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Today’s guest is Sue from Coffee, Cookies and Chili Peppers! I actually discovered Sue’s blog because I met her through my local library. Now we frequently get together for lunch and coffee—and to chat about books.

One of the things that draws me to the book blogs I visit is an enthusiasm for reading, and I think “enthusiasm for reading” perfectly sums up why I read Sue’s blog. She gets involved with reading and discussing books as part of read alongs that go on throughout the book blogging community. Also, she writes great reviews and has a weekly feature for gathering books featured elsewhere on the web that sound interesting with the nicely alliterative name “Sue’s Saturday Suggestions.” Today she is sharing some of her favorite fantasy and science fiction books written by female authors—and considering the few I’ve read are among my own favorites, I’m definitely quite intrigued by all her recommendations!

Coffee, Cookies, and Chili Peppers

So You Want To Read Female SF&F Authors?

When Kristen asked me to provide a guest post for this year’s event I was both surprised and proud. The feeling of euphoria survived about five minutes and then the panic set in. I am relatively new to blogging and still struggle to believe that I have anything interesting to say, so my fear of failure looms large. However, I find it really sad that there is still a gender divide in my preferred genres, so I want to take this opportunity to talk about some of my favorite authors. I also want explain how I discovered them, because finding female authors can be difficult if your only resource is Amazon or an exhausting walk around your local library.

I am very fortunate that my husband shares my gender-blindness when it comes to selecting books. When we first met he introduced me to a lot of SF&F authors: male, female and undetermined. He was the person who had already bought a ton of Anne McCaffrey and Julian May titles, which I happily devoured. Since then he has introduced me to many wonderful authors, but two of them are my particular favorites.

Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten is the first in her Women of the Otherworld series and a book that I simply could not put down. It deals with Elena Michaels, the world’s only female werewolf, and presents a rather interesting twist on the typical shifter trope. Elena is wonderful character, who is amazingly strong emotionally and mentally but is nowhere near perfect. She is compelling and sympathetic as she struggles to make sense of her life. Later books in the series introduce more paranormal races that are often represented by strong females, making this fantasy world feel far more egalitarian than many others.

His Majesty's Dragon

The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik begins with His Majesty’s Dragon. This series is set in an alternative history where dragons are real and are used as air transport. We first meet the dragon Temeraire as an egg being transported to Britain as an asset in the war against Napoleon. Given the male lead character and the strong military backdrop, this may not be your typical Fantasy title, but the dragons are such wonderful, ‘non-human’ characters that they make it thoroughly worth the effort. There are also some delightfully modern female dragon-riders who are kept secret so that they do not offend the delicate sensibilities of the males of the period.

After arriving here in the US, I made the effort to make friends by joining Not Your Ordinary Book Group at my local library. This wonderful group of women has introduced me to many entertaining female authors, although we do tend to steer clear of hard or epic SF&F and stick to Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. However, one of the other members shares my love of SF&F and I want to mention two authors that I have read because of her recommendations. I really appreciate finding people whose opinions I can trust, and she has never steered me towards a poor title.

Sherri S. Tepper has written many titles with an ecofeminist slant and has also published under various gender-neutral pseudonyms. So far I have only read one of her titles, Six Moon Dance, but I have many more sitting on my TBR pile. This title is set on a human colonial planet in the far future, where many girls die shortly after birth. This has molded the society into one where women are the dominant gender and men are their subordinates, wearing veils to prevent their attractiveness overcoming the females who see their faces. It is an intriguing glimpse of what our culture could become if women were more highly valued, but also shows the problems inherent with gender inequality.

Six Moon Dance

Freda Warrington is another author with a large number of titles in her back catalogue. Elfland is one of her newer titles and presents a world where the fae are real. These Aetherials are magical and once they travel to the Other World they reveal themselves to be creatures much more connected to nature than we humans. They take on the aspects of certain animals, depending upon their family inheritance, but can also become much more connected with the world around them. Although they have many human problems, their world is beautifully imagined and I look forward to reading the second and third titles in The Aetherials series.

