Fun for Monday: A Personal A-Z of Women in SFF

We readers are never alone. We carry authors, books and characters around with us, a company of ghostly acquaintance. My own internal world is peopled with a veritable host, more friends than I’d want IRL for sure (not a people person): writers and creations both, whom I revere, aspire to be like, love with all my heart, am challenged by, daydream about, and have long imaginary conversations with.

Many are women.

Here are some of the women authors (and their characters) that I’ve met in my forty-two years who’ve made an impact on the way I see the world and the way I acquit myself within it.

This post is brought to you by and for Women in SFF month – which is run by the lovely people over at The Fantasy Hive.

 

A is for… 

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Charlie Jane Anders and, more specifically, All the Birds in the Sky. I read it the year I started this blog, and the magical Patricia has been with me ever since.

 

B is for…

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Octavia E Butler and her powerful book Kindred. Maryam and I buddy-read this last year and posted our discussion earlier this year (you can find the first half of our discussion on Maryam’s site, and the second half here on mine). On the strength of this book alone I want to read everything Butler ever wrote. Dana is another character who now keeps me company.

 

C is for…

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Connie Willis. Everything I’ve read by Willis has been amazing, but the characters that I spend most time with (in my head) are Kivrin from Doomsday Book and Polly and Merope from Blackout/All Clear. These three are such resilient characters that I find myself asking their advice quite often. If they can survive the Black Death and Wartime Britain respectively, then I can get through a working week in one piece, surely?

 

D is for…

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Pamela Dean. It will come as no surprise to anyone that Dean and her marvellous Tam Lin are on this list. Janet is a character I’d love to be IRL friends with.

 

E is for… 

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Amal El-Mohtar (and Max Gladstone, who’s the only male author to feature in this list, so he gets a lollypop). Thanks to This is How You Lose the Time War I still look for Red and Blue’s letters whenever I’m out and about, and a red berry or a blue flower always makes me think of them. Which feels like the greatest compliment I can pay this beautiful, beautiful book.

 

F is for…

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Monica Furlong. I’ve harped on about Furlong’s Wise Child before, a childhood read that has never left me. It gave me not only the company of Wise Child and Juniper, but also the illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon – a double whammy, therefore.

 

G is for…

1946 edition of The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

Elizabeth Goudge and the now classic The Little White Horse. My love for this book has given me some grief in the past. In English class we were asked to give a presentation about something we enjoyed/were interested in, and I chose to talk about The Little White Horse. I was already one of the weird kids at school. Trying to explain the plot of this book to a roomful of my peers was not the way to achieve understanding or acceptance. But Maria Merryweather and Miss Heliotrope remain in my closest circle of imaginary friends to this day.

 

H is for… 

Frances Hardinge, and her greatest creation, Mosca Mye. Another of my worst kept secrets, my love for Mosca’s adventures in Fly By Night and Twilight Robbery equals only my love for her wonderfully wordy self.

 

I is for…

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Intisar Khanani and her Goose Girl retelling, Thorn. Her quiet, introverted heroine Alyrra/Thorn is an excellent friend to have and was a delightfully unexpected discovery to boot.

 

J is for…

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Diana Wynne Jones and everything she’s ever written. But if I could only choose one of Jones’ many characters and one of her many books, it would be Sophie Hatter and Howl’s Moving Castle.

 

K is for…

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Karen Lord and Redemption in Indigo. I’ve waxed lyrical about Lord’s heroine, Paama, before. Redemption in Indigo was an early bloggy read of mine, that I picked up thanks to Dina of SFF Book Review and Paama was one of the first characters to make me consider being strong and sensible heroic actions.

 

L is for…

Ann Leckie and her prize-winning Imperial Radch trilogy. Another of my pre-blog adventures, I have an unapologetic love for this trilogy (mostly for its twin obsessions with tea and gloves) and if not affection, then a healthy respect and some fascination for Breq, survivor and vessel for all that is left of Justice of Torens.

 

M is for…

Robin McKinley and, for this post, The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown. Both treasured books from my teenage years, with Harry and Aerin keeping company with Alanna (see P) and giving me something to aspire to.

 

N is for…

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Nancy Springer. I read a good handful or two of Springer’s books as a young teen. Those that made the biggest impression were her five Books of Isle and Vale, and Wings of Flame. Although my memories are faint as well as fond now. Much of my remaining affection for these stems from them being books that my best friend and I shared, read and talked about incessantly. Particularly Wings of Flame, which had a girl protagonist (Seda) who dressed as a boy – one of our all-time favourite tropes back then!

 

O is for…

Nnedi Okorafor and her incredible Binti novellas. Binti is so firmly in here *taps head* that I hope she’ll keep me company until the end of my days. A young woman who folds both old and new into herself, embracing change again and again (not without doubts and fears, but in spite of them), I feel like she still has a lot to teach me.

