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Women and Fantasy

I'm probably not the best person to do this. Or the right one. But in the light of Ian Sales' excellent list of women sf writers (http://iansales.com/2011/03/17/the-sf-mistressworks-meme/), the wonderful work done by Maura McHugh (splinister) about women in horror, and all the excellent articles being written on the sf side, it occurs to me that us fantasy types need perhaps to do our own stand-up-and-be-counted thing.

Fantasy is always going to be difficult, of course. As a genre, it attracts more than its share (imho, anyway) of negative comment for its supposed lack of rules, logic, rigour etc etc. I've lost track of the number of times I've seen articles and programme items asking questions on the lines of 'Is good sf being drowned in the fantasy slush pile?' I've definitely lost count of the number of times excellent fantasy novels are re-labelled sf or slipstream or anything so that those who like them but claim to disdain fantasy can feel safe. I seem to see phrases on the lines of 'all those fantasy-writer women' used all too regularly as a put-down of both my genre and my sex. Then there's the fantasy equivalent of that hoary old chestnut 'literary writer writes sf novel and gets plaudits for something done in the genre 40 years earlier,' when an established (and nearly always male) sf writer writes a fantasy. 'That'll show 'em', comes the cry (and usually the 'them' are characterised as probably female, probably bad, probably unaware of the possibilities of our genre). And out comes yet another book that, like those literary ones, doesn't know enough to know the cliches. Like everyday sexism, it slips by largely unnoticed, and I sigh. Fantasy is seen as a step down for women but a playground to be dominated for men. When a few years back an excellent female sf writer produced a novel with fantasy elements, there were loud mutters about her 'selling out' and 'failing'; around the same time a male sf writer produced a very dull fantasy and 'that'll show those fantasy women' said someone on a mailing list.

Then there are the in-genre hierarchies. In our litany of ancestors, we recall Dumas and Haggard, Burroughs and Howard and Lieber, but not Georges Sand or Hope Mirrless or Sylvia Townsend Warner. Two of those latter were not prolific. Then again, they had the problem of being female to contend with -- of being allowed that space to write and access and acceptance that men had far less trouble acquiring. There are many, many fine female fantasy authors, but the master lists remain that -- lists mainly of men. Male writers occupy more shelf space (albeit rather less than in sf), get more plaudits, more reviews, more acclaim and, I suspect, more rewards. I've said this before: for every acclaimed male fantasy author, there's a female author just as good or better who is not noticed, not reviewed, not rated. George R R Martin (whose work I love) and Kate Elliott, who is every bit as good, and sometimes more rigorous; The wonderful Patrick Rothfuss and the equally wonderful and horribly unfairly overlooked Barbara Hambly. China Mieville, whose books I admire but don't hugely like, and the -- too me, anyway -- more innovative Mary Gentle. Guy Gavriel Gay, whose books I have to admit don't grab me (though I can see why other people love them) and the astonishing Judith Tarr, the best writer of historical fantasy out there, whose books I've collected avidly since her very first.

And then there are the female innovators -- and Mirrlees is one, with her Austen-esque, wicked, playful, delicious Lud-in-the-Mist. Katherine Kurtz, whose Deryni novels are the real start of historical high mediaeval fantasy. The peerless Tanith Lee, whose range and depth and creativity is breathtaking. Anna Kavan, turning madness into slipstream without the masturbatory elements that some male writers seem to find unavoidable. Louise Cooper, with her questionable heroes and layered worlds, going beyond Moorcock to ask serious questions about sexual domination and control. Marion Zimmer Bradley -- much though I dislike The Mists of Avalon, it cannot be ignored as a book about the nature or female spirituality and about the other side of myth. Katherine Kerr, who did something genuinely original and creative and plausible with Celtic tropes. Leigh Brackett and C L Moore. R. A. MacAvoy. Evangeline Walton. Naomi Mitchison. Vera Chapman. Clemence Housman.

So, let's have some names and some books. Here are a few of my picks, just to start.