Finally, I want to thank the great blogosphere itself for providing the last two authors in my post. Last year I took part in the Once Upon A Time VI Challenge over at Stainless Steel Droppings. As part of the challenge I needed a Fantasy title based in Folklore and I found a recommendation for The Wood Wife by Terri Windling. This title is set in Arizona and incorporates aspects of both Celtic and Native American folklore to build a wonderfully evocative and magical world. It also captures the truly neutral aspect of nature magic, in the language of Dungeons & Dragons Alignment. It makes you realize how transitory and insignificant we each are when compared to the vastness of nature: something that I think we have lost in our modern world of instant gratification. For those of you unfamiliar with Ms Windling, she has been an influential editor and publisher, being responsible for the direction that Charles de Lint took in his career.

The Wood Wife
Range of Ghosts

The last author that I want to champion does not really need my help to raise her profile, but as her book Range of Ghosts was one of the most enjoyable titles that I read last year I feel that I cannot ignore her. I became aware of Elizabeth Bear through this event last year, which also makes her a suitable choice for this post, as she was one of the many authors that I added to my Women in SF&F shelf at Goodreads. Prior to reading the novel, I had thoroughly enjoyed her short story Tideline, which was published in Robots: The Recent A.I. edited by Rich Horton & Sean Wallace. This evocative and moving piece convinced me that I needed to read one of her longer titles, and when Kristen offered me an ARC of Range of Ghosts I nearly snatched her hand off! It was an amazingly imaginative title that grew increasingly impressive as the various aspects of her world were revealed. By the end I was totally hooked and will be making my way through all her other works ASAP, though they will have to wait until I have finished Shattered Pillars, which is one of my most anticipated books of 2013.

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This last week was a wonderful start to Women in SF&F 2013, thanks to all the contributors and their great guest posts! In case you missed any of the articles, they’re included in this post. I am also announcing the guests for the upcoming week and giving away seven speculative fiction books written by women. First, I’d like to bring your attention to another series that is going on this month that you may be interested in if you’ve been following this series.

Harry Markov is running a blog series “Women in Genre” dedicated to celebrating female genre creators. Throughout the month of April, he will be sharing one story a day about a woman in genre who impacted his life (examples so far include but are not limited to J. K. Rowling, Ursula K. Le Guin, Rachel Vincent, and Theresa Lucas from Fantasy and SciFi Lovin’ Reviews). I’ve been enjoying his personal stories, and if you read the comments on the announcement post I linked to, there are lots of female genre authors listed!

Week In Review

Here’s what happened last week:

Upcoming Guests: Week 2

I’m so excited about this week’s contributors. Guests for the second week are as follows:

Women in SFF Week 2 Guests

April 8: Sue from Coffee, Cookies, and Chili Peppers
April 9: Lois McMaster Bujold (Vorkosigan Saga, Chalion)
April 10: Janice from Specfic Romantic
April 11: Julie Czerneda (Species Imperative, A Turn of Light)
April 12: Rachel Neumeier (Griffin Mage, The Floating Islands, House of Shadows)
April 13: Deborah Coates (Wide Open, Deep Down)

YA Speculative Fiction Giveaway

Courtesy of Strange Chemistry, I have a set of seven young adult speculative fiction books written by women to give away! (This giveaway is US/Canada only.)

YA Speculative Fiction Giveaway

The books included in this giveaway are as follows:

Links go to each book’s page on Goodreads if you want to learn more.

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “YA Giveaway.” One entry per person and a winner will be randomly selected. Only those with a mailing address in the US or Canada are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Monday, April 15. The winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the book).

Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Good luck!

(The giveaway is over and the form has been removed.)

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Today’s guest is fantasy author Lane Robins! She is the author of two fantasy novels inspired by the Regency era, Maledicte and Kings and Assassins, as well as four urban fantasy books in the Shadows Inquiries series as Lyn Benedict. While these two sets of books are very different from each other, the main reasons I’ve enjoyed reading both are the same: the flawed, human characters and the fact that neither shies away from darkness. The first Shadows Inquiries book, Sins & Shadows, is one of the stronger first books in an urban fantasy series I’ve read, and I particularly liked the inclusion of mythology and godly influence. Since I was rather fond of it, I’m happy to have her here to share three of the characters who influenced the development of her heroine in Shadows Inquiries.

