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INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY MARCH 8TH- WELL STACKED OTHER WOMEN
I generally don’t categorise female writers as a gender but for International Women’s Day I thought I might put together a small representative compilation of some of the books written by learned ladies whose fiction I’ve found inspirational over the years. If there’s a consistent theme it’s that these writers create female characters that are strong, capable, determined and, more frequently than not, more than able to hold their own against and alongside the larger than life blokes that characterise the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Historical Fiction genres that most (but not all!) of these adept writers grace.
That or the feisty novelists themselves could be classified as “Arse Booting Sheilas”, as we say Downunder.
Along with the never to be underestimated ladies intersecting my life (including my formidable Flickr chums!) , it’s writers like these who’ve formed my ideal of what women are and can be. This is not, incidentally, a complete list. I just didn’t have regular paperback sized editions of the works of some equally fine favourites that would fit into the stack!
From the top down:
JANE AUSTEN- It is a truth universally acknowledged that centuries later Jane’s still one of the wittiest! PERSUASION was her last published novel, which was released posthumously.
MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY- It’s her Arthurian themed MISTS OF AVALON that I like the most of all her books, but the copy I’ve got is a hardcover and wouldn’t fit into this little compilation. HUNTERS OF THE RED MOON is one of her Science Fiction books.
SUSAN COOPER- THE GREY KING is one of Cooper’s THE DARK IS RISING Arthurian themed sequence. Okay, I tend to encounter a lot of female genre writer’s first in their Arthurian writings…which will become increasingly obvious.
LOIS MCMASTER BUJOLD- A master of slick but amusing heroic space opera, in particular her famous tales of the adventures of the resourceful if somewhat physically fragile Miles Vorkosigan. This book, KOMARR, belongs to that series.
DIANE CAREY- One of my all time favourite writers of Star Trek spin-off fiction. She has an excellent feel for the character ensembles matched only by her ability to instil in her stories a strong nautical flavour that perfectly suits the idea of Star Fleet being a continuation of planetary surface naval traditions. BATTLESTATIONS ! was the sequel to her equally worthy DREADNOUGHT !
C.J.CHERRYH- Second only to Larry Niven when it comes to cat aliens. THE PRIDE OF CHANUR is the cat’s meow of feline E.Ts.
LINDSEY DAVIS- I’m a fan of historical themed detective fiction and naturally admire this writer’s Marcus Didius Falco/ Helena Justina novels, set in Vespasian’s Roman Empire. THE COURSE OF HONOUR isn’t about Falco, it’s Vespasian’s story, which Davis wrote first, but didn’t see published until well after the Falco series had otherwise made her name.
BARBARA HAMBLY- One of my absolute favourite writers. Adeptly crosses genres from Science Fiction to Fantasy to Historical Detective fiction. TRAVELLING WITH THE DEAD is one of her superb genre defining vampire novels, but I equally love her Benjamin January (If they ever did a television series Avery Brooks would be perfect to play the role!) New Orleans detective stories as well as her Star Trek, Star Wars and sword and sorcery books.
ZENNA HENDERSON- Henderson’s generally gentle stories of The People, alien refugees who quietly became colonists on Earth without all that spectacular mucking around with invasions, had a big influence on me. THE PEOPLE: NO DIFFERENT FLESH, is a collected anthology of those tales.
ROBIN HOBB- Robin’s fantasy stories are wonderfully detailed and peopled with fascinating characters. SHIP OF MAGIC is book one of her Liveship Traders series. I’ve been fortunate enough to interview her twice now, and thoroughly enjoyed the privilege to gain an insight into her marvellous imagination and writing process.
PHYLISS ANN KARR- Another writer whose Arthurian work I treasure, starting with THE IDYLLS OF THE QUEEN, which features the much neglected Sir Kay, to her authoritative reference work THE KING ARTHUR COMPANION. I got to meet Phyliss at an S.F convention, where we were on a panel about, what else, King Arthur.