Clemence Housman, The History of Sir Aglovale de Galis.
Sylvia Townsend Warner, The Kingdoms of Elfin
Hope Mirrlees, Lud-in-the-Mist
Leigh Brackett, The Sword of Rhiannon
C. L. Moore, Jirel of Joiry
Evangeline Walton, The Prince of Annwn
Naomi Mitchison, To the Chapel Perilous
Katherine Kurtz, Deryni Rising
Louise Cooper, Mirage
Susan Cooper The Dark is Rising
Diana Wynne Jones, The Spellcoats
Tanith Lee, Lycanthia
Katherine Kerr, Daggerspell
Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon
Judith Tarr, A Fall of Princes
Nancy Springer, Madbond
Barbara Hambly Dog Wizard
Claudia J Edwards, Bright and Shining Tiger
Ursula K Le Guin A Wizard of Earthsea
Sheila Gilluly, Greenbriar Queen
Freda Warrington, A Drink of Blood Wine
Storm Constantine, Sea Dragon Heir
Patricia McKillip, The Sorceress and the Cygnet
Alis Rasmussen, The Labyrinth Gate
Sheri Tepper, Marianne, the Magus and the Manticore
Jenny Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier
Miyuki Miyabe, Crossfire
Elizabeth A Lynn, The Dancers of Arun
Nina Kirikki Hoffman, The Thread that Binds the Bones
Ellen Kushner, Swordspoint
Delia Sherman, The Porcelain Dove
Emma Bull, War for the Oaks
Pamela Dean, Tam Lin


Edited to add:
Greer Gilman, Moonwise
Megan Lindholm, Wizard of the Pigeons
R A MacAvoy,Tea with the Black Dragon
Patricia Geary, Living in Ether
Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
Tove Janssen, Comet in Moominland
Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber
Elizabeth Goudge, The Little White Horse
Joan Aiken, Black Hearts in Battersea
Robin McKinley, Deerskin
Meredith Anne Pierce, The Darkangel
Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
Elizabeth Marie Pope, A College of Magics
Laurie J Marks, Delan the Mislaid
Sherwood Smith, Crown Duel
Lisa Goldstein, The Red Magician
Lynn Abbey. Daughter of the Bright Moon
Carol Berg. Transformation
Francesca Lia Bloch. Ecstasia or Weetzie Bat
Mary Brown. The Unlikely Ones
Lois McMaster Bujold. The Curse of Chalion (I think it's 2001, but too good to leave out)
Joy Chant. Red Moon and Black Mountain
Suzy McKee Charnas. The Vampire Tapestry
Jo Clayton. Duel of Sorcery
Diane Duane. So You Want To Be A Wizard?
Doranna Durgin. Dun Lady's Jess
Phyllis Eisenstein. In the Red Lord's Reach
Esther Friesner. Elf Defense
Linda Haldeman. Esbae: A Winter's Tale
L. Dean James. Summerland
Phyllis Ann Karr. Frostflower and Thorn
Carol Kendall. The Gammage Cup
Adrienne Martine-Barnes. The Fire Sword
Diana L. Paxson. The White Raven
Rachel Pollack. Godmother Night
Elizabeth Marie Pope. The Sherwood Ring
Irene Radford. The Glass Dragon
Melanie Rawn. Dragon Prince
Jennifer Roberson. Sword Dancer
Kathleen Sky. Witchdame
Michelle West, The Broken Crown
Mary Stanton. The Heavenly Horse From the Outermost West
Sydney Van Scyoc. Sunstone series
Janny Wurtz. The Master of Whitestorm
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Hotel Transylvania
P. C. Hodgell, God Stalk.
Caroline Stevermer, When the King Comes Home.
C S Friedman, Black Sun Rising
Tanya Huff, Sing the Four Quarters
JV Jones The Barbed Coil
Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, The Healer's War
Patricia Wrede, Mairelon the Magician
Jane Yolen, White Jenna
Lucie M Chin, The Fairy of Ku-She
Juliet E McKenna, The Thief's Gamble
Francis Stevens (Gertrude Barrows Bennett), The Citadel of Fear.
Vera Chapman, Three Damosels
Anne Bishop, Daughter of the Blood
Kristine Katheryn Rusch, Heart Readers
Elizabeth Moon, Sheep Farmer's Daughter
Ann Lawrence, The Hawk of May
C J Cherryh, Gate of Ivrel
Jane Gaskell, The Serpent
Lynette Muir, The Unicorn Window
Mary Gentle, Rats and Gargoyles
Louise Lawrence, The Wyndcliffe
Gill Alderman, The Archivist
Gillian Bradshaw, Hawk of May
Eleanor Arnason, Daughter of the Bear King
Ru Emerson, Princess of Flames
Teresa Edgerton, Goblin Moon
Peg Kerr, Emerald House Rising
Sasha Miller, Ladylord
Susan Shwartz & Andre Norton, Imperial Lady
Martha Wells, The Element of Fire
Gael Baudino, Gossamer Axe
Katya Reimann, Wind from a Foreign Sky
Elyse Guttenberg, Sunder, Eclipse & Seed
Josepha Sherman, The Shining Falcon
Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, Taminy
Mercedes Lackey, Arrows of the Queen
Katherine Eliska Kimberley, Night Calls
K M Briggs, Hobberdy Dick
Penelope Lively, he Driftway
Edith Nesbit, Five Children and It
Hilda Lewis, The Ship That Flew
P L Travers, Mary Poppins
Rosemary Harris, The Moon in the Cloud
Ursula Moray Williams,Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat
Lucy M Boston, The Children of Green Knowe
Margo Lanagan, Walking Through Albert
Sara Coleridge, Phantasion (more on this one here: http://www.blackgate.com/2010/09/19/worlds-within-worlds-the-first-heroic-fantasy-part-iv/) Thank you to Matthew for the heads'-up.
Tananarive Due, My Soul to Keep


