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Today’s guest is A. M. Dellamonica! A. M. Dellamonica has written a variety of short stories and two novels, Indigo Springs and its sequel Blue Magic. She’s talking about a common theme in her stories today – women and the law.

As I’ve mentioned before this month, I did invite a few authors to participate whose books I want to read but have not yet read. Sometimes it seems like I talk about the same authors all the time, so I wanted some variety this month! A. M. Dellamonica is one author whose books I have not read yet but really want to. They sound like my type of books since I saw they are supposed to be dark on the author’s blog, and according to the back cover of Blue Magic, Library Journal said Indigo Springs is “a powerful story of good intentions gone terribly wrong.” This intrigues me quite a lot!

Alyx Dellamonica

Woman and the Fantasy of Justice

I had a question at my Blue Magic launch in Vancouver recently, from a lawyer, which boiled down to this: why do many of my fantasies also have, sandwiched in with everything else in the story, a bit of courtroom drama? “The Cage,” for example, centers around the criminal trial of a man who’s executed a female werewolf. In Blue Magic, a cult leader and self-styled goddess calling herself The Earth is on trial in U.S. Federal Court for treason. It’s a big televised show trial, meant to show that the government is in control of a spiraling outbreak of magic. (Or, looked at another way, they’re making a public example of a politically troublesome woman.)

Urban fantasy tends to deal more in rough justice than the machinations of the legal system. We’ve all read books where the villains arise and–whether they’re vampires, demons, or evil mages–their murderous sprees end when the hero or heroine kills them. It’s usually justifiable homicide–the necessary execution of someone who’s about to do major harm to others. Sometimes the hero even feels really bad about it.

But this sense that monsters fall outside the law is presented as a tidy solution to a completely human problem, because our allegedly mundane world is full of evil people making evil choices. That’s something we have here and now, without any magic at all. Though the death of a villain often makes for satisfying stories, it’s not how I imagine things playing out in our world if magic spilled into our reality.

In the real world, many of our problems seep into our courts and legal system, and I have always been interested in the ways the system can tend to discriminate against women. Consider the recent case of Raquel Nelson, for example, a Georgia mother who was convicted of vehicular homicide when a drunk driver struck her family with his car. Her crime? Jaywalking. The peculiar cruelty of this case cannot but seem like institutionalized misogyny, at least to me. It’s hard to imagine it playing out in the same way, had Raquel been male.

My interest in the courts also stems back to a period in my life when I was working at a local rape crisis center. It was an eye-opening experience. Volunteers supported women who called our crisis line and, when callers opted to call the authorities at all–because often they don’t–we worked to be with them through every stage of the process. Reporting a rape is something of an obstacle course: there’s the trip to the hospital, the initial statement made to the police, follow-up and still more follow-up, and finally–in a precious few cases where everything went ‘well’ enough that an attacker got caught and a prosecutor thought the case might be a winner–attending criminal trials.

I got to see the machinery of the law grind along in some slow ways, some ineffective ways. Sometimes it worked very well indeed. Other times it was unjust on a scale that was almost darkly comic. Obviously, it all made an impression.

And these days, one of my close friends is a Crown Attorney, so I get to hear about the system from the other side.

So in my book, the woman who spearheaded a magical assault on an aircraft carrier doesn’t just conveniently die by the hand or gun of some heroic type. She gets arrested and put on trial and the trial is put on television. The process of trying her gets all bound up in media coverage and politics and the needs of a government trying desperately to show that it has control over the magical outbreak.

This idea isn’t unique to me, obviously. D D Barant’s THE BLOODHOUND FILES novels has tons of legal material–their main character is an FBI profiler on a world where humans are, believe it or not, a federally protected endangered species.

The idea of magic being outside the law, a wild and unenforceable element that can only be brought to heel through vigilantism, strikes me as something an author ought to have to sell. Because, human nature being what it is, if magic exists then legislators are going to at least try to impose some sort of structure on it. Cops and armies are going to have magic or try to get it. Any given population of people contains enough control freaks that someone’s going to make big rules about enchanters are allowed and not allowed to do.

