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Today’s Women in SF&F Month guest is Laura R. Samotin! Her novel coming out on May 7, The Sins on Their Bones, is described as follows: “Inspired by Jewish mysticism and folklore, this queer dark fantasy debut is perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, C.S. Pacat, Ava Reid, and Katherine Arden, set in a fantastical reimagining of 19th century Eastern Europe.” I’m delighted she’s here today to discuss one of her favorite tropes and incorporating it into her soon-to-be-released novel in “Writing Found Families With Two-Dimensional Characters.”

Cover of The Sins on Their Bones by Laura R. Samotin

Writing Found Families With Two-Dimensional Characters
Laura R. Samotin, author of The Sins on Their Bones

March 28, 2024

Found family is, hands down, one of the best tropes out there. I will die on the hill that some of the most satisfying character interactions in literature have come from this trope, which highlights the unconditional love between people who have chosen each other as family. It allows authors (and readers) to delve into intimacy, connection, and the bonds between individuals who truly understand each other. I love reading found family books, and so I knew I wanted to write one that paid homage to the trope.

But a larger cast is difficult for any writer to manage, and limited pages in any given book don’t always leave room for fully fleshed-out secondary characters. Readers want to get to know the main characters, and so understandably, that’s who writers focus on. We come to know their personalities, their unique ways of thinking about the world, their hopes, dreams, and more. Because of this, characters in books with the found family trope can sometimes fall into a reductive dynamic, with characters typecast into roles that leave them feeling one-dimensional.

That can leave writers of the found family trope struggling to do the same with secondary characters. I personally grappled with this challenge in my debut adult fantasy THE SINS ON THEIR BONES, which features a queer cast that has formed a found family. My main character Dimitri is the deposed Tzar of Novo-Svitsevo, and his friends have joined him in exile. With a court of five members, I had my work cut out for me when it came to fully developing all of their personalities, making them feel vivid and real.

I also pushed myself hard to critically examine my characters and ensure that they were being portrayed as whole people, and not reduced to flat (or worse, stereotypical) depictions based on their identifying characteristics, as often happens when characters aren’t fully developed on the page. This was particularly important to me when it came to my two female secondary characters. So many times, I’ve seen the female member or members of a found family grouping being boxed into the role of the “mother hen,” the one who’s making sure characters eat and wear warm clothing and attend to other more mundane needs in the midst of heists or quests or other fantastical scenarios.

That’s all well and good, because if the members of a found family don’t take care of themselves, they won’t last through the story. And caretaking, in all its forms, is a key part of human connection. But these female characters can often be stuck only nurturing the other characters in the group—and being the only ones doing the nurturing as well. Their personality gets reduced to the act of caring for others. While nurturing can be fulfilling—and one of my female characters does a lot of it—it shouldn’t be the only trait that female members of a found family group possess. My two female characters are quite different from each other—intentionally so, given that they’re two separate people, and have different personalities, interests, and skills.

Annika is Dimitri’s former general, who is still grieving over the defeat of her and Dimitri’s army in the civil war they fought. She is a nurturer, and to her, being a soldier is at odds with her deep desire to keep people safe. Annika likes knitting socks, providing tea, giving hugs, and listening when she feels her friends need a shoulder to cry on. But it doesn’t mean that that’s all she gets up to in the book. She also pushes Dimitri to critically examine the tough decisions which were made during the war, defends her decisions as a military tactician, and spends a lot of time on-page thinking about the potential ways in which the court can defeat Alexey, Dimitri’s ex-husband and the book’s villain.

Ladushka is Dimitri’s former chancellor, who helped him to manage the political running of his court and country.  She is a very different character from Annika, even though the two of them are close friends. Ladushka is a clear-eyed realist who frequently reminds Dimitri of the necessity of making the hard choice, even when the hard choice is the dangerous one, too. She isn’t a caretaker—not in the traditional sense, not even close. Ladushka shies away from overt displays of emotion, which is intentional given that her character is autistic. But her care and concern for Dimitri and the rest of her friends comes through in the way she exerts herself to ensure that the court’s goals are met. She’s the one urging everyone forward and calling them to action—a role typically held by one of the men in a found family group.

By allowing my female characters to hold multiple or contradictory personality traits at the same time, I hope that I’m able to bring more life and realism to my secondary characters, all while combating the “mother hen” stereotype in two ways: one, that it doesn’t work to write a female character who delights in that kind of caretaking without reinforcing stereotypes; and two, that female characters who don’t fit that mold are inherently less caring or interesting than ones who do.