Every character has her own sort of DNA, built not from the fictional parents a writer gives her, but the characters that writers have incorporated deep into our psyche.

Sylvie Shadows, my lead character in the Shadows Inquiries series, gained her DNA from three very distinct characters.

Mercedes Lackey is probably the writer I owe my writing career to, given that I was slaving along, trying very dutifully to write as my mentors demanded—pared down prose, adjective-free, adverb-free, smother-all-the-emotions, make-the-reader-work-for-everything prose—then I stumbled on Lackey’s books and said, this was what I wanted to do. Her writing felt free and fluid.

Burning Water by Mercedes Lackey Children of the Night by Mercedes Lackey Jinx High by Mercedes Lackey

And of course, there was the character who captivated me: Diana Tregarde, guardian witch ready to face malignant occult forces. A tough but amiable heroine who could and did do it all: magic, martial arts, shoot a gun, drive like a demon, give useful advice to people in need, write popular novels, and fight for social justice. She was a superhero in a leotard and jeans.

The Diana Tregarde books were proto urban fantasy—still labeled horror & dark fantasy, but definitely moving into the urban fantasy territory. They were a mixture of detective story and magical malfeasance.

Then there was Tanya Huff’s Vicki Nelson. Oh, Vicki. If there were any single influence on Sylvie Shadows, it would be Vicki Nelson, heroine of the Blood books. I adored Diana Tregarde, don’t get me wrong, but in so many ways, Vicki Nelson felt like a weird and successful rebuttal to Diana.

Diana could do it all—take care of her friends and protect the world and practice witchcraft and martial arts and oh, yeah, make a living as a prolific romance writer, and still have time to date Andre the vampire. Lackey describes her as looking like a dancer, and Diana does dance through these books, light and confident. She knows her place in the world and never doubts it.

Blood Price by Tanya Huff Blood Trail by Tanya Huff Blood Lines by Tanya Huff

Vicki Nelson, on the other hand, is an ex-cop who had to give up her job due to health reasons, desperately trying to make a go of her new career as a private investigator. She’s abrasive and disinclined to take the change in her life well, juggling family and friends with variable degrees of success. Like Diana, she ends up dating a vampire (though also dating a police officer, go Vicki!), but in these books, the vampire is the romance writer which actually makes sense—given the long hours of his nights. Vicki’s life is cluttered and complicated and messy. Vicki has something to prove.

Diana Tregarde was a superhero, but Vicki Nelson….

I realized when Vicki came around that there was something I could love more than a witch fighting supernatural evil—a regular human, a human with a distinct weakness, mustering up the determination and courage to do the same. I loved that. It hits me in one of my happy spots—the idea that humans have the capacity to do amazing things. When it came to putting Sylvie on the page, I gave her a tiny, supernatural edge—a tinge of something not quite human in her bloodline—because unlike Diana and Vicki, Sylvie wasn’t going to get a vampire boyfriend of her own.

The last character that left DNA in Sylvie’s make-up may sound like a strange one. Diana Tregarde and Vicki Nelson are urban fantasy heroines after all; the lines drawn between Sylvie Shadows and them are direct.

But then there is Agatha Christie’s Miss Jane Marple. A diffident, fluttery spinster arguably dependent on other people’s good will. Sylvie is brash, outspoken, often rude, fiercely independent. Nothing in common, right?

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie The 13 Problems by Agatha Christie The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

Except Miss Marple is also observant, decisive, intelligent, and has a frankly terrifying moral rigidity. Poirot, Agatha Christie’s other protagonist, might occasionally let killers off the hook if the person they murdered “deserved” it. Not Miss Marple. There is right and there is wrong and there is wickedness, which must be rooted out. She’s merciless in the cause of Justice, calls herself Nemesis, and means it without any irony. Miss Marple is a force of nature. I loved the Miss Marple books. How could I resist letting her influence Sylvie? (I’m certain that Miss Marple would be dismayed at Sylvie’s actions. Dismayed, though not shocked. Miss Marple is unflappable.)

