Women in SF&F Month Banner

Today’s guest is writer and editor Laura Anne Gilman! She’s the author of fantasy, horror, and science fiction short stories, mystery novels (as L. A. Kornetsky), and several speculative fiction novels and novellas, including the series that comprise the Cosa Nostradamus books (Retrievers, Paranormal Scene Investigations, and Sylvan Investigations). Flesh and Fire, the first book in her Vineart War series (which features wine magic!), was nominated for the 2009 Nebula Award. Her latest novel is the first book in the Devil’s West series, Silver on the Road.

Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman Flesh and Fire by Laura Anne Gilman

When Fantasy Cafe invited me to write for their Women in Fantasy series, I had a handful of ideas circling in my head, bumping into each other and arguing for space. What I read as a child, as a teen, as a young adult, that created the storyteller I became (both pro and con).

And then my father was diagnosed with cancer, and died within a space of three weeks, and my thoughts scattered again, refocusing, probably inevitably, around the influence of my dad.

But wait, my brain reeled me in. This is “women in fantasy” month. Dad doesn’t fit the theme. Try something else.

So I did. And it kept circling around to dad. And I realized that it wasn’t only because of my loss. It was because of what I’d been given.

It is inevitable that our parents shape us—and when one of those parents is of the opposite gender, that shaping is often invisible until long after the fact.

My father didn’t read fantasy. My father didn’t read much fiction at all, honestly. That all came from my mother. But he did read, and read voraciously, in history. He delved into the why and the who, the elements that drove action, and the results of those actions. And he taught us by example to do the same, seeing absolutely no reason why our gender would or should have any impact on what we were capable of, with no apologies for being smart, or tough, or delicate, or emotional or clinical, and to hell with anyone who tried to shove us into half-a-space because of Being Female.

I appreciated that when I was in my twenties, and became aware of being female in a male-shaped world. Certainly all that came through in the main characters of the Cosa Nostradamus novels: Wren, who deals with being the “invisible woman” in a competitive field. Bonnie, who carries privilege on her shoulders as both shield and obligation. Ellen, a woman of color whose move from outcast to exceptional made her more vulnerable, not less.

But it wasn’t until I began writing SILVER ON THE ROAD, the first of the Devil’s West novels, that I consciously sat down to think about what it meant to be a daughter to a father, to have that strangely powerful influence on every element of who you are, and all the ways it can go both wrong and right, even with the best of intentions and the most heartfelt of affections.

Isobel née Lacoyo Távora is a daughter—of the Devil, of Flood, of the Territory, of a new world being born around her. She carries with her the weight of masculine expectation, because that is the world within which she was born, the product of forces perceived as masculine—and yet, those forces given a feminine form, the Infinitas that marks her palm and shapes the power she uses, the world she will help reform.

And it wasn’t until my father’s funeral, looking for solace in my loss, that I found the words that matched what I had been exploring.

If my boundary stops here
I have daughters to draw new maps of the world
they will draw the lines of my face
they will draw with my gestures my voice
they will speak my words thinking they have invented them

they will invent them
they will invent me
I will be planted again and again
I will wake in the eyes of their children’s children
they will speak my words.

(from the Mishkan T’Filah, for the house of mourning)

We cannot shape the world, any world, without understanding what (who, and how) first shaped us.

Laura Anne Gilman
Photo Credit: Elsa M. Ruiz
Laura Anne Gilman is the author of the popular Cosa Nostradamus urban fantasy series of novels and novellas, and the Nebula award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy. Her newest project is the Devil’s West series from Saga / Simon & Schuster, beginning with 2015’s Locus-bestseller SILVER ON THE ROAD, and continuing with THE COLD EYE.

She has also dipped her pen into the mystery field as well, writing as L.A. Kornetsky (CollaredFixedDoghouse, and Clawed).

A member of the writers’ digital co-op Book View Cafe, she continues to write and sell short fiction in a variety of genres, most recently appearing in the anthologies Genius Loci and Temporally Out of Order.