And I also think that the same principle and concerns apply to male and non-binary characters as well. Showing non-female characters taking on “mother hen” roles is just as important, allowing for two-dimensional depictions of people of other gender identities which include stereotypical feminine traits. For example, Mischa, a non-binary member of my found family, is the one to consistently insist that Dimitri eat. Part of this comes from their profession (they’re a doctor), but mostly it’s because cooking for and feeding people is their way of showing care, and it’s a role they enjoy and derive satisfaction from. Vasily, a male member of my found family and the court’s spymaster, also sometimes takes on these “mother hen” activities for Dimitri, ensuring he sleeps, eats, and takes care of his health.

Ultimately, there are many ways to show love, devotion, and care—and some of those ways involve knitting socks, while others include helping you to plot how you’ll take back the throne and ensure your unhinged ex-husband’s downfall. The female members of a found family should be able to do both—and each should get the chance to be a fully-realized person on the page. And non-female members of a found family should get the chance to take on caretaking roles as well. A truly vivid found family in a book is one in which every character is multidimensional and layered. When authors pay attention to these kinds of dynamics, it allows for a richer and more vivid reader experience—with the benefit of reminding readers that in books, as in real life, people are more dynamic than tired stereotypes might suggest.

Photo of Laura R. Samotin Laura R. Samotin has a PhD in international relations from Columbia University and enjoys using her academic background on military tactics, power politics, and leadership to enliven and inform her creative writing. Her YA and adult fiction is grounded in Jewish myth, mysticism, and her Eastern European Jewish heritage.

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Today’s Women in SF&F Month guest is Amy Leow! Her debut novel being released on September 10 in the US and September 12 in the UK, The Scarlet Throne, is described as “a dark, heart-thumping political epic fantasy… full of scheming demons, morally grey heroines, talking cats, and cut-throat priests.” I’m thrilled she’s here today to discuss a type of character she loves—and her protagonist in the upcoming first book in The False Goddess Trilogy—in “Villains, Grey Areas, and What Women Can and Cannot Be.”

Image for The Scarlet Throne by Amy Leow
Illustration by Nica Galvez

Villains, Grey Areas, and What Women Can and Cannot Be
by Amy Leow

I love unhinged characters. Even more than that, I love unhinged women. There is something oddly cathartic about seeing a female character go off the rails and have everybody bow at her feet, perhaps because of how in real life women are often not allowed to do so.

The world loves them too. Female protagonists in plenty of books have a touch of darkness to them, and so much of marketing—especially in the SFF circle—revolves around these morally grey women making complex decisions and possessing complex motivations.

But as much as I loved these unhinged female characters, I also felt that something was missing from them.

Let me preface this by saying that there is nothing wrong with having these characters in the roles that they were written in. Yet, while it’s clear that these women can make bad choices, they are—mostly—on the good guys’ side. And even if they are on the antagonists’ side, they will most likely have some redeeming quality. They commit genocide, but maybe they do it in a warped, twisted attempt to protect the ones they love. Or they are good rulers to their own people, but villains to anyone from the outside.

Almost as though women cannot be evil for the sake of being evil, while the misdeeds of male villains go unjustified, because apparently only men can be wicked in nature.

In other words, I grew tired of reading “morally grey” female characters who weren’t actually morally grey. I craved unhinged women like Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender, who harbored childhood trauma, but was also clearly evil and power-crazy from the get-go. I wanted to see more women like Adelina Amouteru from The Young Elites, by Marie Lu, who was born cruel and only grew worse when the world turned against her. I adored characters like Xifeng from Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, or Lada from And I Darken by Kiersten White, who manipulated everyone around them and reveled in their brutality.

I wanted messy women. Batshit-crazy women. Women who don’t have to justify anything they do to others.

So I created Binsa, the main character of The Scarlet Throne. She is a vicious young girl who—while shaped by her circumstances and her mother’s questionable parenting choices—is very much ambitious of her own will, and will stop at nothing to get her way. I purposely wrote her as lacking a clear “motivation” for her villainy too: because just as some are altruistic in nature, some are wicked. In Binsa, I wanted to create a character who is utterly evil and irredeemable—and for her to thrive with those characteristics.