So Sylvie was born into print with a rigid black and white view of the world. I’ve taken great joy in blurring her world view into greys, but there’s still that cold, certain core: the wicked must be punished. That’s all Miss Marple.

Behind these great characters are three equally impressive authors. Mercedes Lackey has written or put a hand to over a hundred novels, spawned multiple popular series, and given us insanely memorable characters. Tanya Huff has written books all over the map: urban fantasy, second world fantasy, science fiction, humorous, serious, everything in between. Agatha Christie… well, she’s one of the best selling novelists in the world. Her mysteries are beautifully structured, and her characterization is compelling.

Three amazing authors.
Three amazing characters.
If you haven’t met these characters yet, go ye forth and read.

Lyn Benedict

About Lane Robins:
Lane Robins was born in Miami, Florida, the daughter of two scientists, and grew up as the first human member of their menagerie. She attended the Odyssey workshop, both of the CSSF workshops, and has a BA in Creative Writing. As Lyn Benedict, she writes the urban fantasy Shadows Inquiries series: Sins & Shadows, Ghosts & Echoes, Gods & Monsters, and Lies & Omens. Her website is lanerobins.com.

Maledicte by Lane Robins Sins and Shadows by Lyn Benedict Lies and Omens by Lyn Benedict

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Today’s guests are Ana and Thea from The Book Smugglers, a long-time favorite of mine! These two constantly impress me with both the quantity and quality of their reviews, as well as their insightful commentary and discussions. Their enthusiasm for books and reading just enhances all their wonderful content, which isn’t just limited to their site—they also have a monthly newsletter and write a weekly science fiction and fantasy column at Kirkus. Ana and Thea review a lot of books, both new and old, and they recently started an Old School Wednesday feature dedicated to books at least 5 years old. They’ve just begun a monthly read-a-long for some of these older titles, and they will be hosting a discussion of Terrier by Tamora Pierce on April 24th.

During last year’s event, they wrote about agency in fiction and offered recommendations for science fiction and fantasy books featuring female characters with agency. This year, they are engaging in their specialty—making me add books to my wish list in mass quantities—with recommendations for amazing young adult and middle grade SF&F stories written by women!

The Book Smugglers

Female SFF Authors Writing MG & YA

First, let us start this post by saying how thrilled and honored we are to participate in Fantasy Cafe’s annual Women in SF&F Month for the second year in a row!

When Kristen invited us to contribute an article this year, we ran through (and discarded) a number of possible topics until we alighted on one that is very close to our hearts. Often times, you’ll hear the dreaded “c” word regarding books under the speculative fiction umbrella: crossover.

How many lists have you seen espousing the wonderful, many merits of adult science fiction or fantasy books with “crossover appeal” for younger readers? How many times have you seen articles and posts that cherry pick titles that adults deem are appropriate for younger audiences?

We’ve seen plenty. And we want to flip that notion on its head.

Today, we present you with our list of female SFF authors who write explicitly for the Middle Grade and Young Adult readers, but whose books transcend age categorization. Simply put, these are awesome authors who create amazing works of speculative fiction.

We shouldn’t discount or separate MG and YA from the genre overall when we are talking about great works of speculative fiction. This becomes even more important in the larger context of great SFF and female authorship – because when we talk about women writers in the genre, we are also talking about visibility and recognition. We simply CANNOT ignore the fact that there is a vast (and growing) number of female authors writing SFF for young readers. Also, we should not ignore these titles because, hey, there is so much AWESOME being written in these categories.

We’re calling attention to some of our favorites, but you can see our goodreads shelf full of SFF Female Authors and their wonderful MG and YA books HERE.

All books on this shelf have a rating of at least 3 stars (or in Book Smugglerish, 6/10), and is meant as a resource for anyone new to SFF written explicitly for young readers. And, because everyone knows about Suzanne Collins and J.K. Rowling and Cat Valente and Kristin Cashore and Tamora Pierce, we’re limiting our list below to lesser-known female authors.