And there are more -- I've consciously left out books published after 2000, including some that I rate very highly, like The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (N K Jemisin); Traitors' Gate (Kate Elliott); Inda (Sherwood Smith) and General Winston's Daughter (Sharon Shinn) -- I think the Miyabe is the most recent on the above list, and that mainly for reasons of translation date. (It was originally published in Japan in 1998.)

What do you all think? What I have I forgotten? Who deserves to be included? And if any of you know what became of Sheila Gilluly, whose books I adore, please tell me.

Skirt of the day: black pinstripe wrap.

Edited to add: jemck has been keeping track of female review share on her blog for a while now, too. Fascinating stuff on how attention is divided, and how male writers are still getting the bigger share. Do read it.

Comments

( 136 comments — Leave a comment )
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stina_leicht
Jun. 2nd, 2011 07:05 pm (UTC)
love this post. love it. thanks for taking the time to write it. clearly, i agree, and things for female fantasists get even more complex when you add in the Romance factor. anyway, thanks for this, and for your list.

if you've not read any shirley jackson (horror, i know), you should. she's quite atmospheric and so very much right up your alley. (i betcha.)
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 2nd, 2011 07:53 pm (UTC)
I'd forgotten her, but you're right, she should be there. Which one, though? We Have Always Lived at the Castle?
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mevennen
Jun. 2nd, 2011 07:07 pm (UTC)
It's a bit like cooking. Its all very pedestrian and oh-just-women's-stuff-nothing-to-see-move-along until a man does it and suddenly, we are talking Heston Blumenthal...
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 2nd, 2011 07:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes. Or textile arts... 1000s of years of women and oh, William Morris...
mevennen
Jun. 2nd, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)
I'd add Greer Gilman's work, btw.
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 2nd, 2011 07:52 pm (UTC)
Certainly.
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la_marquise_de_
Jun. 2nd, 2011 07:54 pm (UTC)
Certainly. My pick would be Wizard of the Pigeons, but which do you like the best?
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saare_snowqueen
Jun. 2nd, 2011 08:10 pm (UTC)
Where do you draw the line? Are Anne McCaffrey's Dragon books - fantasy or Sci-fi?

I think this volume of comment and discussion is very promising. I'm still trying to process all of it. Maybe you and Cheryl and I and ..... can bend an elbow in Stockholm and plot our next moves.