Oddly enough, I know that with writing Binsa I will find readers who will inevitably question Binsa’s motivations for being a villain, when the whole point is that there are some things that you just cannot explain. I grew up in Asia, where women are told to be quiet and to only play supporting roles to men and to elders. My own anger and ambition were out of place in such a society. And when asked why I grew up this way, when everyone was teaching me otherwise, I could only answer that it was in my nature to be like so.

In some sense, I found release and joy in writing Binsa. I enjoyed embracing my inner villain when writing The Scarlet Throne, and although it deals with dark, heavy issues (like emotional abuse, xenophobia, and the exploitation of young girls for the sake of religion), it is also an escapist and self-indulgent story. Sometimes, there is no need for an explanation behind every action someone takes.

After all, women too, can be downright nasty and repugnant—and it’s okay for them to be like so.

Photo of Amy Leow Amy Leow is the author of the False Goddess trilogy (Orbit US/UK, forthcoming Summer 2024). Currently residing in Kuala Lumpur, she graduated with a degree in linguistics and is currently pursuing a PhD in the same subject. She is often found dreaming up worlds of feral gods and even more feral girls.

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Week three of the thirteenth annual Women in SF&F Month starts tomorrow. Thank you so much to all of last week’s guests for another wonderful week of essays!

There will be new guest posts on Monday and Wednesday of this week and a book giveaway on Friday. But first, before announcing the schedule, here are last week’s pieces in case you missed any of them.

All of the guest posts from April 2024 can be found here, and last week’s guest posts were:

And there is more to come, starting tomorrow! This week includes essays by the first two authors and a giveaway of two books by the third:

Women in SF&F Month 2024 Schedule Graphic

April 15: Amy Leow (The Scarlet Throne)
April 17: Laura R. Samotin (The Sins on Their Bones, The Way It Haunted Him)
April 19: Seanan McGuire (InCryptid, October Daye)

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Today’s Women in SF&F Month guest is Genoveva Dimova! Both books in The Witch’s Compendium of Monsters, her Bulgarian folklore–inspired fantasy duology described as “The Witcher meets Naomi Novik,” are coming out this year: her debut novel, Foul Days, on June 25 and the sequel, Monstrous Nights, on October 22. I’m delighted she’s here today to discuss her favorite character to write, some influences, and representation of older women in “Female mentors in fantasy.”

Cover Artist: Rovina Cai
Cover Designer: Jamie Stafford-Hill

Female mentors in fantasy

People occasionally ask me which one of my characters was my favourite to write, probably expecting it to be a difficult question, like asking a parent to choose a favourite child. Except, my answer is always immediate: Vila.

In my debut Slavic fantasy, Foul Days, Vila is a prickly older witch with a penchant for sequined woollen vests and terrible jokes, living in a chicken-legged house. She is an untouchable figure with many years of knowledge and skill behind her back, who serves as a mentor to our witchy protagonist, Kosara. In the sequel, Monstrous Nights, as Kosara grows in knowledge and skill herself, we get a more vulnerable side to Vila, as she has to come to terms with her own eventual mortality.

Some of my influences in writing this character are perhaps obvious. Firstly, Baba Yaga, the Slavic witch in her hut on chicken legs, is a figure that has always fascinated me. When she appears in fairy tales, she is all-knowing, otherworldly, and threatening. Yet, despite her frequent remarks about how much she appreciates the taste of human flesh, she’s often benevolent and willing to help our hero in their quest, sometimes for a price, sometimes just because she feels like it.

The second obvious influence is Granny Weatherwax from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, who we see taking on a mentoring role multiple times in the series, first in Equal Rites and then in the Tiffany Aching books. Granny is a complex character—stern, practical, distrustful, and powerful. Someone you can’t help but love, despite her being far from a “likeable female character”.

This is, perhaps, what always attracts me to female mentor characters. They tend to be older, settled in their ways, knowledgeable, skilful, and confident. They’re rarely ‘likeable’ or ‘relatable’ in the way we’re told our female characters have to be, or else readers wouldn’t sympathise with them—yet, I find them so easy to sympathise with, probably because they remind me of the older women in my own life. Frankly, I find them inspirational.

So, imagine my surprise when I deliberately searched out more fantasy books with older female mentor figures in them, and I found a distinct lack. Sure, there are some excellent examples out there: there’s Od from Od Magic by Patricia McKillip and Meghan from the Witches of Eileanan by Kate Forsyth. There’s the dust-wife in T. Kingfisher’s Nettle & Bone and Baghra from Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone (and you can’t convince me she doesn’t share the Baba Yaga influences with my own Vila!). However, for every female mentor figure I encountered, there were three times more old, wise men. For every Granny Weatherwax, there was a Gandalf, a Dumbledore, and an Obi-Wan Kenobi.

