Heiresses of Russ 2013 edited by Tenea D. Johnson and Steve Berman
Among the many hideous tactics Joanna Russ outlines in How to Suppress Women’s Writing, isolation is perhaps one of the most insidious, severing creators from their own community. For instance, Jane Austen is often people’s go-to classic female author, but when was the last time you heard about Jane Austen being influenced and inspired by the works of Fanny Burney? Once you start looking at Austen in the context of her contemporaries and influences, you suddenly realize that she’s not an Excepto-girl—she’s an heiress.
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
read by Paul Adams, Mike Pelton, Richard Kilmer, and James K. White
The dawn of the new millennium found my preteen self stunned by our fannish destiny, revealed in a screening of The Lord of the Rings. I’d been a speculative fiction fan since I was old enough to watch my brother play Warcraft II (“Where are all the female units?” I asked myself, squatting on a medicine ball), but being almost entirely cut off from television meant that I’d never seen the kind of things that I was into. Seeing speculative fiction on the big screen felt like validation, despite my total lack of knowledge about the genre, so I was a sucker for any speculative fiction film that came my way. (This is how the McBrides went to go see The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen without anyone knowing who Alan Moore was.)
Defy by Sara B. Larson
Out of the narrative ingredients available to a writer, the love triangle is an especially potent and attractive one. It’s an instantly relatable situation that generates tension and conflict in spades. Wielded wisely, it can flavor a story, emphasize a theme, or even be a story on its own. I submit for your examination A Midsummer’s Night Dream, where yon Billy Shakespeare makes merriment for all by playing merry hell with a love quadrangle. Wielded poorly, it can feel bland, unnecessary, or worse—shoehorned into a narrative that didn’t need it. And when that last one means that the love triangle devours the narrative from which it was born, you’re in trouble.
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
At work, I’m often in the young adult/middle grade alcove, shelving. (“I’m always in here, moving books slightly to the left,” isn’t just an Eddie Izzard punchline, it’s my life.) As you can imagine, it can be a messy section (although nothing matches the mountains of unshelved books left on the big table in our children’s room for me), so there’s plenty of work for me to do. While we’re forbidden to read on the floor, I do flip through the odd book or two before I put them where they belong, which is how I found The School for Good and Evil. Intrigued by the cover art (because I will never learn), I found myself reading a passage wherein a character is taunted by fairy tale characters for being a Reader.
The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan
Once upon a time, I was just as anxious and stringent about genre classifications as the young woman who opined that our speculative fiction section wasn’t adequate to me. Of course, it’s plenty adequate—if you take into account the speculative fiction that’s in general fiction, lesbian fiction (what’s up, Heiresses of Russ?), gay fiction, and otherwise scattered throughout the store. I still think it’s important to call a spade a spade, but working at the book store has taught me that we put a book where it sells. It’s a business, people, albeit one that deals in products that are not wholly material.
Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman
As a reader and as a bookstore employee, I’ve become very familiar with how we age books. As a young person who is often found fixing up the shelving in our children’s nook, I get asked a lot by people where on earth their favorite book from childhood is. It’s one of those supposedly easy questions; it’s in children’s, but where in children’s is it? It’s so easy for novels to cross the adult/young adult barrier (see Malinda Lo’s Ash) and how many “classics” written for an audience that was divided solely into adults and children now fall into into a trisected market (young adult, middle grade, and children’s). But nobody wants to hear me expound on the sociological and marketing factors behind all that at work, so I just do my best to be helpful.
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
As far as titles go, Princess Academy is just as on the nose and just as vaguely descriptive as, say, Snakes on the Plane. Both of those titles simply describe a noun in the story itself; it’s up to the reader and/or viewer to fill things in. Snakes on a Plane gained enormous hype online for its title alone, and I, I must ashamedly say, dodged Princess Academy because it sounded a little too pat. With the rise of fairy tale high schools (from The School for Good and Evil to Ever After High to Disney’s recently announced Descendants), I, based on the title alone, though that Princess Academy was in the same wheelhouse—a wheelhouse I do visit, but not often enough to warrant seeking it out.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
read by the author
Readers, I’ve messed up. As I stated in the first installment of this feature, I only listen to audiobooks of books that I’ve read before. After shelving the umpteenth copy of the very lovely new editions of Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet, I decided it was time to return to A Wrinkle in Time. I patiently waited for it to come in at the library. When I started listening, the familiar opening scene sprawled out before me…
After the King edited by Martin H. Greenberg
No figure looms larger in fantasy than J. R. R. Tolkien. One hundred and twenty-one (or eleventy-eleven) years after his birth and fifty-nine years after the publication of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings still functions as the baseline for the entire genre of high fantasy. (There’s a very valid argument to be made that we need to move forward from that baseline, but that’s another post for another time.) But a lot of Tolkien-inspired fantasy only mimics the most obvious trappings of the good Professor’s legendarium. That’s not necessarily a judgment on the quality of those works—Blizzard Entertainment used those trappings as a stepping stone to create their own interesting, engaging world for the Warcraft franchise, and Eragon… well, Eragon exists. It can go either way. Continue reading
Hild by Nicola Griffith
While Nicola Griffith’s bibliography includes award-winning speculative fiction, it’s not a particular stretch to find her writing historical fiction. Historical fiction and speculative fiction—especially fantasy—often walk hand in hand. They share similar challenges, not the least of which is how to bring the world of the story to life. The only difference is how close you have to stick to your research: the speculative fiction author can follow or wander away from their research at a whim; the historical author’s goal is to stick to the historical script. This, of course, means that both genres are equally susceptible to Worldbuilder’s Disease. After all, you did do all that research… you wouldn’t want it to go to waste, right?