Life as we Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer Susan Beth Pfeffer
Notable Books: Life as We Knew ItThe Dead and the Gone
These apocalyptic science fiction books are among Thea’s favorites of ALL TIME. Epistolary novels from the perspective of two very different teens in very different parts of the country (one in the isolated countryside, one in the bustle of New York City), these books examine what happens to the world when a catastrophic astronomical event changes the orbit of the moon.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth Carrie Ryan
Notable Books: The Forest of Hands and TeethThe Dark and Hollow Places
Besides having amazingly evocative titles, Ryan’s books are haunting tales of a future world ravaged by the undead. Horrific but surprisingly beautiful at the same time.
Bleeding Violet Dia Reeves
Notable Books: Bleeding VioletSlice of Cherry
Bleeding Violet is one of Ana’s favorite books, and Slice of Cherry is one of Thea’s. Both take place in the nightmarish world of Portero, Texas and feature disturbing heroines who are more at home with blood and madness than anything else. Trust us – read the books.
The City in the Lake Rachel Neumeier
Notable Books: The City in the LakeThe Floating Islands
Rachel Neumeier is a noted author of adult fantasy, but we adore her YA books even more – The City in the Lake is a darkly romantic fantasy yarn reminiscent of Juliet Marillier and Sharon Shinn, and The Floating Islands features complex protagonists and political machinations on a grand scale (and dragons, too).
Kat, Incorrigible Stephanie Burgis
Notable Books: Kat, IncorrigibleRenegade Magic
These delightful, Regency era fantasy books are told from the perspective of one incorrigible twelve-year old named Kat Stephenson. Not only does she have a skill for magic, but she is charged with the tiresome task of saving her older sisters from their own nonsense. We dare you to read these books and not be charmed and amazed. We DARE you.
The Darkangel Meredith Ann Pierce
Notable Books: The DarkangelA Gathering of GargoylesThe Pearl at the Soul of the World
Meredith Ann Pierce is an old school fantasy author, whose work bridges the realms of magical fantasy and science fiction. Her Darkangel trilogy is elegiac and ethereal – while we haven’t this prolific author’s other work, we plan on running through her extensive backlist very soon.
The Boneshaker Kate Milford
Notable Books: The BoneshakerThe Broken Lands
We’re going to come out and say it: Kate Milford is one of the most criminally under-read and under-rated authors currently writing books today. Both of her Arcana books are jaw-on-the-floor AMAZING and we vow to do everything in our power to make sure people discover this exceptionally talented author. Don’t know what to read next? READ THE BONESHAKER. Please. DO IT.
Ultraviolet R.J. Anderson
Notable Books: UltravioletQuicksilver
Another criminally under-read author (at least in the United States), R.J. Anderson is an author of both traditional fantasy and science fiction. Her recent books, Ultraviolet and the newly released Quicksilver are psychological thrillers with a distinctive science fiction twist.
Vessel Sarah Beth Durst
Notable Books: Vessel
Set in a desert world where gods take over the bodies of willing teenage vessels, Vessel is one of those keeper books about coming of age, identity, and choice.
A Long Long Sleep Anna Sheehan
Notable Books: A Long Long Sleep
This is one of those sleeper books that flew under the radar in 2011 – but it’s one of the best science fiction books Thea’s read in a very long time. What happens when you retell Sleeping Beauty, but add a horrific, science fictional twist? You get some approximation of this masterful book, that’s what.
The Chaos Nalo Hopkinson
Notable Books: The Chaos
A wonderfully surrealist Fantasy tale of self-identity and discovery that mixes stories from the Caribbean and from Russia. It’s quite unlike anything we have ever read in YA (or anywhere).
The Thief Megan Whalen Turner
Notable Books: The Queen’s Thief series starting with The Thief
A brilliant series that gets better and better with each book. Playing with narrative formats in really smart ways and featuring a plethora of unforgettable characters in a Fantasy setting that examines politics and religion, this is one of Ana’s all-time favourite series.
A Wish After Midnight Zetta Eliott
Notable Books: A Wish After MidnightShip of Souls
Beautifully written Speculative Fiction with a Historical bend and exploring Brooklyn’s incredible, poignant history both now and in the Civil War era, Elliott’s books are always a pleasure to read.
Ash Malinda Lo
Notable Books: AshAdaptation
Fairytale retellings, Fantasy and Science Fiction: Lo has been writing a bit of everything and always featuring LGBT main characters.
A Face Like Glass Frances Hardinge
Notable Books: her entire back list but most notably A Face Like Glass and Fly By Night
Frances Hardinge is another criminally under-read author who everybody with even a remote interest in great Fantasy should be reading right now. Her books are mind-blowing, creative, incredibly thought-provoking and downright fun.