GABRIEL KING- Her Wild Road books, co-written with M. John Harrison, are masterpieces of anthropomorphic ‘talking animal’ fiction. Up there with Kenneth Grahame, Wiliam Horwood and Richard Adams. Her real name is Jane Johnson and she’s also a powerhouse editor….
TANITH LEE- Tanith Lee’s work is wickedly lyrical, reminding me of Ray Bradbury’s considerable output. Lee is almost equally prolific. NIGHT’S MASTER is one of her unique fantasy novels.
URSULA K. LE GUIN- One of the world’s best Science Fiction writers. THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS is of course one of her most famous and influential novels.
ANN MCCAFFREY- Although I’m not a big fan of her dragon novels some of her other books have made me sit up and take notice, like TO RIDE PEGASUS, an enthusiastic exploration of what implications psionic powers might have.
VONDA N. MCINTYRE- Another great Star Trek spin-off fiction writer whose work beyond that field is equally acclaimed. THE ENTROPY EFFECT was the first of her Trek novels, she also wrote particularly expansive novelisations of three of the movies that went well beyond the confines of the scripts.
ELIZABETH MOON- Her Deed Of Paksenarrion Fantasy books are where I first encountered this former U.S Marine’s work, but I’ve learnt to appreciate her Science Fiction as well, particularly the singleton novel, Remnant Population. OATH OF GOLD is the third Paks book.
ANDRE NORTON- One of the Grand Masters of Science Fiction and Fantasy, she was also incredibly prolific, especially in the Young Adult category. MERLIN’S MIRROR happens to be one of her Arthurian themed novels. Most genre fans I encounter seem to have read one of Norton’s books somewhere along the way.
NAOMI NOVIK- Instantly became one of my favourite writers with the release of her remarkably clever Temeraire series, set in an alternate universe Regency where the Napoleonic Wars are fought with the addition of dragons! Dead clever, and her stories read like a happy cross between the works of Bernard Cornwell and C.S Forester. THRONE OF JADE is the second book in the series. The Peter Jackson movie adaptations are going to be something to see and then some!
ELLIS PETERS- Peters elegant Brother Cadfael stories, set in the 12th Century, were key elements in me becoming keen on the Historical Detective genre. THE HERMIT OF EYTON FOREST is the 14th chronicle in the cunning monk’s adventures. I would have loved to have interviewed Ellis Peters, but never got the chance. I did, however, revel in the opportunity that I got to interview Cadfael, that is to say, Sir Derek Jacobi, who played the character in the television series based on the books.
LAURA JOH ROWLAND- Her Sano Ichiro/ Reiko samurai detective stories take place in 17th century Japan and are evocative, richly textured masterworks of the Historical Detective genre.
BLACK LOTUS is one of the series.
JESSICA AMANDA SALMONSON- Her TOMOE GOZEN female samurai series is a fantasy spin on the adventures of the real life warrior woman of 12th Century Japan.
ELIZABETH ANN SCARBOROUGH- THE HEALER’S WAR is her Fantasy novel set in Vietnam but this writer is an all rounder and can handle any genre, usually with a dash of whimsy.
MARY SHELLEY- Need I say Shelley was one of the earliest modern Science Fiction writers? Her writing style may have dated but it’s a challenge that’s worth accepting in order to experience her seminal classics in the genre, including, of course, FRANKENSTEIN.
MARY STEWART- Another Arthurian writer whose Merlin series, of which THE HOLLOW HILLS was book three, had a lot of influence upon the genre. She has written a lot more historical novels but those are my favourites.
ROSEMARY SUTCLIFF- Growing up, Sutcliff was one of my favourite Historical Fiction writers. THE EAGLE OF THE NINTH and THE LANTERN BEARERS are still great reads. SWORD AT SUNSET is one of her many Arthurian novels.
LIZ WILLIAMS- A Techno Gothic British Science Fiction writer whose eccentric work could go toe to toe with William Gibsons or China Mievilles. THE POISON MASTER is one of her baroque convoluted alchemical novels.
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