And this is handy, from my point of view. The law is another thing a writer can use to put limits on their magic system. (It’s generally understood that magic in fantasy has to have some limitations, because if the characters can do anything, there’s really no conflict to be had. It’s basically, “And then she became a deity, the end.”) In some of my worlds, it’s less that magic is limited than that society draws lines on how it can be used.

The simplest answer to that reader’s question, of course, is that a little courtroom drama turns my crank: I like it. It makes for interesting story. And so my next trilogy will have a big legal component too. (This is the series that ties in to my Tor.com story, “Among the Silvering Herd.”) It has a complex and almost Victorian legal system, all adjudicated through a seagoing Age of Sail-type Fleet, where the lawsuits are numerous and the only out-of-court settlement option is to challenge your plaintiff or defendant to a duel and instead of a Lord High Executioner they have a Duelist-Adjudicator’s office full of fighting judges. It’s going to be incredibly fun.

About A. M. Dellamonica:
A.M. Dellamonica’s first novel, urban fantasy INDIGO SPRINGS, won the 2010 Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic; a sequel, BLUE MAGIC, was released by Tor in 2012. She has published short fiction in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction MagazineStrange HorizonsTOR.COM and over thirty other magazines and anthologies. (Her most recent short is “Among the Silvering Herd.”) A resident of Vancouver, British Columbia, Dellamonica teaches writing through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.

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Read the first chapter of Indigo Springs
Read the first chapter of Blue Magic

Indigo Springs  by A.M. Dellamonica Blue Magic by A.M. Dellamonica

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Today’s guest is Kenda from Lurv a la Mode! Kenda reads fantasy, science fiction, and romance, and this year she is hosting a reading challenge fantasy fans may want to participate in, Year of the Fantasy Classic.

Kenda is one of my favorite bloggers because of both her thoughtful reviews and her sense of humor. She’s not afraid to say what she thinks about a book even if it’s less than glowing, and I appreciate how she gives her opinion and tells it how she sees it. Kenda is just an all-around fantastic blogger (and she runs a great food blog too!). I was very glad to see the topic she chose today – how an author made her more willing to try books featuring a certain common fantasy theme she used to avoid. Please give a warm welcome to Kenda!

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Finding Enjoyment in Faerie

I want to thank Kristen for asking me to do a guest post for her Women in SF&F Month. I love it when I get ask to guest on a great blog, but then I always struggle to figure out what to say. Then it just hits me. So thanks for asking me here today, Kristen! I appreciate to opportunity to reflect on what women in one of my favorite genres means to me.

So as you may have guessed, I’m going to talk a little today about Faerie, aka, the Fae or Faery or any other other various ways of spelling the concept. It really wasn’t much of a fave of mine back in the day. If fact, it was like my dreaded angel trope these days. I’d figuratively run the other way if Faerie was mentioned in any way. I think in part it’s because that was the big deal then. It seemed like everywhere you turned it was fae this and fairy that, and the ones I’d tried didn’t gel with me. I don’t tend to stick too much to overly zealous publishing trends (I’m sure there’s an exception or two, but the repetitive nature of trends can be a turn off).

I’ll never forget the day I got a certain ARC in the mail, unsolicited. Instead of the book’s blurb on the back cover, there was a small letter from the head of DAW publishing (Or maybe their senior editor? OK, so maybe that day is slightly fuzzy now.). A little unprecedented, yes? I thought so. It was an incredibly laudatory letter on the book in question and I wasn’t buying it. I’m not one for author quotes on books either, so I naturally wasn’t going to pay a publishing professional’s much more notice. We’re all too different; I won’t enjoy it just because this person, nice as they may have seemed, liked it so much. I started to read the book after that, because it had been one I was looking forward to.

That magical book was Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire. (Aha! We get to the female side of this discussion, finally.) It is all up in that fae business that I thought would never be for me. This one was different, though, and as I read it and was sucked in, I supposed that maybe I could agree with a certain DAW employee that it was something special. By the end I knew it was. It’s one of my most favorite series now and I can’t ever get enough.

Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire

Since I’ve reviewed all the books in the series so far, I’ve thought a lot already about what it is I like so much about Toby, and at the heart of it is her unflagging ability to be a hero. It’s been mentioned more than once in the series that, something along the lines of “Faerie has no more heroes”. It means that the legends of old that were the known and beloved heroes were swiftly dwindling. But I see Toby as a return to those heroic roots of Faerie. She is loyalty personified, even at times when those she serves aren’t as loyal to her. When everyone else is ready to turn a back or blind eye with their apathy, there’s always Toby to pick up the reins. As a result she is hurt, both physically and mentally, beaten and punished in ways that are unthinkable. But it doesn’t break her. She never stops. And thankfully somewhere along the way she gains new friends and alliances. She is not alone. As a result, each book in the series has felt so triumphant for me.

I wouldn’t feel this way if McGuire didn’t drive Toby so darn hard. It’s almost physically painful to me how hurt Toby can get. I feel what the book is trying to do that much and I love that it can get to me that way. It means that I also find complete happiness when the situation warrants it. In a way this post is a confession of my crush on Toby as a phenomenal character and it’s my undeniable letter of a total fangirl to an author. It’s a thank you for helping me along in my heel digging to avoid fae fantasy fiction. It’s totally thanks to McGuire that I’ll give fae-themed fantasy a try now – and amazingly enough not the Lord of the Rings movies that even now hubby and I are watching for the proverbial one millionth time as I type this up. But you go, Arwen, you tell that meddling father of yours.

Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire

Anyway, the point to this long-winded bit of fangirl fluttering is to ask you, fellow fantasy and science fiction fans, what female authors have especially inspired your reading? Do you have any particular themes/tropes that you’ve vowed never to read? Have any female authors managed to get you to change your mind?

Thanks again for having me here today, Kristen!

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Women in SF&F Month is almost at an end, although it is going to continue into the first week of May. The final guests will end on May 2nd and there were a few more things I wanted to cover before declaring the event officially over as well.

Once again, I just wanted to link to what happened last week, any related links I noticed, and announce the final guests!

Week In Review

Here’s what last week’s guests talked about:

Thank you to all of this week’s guests for taking the time to share their thoughts and recommendations!

This week there is also another giveaway in addition to Kate Elliott’s books mentioned above. There is a chance to win the entire Newsflesh trilogy (Feed, Deadline, Blackout) by Mira Grant. Be sure to check out the other sites listed in the giveaway post for more chances to win these books!

I also wanted to point out a list of non-European based fantasy books written by women that Martha Wells has started. There are so many of these I want to check out!

Final Guests

The final guests are:

Ana and Thea from The Book Smugglers
Catherine Asaro (Saga of the Skolian Empire series, Lost Continent series, The Spacetime Pool, Alpha)
A. M. Dellamonica (Indigo Springs, Blue Magic)
Kenda from Lurv a la Mode

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Today’s guest is Pamela from The Discriminating Fangirl! Pamela is the founder, editor, and head writer of the site, and there are other contributors who regularly post on the site as well.

I love The Discriminating Fangirl because it is my type of place – dedicated to all things geek-oriented. This includes speculative fiction book reviews, but it also extends to television and movies (especially superhero movies), comic books, and video games. They also have a few podcasts that cover everything from banned books to some of the latest movies in the Marvel universe. It is the perfect place to hang out if you’re into the usual geeky things in addition to reading science fiction and fantasy.

Pamela is telling us about two of her favorite authors today. They’re both authors I’ve read, and I have to say, I give a big thumbs up to both the authors she’s selected and her reasons for choosing them!

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First, huge thanks to Kristen for inviting me to be part of her Women in SF/F month! I went back and forth on what to write today, and I decided that since I love giving my opinion, I’m going to talk about two authors who write in my favorite SF/F subgenre: urban fantasy.

I love pretty much any subgenre of speculative fiction. I cut my reading teeth on science fiction and fantasy and was attacking hard SF and high fantasy by the time I was ten. When urban fantasy started to surface in bookstores, I found myself immediately drawn to it. I love the idea of the fantastic hiding in plain sight in a contemporary setting. And I quickly realized that the vast majority of the UF that I was reading was written by women, which was a major plus to me. I’m all about promoting women’s participation in geekdom, and I’m proud to read female authors in the geeky realm.