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Today’s guest is prolific author Sherwood Smith! She’s written a great number and variety of stories, including both adult and young adult fantasy as well as science fiction. Her plentiful backlist was very welcome news to me after discovering her writing last year when I read her recently published book Banner of the Damned, an impressive, richly detailed fantasy novel focused on cultures and the lives of the characters. I loved it, and the experience of reading it made me want to go back and read everything she’s ever written—and the same sentiment applies to her fascinating guest post about women in fandom. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!

(Note: unlike most posts on this site, this one was long enough that the whole thing isn’t on the main page!  Either click on the title of the post or the ‘more…’ link at the bottom to get the whole thing. Sherwood Smith doesn’t just deliver the awesome, she delivers a lot of awesome!)

Sherwood Smith at a con
Sherwood Smith at a con

The Fan Effect

Captain Harville: “But let me observe that all histories are against
you, all stories, prose and verse… Songs and proverbs, all talk of
woman’s fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by
Anne Elliot: “Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in
books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story.
Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in
their hands.”
–Jane Austen, Persuasion

“The nature of reason must be the same in all.”
–Mary Wollstonecroft, A
Vindication of the Rights of

When a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world it can cause a hurricane in another part of the world.
Author Unknown (quoted by Edward Lorenz in his paper on the “Butterfly effect,” 1972)

The Fan in Fandom

Last month I read that longtime fan Judy Gerjuoy had died. I knew of her as the organizer of the long-running Darkovercon, dedicated to the works of Marion Zimmer Bradley, and including works by authors similar in spirit. Judy was barely 21 when she organized the first, in 1979.

That got me to thinking about the largely unnoticed, but profoundly influential effect women have had on fandom, on the SF and F genre, and on my particular culture—English-speaking, mostly USAn, as that’s what I’ve had most access to.

So many of us female writers began as fans.

I recollect at the Equicon 1972, which turned out to be at least as big as a Worldcon, if not bigger, a thirty-something male fan said with a pleased face, “I don’t know what it is, but suddenly fandom is full of girls!” (He married one not long after—they are still happily married.) The cons went in a few years from hundreds of attendees to thousands. I remember seas of women my age at those cons, we Boomers born roughly 1948-1955. The media took no notice, yet I suspect if thousands of young men had taken to foregathering, there would have been alarums and excursions across all the media.

In my own experience, fandom grew exponentially after the mid-60s, when women discovered Star Trek and Lord of the Rings, and to a smaller extent science fiction like Dune and Stranger in a Strange Land—exciting stories, both, but the last line of the former was “History will call us wives,” as if that was the epitome of female ambition, and the sexual climate of the latter was firmly fixed in the male gaze. As for LOTR, there were barely any women in it, and they most definitely on the sidelines, and Trek’s women were, at best, sidekicks, in their short little skirts that forced them to mince carefully for the cameras.

We were used to that, and other elements of these storylines had powerful appeal. We were young then, and the way we interacted with the material in a social setting not only consisted of dressing in costumes, and doing some early cosplaying at masquerades and picnics, but in writing, both fanfic and original. It’s not that men didn’t write stories or zines. They did. But at least in my experience, it was the women who caused the flourishing of fanfic, and thence, the arrival of women in the publishing world.

