I’m very much looking forward to reading Summer Moon and the story of Rosa and Luc.

 

She won’t be ruled again……

Rosa Alban has been obedient her entire life. But when her alpha husband dies, she seizes the opportunity to flee the oppressive Guardians—the rulers of the secret shapeshifter world. Her flight instantly brands her as a pack traitor, and she has no choice but to seek protection from a neighboring tribe by marrying one of their sons.

Known as the Beast of Merin, Luc Black loyally plays the part of unwanted son and devoted brother. He realizes marrying Rosa will strengthen his tribe’s territory, but he has no intention of loving ever again. Still, he’s unprepared for the intense physical need the wild she-wolf awakens in him.

When the Guardians hone in on Rosa, Luc must fight to protect his new bride. And as war descends, the unlikely allies discover their destinies are irrevocably entwined……

The Inheritance Trilogy Omnibus by N. K. Jemisin
The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin
Release Date: December 9

I’ve already read the three novels in this trilogy, but I love them and N. K. Jemisin’s book that was on my list of most anticipated books of 2014 was recently rescheduled for 2015… So I’m including this one instead! The omnibus edition will also include a new novella titled “The Awakened Kingdom” which will also be released separately as an ebook. You can read more about it in the recent announcement on N. K. Jemisin’s blog.

 

In this omnibus edition of N.K. Jemisin’s brilliantly original award-winning fantasy series, a young woman becomes entangled in a power struggle of mythic proportions.

A REALM OF GODS AND MORTALS.

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.

The Inheritance Trilogy omnibus includes the novels: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, and The Kingdom of Gods.

I could make a long list of the books released this year out now that I still really want to read like The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan, Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire, Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor, Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear, Turquoiselle by Tanith Lee, Night Broken by Patricia Briggs, The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris, and The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. Also, there are books I’ve read published this year that I really enjoyed like Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier and Iron Night by M. L. Brennan. As mentioned previously, there are also books coming out written by authors who wrote guest posts this year that sound very interesting. These eleven books listed are just a start when it comes to the science fiction and fantasy books by women being released in 2014, and there are many more to be excited about!

For more, check out this list at The Bibliosanctum and this one at Lady Business.

Women in SF&F Month Banner

Even though it’s the first day of May, there is one more guest post and it’s by science fiction and fantasy author Karen Healey! She has written SF&F for young adults, including The Shattering and Guardian of the Dead, the winner of the 2010 Aurealis Award for Best YA Novel. Her latest book is the science fiction novel When We Wake, a finalist for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy in 2013. A companion to this novel, While We Run, will be released later this month on May 27. I’m thrilled she is here today talking about how her teaching and her books intersect to encourage young women to explore questions about their world!

Karen Healey

Private Universes

“Did you know that you’re all made out of stars?” I asked my Year Nine class, and 25 thirteen-year-old girls lit up.

We’d been discussing a short story that dealt with various beliefs of what happens to humans after death. One girl had asked about mine. I’d told them that I believed our atoms became parts of other things, which I could see they didn’t think was properly solemn. Thus, their origins as star-stuff.

“I knew,” said one girl.

“Really?”

“In fact, what most scientists say is that everything in the entire universe comes from, uh, from something called the Big Bang. There was nothing, and then there was an explosion of all the matter that has ever existed.” I clenched my hands together, then spread them, fingers wide. “That made stars. And then the material in the stars became the material that makes us.”

Another girl raised her hand. “But how did that happen?”

“That’s a good question!” I said. “I don’t think I can tell you properly off the top of my head. You should definitely ask your science teacher, though. Now, back to the story…”

I’m a first-year English teacher at an all-girls’ school in New Zealand, and I write science fiction and urban fantasy for young adults. This year, I’ve discovered just how intersectional my chosen careers are.

My students ask a lot of questions. I want them to find answers, whether from me, or their smartphones, or their science teacher. (For detailed explanations of astrophysics, definitely their science teacher.) I want them to keep asking. How did that happen? Why did she do that? What happens next? And, the question that underlines almost everything I create, what if?

When We Wake, which came out last year, deals with the what ifs of cryonics and climate change. What if you came back to life a hundred years after you’d died? What if the world was dying? What if Australia had closed its borders? What if refugees were criminalized, lied to, used?

What if you stumbled upon a giant government-backed conspiracy?

These are questions that concern my students. They worry about climate change. They’re interested in social justice. They’re connected to the world as it is, and they’re curious about the world as it could be. They want to know what they can do.

For a long time, girls weren’t supposed to do any of that stuff. An interest in the political process? An inquiry into injustice? A will to take action? Heavens, no! These girls will strain their adorable little ladybrains and render their delicate parts unsuitable for childbearing! One of the reasons I looked for work at a girls school is because a terrifying number of people worldwide are still operating under the delusion that girls shouldn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t want to save the world.

