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In Response: 5 (More) Nonfiction Books About Science Fiction

The good chaps at Kirkus published “5 Nonfiction Books About Science Fiction” on Wednesday, and I was a bit surprised to see only one of the five titles was by a woman. (I should stop being surprised by this, right?). I don’t read a huge amount of nonfiction, but what I DO read tends to be by women, so I figured I could offer some balance to this. (For the record, I loved The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurly), which is on the Kirkus list!).

  1. James Tiptree Jr: the Double Life of Alice B Sheldon by Julie Phillips – Oh my goodness, this was an amazing book. Sheldon’s life was so heartbreaking and exciting and interesting that it could be mistaken for fiction, but that comes across partly due to the incredible depth of research and highly accessible writing of biographer Phillips. Cannot recommend this highly enough as both the story of a life, but also in many ways as a history of science fiction. 
  2. Letters to Tiptree edited by Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein – Multi-award nominated (and winning) collection of new letters to Tiptree (or her other personas) by modern creators, as well as a wonderful reprints of letters from Tiptree’s contemporaries and introductions to short story collections, and further excerpts about the author from books like The Secret Feminist Cabal and The Battle of the Sexes. Important, intelligent, powerful stuff.
  3. The Rebirth of Rapunzel: A Mythic Biography of the Maiden in the Tower by Kate Forsyth – Yes, I published this one but it is an astonishingly well-written and well-researched exploration of the Rapunzel story, folklore and storytelling in general.
  4. Chicks Dig Timelords edited by Lynne M Thomas and Tara O’Shea (and other Mad Norwegian Press titles such as Chicks Unravel Time and Companion Piece) – Award-winning, entertaining and informative, with the added bonus of making you understand (in case you didn’t know) that you ARE NOT ALONE in your Time Lord love. 
  5. Pratchett’s Women by Tansy Rayner Roberts – Collecting a series of blog posts into one book, these are well-written, thoughtful reflections considering the evolution of Terry Pratchett’s writing over the course of the years, and the changing ways both the reader and the author interacted with the women of the Discworld series.

I’m sure there are lots more recommendations out there, from people more widely read in the non-fiction field than I – would love to hear yours!


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Some of my favourite SF series: A List

Not in response to anything this time, other than a comment on my 30 Favourite Fantasy Series list that suggested separating out the SF is hard. So here’s a list of some of my favourite science fiction series. Again, I’m only listing here books I have read (at least some of the series) and enjoyed and which include at least two books in a defined series. I acknowledge I’m rather under-read in SF compared to Fantasy. I have a fairly broad view of what science fiction looks like – basically if it uses scientific ideas to extrapolate in some way on the world we live in, I’ll include it! And that might be a different way to define in than what you use, which is absolutely fine – wouldn’t the world be dull if we were all the same?

