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Today’s guest is science fiction and fantasy writer Susan Jane Bigelow! She’s the author of the Extrahuman Union series beginning with Broken, which was recently republished through Book Smugglers Publishing. The next two books will soon be re-released as well with Sky Ranger scheduled for this summer and The Spark for this fall, and a brand new fourth book in the series will be available toward the end of this year. She’s also the author of the Grayline Sisters books starting with The Daughter Star and the upcoming young adult epic fantasy novel The Demon Girl’s Song, as well as short fiction and nonfiction.

Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow The Daughter Star by Susan Jane Bigelow

Finding Great SFF with Older Women as Protagonists
By Susan Jane Bigelow

Women in science fiction and fantasy have to constantly fight invisibility, but for older women this is especially true. I’m starting to be of an age where I very much want to see women over the age of 35 take powerful, dynamic, and interesting starring roles in genre, but there’s sadly not a lot of that to be found.

And if I want to find stories about queer older women? Forget it.

Now, I deeply love stories about young women, and I read a ton of them! But these days, as I continue to grapple with the idea that I’m no longer young myself, I find the stories of women in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond both compelling and comforting. Society doesn’t make much room for women past a certain age, after all, unless they’re in traditional roles as mothers, grandmothers, or teachers.

I’ve tried to weave the stories of older women into my own work; my novel Extrahumans, which is the fourth and final novel of the “Extrahuman Union” series about superheroes in the future fighting a totalitarian government, focuses on the relationship between two women—one in her late 30s, one in her early 50s. That book will be out late this year from Book Smugglers Publishing.

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

There are some great SFF books out there featuring older women as protagonists. Lois McMaster Bujold’s recent novel Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen stars Cordelia Vorkosigan, who is one of my favorite heroines ever. Cordelia starred in some of the earliest Vorkosigan Saga novels, but was reduced to a background role as Miles Vorkosigan’s mother for much of the rest of the series. It was awesome to see her back as the protagonist dealing with grief, loss, life, and love. It was also refreshing to explore the nontraditional relationship she had with her husband and Admiral Jole.

Bujold also wrote one of my favorite fantasy novels ever, Paladin of Souls. This book is set in her Chalion universe, and stars Ista as a woman in her 40s who sets out on pilgrimage after being freed from a curse. Her story is moving, compelling, and breathtaking, and I strongly recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy.

Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry

Another book I love that sadly seems like it may be out of print is Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff, a book about a pack of female werewolves whose powers only emerge after they hit menopause. The book is a lot of fun, and the concept is fantastic. Also, the main character is also in the process of discovering her own identity as a lesbian, which is even better.

Lastly, I’ve found a few real gems where the genres of cozy mystery and fantasy intersect. My favorite of these is the “Family Skeleton” mysteries by Leigh Perry, which stars a woman in her 40s raising her daughter while trying to put together a life as an adjunct at a local college. She also solves mysteries with her walking, talking skeleton pal Sid. The books are hilarious, the mysteries fun, and the glimpses into the familiar-to-me existence of adjunct faculty very satisfying.

I’d love to see even more books with older women as protagonists instead of background characters. What are your favorites?

Susan Jane Bigelow Susan Jane Bigelow is a fiction writer, political columnist, and librarian. She mainly writes science fiction and fantasy novels, and her “Extrahuman Union” series is being republished by Book Smugglers Publishing in 2016. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine’s “Queers Destroy Science Fiction” issue, and the Lambda Award-winning “The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard,” among others. She lives with her wife in northern Connecticut, and is probably currently at the bottom of a pile of cats.