SFF, despite all its flaws, provides some fantastic young women who are willing to do just that. I wouldn’t want to teach my own texts (although a couple of them are being taught in a few classrooms, which is just delightful). But I’d love to teach Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince, which explores the power of revolutionary art. Or Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue, in which the young Queen struggles with serious questions of power, reconciliation and grace. One day, I will.

But I’m a first year teacher – I’ve also got to work with budget constraints and the texts already available. Fortunately, that’s not hard. This year, my Year Nine girls, all of them made of stars, are studying The Hunger Games .

They’ve all read it, or watched the movie (some of them multiple times), which means we can get right into the ideas. What if our culture involved heavy surveillance of our activities? (It does). What if our lives were mediated by forces more interested in selling a good story than telling the truth? (They are). What if we sacrificed children for our own comfort and investment in the status quo? (We do.)

What if the children fought back? What could they do?

And what happens next?

When We Wake was about Tegan Oglietti and the substance of her choices. While We Run is about Abdi Taalib, and his ability to deal with consequences. When We Wake asks if its protagonist is brave enough to do the right thing when she discovers the truth. While We Run asks what its protagonist will do when he’s no longer sure what the right thing is.

No decent teacher pretends to have all the answers. For me, it’s a privilege and a joy that whether I’m teaching or writing, I get to help young women explore those questions.

When We Wake by Karen Healey While We Run by Karen Healey
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Today’s guest is science fiction and fantasy author C. S. Friedman! I very much enjoyed her first novel, the space opera In Conquest Born, because of its focus on political maneuvering and intelligent, complex characters. I also had a wonderful time reading her fantasy novel Feast of Souls, the first book in The Magister trilogy, for the way it explored the consequences of using magic in that world. She’s also written many other books (that I didn’t single out only because I still need to read them!), including The Coldfire trilogy, This Alien Shore, and Dreamwalker, her most recent novel released earlier this year. Today she’s here to discuss beginning her career with a gender-neutral name and the reason many told her they figured she was a male author before realizing she was, in fact, a woman.

In Conquest Born by C. S. Friedman Black Sun Rising Dreamwalker

What’s in a Name?

In 1968 a new voice appeared in the Science Fiction community. James Tiptree Jr’s stories were powerful and dark, and combined elements traditionally associated with both “female” and “male” writing. Partly due to his never being seen in public, rumors began to circulate that Tiptree was in fact a woman. That led to a genre-wide discussion of whether or not an author’s writing style, by its very nature, must betray its owner’s gender. In Tiptree’s case the answer seemed clear to many, and was best summarized by Robert Silverberg in 1975, in his introduction to Warm Worlds and Otherwise:

 

There is something ineluctably masculine about Tiptree’s writing … his work is analogous to that of Hemingway … that prevailing masculinity about both of them — that preoccupation with questions of courage, with absolute values, with the mysteries and passions of life and death as revealed by extreme physical tests.

He was wrong, of course, as were many others who had come to the same conclusion. Tiptree was not only a woman, but (as she described herself later) “an old lady in Virginia.” That revelation inspired many to question the influence of gender in writing style, and perhaps more importantly, the impact of gender assumptions in reader response.

In 1985, when I launched my first novel, In Conquest Born, the majority of science fiction readers were male, and many had an innate prejudice against works by female authors. This was one of the reasons I chose to use my initials as a pen name, as did many other women at that time: the odds were good that any name with initials represented a woman, and everyone knew that, but it left the matter nebulous enough that maybe a male reader would take your book down from the shelf and look at it, rather than just dismissing it out of hand.

But how much did the gender of a name really impact sales? Enough that writers like Rhondi Salsitz sometimes published books under both male and female pen names. As Charles Ingrid, Rhondi wrote action-packed military novels geared towards a young male audience; as Elizabeth Forrest, she wrote novels that focused more on relationships and character development. She did both quite successfully, and her Sand Wars series sold well. But would her military fiction have been as successful with a woman’s name on the cover? Unlikely. Many readers still shared Silverberg’s assumption that traditional “masculine” themes could not be properly understood or expressed by women.

(I will leave his assumption that “courage” and “absolute values” are inherently masculine qualities for another blog…)

My own first novel was neither male nor female in flavor, but had a protagonist of each gender. In order to make those protagonists believable, I had to be able to get into both their heads and understand what made them tick. In addition, there were aspects of male sexuality that impacted the development of one of my fictional societies. I didn’t perceive it as going against my nature to address such things. I was a writer, and being able to write from a male perspective was part of my job.

We were all curious about how my work would be perceived if the reader had no gender to attach it to, and so, as a kind of experiment, mine wasn’t revealed immediately. Gendered pronouns in my marketing materials were carefully avoided, and no information was offered in any sales meeting that would clarify the issue. It was a short-lived experiment, granted; as I soon started doing book signings the truth became clear. But the results were interesting.

Overall, the split was about 50/50, with slightly more readers guessing I was female, and slightly more marketing people guessing I was male. Since I am indeed a woman, I was most interested in the male side of that statistic. What was there about my writing that revealed my true masculine nature?