I was also impressed that China Miévilles promo for the British Library show referenced a number of women writers.

And(the other) Chris Fowler had a piece in his blog about 'Forgotten Writers'. When I asked him if he also reviewed women he answered - as often as possible and challenged me (us?) to suggest some names. Any ideas?

http://www.christopherfowler.co.uk/blog/2011/05/31/how-to-become-invisible/
maryosmanski
Jun. 3rd, 2011 12:06 am (UTC)
You could ask the same fantasy or sci fi question about Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series.

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saare_snowqueen
Jun. 2nd, 2011 08:13 pm (UTC)
And, at the risk of getting drummed out of the circle, Kate Mosse's Labyrinth clearly has fantasy elements...

I know, my reading habits are impossibly promiscuous.
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 2nd, 2011 08:40 pm (UTC)
I haven't read those. When were they first published?
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rushthatspeaks
Jun. 2nd, 2011 08:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for this. So much.

P.C. Hodgell, God Stalk. Laurie Marks, Fire Logic. Caroline Stevermer, When the King Comes Home. Something by Tove Jansson. Angela Carter. Elizabeth Marie Pope. Elizabeth Goudge (I like Valley of Song best, but The Little White Horse is probably best-known).

... and that's what I can think of off the top of my head.
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 2nd, 2011 08:42 pm (UTC)
How did I forget Hodgell and Goudge and Carter and Jansson? Duh. Marks may be too recent, if the before 2000 rule is kept and I don't know Pope or Stevermer. But so many great writers...
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arkessian
Jun. 2nd, 2011 08:37 pm (UTC)
Have you seen The massive mega consolidated SF mistressworks list  at oursin 's journal? It might trigger recollection of some fantasy writers.

I will trawl my bookshelves and add any I find tomorrow.
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 2nd, 2011 08:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you: will go and look.
birdsedge
Jun. 2nd, 2011 08:42 pm (UTC)
Just a few suggestions:

Joan Aiken - Black Hearts in Battersea

Lois McMaster Bujold whose best fantasy work has been post 2000, but her one fantasy showing pre 2000 is really only represented by The Spirit Ring and her earlier books were SF/space opera. (The Vorkosigan books etc.) However since 2000 she's consistently produced fantasy including my favourite book of all time (so far) Curse of Chalion (2001).

Patricia Briggs - also more prolific post 2000, but her Sianim series dates back to the 90s.

CJ Cherryh... not always my cup of tea, but eminently worthy of inclusion, I would think.

Robin Hobb - Assassin's Apprentice

Tanya Huff - Sing the Four Quarters

JV Jones - The Barbed Coil

Madeleine L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time

Astrid Lindgren - Pippi Longstocking

Andre Norton... to many and various but if i had to pick a personal favourite it would be either Witch World or Year of the Unicorn

Anne McCaffrey - though she always professed her Pern books to be science fiction rather than fantasy, but it's a very fine line between...

Robin McKinley - Deerskin

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough - The Healer's War or The Songkiller Saga beginning with The Phantom Banjo.

Julian May - The Many-Colored Land etc.

Mary Shelley - Frankenstein

Patricia Wrede - Mairelon the Magician or Dealing with Dragons

Jane Yolen... almost anything she's written
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 2nd, 2011 08:43 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, to almost all of those. Thank you. (White Jenna for Yolen, maybe?)
deborahjross
Jun. 2nd, 2011 10:17 pm (UTC)
A few additions. Many of these should be "lots of books"!