In those early days, terrific zines, like Ruth Berman’s T-Negative, were all published on purple mimeo. Within a few years the Xerox had been invented, but many of the serious zineds and writers went directly to offset printing.

Freed of what was perceived as publishing constraints, these women were not writing to please male readers, they were writing to please themselves. Even with male main characters, the stories were written with a distinctively female gaze.

And there were male characters. This surprised me, when reading those zines during the 70s, how many of them had males as the central characters. This is probably why I did not get into much fanfiction writing. I really wanted more female action figures, and it was easier to envision their adventures in my own universe. But I appreciated how fanfiction writers were taking those male-centric shows and refashioning them for the female gaze in various ways.

I sat in a hotel room late at night at a con sometime in the early eighties, listening to some fanwriters talk about universes, characters, and storylines. Re the type of story that puts the male character through the wringer, a woman who had penned some particularly graphic hurt/comfort stories (very popular they were, too) smiled sweetly and said, “When I take my toys out, I always put them back to bed again, as pretty as they were before, ready for next time I want to play.”

Before a subset of fandom discovered Alexander the Great and Hephaiston’s passion through Mary Renault, and Francis Crawford of Lymond through Dorothy Dunnett’s historical novels, it was all Frodo, Aragorn, Captain Kirk, and especially Spock. And hoo boy did they suffer!

I think it was in 1974 when “August Moon” came out, in which Spock went into Pon Farr with Kirk, that an deeper itch got scratched. Others have delved into why that storyline works so powerfully for female fans. All I’m here to say is that fanfiction really took off, and I watched it happen. And eventually some of these writing women filed the serial numbers off their stories and went on to highly successful careers.

Tangential to the stories were letter zines like “Marzipan and Kisses”, dedicated to Dorothy Dunnett, in which case participants discussed and analyzed the novels. I remember two super popular threads: determining Kuzum’s father, and did Lymond or didn’t he sleep with Dragut Rais. People were coming out of the closet right and left, and it showed in the zines. IDIC was one of the most important concepts showing up, over and over, in fanfiction. By being able to talk about these issues with other women, in an atmosphere of tolerance and support, the fans could go out into the world and try to live the ideal.

Fans in History

Maybe it’s too much of a stretch to use the word ‘fan.’ This word seems so bound to the present day. And yet when I delve into the history of literature for what the women were doing, I see evidence of fannish behavior: reading, writing about one’s reading, writing stories of one’s own, then going out and trying to live the ideal. Were women doing fandom?

Sure they were. History, as written by men, just didn’t pay any attention.


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A couple of days into this year’s Women in SF&F Month and, judging by the Twitter response and other social traffic, it looks like people are well into the swing of it!  I’m so very happy about the response from the community and can only say that we’ve just scratched the surface of the great posts that people have contributed.

We’re continuing today with science fiction and fantasy author Karin Lowachee! She’s best known for her books set in the Warchild universe, a place that is not filled with rainbows and fluffy bunnies. Though I have yet to read these books myself, I’ve heard nothing but praise for them from those who have read them. During last year’s event, Shara from Calico Reaction shared that Warchild was easily her favorite science fiction novel EVER, and Janice from Specfic Romantic said she enjoyed Karin Lowachee’s Warchild books because “the voices of her protagonists are always so distinctive and so compelling.”

After hearing those recommendations and more for these books, I was excited when Karin Lowachee accepted my invitation to participate in this year’s series. She is going to talk about the common assumption that people have upon hearing that she’s an author: she either writes children’s books or romances.

Karin Lowachee

“You Mean You Don’t Write Children’s Books?”

Let’s talk about when people ask you about your writing, you a female – perhaps you’ve even published – but they don’t know anything else. Maybe they’re friends of the family but not particularly your friends; maybe just acquaintances; maybe people you meet for the first time at a random (non-writerly) event, and the conversation goes as most do in casual situations: So what do you do? I’m a writer. Oh that’s cool! What do you write – children’s books? No, actually. Romances? No, actually—books about war.