I asked.

I expected to hear traditional reasons — such as my use of bloody combat scenes and themes of power and conquest–but the answer I got was quite different…and very interesting.

Many readers thought I was male because I understood how men thought. Women couldn’t usually do that, I was told. Or else I must have had some special gift, or unique experience, that made such a thing possible for me, while most women couldn’t do it.

One fan asked me bluntly at a con. “How do you know so much about how men think?”

I answered, equally bluntly, “I ask them.”

That’s it. The whole secret.

One of my characters in the Magister Trilogy was a prostitute. I’ve never been a prostitute. I needed to know how that might affect one’s self-image, and impact personal sexual relationships. So I found someone who has been a prostitute, and asked about all that. She offered some fascinating insights, and helped shape that character.

I asked.

In The Wilding I wrote a scene in which an attempted rape was interrupted by the victim pulling out a weapon at a climactic moment. Knowing that men and women approach sex differently, I turned to some male friends to advise me. One of them told me to imagine this:

 

A man and a woman are having sex, when suddenly there is an explosion upstairs. A woman would stop what she was doing, and try to get away from danger. The man would finish what he’s doing and then, when it’s over—maybe—notice that the ceiling collapsed on him.

I asked.

IMHO, There are no great secrets in either male or female nature that the other can’t discover. There are no themes of special interest to either gender that a good writer can’t explore. The best works combine both male and female literary tradition, with gripping action and good character development and interesting social commentary. More and more, readers are coming to expect that, and they are open to any author who can provide it…regardless of his or her gender.

Recently a fan asked me, if I was launching my career today, would I use my initials?

Probably not, I told her.  No need.

Though I still do like the way they sound…

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Today’s guest is Chachic from the wonderful book blog Chachic’s Book Nook! Chachic reads and reviews books from a wide variety of genres, including speculative fiction, contemporary romance, and young adult. Her blog is one of my regular reads because it’s a friendly and welcoming place with some great discussions about books. I also really enjoy Chachic’s fantastic book recommendations—which is why I’m thrilled that she is here today to recommend some fantasy and science fiction books containing great love stories!

Chachic's Book Nook

Hello SF&F fans! When Kristen first asked me to do a guest post for her blog event, I had no idea what I should write about. I’ve read and loved so many SF&F novels/novellas written by women that I knew I had to narrow down my list somehow. It got me thinking about what the books that I fell for had in common. Then I realized that I’m fascinated by human interactions – from friendships to familial connections to romantic involvements. All of my favorite books have this common thread of well-written relationships where I was 100% invested in the characters and what they’re going through. Since I’m a sucker for romance that’s done well, I thought I would focus on that. In most SF&F books, the love story is not the main plot thread because the main characters are busy having their own adventures. This is something that actually works for me because I love strong characters who are more than able to face the challenges they’re faced with – which makes it very satisfying for me to see them get together with someone who matches their strengths and accepts their weaknesses (and vice versa). I love it when there’s a slow burn romance between two characters where there’s enough time for them to get to know the other person.

I put together a list of some of my favorite SF&F reads with swoon-worthy love stories that I could totally root for.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner – Of course I had to include my all-time favorite YA series because it has a romance which is stunning in its subtlety and complexity. I was surprised when it happened but then later realized the author’s brilliance in building up the love story. There’s just so much to admire in the details of MWT’s writing.

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith – I think the romance in this one really worked for me because the male lead was such an unreadable character. I enjoyed reading the characters’ interactions because I was never sure if it would lead to something.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley – I feel like Robin McKinley’s beloved book is a good representation of all the epic fantasy heroines that I love. Good example of slow burn romance between two strong and capable characters who admire each other.

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale – I love fairy tale retellings and Shannon Hale’s was the first one I fell in love with. I thought it was just beautiful how she took the bones of a classic fairy tale and remade it into her own story.

Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier

Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier – This is one of those stories where the romance is gratifying because the characters have to endure so much before they get together. I loved how Juliet Marillier writes emotions that feel so real, I was fully invested in the main characters in this one and I cheering them on through their difficulties.

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews – This is my favorite urban fantasy series and it has such a good romance that spans the entire series. The witty banter was something that I really enjoy. I thought it was great that it took several books before the main characters become a couple and that even after they do, their relationship keeps changing and growing.

The Touchstone Trilogy by Andrea K. Höst

Touchstone trilogy by Andrea K. Höst – A recent favorite, I loved the voice of the main character and how she slowly develops feelings for someone even though she thinks they will never be reciprocated. This one also has a stoic and unreadable character, something I wouldn’t mind reading more of.

I like that even though all of these books fall under SF&F, they’re still from various sub-genres – there’s historical fantasy, epic fantasy, fairy tale retelling, urban fantasy and sci-fi. What about the rest of you, what SF&F books or series written by female authors have you loved that also contain a wonderful romance?

Thank you for having me here, Kristen! I had a lot of fun putting this list together.