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Today’s guest is Sarah from Bookworm Blues, one of my favorite SFF book review blogs! If you haven’t been there since last week, check it out since Sarah just got her own domain and a great new look for her site. Plus she put up a wonderful interview with Robert Jackson Bennett, author of The Troupe, and a rather interesting guest post on disability in fantasy by Elspeth Cooper, author of Songs of the Earth.

The main reason I keep coming back to Bookworm Blues again and again is Sarah herself. She writes very honest reviews and doesn’t shy away from being open about why she thinks the way she does about a certain book. Yet she also tends to be respectful toward the books she reviews and mentions the good along with the bad. Also, she’s very friendly, and if you’re not following her on Twitter, you should be!

Sarah wrote a very touching, personal, and introspective post on the issue of women in science fiction and fantasy that perfectly demonstrates exactly why I keep reading her blog. Please give a warm welcome to her!

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Last August I had my first child, a baby girl. She is the light of my life. She is my everything; my entire world wrapped up in a chubby little seven-month ball of perpetual motion. Since the day Fiona was born I’ve been reading to her. Usually I’ll just read whatever I’m book I’m reading out loud. She doesn’t mind. She sits there and watches me, or falls asleep to the sound of my voice. Sometimes I’ll make funny accents and kind of act out the parts in the book I’m reading for her. She’ll laugh. We have a great time. I act like an idiot, but I don’t mind. She’s worth it.

I’m trying to teach my daughter to love to read. I want one of her first memories to involve books. I want her to be as passionate about the written word as I am. I want her to discover new worlds. I would love to read books with her in bed each night while she falls asleep. I want my daughter to always have a book in her backpack, like I did. I hope she has a list of favorite authors and dreams about worlds that haven’t been created yet, and pretends that magic actually exists. I want her to play “once upon a time” games, and act out those stories that start that very same way.

I want Fiona to know that the world is her oyster, that absolutely anything is possible. She’s my little miracle baby. She fought cancer with me while she was in utero. This child has a fire inside her, and an unparalleled determination to exist. She’s only seven months old, but I can already see her stubborn streak and her enthusiasm, and I want her to put it toward something wonderful. I want her to master a craft, because I know she’ll be able to.

I want to always share books with my daughter, and I want my bookshelves to be full of both female and male authors. The sad fact is, when I look at my shelves, 90% of the authors are male and about 10% are female. I have always attributed my penchant for favoring male authors with the fact that I conveniently find more male written books because there are more of them. However, when I really think about it, I realize that I discriminate against my own gender. You see, I tend to think that since I enjoy my fantasy epic, bloody and political and women generally don’t write bloody enough stories for me. I wonder how many people feel the same way. It’s not a thought many are willing to say out loud.

Speculative Fiction has, for many years, been mostly a man’s game. It hasn’t been until fairly recently that women have been entering the fray and making a dent in the market, and a name for themselves. With the genders evening out in the workplace, they are also evening out with the literary field. Yet, I wonder how many people still think that maybe women authors are a little too “soft” for their taste. The fact is, I didn’t even realize I thought that until I sat down to write this. It became obvious that I favor male authors because I’m afraid a female author will be a bit too romantic, a bit too starry eyed with their plots so I naturally gravitate away from them.

Reviewing books is getting me away from these previously held thoughts of mine. I try to review everything publishers send me. This has really gotten me out of my comfort zone, and I’ve encountered a lot of female authors I didn’t previously know about. There are more female epic fantasy and science fiction writers out there than I believed and I enjoy more of them than I thought I would. It took years for women to gain an even hand at the office, and some would argue that they are still fighting for their equal rights. I believe that women in SF&F are still fighting and uphill battle for the same recognition as the men. Perhaps that is unfair, however, because there are more male authors to notice than female.

That brings up another point. Why are there more male authors than female? Not only authors of books, but when you look seriously at the SF&F blogging community, the blogs outside of urban fantasy, those that seriously review epic fantasy and science fiction are mostly male dominated. In fact, in my blogroll I follow only two other female run fantasy and science fiction reviewing blogs. There aren’t many of us out there, and the women that are there often seem to fight an uphill battle for credit. Even I dismiss many female bloggers until they prove that they review something other than vampire books.

This is why I’m exceedingly glad that Kristen is doing a month featuring female authors. Women have a battle to fight and recent events have proved it. For example, with the Hugo Award discussion, not one female run review blog got even a passing mention. That tells me something incredible, that in the vast male dominated SFF blogosphere, female run blogs are a nonissue. We are fewer, so we have to fight harder to be heard above the crowd, but we shouldn’t have to. It’s the same with female authors. They are fewer, so they have to fight harder to be noticed, but they shouldn’t have to. People, like myself, shouldn’t shy away from reading a book written by a woman for whatever reason.

That’s the lesson I am learning, and the lesson I want to teach my daughter. The world is her oyster, but how can I possibly teach her how incredible literature is if I hold some of these beliefs about authors, bloggers and the like? How can I possibly teach her that she can do anything she sets her mind to, if none of my favorite authors are female. You may think I’m overreacting, and perhaps I am drawing some dramatic conclusions here, but then you must see the email I got tonight. It said,

Dear Bookworm Blues,

I recently found your blog and I’m surprised by how much I enjoy your reviews. You are a woman who reads books like a guy. That’s kind of incredible.

You can’t read that and not think there’s a problem.