As an archaeologist, I couldn’t help but dig deeper. I simply couldn’t figure out why this lack of female mentors occurred. In between reading ancient forums and more recent Reddit threads, in between blog posts and Reactor essays, I realised this is an issue other people have noticed, and a question other people have asked.

Ultimately, it seems, it boils down to this: there aren’t more older female mentors in fantasy because there aren’t many older women in fantasy, full stop. Or, to take this even further, there is a real lack of older women in media as a whole. Ageism is a well-documented problem in Hollywood, for example, where a recent study found that there is a sudden drop from female characters who are in their 30s (33%) to characters in their 40s (15%). Only 7% of female characters were aged 60 or over, which is nevertheless a slight improvement over the 5% reported by the same study conducted 2 years prior. While no such studies have been carried out about books, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if the numbers are very similar—after all, authors and screenwriters exist in the same cultural milieu and draw from the same inspirations.

This lack of older female representation, I believe, goes back to that belief that female characters need to be likeable to the average reader—so, we need to make them young, beautiful, nice, agreeable. Male mentors can be kooky and spooky and mad. Female mentors need to be palatable.

Except, as already discussed, female mentors don’t need to be likeable to be fascinating. They don’t need to be agreeable to have readers cheer them on. In fact, I believe it is precisely this lack of ‘relatability’ that gives female mentor characters their air of otherworldliness we, as readers, grow to love in characters like Baba Yaga and Granny Weatherwax. As fantasy is expanding, as more and more fresh, new, previously underrepresented voices enter it every day, I truly believe we’re due some excellent female mentors soon. I personally can’t wait.

Photo of Genoveva Dimova by Julie Broadfoot
Photo Credit: 2022 © JULIE BROADFOOT
Genoveva Dimova is a Bulgarian fantasy author and archaeologist based in Scotland. Her debut novel inspired by Slavic folklore, Foul Days, is coming out in June 2024, with the sequel, Monstrous Nights to follow in October 2024. When she’s not writing, she likes to explore old ruins, climb even older hills, and listen to practically ancient rock music. To keep up to date with news and updates about Genoveva’s books, join her newsletter at genovevadimova.com/newsletter or find her on Instagram at @gen_dimova.

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Today’s Women in SF&F Month guest is Gabriella Buba! Her short fiction includes “Dying Rivers and Broken Hearts” and “A Unified Explanation for Elven Urbanization and Associated Morphological Changes,” and her first novel, Saints of Storm and Sorrow, is being released on June 25. The first installment in a Filipino-inspired epic fantasy duology, The Stormbringer Saga, her book is described as featuring “a bisexual nun hiding a goddess-given gift [who] is unwillingly transformed into a lightning rod for her people’s struggle against colonization.” I’m excited she is here to discuss one of the reasons she wrote her upcoming debut novel in “Fantasy Safe Spaces: Facing the Specters of the Past Now They’ve Come Back to Haunt Us.”

Cover of Saints of Storm and Sorrow by Gabriella Buba

Fantasy Safe Spaces: Facing the Specters of the Past Now They’ve Come Back to Haunt Us
by Gabriella Buba

Fantasy has always held a special place in my life. From school days when the quiet of the library was a rare sanctuary from bullying, through to the pandemic when once again Fantasy became a window out of the creeping isolation, dread, and anxiety of daily life.

But more than an escape, for me, Fantasy has always been the safest place to dig deep into the topics that most trouble and grieve me. I was once told I write like I’m wringing my grief onto the page, and I am. As a biracial Filipino-American child of immigrants, I struggled a great deal with feelings of disconnection. There is so much grief that is part and parcel of being diaspora. Displaced from homeland, language, history—handed down culture piecemeal and fragmented. Carrying these stories and this grief inside like seeds, growing ever growing, feeding a burning anger and resentment that modern life and the modern world has very few spaces or tools to unravel or examine.

But Fantasy can ask all the what ifs of history: what if all the victors destroyed and time has lost still remained? It can fill in the gaps between the lines of racist reports written by Spanish clergy—Spanish that I read with more fluency than my stumbling Tagalog.