Lynn Abbey. Daughter of the Bright Moon
Carol Berg. Transformation
Francesca Lia Bloch. Ecstasia or Weetzie Bat
Mary Brown. The Unlikely Ones
Lois McMaster Bujold. The Curse of Chalion (I think it's 2001, but too good to leave out)
Joy Chant. Red Moon and Black Mountain
Suzy McKee Charnas. The Vampire Tapestry
Jo Clayton. Duel of Sorcery, lots of others
Diane Duane. The Door Into Fire or So You Want To Be A Wizard?
Doranna Durgin. Dun Lady's Jess
Phyllis Eisenstein. In the Red Lord's Reach
Esther Friesner. Elf Defense
Linda Haldeman. Esbae: A Winter's Tale
Zenna Henderson. The People: No Different Flesh (although you might call that sf)
Nina Kiriki Hoffman. The Silent Strength of Bones
L. Dean James. Summerland
Phyllis Ann Karr. Frostflower and Thorn
Carol Kendall. The Gammage Cup
Katherine Kurtz. Deryni series
Adrienne Martine-Barnes. The Fire Sword
Ann Maxwell. Fire Dancer series
Pat Murphy. The Falling Woman
Diana L. Paxson. The White Raven
Rachel Pollack. Godmother Night
Elizabeth Marie Pope. The Sherwood Ring
Irene Radford. The Glass Dragon series
Melanie Rawn. Dragon Prince series
Jennifer Roberson. Sword Dancer series
Kathleen Sky. Witchdame
for Sherwood Smith, the Crown Duel book and the Wren series
Michelle Sagara/West
Nancy Springer. Apocalypse
Mary Stanton. The Heavenly Horse From the Outermost West
Sydney Van Scyoc. Sunstone series
Joan Vinge. The Snow Queen
Janny Wurtz. The Master of Whitestorm
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Saint-Germain series


la_marquise_de_
Jun. 3rd, 2011 09:09 am (UTC)
Oh, yes, Lots of wonderful writers and books there.
dancinghorse
Jun. 2nd, 2011 10:18 pm (UTC)
Wonderful list (and thank you for the kind words). So many amazing, innovative, talented names and titles there--but they never do show up on "Best Of" lists, do they?

One omission:

Emma Bull! War for the Oaks is the ur-Urban Fantasy. You'll find many of the tropes there that became so hot twenty years later. And it's very well written by a very talented writer.
dancinghorse
Jun. 2nd, 2011 10:21 pm (UTC)
Oh--and--R.A. McAvoy. Her "Damiano" trilogy isn't like anything else except my contemporaneous Hound&Falcon. My favorite of the three is the third, Raphael.

Makes me wonder if the writers of "Supernatural" read it, because their Castiel is so much like her fallen Archangel.

She also did an Irish fantasy that I like less, though it's got horses. The Grey Horse, I think.
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la_marquise_de_
Jun. 3rd, 2011 09:17 am (UTC)
Do: they are both wonderful writers in their very different ways. Mitchison was very prolific across many genres, Mirrlees wrote relatively little, but somehow both made their marks on fantasy.
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ex_triciasu
Jun. 3rd, 2011 02:04 am (UTC)
Wow. Great post. Thank you.
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 3rd, 2011 09:18 am (UTC)
:-)
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la_marquise_de_
Jun. 3rd, 2011 09:18 am (UTC)
I blush to admit it, but I've never read any of her books. Must do so.
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pogodragon
Jun. 3rd, 2011 08:09 am (UTC)
Sharon Shinn - I love her books about angels, though they may be SF really I think they feel like fantasy.
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 3rd, 2011 09:19 am (UTC)
She is caught by the 'published before 2000' rule, or she'd be in there. I love her books. As you say, the Angel ones are probably sf, but her YA fantasy General Winston's Daughter is a terrific look at what colonialism means.
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anef
Jun. 3rd, 2011 08:46 am (UTC)
I think Sabella by Tanith Lee exemplifies the overlap between "SF" and "Fantasy". It's one of the best vampire books ever (in my opinion) but is an SF take on the theme.
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 3rd, 2011 09:20 am (UTC)
She's a genius at that kind of thing. I picked Lycanthia because it's definitely fantasy, but there are so many of hers I love and admire.
zaan
Jun. 3rd, 2011 09:04 am (UTC)
Michelle West - The Hidden City, City of Night, and not yet read House Name from her House Wars series. Absolutely stunning and a very innovative style - as innovative as A Scots Quair by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. It's written in reported speech a lot but there is dialogue too but it is wonderfully emotive. Made me remember the power that words have.
Margaret Weiss - am picking up several of hers from a local 2nd hand book shop. She does fantasy and sf both, and well.
Apart from that I endorse your list, love.
Oh, and I have to add, Enid Blyton. Her Faraway Tree books got me writing as an 8 year old! Everyone is welcome to their opinions on her books, but I adored them. And Faraway Tree was about elves and fairies living in a special tree so it was Fantasy. :)
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 3rd, 2011 09:21 am (UTC)
I never read the Faraway Tree, but Blyton, for all her faults, was a great inspiration for many many children. And yes to Michelle West.
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splinister
Jun. 3rd, 2011 12:53 pm (UTC)
Hurray! Well done. :-D
splinister
Jun. 3rd, 2011 01:04 pm (UTC)
I've just tweeted about this. Best of luck assembling the list.
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(Anonymous)
Jun. 3rd, 2011 01:06 pm (UTC)
Juliet McKenna is brilliant. I believe a lot of her stuff was published before 2000?
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 3rd, 2011 02:53 pm (UTC)
Certainly some of it. And yes, she's a fine writer.
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cymrullewes
Jun. 3rd, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC)
I'm somewhat amused to note that I read Kate Elliott (sort of. I actually have only read The Highroads Trilogy (which I ADORE)) and Barbara Hambly and Mary Gentle but none of the male authors you compared them to.
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 3rd, 2011 02:54 pm (UTC)
I rather love that!
The Highroads Trilogy is astonishing, isn't it?
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miintikwa
Jun. 3rd, 2011 02:55 pm (UTC)
CS Friedman, who I did not know was a woman, was an eye opener for me. Her anti-hero is still my favorite uncomfortable character.