So! Who are my two favorite female urban fantasy authors? Actually, I shouldn’t even qualify that with “female.” These are my two favorite UF authors, period, and they’re two of my favorite authors in any genre. Let’s go!

Books by Ann Aguirre

Ann Aguirre

Ms. Aguirre first came on my radar with the first novel in her Sirantha Jax series, Grimspace, and boy, do I love that series. I love character-driven science fiction, and Grimspace is right up my alley, led by a tough female lead who grows and changes over the course of the series. LOVE IT.

So when I saw that Ms. Aguirre was coming out with an urban fantasy series, I jumped aboard as fast as I could. The Corinne Solomon series has quickly turned into one of my favorites, and Ms. Aguirre is proving herself an expert at creating the kind of character that I love. Corinne, like Sirantha Jax, is tough and intelligent, but she is ultimately a flawed human being, and that’s what makes her so fascinating. She does the wrong thing while trying to do the right thing, and she tries desperately to learn from those missteps, and really, I can’t ask for better character development than that. At the end of the third book in the series, Shady Lady, I actually cried for Corinne. I may be a sap, but I don’t often cry over books (Harry Potter is the exception here), so this is high praise from me.

The fourth Corinne Solomon book, Devil’s Punch, came out April 3, and it’s sitting in iBooks waiting for me to crack its metaphorical spine. If you haven’t checked out Ms. Aguirre’s series (she also has a dystopian young adult series, Razorland, which I also love), you should definitely pick one up.

Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire

If there’s an author that will make me jump off of my butt and run to buy a book the second it comes out, it’s Seanan McGuire. Her October Daye series is hands-down my favorite urban fantasy. It just encapsulates everything I love about the genre, from magic hiding in plain sight to a snarky, self-aware main character to absolutely gorgeous incorporation of mythology and folklore into the “real” world. I love good world-building, and Ms. McGuire builds one seriously amazing world.

Much like my love of Ms. Aguirre’s characters, the thing that keeps me hooked on the October Daye series is the amazing cast of characters. October herself is near the top of my list of favorite fictional characters. She’s flawed–oh my goodness, does she have issues–but she ultimately tries to do what’s good and right. She feels a sense of duty, but she also has a well-developed idea of her own personal ethics, and while those ethics may adapt to situations, I never feel like she’s acting out of character. Toby is never stagnant as a character, and with each new book in the series, I feel like she grows and adapts and becomes even better.

To put it succinctly, I freaking love Toby.

But Toby isn’t the only amazing character in the series. I’ve seen so many series get weighed down under an enormous cast of characters, and the problem with that stems from not fleshing out those characters enough. I don’t want to read about cardboard cutouts who interact with the main character but don’t really have personalities beyond “handsome love interest” or “sassy best friend.”

The October Daye series boasts the best cast of supporting characters I’ve seen. I love them all, even the ones I hate. No one is just tossed in there to fill a role, and I’ve even fallen head over heels for a few of them (Tybalt, Luideag, Quentin, I’m looking at you). I cried like a baby when a supporting character died in the fifth book, One Salt Sea.

I could ramble on forever about how much I love this series, but I should probably cut myself off here. Ms. McGuire has managed to write an addictive series that’s alternately serious, funny, and heartbreaking, and I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for the next book to come out.

She also writes the InCryptid series, another urban fantasy, which I actually haven’t read yet. I just bought the first ebook, Discount Armageddon, so I’ll be reading it soon. Under the name Mira Grant, she’s also written the Newsflesh series, which is actually the first zombie horror books I’ve read. I’m not into zombies, guys, so it’s a sign of how awesome those books are that I absolutely loved the first two and can’t wait for the third, which comes out in May.

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Today’s guest is fantasy and science fiction author Kate Elliott! She is sharing her own experience with gender roles as a child and how it influenced her writing (which is fantastic, by the way!).