If I had a dollar for every time…as they say.

For some reason the go-to assumption when I tell random people that I write is that I write children’s books. Let me put it out there that I’m not the kind of girl who has a burning desire to hold babies or be around kids, so I don’t really know why they’d assume that association; of course a stranger or casual acquaintance might not know that. Okay, so what about the fact I look sort of young? Is the assumption then that I write romance novels? I have nothing against romance writers or romance books, even if it’s not my thing. But over the years it’s become a point of great amusement that both men and women I’ve casually met seem to find it shocking that I, a multiracial kind-of-young-looking woman, would write about war.

Not only war, but children in perilous situations, real-world not-pretty topics that occur in our day and age, only – even more shocking! – set in space. Science fiction is surely for teenaged boys or Trekkies, right? Or, as the case may be with my fantasy, war set in a second world Victorian Wild West. Oh let’s just toss the Western genre in there too, because that’s also unusual for women to be into…right? In a matter of seconds I can practically hear their thoughts, and I have no actual irritation or animosity about the assumption. It’s a constant source of curiosity that here we are in the 21st century, where women have gone into space, driven in the Indy 500, and directed movies – but you, as a woman, meet random people who hear that you’re a writer and they automatically assume it’s for romance or children’s books. (By the way, when it’s another woman in the conversation, there might follow the admission that they’ve always wanted to write a children’s book, and when I tell them that they are actually rather difficult to write, they look like they don’t believe me. Surely something that’s only 1000 words can’t be that hard? I just let it go.) Maybe it’s just me…I’d be interested to know if any of my fellow female writers have met up with this.

These encounters stand in stark contrast to conventions or reading series or book launches we might all go to where it’s not unusual to hear women talk about future weaponry in fiction, ancient warriors, or astrophysics. It dawned on me early that we, as female genre writers – while sometimes (or rarely) we do encounter a certain amount of gender inequality in the field – are ultimately moving around in an environment where people readily accept that you write anything you damn well please. And it’s not surprising; there are no such assumptions that your protagonist must fall in love, or it’s somehow unusual that you know Alexander the Great’s military strategy as well as most PBS specials. “What do you write?” as a question amongst other genre writers is one without many preconceived notions. “Books about faeries” is just as likely to come out of a woman’s mouth as “Military space opera.” Nobody bats an eye.

And that’s as it should be.

Ladies, own what you write. Don’t give in to the temptation to downplay your interests just because they might be unusual to the general (uninitiated) public. Once in awhile you might even change someone’s perspective when it comes to such assumptions, or open up a conversation about things that person may have never considered because their general reading interests are relegated to Oprah’s Book Club (not that all of her choices are bad…I love The Road. Which, incidentally, is obviously post-apoc science fiction, though I’m sure her demographic didn’t really think about that or admit it.)

By the way, I do want to write a children’s book. I have an idea and an outline. It’s just on the list after the few novels and short stories – and yes, at least one is post-apoc – that I need to finish. Whatever you write, and especially if you’re a writer who has very little to no outside support in your passion, be determined to write what you love. In the end that matters more than the casual opinion or assumption of others.

About Karin Lowachee:
Karin was born in South America, grew up in Canada, and worked in the Arctic. Her first novel WARCHILD won the 2001 Warner Aspect First Novel Contest. Both WARCHILD (2002) and her third novel CAGEBIRD (2005) were finalists for the Philip K. Dick Award. CAGEBIRD won the Prix Aurora Award in 2006 for Best Long-Form Work in English and the Spectrum Award also in 2006. Her second novel BURNDIVE debuted at #7 on the Locus Bestseller List. Her books have been translated into French, Hebrew, and Japanese, and her short stories have appeared in anthologies edited by Julie Czerneda, Nalo Hopkinson, and John Joseph Adams. Her fantasy novel, THE GASLIGHT DOGS, was published through Orbit Books USA. Follow her on Twitter @karinlow or on Goodreads at http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/107732.Karin_Lowachee.

Warchild by Karin Lowachee Burndive by Karin Lowachee Cagebird by Karin Lowachee