And so reading and then writing Fantasy became the vehicle by which I could safely unspool and grapple with the history of colonialism and imperialism that created the war, want, and waste that sent my Filipino family across an ocean.

Taking this fragmented pre-colonial history together with re-imaginings of myths and folklore, Saints of Storm and Sorrow is a Filipino-inspired Fantasy in which Lunurin, a bisexual nun hiding a goddess-given gift, is unwillingly transformed into a lightning rod for her people’s struggle against colonization.

It is Lunurin’s efforts to protect those she loves from the crushing realities and abuses of colonialism and its twin tools of greed and religion that ultimately awakens her Goddess and forces Lunurin to act, to break the status quo, and finally face the past she’s become so good at running from.

Did you know, the Philippines is the only country in the world where divorce is illegal? Abortion is illegal and Human Rights Groups have faced backlash for attempts to push against the stance. In addition despite 2012 efforts to increase access to contraception it remains controversial. A once thriving pre-colonial tradition of women-led, and often queer and gender non-conforming spiritual leadership of the babaylan/katalonan/shamans, has been consistently denigrated and pushed to the edges of society, with every tool western powers had at their disposal. The long history of Spanish suppression of many of these shaman-led revolts against colonial rule is brutal and bloody from the earliest days of colonization in the 1600s to the dios-dios revolts of the 19th century.

And though in the modern era the Philippines is one of the most conservatively Catholic countries in the world, I grew up on a steady diet of my grandmother’s stories of the suffering that ultra-conservative Catholicism created in her own life and the lives of her friends and family. From forced marriages in cases of rape, to the dangerous ends women pursued to stay in school if an accidental pregnancy was discovered, to even worse abuses of power the Church allowed to run rampant.

I was told of how war and greed exacerbated poverty that threatened to steal away every gain my grandmother made to better her own life. Of years spent stealing newspaper scraps so she wouldn’t forget how to read when she was forced to leave school. Darker stories about how the soldiers who uphold empire will never face the consequences for their cruelties.

For me the worst thing was the inevitability in my grandmother’s stories, in the lack of accountability or justice, or sense in the suffering of herself and others. There was only grief, only pain.

And so in Saints of Storm and Sorrow I wrote a story where women and girls looked that hopeless inevitability in the face and had the power to say No More. It ends here. It ends with me. In addition to addressing colonialism, Saints tackles difficult realities of sexual abuse enabled by the Church, a resulting teen pregnancy and abortion.

Because sadly, these abuses don’t only live in our past but in our present as well.

In a political climate where women and girls all across the world are rapidly losing rights to bodily autonomy and necessary healthcare, the suffering my grandmother uprooted her family to escape has started proliferating anew all around me. In the year after Texas’s near total abortion ban teen birth rates rose for the first time in 15 years. And every day the reproductive rights of women in the state are eroded further.

This year the 5th Circuit recently upheld a Texas decision to prevent Title X federal clinics in the state from providing birth control to teens without parental consent—effectively blocking any ability for teens with unsupportive parents to control their reproductive health and safety. Decades of progress towards helping women and girls control their reproductive futures and have a chance at education and economic independence is being undone, by a minority of greedy power-hungry men determined to drag us all back into the dark ages.

So I wrote Saints of Storm and Sorrow in part because the writing of it was the safest, kindest space to own my anger and lay my grief to rest. But also because I hope that if we remember to stand together we will discover we have the power to make sure that this kind of suffering goes no further. I hope we can create a truly safe space for all of us, and that we do not repeat and repeat these cycles of suffering. I hope that we can stand together and say No More. It ends here. It ends with me.

Photo of Gabriella Buba Gabriella Buba is a mixed Filipina writer and chemical engineer based in Texas who likes to keep explosive pyrophoric materials safely contained in pressure vessels or between the covers of her books. She writes adult epic fantasy for bold, bi, brown women who deserve to see their stories centered. SAINTS OF STORM AND SORROW comes out June 2024 from Titan Books.

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Today’s Women in SF&F Month guest is Amber Chen! She’s the author of the contemporary webnovel The Cutting Edge, which was adapted for television as an eight-episode miniseries released in 2021, as well as the fantasy story “Hugging the Buddha’s Feet” in Wilted Pages: An Anthology of Dark Academia. Of Jade and Dragons, her young adult novel coming out on June 18, is described as “silkpunk fantasy about a girl who must disguise herself as a boy and enter the famed and dangerous Engineer’s Guild trials to unravel the mystery of her father’s murder.” I’m thrilled she’s here today to discuss one of its themes in “Using Fiction to Empower Girls in STEM.”