  1. Confederation series by Tanya Huff – I don’t quite know how Huff manages to write in so many different ways, but her military space opera is astonishingly good that combines great action with excellent characters.
  2. Ghatti’s Tale trilogy by Gayle Greeno – similar to the Pern books, the Ghatti books read quite a lot like fantasy, and to be fair, the premise is pretty much the same, except there are cats instead of dragons. I haven’t read these in years, but I loved them when I read them (were you listening? Telepathic cats!) and I wouldn’t mind giving them another look, from a more mature viewpoint.
  3. Imperial Radch trilogy by Ann Leckie – challenging reads but well worth the investment of brain power.
  4. In Death series by JD Robb – I adore these books. They probably fit more appropriately in the police procedural genre but they are set some 40-odd years in the future, and are so much fun to read! There’s dozens of them in the series and every time a new one comes out (thank you Nora (Roberts, JD Robb’s alter ego) for two books per year!), I drop everything else and devour it in a single sitting.
  5. Jacob’s Ladder by Elizabeth Bear – generation ship drama with interesting examinations of religion and mythology.
  6. Newsflesh series by Mira Grant – including the original trilogy and the new collection in the extended series (and there is a new book on the way!) because they are brilliant. I like to call Feed (the first of the trilogy) a science fiction political thriller with zombies. Believable, awful near future zombies. An absolute favourite.
  7. On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis – this is a sneaky sideways inclusion as I’m not sure if Duyvis IS working on more in this world, but she HAS published at least one story with the same setting and including some crossover characters (“And the Rest of Us Wait” in Defying Doomsday from Twelfth Planet Press), so I’m going to give it a pass. Mostly because I adored both book and story for the visceral realism of the world and events as well as the underpinning diversity of the characters.
  8. Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward – another that is a bit of a cheat, but I know she’s got the second volume well in hand, so I’ll include it because the first book is so darn powerful.
  9. Pern (also most other McCaffrey) – having recently re-read the entire Pern back catalogue, I feel confident in saying they belong on any science fiction series best of list, let alone just my favourites! Still love these and they can still make me cry. I’m also a bit fan of the Talent and Hive books, and enjoy all the others too.
  10. Saga of the Exiles and Galactic Milieu books by Julian May – I ADORED these (two connected series) when I accidentally discovered them many years ago. I read the series in the wrong order and was delighted to realise they were connected when I discovered the first series. I’m a sucker for psychic powers and a bit of time travel, and the characters of these books absolutely suck you in. I really must look into a re-read to see how they stand up over 30 years after first publication…
  11. Santa Olivia books by Jacqueline Carey – is there such a thing as “urban science fiction”? Because I feel like that’s what this is. Military genetically enhanced humans explaining a “werewolf” storyline. If I can suspend my disbelief, I count it as SF, so this counts. It’s not, for me, as immersive as her Kushiel series, but it’s a completely different reading experience. 
  12. Sentients of Orion quartet by Marianne de Pierres – expansive hard SF from a fantastic Australian author.
  13. The Tribe series by Ambelin Kwaymullina – Australian YA dystopian SF with indigenous roots, solidly explored.
  14. Vatta’s War by Elizabeth Moon – military science fiction (and one of the reasons I get a little twitchy when I see discussions of military SF that don’t mention female writers – Bujold and Huff are the other reasons…).
  15. Veiled Worlds trilogy by Jo Anderton – there’s some discussion about whether these books count as SF or fantasy (one was shortlisted for the Best Fantasy Novel and one of Best SF Novel Aurealis Awards in subsequent years…), but I feel there’s enough play in the world-building to give it the nod.
  16. Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold – given I’ll buy an advance review ecopy of any new Vorkosigan book from the publisher at a ridiculous price, I think it’s safe to say I’m a fan. My favourite thing about this series is that while the premise and worldbuilding is firmly space opera (tending to military SF at times), almost every book is not so secretly built on the foundations of a different genre. It’s clever stuff, and means each book is fresh! Love them.
  17. When We Wake series by Karen Healey – near future YA SF, experimental cryogenics, and a cool conceit for exploring current issues.
  18. Xenogenesis by Octavia Butler – alien invasion, eugenics and saving the remainder of the human race at the core.

Well, that’s me done for a quick overview of my bookshelves and Goodreads. As always, the disclaimer that if I sat down to do this on a different day, I’d almost certainly come up with a different list! Let me know some of YOUR favourites in the comments!


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In Response: (more) anthologies worth setting aside a novel for…

*sigh* It’s really not that hard to read outside the box you live in and try to look beyond the big name male editors that pop up all the time attached to anthologies. I won’t deny some of them are good, but when you make a list (like this one), why do six out of seven of the editors named have to be men (and two of them twice!!)? In response, I offer you some alternatives…

  1. After edited by Ellen Datlow (because Ellen IS a great editor and SHOULD be on a list like this – she just shouldn’t have to be the only woman!) – seriously, I could have picked any number of Datlow anthologies, or any one of the many she’s edited with Terri Windling (oh look, another female editor…)
  2. The AGOG! anthologies edited by Cat Sparks – for many years, the AGOG! books were a staple in the Australian speculative fiction publishing scene. The editor is currently working on a new anthology of climate change stories for Ticonderoga Press and I’ve no doubt it will be a return to the form of the original AGOG anthologies. 
  3. Bloodstones and Bloodlines edited by Amanda Pillar – there are some great anthologies coming out of Australian small press (I’ll forbear mentioning my own at FableCroft – oops, actually, I won’t!) and these are just two that Pillar has edited. Always worth checking out.
  4. Defying Doomsday edited by Tsana Dolichva & Holly Kench – a powerful anthology from Twelfth Planet Press chock full of fantastic writers and a premise that proves it’s not always the “fittest” who survive – it’s the most tenacious, stubborn, enduring and innovative characters who have the best chance of adapting when everything is lost.
  5. Firebirds, Firebirds Rising and Firebirds Soaring edited by Sharyn November – three amazing collections filled to the brim with brilliant writers and great stories. 
  6. Glitter and Mayhem edited by Lynne M Thomas et al – a little bit of a cheat, because Lynne does share editorial billing with some gentlemen, but it’s a fantastic anthology and Lynne’s an excellent editor (see also her Hugo Award for editing the non-fiction collection Chicks Dig Timelords and of course her work for Apex and Uncanny Magazine), so this is definitely worthy of inclusion.
  7. Hear Me Roar edited by Liz Gryzb – resourceful, resilient women who are committed to doing what is needed, no matter what the cost. Liz also edits the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror series with Talie Helene.
  8. Hidden Youth edited by Mikki Kendall and Chesya Burke – no, it’s not out yet, but if Hidden Youth is anything like its predecessor Long Hidden, it won’t be out of place here and definitely deserves a mention.
  9. Hellebore and Rue edited by Joselle Vanderhooft and Catherine Lundoff – a book filled with stories of witches and women of power, set in worlds mundane, fantastical and future, where the central characters just happen to be lesbians.
  10. Kaleidoscope edited by Alisa Krasnostein & Julia Rios – one of the best anthologies I’ve ever read, as not only were the stories superb, but they also had important things to say about what the real world looks like. The editors are also responsible for the annual Year’s Best Young Adult Speculative Fiction series, and Alisa has several other original anthologies under her belt.
  11. Monstrous Affections edited by Kelly Link (and Gavin Grant) – Kelly is a fabulous writer and an excellent editor, if her track record is anything to go by and I’ve liked every book I’ve read that she has had a hand in.
  12. Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales edited by Paula Guran – an anthology list wouldn’t be complete without an offering from Guran, who is becoming one of the most prolific editors around. She’s working on original and reprinted collections, as well as various Year’s Bests, and is always worth a look.
  13. The Sea Is Ours: Tales from Steampunk Southeast Asia edited by Jaymee Goh & Joyce Chng – another reminder that not all anthologies worth reading come from the US…
  14. To Shape the Dark edited by Athena Andreadis – a quality anthology containing a diverse range of stories. I loved the theme for this one!
  15. Wilful Impropriety edited by Ekatarina Sedia – wonderfully subversive in terms of gender and sexuality. It reminded me a little of the Tamora Pierce & Josepha Sherman edited anthology Young Warriors (pretend it’s on the list, because I’ve mentioned it now…), except that what those stories did with race, these did with sexuality/gender. And oh my goodness, I didn’t realise until just now how MANY anthologies Sedia has under her belt –’scuse me, popping out to Amazon to grab a couple…