I discovered Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker books last year and am now a big fan of them. Cold Fire ended up being not only one of my favorite books I read last year but also that special kind of book every reader loves to find – a new favorite book from any year. That was mostly because of the characters, the world, the dialogue, the sense of humor, and, well, I just loved EVERYTHING about this book. It’s one of those extremely rare books that captured my attention right from the beginning and kept me absorbed until the very end. I even gave it a rating of 10, which is not an occurrence that happens often at all! I can’t wait for the final book in the trilogy, and it has put Kate Elliott on my list of authors I simply must read more by.

You have a chance to win one of her books to read, too, since she has offered to give away two signed books today!

Kate Elliott

I grew up in rural Oregon. I was what they then called a tomboy, which meant I was a girl who liked to do things culturally associated with and approved for boys. For the purposes of this post I’m speaking of the western rural USA, as that was my experience. Even though I use a form of universal speech, it’s meant to reflect a limited “we” not an “the whole world and everybody we.”

Looking back now, I see that I was merely an active, outdoors-oriented child, but the cultural markers fell strongly upon our minds and bodies. To be an active, outdoors-oriented child is not to be boyish or girlish; it is not gendered. Our society gendered it.

There are a lot more complex ways to talk about gender today than there were then. At that time, as far as I knew, there was only the binary: boys and girls. There was a proper way to be a boy and to be a girl and an improper way to be a boy and to be a girl. I understood that as a child, even if I couldn’t have expressed it in those terms. You really didn’t want to be an improper boy or an improper girl, although the one advantage improper girls (as long as they weren’t being sexually improper, that is, wanting to have sexual autonomy and desire) had over improper boys is that it was at least understandable that improper girls might perceive boy things as superior because, of course, they were deemed so by society.

What I saw was that the things I yearned for–adventure, travel, sword fights, the excitement engaged in by characters in the fiction I loved to read–and the things I had–ambition to strive for lofty goals, an inner drive, a questing mind that wanted to discover–were things that society and literature and film told me were reserved for boys.

When I was in 7th grade and twelve years old,  my Language Arts teacher was a young woman of uncommon good sense who had empathy and compassion for her students. She was unlike any other female role model I had come into contact with up to that time. About halfway through the year, she gave us a questionnaire of “fill in the blank” questions meant, I suppose, to make us think about our selves and our lives. My favorite food is . . . The best trip I ever took . . .

The last question was the most open-ended one: “I wish . . . ”

I wrote: I wish I was a boy.

These days, that sentence could be interpreted in many ways. It could have been then, too, of course, but the conversation about gender in rural Oregon was a far more limited one. What she thought I don’t know. But I do know she called me aside and asked me about it privately. What did it mean to me that I said that? she asked me with concern.

What it meant to me was that it wasn’t worth being a girl.

Being a girl was second-class, even in some ways shameful. Boys got the good things, they were clearly seen to be better, it was obviously better to be a boy, and furthermore, the dreams I had and the desires and hopes were boy dreams, not girl dreams.

But beyond that, what it meant to me what that my authentic self, the place I knew was my most true inner self, wasn’t supposed to exist. I shouldn’t be the person I knew myself to be.

I believe she saw my words as an expression of pain. That it mattered to her that I was in pain made a huge impression on me.

More than that, it altered the trajectory of my life.

What she helped me understand was that I didn’t want to be a girl not because being a girl was bad at root, but because I felt stuck in the limited role allocated to girls.

She made it possible for me to realize that the problem wasn’t girlhood. The problem wasn’t that being a boy was actually better in an essentialist way, that males were genuinely superior to females, but that it was a cultural issue in which being a boy was defined as being better.

She made it possible for me to decide that it was okay to be a girl. That I could be proud of being a girl. That I could start to claim for myself some of that space that had for so long been reserved for boys. That I had a right to be there and go there, too, wherever there was.

Today, of course,we have more nuanced and complex ways of exploring statements about gender identity. I have no way of knowing how complex her question to me was meant, or what she was aware of and was listening for in my response. What mattered was that she approached my pain with compassion and without judgment.