And Melanie Rawn for Dragon Prince; Jennifer Roberson for the Cheysuli books...

I agree about White Jenna for Yolen, though I like the Dragon books better. :)
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 3rd, 2011 03:00 pm (UTC)
Oh! How did I forget Friedman? Black Sun Rising is mesmerising. And I loved Rawn's Dragon books, too. I have to admit I didn't get on with Roberson, but I know many other people love her books.
Yolen is tricky because she's written so many great books.
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iansales
Jun. 3rd, 2011 03:09 pm (UTC)
How about Carolyn Ives Gilman? Her new novel is fantasy - see here. I've already pre-ordered a copy.

And I still want to get hold of Laurie J Marks' Elemental Logig series...
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 3rd, 2011 03:14 pm (UTC)
I don't know her work: I will have to find out more. I've adopted the pre-2000 rule, though.
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erudite_ogre
Jun. 3rd, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC)
Huzzah! Thank for you doing this. While I support Ian's site (and hope to write a few reviews for it), I was bothered by the omission of a host of great women writers of fantasika who did not fit the criterion. Happy to see Warrington, Lindholm, and MacAvoy up there, since they are less-well-known; those books had a big impact on me when I found them as a younger reader.

I would also add Francis Stevens (Gertrude Barrows Bennett), who was an influence on H. P. Lovecraft. Her short story collection (which includes a novella later published as a novel) The Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy is probably her best, but for a novel I would nominate The Citadel of Fear.
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 3rd, 2011 03:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I don't know her work at all: she sounds wonderful.
(Anonymous)
Jun. 3rd, 2011 03:27 pm (UTC)
No one has mentioned Lian Hearn yet. Her series Tales of the Otori is a superb fantasy set in a world akin to medieval Japan.
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 3rd, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC)
She's a wonderful writer, but sadly the first one was published in 2002. I've adopted the same rule as the sf mistress-works list, with its cut off of 2000, mainly because it's so hard to judge so soon how influential a book will be.
pigeonhed
Jun. 3rd, 2011 04:46 pm (UTC)
Two favourites of mine that I haven't noticed in comments yet:
Lisa Goldstein (esp The Red Magician and Tourists)
Patricia Geary -- Strange Toys
la_marquise_de_
Jun. 3rd, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC)
I already have Geary, for Living in Ether, but Strange Toys is also wonderful. Goldstein was a stupid oversight: thank you.
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