In celebration of Women’s History Month

Eleanor from Flight of Fantasy in Loudonville has written in with a wonderful essay about the role of female authors in the realms of fantasy and sci-fi in the past, present and future.

Here is Eleanor’s essay (Note: many links to author pages appear after the essay):

From the days of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, women have been writing fantasy & science fiction.

In the early half of last century it was considered advisable to have a manly name, leading to the slightly altered names of Andre Norton and CJ Cherryh, although Marion Zimmer Bradley was just lucky, as I think that was her original name.

Nowadays we have plainly female bestsellers like Lois McMaster Bujold, queen of space opera; Laurell K Hamilton, successor to Anne Rice’s throne; and Diana Wynne Jones, one of Britain’s greatest SF/F (science fiction/fantasy) writers.

Writers like Patricia McKillip, Ellen Kushner, Pamela Dean, and newcomer Holly Phillips write well-styled literary fantasy. Elizabeth Moon and Mary Gentle write military sci fi & fantasy, Pat Cadigan is one of the best-remembered cyberpunk authors, and Patricia C Wrede is the leading author of Regency-era fantasy novels.

Women dominate the vampire & werewolf subfield, including such authors as Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris, Tanya Huff, and Barbara Hambly. Robin McKinley is beloved for her desert kingdom Damar, Mercedes Lackey is beloved for her (different yet similarly named) kingdom of Valdemar. Fruit’s Basket, the number 1 selling shoujo manga in America, is written by Natsuki Takaya. Diane Duane and Tamora Pierce (and, of course, J K Rowling) are famous for their young adult series.

There are individual stylists like eluki bes shahar (AKA Rosemary Edghill), Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Vera Nazarian, Nalo Hopkinson, and Tanith Lee. Among others, Ursula K Le Guin, Suzette Haden Elgin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne Bishop, Octavia Butler, and Zenna Henderson have written about issues of women’s liberation, and of course the girl who disguises herself as a man to have adventures is a traditional fantasy trope, although she’s now more likely to simply run away as herself.

Women who write about gender issues such as homosexuality, intersexuals, and transsexuals include Laurie J Marks, Sarah Monette, Ursula K Le Guin, Ellen Kushner, and Marion Zimmer Bradley (again:), and to a lesser extent, Maria V Snyder and Lois McMaster Bujold.

Female authors with books coming out this month include Elizabeth Moon (Vatta’s War series), Anne Bishop (Ephemera series), Mercedes Lackey (Five Hundred Kingdoms series), Jane Lindskold (Wolf series), and talented newcomer Vicki Pettersson (The Scent of Shadows).

Eleanor’s 2007 Schedule of Recommended Releases by
Women Authors

Claimed by Shadow – Karen Chance
New Orleans Noir anthology (Barbara Hambly short
Fruit’s Basket 16 – Natsuki Takaya

All Together Dead – Charlaine Harris
Kushiel’s Scion (paperback) – Jacqueline Carey

Water Logic – Laurie J Marks
The Harlequin – Laurell K Hamilton
Sharing Knife: Legacy – Lois McMaster Bujold
The Bone Key – Sarah Monette

Ilario: Lion’s Eye – Mary Gentle
Territory – Emma Bull
Harry Potter 7

The Mirador – Sarah Monette
Fruit’s Basket 17 – Natsuki Takaya
On the Prowl anthology (Patricia Briggs and Karen
Chance short stories)

Powers – Ursula K Le Guin
Ilario: The Stone Golem – Mary Gentle
Dragonhaven – Robin McKinley

1634: The Bavarian Crisis – Virginia De Marce & Eric
An Ice Cold Grave – Charlaine Harris
Many Bloody Returns (Charlaine Harris short story)

CJ Cherryh
Lois McMaster Bujold
Laurell K Hamilton
Diana Wynne Jones
Patricia A McKillip
Ellen Kushner
Pamela Dean
Holly Phillips
Elizabeth Moon
Pat Cadigan
Patricia Briggs
Charlaine Harris
Barbara Hambly
Robin McKinley
Mercedes Lackey
Diane Duane
Tamora Pierce
eluki bes shahar
Vera Nazarian
Nalo Hopkinson
Tanith Lee
Ursula K Le Guin
Anne Bishop
Octavia E. Butler
Sarah Monette
Maria V Snyder
Jane Lindskold

Thanks for all the great recommendations, Eleanor!

In addition to the books above, I would also mention a couple of others:

Julie Philip’s “James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life Alice B. Sheldon.” This book just won (on Thursday) the 2006 NBCC Award for Biography. Here’s a write-up from NBCC’s Jennifer Reese:

SHE IS REMEMBERED, when she is remembered at all, as the eccentric woman who published marvelous, edgy science fiction stories in the 1960s and ’70s under the name James Tiptree, Jr. — a name she took off of a jam jar. And for this short, dazzling run alone, Alice B. Sheldon would merit a biography. But she was much more than just a fleeting sci-fi world sensation, as Julie Phillips makes clear in her splendid reconstruction of this brilliant and multifaceted woman’s troubled life. Sheldon played many roles in her seven decades: the dutiful daugher of a glamorous, globe-trotting mother; flirtatious socialite; army officer; CIA agent; journalist; painter; devoted wife. But it was only in middle age, after she began writing in the guise of reclusive avuncular James Tiptree, Jr., that she found, all too briefly, an outlet for her prodigious talents and energies. The sexual, artisitc and intellectual contradictions Sheldon mostly failed to accommodate in her own stormy life, Phillips captures and contains — in all their complexity — in this deeply intelligent and generous biography.

Also of note is Delmar-resident Pamela Sargent’s new release “Farseed.” The young adult novel is a sequel to 1983’s (yes, that is correct) “Earthseed,” and is the second part of a trilogy.

Booklist writes:

Sargent, Pamela. Farseed. Mar. 2007. 288p. Tor/Tom Doherty, $17.95 (9780765314277). Gr. 7–10.

In Earthseed (1983), genetically created teenagers were taught survival skills to fulfill a desperate plan to settle other worlds. Centuries pass; settlements are started on an earthlike planet, Home; and children are born. Then a small group breaks away and sets up its own society, which degenerates into a primitive existence. Meanwhile, those who stay at the original settlement are fearful, never straying far from their homes and pastures. In Farseed, Sargent explores the resurgence of the conflict between the groups that begins after 16-year-old Nuy, the daughter of the leader of the breakaway contingent, encounters strangers who are looking for her people. The interpersonal dynamics, plus the challenges of adapting to another world, give this long-awaited second book of the Seed Trilogy strong appeal. —Sally Estes


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