Of Jade and Dragons by Amber Chen Book Cover

Using Fiction to Empower Girls in STEM
by Amber Chen

Few may know that I am, in fact, a scientist. I graduated with a degree in Biochemistry, and I’ve been a science student my entire life, so sometimes I wonder how in the world I ended up writing fantasy novels. I suppose my own inclination toward STEM was what led me to shape the silkpunk world in Of Jade and Dragons, my debut YA fantasy, because to me, science has always been the equivalent of magic. As a child, I remember being fascinated with finding out what made the world tick—whether it was the microscopic structure of a living cell or the macroscopic nature of the universe—and that sort of curiosity and hunger for knowledge is a trait that I have, for better or worse, passed on to the protagonist of my novel, Ying.

When I first wrote Of Jade and Dragons, I crafted a tech-infused fantasy world that closely mirrored the societal structure of Qing dynasty China in the 1600s, one that was steeped in patriarchy and where roles were strictly delineated along gender lines. A girl living in those times would have been expected to abide by those societal expectations, and to dream of stepping out of those boundaries would be unthinkable. That is the world that Ying lives in, and what she has to stand up against in order to achieve her dream of becoming an engineer.

The idea of empowering girls to not only take on but also excel in traditionally masculine fields, like engineering, is an important theme in Of Jade and Dragons, and a theme that is particularly close to my heart. I count myself lucky to live in a time and place where many of these restrictions that were once placed upon women have been lifted, to have been given the opportunity to pursue my interest in science to the highest level, and to have my voice heard in traditionally male-dominated spaces. That said, I realise that this privilege is not uniformly accorded across all parts of the world, and there is still much work to be done to truly level the playing field. The deeply entrenched patriarchy and its accompanying misogynistic attitudes and casual sexism still exist in the realms of science and tech, even in countries that are considered “progressive”, and sometimes when I reflect on the state of our world as it is today, I wonder if we’ve truly moved on from those Qing dynasty days, or if the supposed progress is merely a façade.

Regardless, I believe that fiction is an incredibly powerful tool that we can and should tap on to effect real change in the world, because fiction allows us to show possibilities. To remove the blinkers that we may not realise we have. I would very much like a reader to pick up Of Jade and Dragons and think “hey, maybe a girl like me can build airships and mechanical beasts one day” and then go on to do it the way Ying has—because why not?

Cover of Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta Cover of Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao Cover of The Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei

Some readers have told me how much they appreciate the representation of women in STEM in Of Jade and Dragons, and it always makes me so happy to hear that. This goes to show that there’s still plenty of room for more of such stories and protagonists to fill the shelves! To round off, here are some of my book recommendations for those who are interested in stories featuring girls in STEM or girls generally wreaking havoc in male-dominated worlds (as they should):

  • Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta follows the journey of Eris Shindanai, a Gearbreaker who specializes in taking down Windups, the giant mechanised weapons wielded by a tyrannical regime, from the inside. When she ends up in prison after a mission goes awry, Eris meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot who has infiltrated the Windup programme so that she can bring down the regime from within, and the both of them must work together to achieve their common goal.
  • Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao follows 18-year-old Zetian, who volunteers as a concubine-pilot for the Chrysalises, giant robots that are used to fight aliens that threaten humanity, so that she can assassinate the male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. When her psychic abilities prove far stronger than anyone expected, she attempts to use them to undo the misogynistic pilot system in order to prevent more girls from being sacrificed.
  • The Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei follows Asuka, the last member of a space crew picked to leave Earth when it is on the verge of environmental collapse, in order to save humanity. On their journey to a livable planet, an unexpected bomb knocks their vessel off course and Asuka must find the culprit before humanity’s last chance of survival is thwarted for good.
Photo of Amber Chen Amber Chen is a Singaporean-Chinese author of SFF and contemporary fiction. She holds a BA and MSci from the University of Cambridge and also has a diploma in screenwriting.

Amber spends much of her free time living within Chinese fantasy novels and dramas, and also drinks one too many cups of bubble tea. Her debut silkpunk fantasy novel, Of Jade and Dragons, is forthcoming from Penguin Teen in Summer 2024, and her work has also been published in Wilted Pages: An Anthology of Dark Academia. One of her webnovels, The Cutting Edge, has been adapted for television.