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Today’s guest is science fiction writer Emily Skrutskie! She’s the author of The Abyss Surrounds Us, The Edge of the Abyss, and Hullmetal Girls. Bonds of Brass, her latest novel and the entertaining, fast-paced first book in a space opera trilogy about a pilot and his best friend/crush/formerly-secret heir to the Empire, is out today!

Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie Book Cover

The Badass Mothers of SFF

Many readers have a BrandTM. A type of character you just can’t help but love. For some, it’s fancy sad boys. For others, it’s fierce girls with knives. But for me, there’s one character type that I rank above all others. One kind of character I just can’t get enough of.

Bad. Ass. Moms.

I’m not really sure where it came from. My own mother is a planetary geologist and badass in so many respects—a woman who’s held a career in a male-dominated field since the Voyager days AND finds the time to whip up the most incredible Slovak and Slovenian desserts when she’s not busy, oh, I don’t know, parsing data coming back from the New Horizons mission or jetting around the world to encourage other women to pursue STEM. Maybe it’s that. Maybe it’s the freshness inherent in the archetype. I’ve grown up with so many stories where young women go on adventures until at last they can comfortably settle into domesticity and live happily ever after. It feels like a breath of fresh air every time I see a story about a woman whose future included both homemaking and continuing adventures.

Whatever the reason, the fact remains: I sit up straighter every time a story throws a cool mom at me. Today, I want to share some of my favorites.

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin Book Cover Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh Book Cover

1. Essun, from The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. It’s difficult to talk about just one fraction of the Broken Earth trilogy without talking about the genius of the whole of it, but one of my favorite aspects of the book is how deeply it dives into motherhood and all its complexity. The story begins with Essun’s quest to avenge her murdered infant son and rescue her daughter from the father of her children, who has turned on them for their orogene abilities. As the trilogy progresses, Essun must reckon with her daughter’s world-shaking, possibly world-ending powers and her own, and the delicate interplay of managing your own abilities and trying to train the next generation to be better in the face of what might be the apocalypse-for-good-this-time had my heart in my throat with every page.

2. Mrs. Silver, from Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh. I was already all in on Silver in the Wood before Mrs. Silver showed up, but when she all but kicks down the door halfway through the novella, I felt like I’d been given the most incredible unexpected gift. The story is about Tobias, the wild man and local legend who tends the woods around Greenhollow, and Henry Silver, the hapless heir to the local estate who doesn’t realize that the gruff groundskeeper he’s been flirting with and the folk story he’s been tracking are one and the same. When shenanigans threaten Henry’s life, in storms his mother, a badass monster hunter ready to square up for her kid and team up with her son’s new flame to save his life.

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller Book Cover Bloodline by Claudia Gray Book Cover

3. Masaaraq, from Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller. I’m a known whale aficionado. I love weird mind-bonding tech. And when you tell me that a story has a lesbian grandma mentally nanite-bonded to an orca who kicks off a whole mess of trouble when she rides into town on its back with a polar bear in tow on a mysterious mission—well. Masaaraq is the beating heart of the story, and when Miller artfully draws all the threads around her and her role in her family, I wanted to shake his hand and thank him for writing my ideal read.

4. Leia Organa, from Bloodline by Claudia Gray. In Bloodline, Claudia Gray gives us our first real glimpse of Leia handling the complications of being a mother, a senator, and Vader’s daughter. The Star Wars films never gave her the time to process all these facets of herself onscreen, but Gray does it with a deft hand, painting an aching portrait of a woman exhausted by both duty and the vicissitudes of image that stand between her and doing her job. I deeply love seeing this era of Leia’s life, and it’s my secret wish that someday we’ll get to hear even more about it—especially if it’s Claudia Gray writing it, because she just nails Leia’s voice.

Jade War by Fonda Lee Book Cover Rebelwing by Andrea Tang Book Cover

5. Kaul Wenfrom Jade War by Fonda Lee. Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga is fresh as hell in so many aspects. It’s a fantasy where technology is somewhere around the 1970s, an East Asian spin on Godfather-style mob movies, and so richly built that you could lose yourself for days in its world. One of the freshest aspects—and the most appreciated for me—is Wen, a transcendent standout among fictional mob wives. The second book in the series sees Wen grow into her role in the No Peak clan and into motherhood as she and her husband Hilo start their family and expand their business. I absolutely love the way Lee writes Wen’s strategic, practical point of view, and I can’t wait to see where she goes in Jade Legacy.

6. Sophie Wu, from Rebelwing by Andrea Tang. Rebelwing presents an absolutely fascinating generational dynamic: the parents who won the revolution and the kids they raised in the new order. And of those parents, none is more delightful than Sophie, mother of the novel’s protagonist Pru and the woman who essentially authored the revolution with her writing. When her daughter gets mentally bonded with a cybernetic mecha dragon (I know, right?), Sophie is there to help her through her own revolution—and lend a hand if things get sticky.

Emily Skrutskie Photo
Photo Credit: Mariano Merchante
Emily Skrutskie was born in Massachusetts, raised in Virginia, and forged in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado. She attended Cornell University and now lives and works in Los Angeles. Skrutskie is the author of Hullmetal GirlsThe Abyss Surrounds Us, and The Edge of the Abyss.