Here we go.
It’s the International Woman’s Day, and I thought… why not do a post about women authors I love?
A post about those authors whose books have influenced my writing, setting a very high standard and making me go
“That’s what I want to write! That’s the way I want to write it!”
I did a post, a long time ago, about non-fiction women writers whose influence I felt and still feel.
This time, let’s go for fantasy and science fiction – a limited list, only five names, the ones that are at the top of my list, and without my disrespect for all the fine writers I’ll leave out.
Here’s my top five, in no particular order…
Originally discovered (by me, that is) because she was Edmond Hamilton’s wife, she wrote some of the best, most fun and yet highly literate planetary romances and space fantasies of the golden age.
She was enormously influential, and is cited as an inspiration by the likes of Michael Moorcock.
I envy her fluid prose and her obvious ease of invention.
Should I suggest a title, I’d say Gollancz’ massive Sea Kings of Mars collection or, missing that, The Sword of Rhiannon. Readers willing to invest more time and money might want to check out the Eric John Stark series, including the Skaith trilogy.
Finding the Morgaine Chronicles novels on a shelf of my favorite bookstore back in the ‘80s was one of the best things ever to happen to me. Great writing, wonderful characters, and not my grandfather’s fantasy by a long stretch.
Readers looking for harder SF might want to check out the Faded Sun trilogy. Or anything else – it’s really hard to go wrong with C.J. Cherryh, that ranks easily as one of my top five favorite authors.
Cherryh is one of the authors (together with Roger Zelazny or Fritz Leiber) that I go back to when I want to “fine tune” my writing – her sentences and paragraphs should be studied with attention, as they are an example of economy and control.
(and as you can see, I slide easily into fanboy mode when it comes to C.J. Cherryh)
The second book I read in English was Tanith Lee’s The Birthgrave, and I was hooked. Lee had a very bad press in Italy at the time, for reasons too stupid to be mentioned, and if I went on reading in English it was also because her books were easier to find, and cheaper.
“Baroque” is the adjective usually attached to Leee’s prose, and her training as a poet shows in her imagery and her inventions.
Extremely prolific, Tanith Lee had a catalog large enough to keep the most avid reader happy for a long time. DAW is reprinting the Birthgrave trilogy books. Anyone looking for a one-stop, one-shot novel should probably check A Heroine of the World, while anyone looking for science fiction should check out the duology Don’t Bite The Sun/Drinking Sapphire Wine.
And she also wrote a lot of excellent horror.
Check out The Secret Books of Paradys for something special.
Rats & Gargoyles is easily one of my all-time favorite fantasy novels (but is it fantasy? Ah!) and deserving of multiple readings. Mary Gentle is just so good – her prose is thick and satisfying, her plots are complex and her worlds extraordinarily imagined and deep.
Anyone looking for some great science fiction should certainly check out the Orthe novels, Golden Witchbreed and Ancient Light, that manage to marry Ursula K. LeGuin’s political themes with a much more “British” aplomb.
Ash: A Secret History is probably the tour-de-force for which Gentle is most famous these days – but Dumas fans looking for a real treat should check out 1610: Sundial in a Grave.
A recent discovery, thanks to thefine guys of the Black Gate magazine and blog.
Hodgell’s Kencyrath series went under my radar when first published, and only recently I was able to catch up thanks to the wonders of ebook. Hodgell’s series has a very strong worldbuilding, that does not interfere with the flow of the narrative. Once again, a sure voice, interesting characters and situations, and a few neat twists. The series is currently seven volumes and ongoing, but check out the first title, God Stalk and you’ll be in for a few surprises.
And here you are – a nice list of titles, for your reading pleasure.