 

P is for…

Tamora Pierce and The Song of the Lioness. Alanna (another girl disguised as a boy) has been an imaginary friend for years now, so long that I’m afraid to reread these childhood favourites and find that she isn’t how I remember her.

 

Q is for… 

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Quenby Olson and Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons. Miss Mildred Percy (and Mrs Babbington) are quite, quite fabulous and their company always keeps me cheerful on long train journeys.

 

R is for…

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Rosemary Sutcliff. The only totally-not-SFF author on this list, but someone I have always considered SFF-adjacent for her many Arthurian novels, her Celtic/Saxon/Roman Britain and, later, her lovely retellings of the Iliad and the Odyssey illustrated by Alan Lee. It is Sutcliff herself who resides in my head, a constant presence from childhood onwards.

 

S is for…

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Shirley Jackson and the deliciously creepy We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Merricat speaks to the part of me that attaches meaning to arbitrary items and their placement, and I admire her peculiar inner world. She drifts about in the background of my mind a lot, but we rarely talk. Which is probably for the best.

 

T is for…

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Jill Thompson. Thompson’s illustration work for some of Gaiman’s Sandman stories is probably where I first encountered her, and her The Little Endless Storybook charmed my socks off, but her Scary Godmother is the character who spends the most time in my head with me.

 

U is for…

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Ursula Le Guin and everything she’s written. Rather than one of Le Guin’s characters, it’s Le Guin herself that I admire. She has some fascinating conversations with Octavia E Butler, Diana Wynne Jones and Rosemary Sutcliff.

 

V is for… 

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Nghi Vo and The Empress of Salt and Fortune. And while the Empress In-yo is marvellous, it’s her handmaiden Rabbit who has joined the company in my head.

 

W is for…

Jo Walton (obvs) and her The King’s Peace/The King’s Name duology and Thessaly trilogy in particular. Sulien ap Gwien, Simmea, Maia and Crocus wormed their separate ways into my heart from the moment they appeared on their respective pages. And whatever I read by Walton, whether fiction or non-fiction, book, poem or article, always gives me a chest-expanding feeling of the possibility of books.

 

X is for… 

(This is my only cheat, forgive me): Aliette de Bodard’s Universe of Xuya, and especially The Citadel of Weeping Pearls. Aliette de Bodard’s work has been blowing me away only very recently (with thanks to imyril of There’s Always Room for One More for putting de Bodard firmly on my list), but I can feel that her books and characters are going to be treasures that I wrap and store in the endless attic that is my head and heart.

 

Y is for…

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Banana Yoshimoto and both her novel Amrita and novella Moonlight Shadow. Yoshimoto’s books deal with grief, hope and everything in between and are often a little surreal. They don’t sit very firmly in SFF, but nearly always have strange or supernatural elements in their stories. In Amrita for example, ghosts, telepathy and a UFO all play a part in protagonist Sakumi’s life. Reading Yoshimoto’s work is like reading a dream, which I guess is why they still linger in my head.

 

Z is for…

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Zen Cho and Sorcerer to the Crown. Prunella Gentleman and Mak Genggang have both carved seats in the flesh of my chest and keep up a running commentary on my day-to-day business. I’m sure I disappoint them on a daily basis, but they keep me entertained nonetheless.

 

   

Are any of these authors, books and/or characters favourites of yours too? Or who would you have picked instead? Tell me some of your formative reads!

 

15 comments

  1. Several favourites here, especially among the authors: DWJ obviously, and UKLG, but I also enjoyed (or at least appreciated) the titles you cite for Zen Cho, Octavia Butler and Rosemary Sutcliff (whose Sword at Sunset I really must reread—I last read it in the late 60s … oops.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What an absolutely splendid tag. The inclusion that made me the happiest was Rosemary Sutcliff, who was so incredibly talent and yes very Fantasy adjacent (arguably some of the historical books could be included with their little touches of magic). I’ve been bringing her back into my reading recently and it’s made me very happy. But lots of fantastic authors on there. I want to do this myself now. Next year! Or maybe next month.

    Also, tangentially, have you tried Katherine Kerr?

    Liked by 1 person

    • This was a lot of fun to do – I look forward to seeing your choices whenever you give it a go! 😀
      As I was writing this up I realised I own no copies of Sutcliff’s work, even though she was such a massive influence on my childhood/teen reading! Will absolutely have to rectify this, and then revisit!

      I have not tried Katherine Kerr, no. (I’m aware of my crime!) I have three or four books of hers (via the Motherload), so I will be rectifying this oversight! The books I have are from the Deverry series, if I remember right …?

      Like

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