If you’ve not grown up being told you shouldn’t be who you are, I’m not sure you can quite understand why world-building and writing epic fantasy is so attractive and in its way a form of chain-breaking. I started writing right around that time. My first serious “cycle” of stories, which I wrote in tandem with my best friend when we were 14, featured two male characters. It was very much in the style of everything I read, in which if there were female characters they were secondary and of only temporary interest to the story, while the lads got to have their rollicking adventures.

But in fact, that was the only story of that kind I ever wrote. After that, at the tender age of 15, I decided I had had enough of there not being anyone like me even in my own stories. I decided to write about girls, about women–about men, too–but women in equal space and equal importance to the story. This was not a small decision. It went against what I saw when I read; it went against received wisdom, especially in adventure stories. Certainly it became progressively easier as more and more women moved into the science fiction and fantasy field as increasingly visible writers with stories that increasingly included and highlighted female characters and the world as experienced from the point of view of women.

Eventually, although this was harder, I was able to see that I had bought into the denigration of women’s lived experience. I had to climb out of that pit myself. Feminist historians have been excavating women’s lives for decades, bringing forgotten, invisible lives into the light of day. I realized that in my own small way I might help overturn this diminishment of female lives not only by portraying women in diverse ways that allowed women a full range of personalities, occupations, roles, and stories, but also by respecting the centrality and importance of the women’s work so often considered (often by women) trivial, demeaning, and lesser.

To this day, I feel a responsibility to my younger self, to write stories that don’t exclude her.

This sense of obligation to my younger self is why I try to write stories that include as wide and various a range of roles not just for female characters specifically but for people who have long been excluded in one way or another. I want my fiction to include the people who for so long have been ignored and made invisible by cultural narratives that claimed they did not and do not matter. I am so tired of exclusion.

Because you know what?

We don’t have to perpetuate exclusion. We’re bigger than that: We make up worlds.

About Kate Elliott:
Kate Elliott is the author of the Spiritwalker Trilogy, an Afro-Celtic post-Roman icepunk Regency adventure fantasy with swords, sharks, and lawyer dinosaurs. She has also written the Crossroads Trilogy, which features giant eagles, ghosts, and the clash of cultures, the complete-in-seven-volumes Crown of Stars epic fantasy, and the science fiction Novels of the Jaran. She lives not in lurid adventure fiction but in paradisiacal Hawaii.

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Cold Magic by Kate Elliott Cold Fire by Kate Elliott Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott

Book Giveaway

Kate Elliott has graciously offered to give away 2 SIGNED copies of her books – one to a US reader and one to a reader from anywhere outside the US. Each winner can choose one of the following books:

  • Cold Magic (Spiritwalker #1)
  • Cold Fire (Spiritwalker #2)
  • Spirit Gate (Crossroads #1)
  • Shadow Gate (Crossroads #2)
  • Traitors’ Gate (Crossroads #3)

You can read more about both of these series on the author’s website:

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below. One entry per person. This giveaway is open internationally. One winner from the US and one from outside the US will be randomly selected.  This giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Sunday, May 6. Each 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 winners. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Good luck!

Note: Now that the giveaway is closed, the contact form has been removed.

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Today Memory from Stella Matutina is sharing the story of how she became a fantasy fan!  Stella Matutina is another one of my favorite blogs to visit for all things bookish. You know how once in a while you find a reviewer whose taste really matches yours? You both love the same books, and you both tend to not like the same books even if it seems like you’re the ONLY ONES in the ENTIRE WORLD who didn’t enjoy this one book? Memory is that reviewer whose taste seems eerily similar to mine – so if you have found you also have taste that is similar to mine, you should definitely be reading her blog! In addition to having excellent taste, she writes some really interesting and fun reviews, especially when she’s so excited about a book that she just can’t be constrained by things like punctuation and grammar.

Please welcome Memory!

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I’m a fantasy fan because of two women: Lisa Boles, my grade seven Language Arts teacher, and Jean Mabee, my junior high librarian.

That’s not to say I was a total fantasy neophyte before I met them. I’d read a decent amount of children’s fantasy–C.S. Lewis and Lloyd Alexander and the like. Trouble was, my twelve-year-old self wanted to explore work aimed at an older audience, and I thought that meant abandoning all hope of anything magical. My parents spoke of having read fantasy in their younger years, but both had since moved on to other genres. Their example showed me that adult literature was primarily composed of category romance, mystery, and submarine novels.

All of which sounded pretty damned dull. I figured I was doomed.

It wasn’t until I perused Ms Boles’s classroom library that I realized fantasy existed outside the realm of children’s literature. She had a fair few adult fantasy novels in the mix, and my classmates and I were welcome to borrow them. I chose a Forgotten Realms title more or less at random and dove right in.

The next thing I knew, I was obsessed with the genre.

When Ms Boles realized what had happened, she pushed me to read several of her own favourites, including Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. They were the first properly epic books I’d ever encountered. I loved them so much that I started getting up an hour earlier every morning, just so I’d have more time to read.

I’m not sure whether Ms Boles mentioned my newly-minted fantasy-fan status to Mrs Mabee, or whether she noticed it herself. Either way, I soon made her acquaintance–and she proved to be an even bigger fantasy fan than Ms Boles. She and her co-librarian (whose name, I fear, escapes me) had stocked the school library with both fantasy and science fiction. Mrs Mabee ensured I knew exactly where to find the best of the lot. She introduced me to authors like Mercedes Lackey, whose work I loved, and Anne McCaffrey, who proved hit-or-miss but ultimately enjoyable.

Mrs Mabee also lent me several of her own books–presumably titles her library’s budget (or, perhaps, the school board’s content restrictions) didn’t allow her to purchase for students. Ms Boles, too, made sure I entered the rotation for her copy of A CROWN OF SWORDS, the seventh Wheel of Time novel.

Ms Boles and Mrs Mabee loomed large in my world. Through them, I met a couple of female teachers’ aides who also loved fantasy. My habit of openly carrying my current read everywhere I went also introduced me to some fantastically-inclined women outside the school’s walls.

For a long time, almost every fantasy fan of my acquaintance was female.

The books they recommended to me changed my world.

And I’ve just realized that very few of those books were by women.

When I look back at that period, I can point to many favoured male authors. But other than Mercedes Lackey (who, to be fair, published enough books for any three writers), Anne McCaffrey and Leigh Eddings (David’s often-uncredited coauthor), I’m drawing a blank on female writers. I’m sure I did encounter others, but I read so many more books by men that the female-authored texts have been drowned out.

Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey Belgarath the Sorcerer by David and Leigh Eddings

I honestly don’t believe I read so few books by women because there were none available. Neither do I think my male-oriented reading list had much to do with the fact that epic fantasy and fantasy adventure were my preferred subgenres.

It was a matter of visibility. I mostly read books people recommended. People recommended books they’d heard of, and subsequently read, themselves.

Most of those books were by men, because our culture privileges men’s writing over women’s.

Sometimes, this privileging is unconscious. Other times, it’s deliberate. It’s always a disservice to both female writers and readers of all genders.

I was eighteen and fresh off an historical fiction kick before I began to read substantially more fantasy by women. I no longer knew many fantasy fans, female or otherwise, so I couldn’t rely on recommendations. I found most of my books by browsing the library’s shelves at random. Somehow, I gravitated towards female fantasists.

Which was all fine and dandy for me, but as Elizabeth Bear said earlier this month, the best way to support female writers is to buy their books, read them, and talk about them. I did very little of the latter until I joined LibraryThing. Sharing my thoughts with other avid readers proved so much fun that I later began my blog, where I do my best to be vocal about the authors I’ve read and enjoyed. More than half of them are women.

In return, I’ve received scads of recommendations for fantasy by women. I discovered Sarah Monette, Naomi Novik, Anne Bishop, Connie Willis, Lisa Shearin, Jacqueline Carey, Elizabeth Knox, Diana Wynne Jones, and a whole host of others because I knew fans–most of them women–who had read their work, loved it, and told the world.

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop

We’ve got a long way to go before female authors are as visible as their male counterparts, but whenever we spread the word about a book we’ve enjoyed, whenever we encourage another girl or woman to read some SFF, we’re moving in the right direction.

Fifteen years back, two enthusiastic, supportive female fans did just that for me, and it’s made my life so much richer. I’ll always be grateful to them.