That’s what I’ve got for now, after a quick scan of my physical and Goodreads shelves. Not terribly hard to get a bit of diversity happening, am I right? That said, I am all too aware there are many more fabulous anthology editors out there doing amazing work – let me know some of your favourites in the comments!

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In Response: 30 of MY Favourite Fantasy Book Series

I saw this post via Facebook today, and it really bugged me. You don’t get to claim that things are the best of anything without some evidence to show this. Are they the 30 best selling fantasy series? Are they the 30 most reviewed fantasy series? Are they the 30 most awarded book fantasy series? What, in fact, are they the best at? Being mostly by men? Yeah, because only five of the 30 series mentioned here are by men. And even the ones by women? Not all fantasy (much as many of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books have a fantasy feel to them, they are in fact science fiction…) So I decided to write my OWN list of fantasy book series.

I won’t claim them to be the “best” of anything, except being best reads I’ve loved over the years. Please note, these are only series I have read and loved over the past 25 years or so. I have not included anything I know to be amazing unless I have read it, I have not included anything I have personally published, and I’ve only noted one series per author (even though for many, they have several I enjoy). And as always, a disclaimer that if I did this exercise again on another day, it would probably be a different list… Here goes…

  1. Artefacts of Power series by Maggie Furey – I’m almost 100% certain these would not hold up to a critical reread nearly two decades after I first adored them, but I can’t bring myself to try. I loved them when I was young, and so they have their place here.
  2. Anita Blake series by Laurell K Hamilton – The first half dozen of these are amazing, and while I’ll acknowledge the quality devolved in the later books, they were still excellent at the time, and the first few still stand up today.
  3. Axis trilogy by Sara Douglass – Look, this really started it all for me, in my journey of discovering Australian fantasy writers, and Sara was a trailblazer with her work. These days I have issues with the way some things are presented, but when I first read them, and for several years after, these were astonishingly good.
  4. Black Jewels books by Anne Bishop – I ADORED this series when I discovered it and one of my big disappointments in life is that I didn’t get to the Australian SF convention she was a guest for. Still grab anything new by Bishop.
  5. Blackthorn & Grim by Juliet Marillier – No, this series isn’t yet complete but I don’t care; the first two books are excellent (as is all Marillier’s work) so I think I’m safe.
  6. Creature Court trilogy by Tansy Rayner Roberts – It’s not secret I love everything Tansy writes, but I loved what she did in the Creature Court world and they deserved the awards they received. Sadly, I don’t think the covers, while pretty, do the darkness and depths of the story justice.
  7. Damar books by Robin McKinley – I am definitely due a reread of this duology. Loved the world so much when I first read them, and feel the need to revisit.
  8. Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy (plus extras) by Laini Taylor – So much love for these books! Taylor writes beautiful characters and puts them in awful situations. Fantastic.
  9. Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C Wrede – Like Tamora Pierce, Wrede gives us wonderful female characters (but with dragons!) who are smart and witty and great fun to read. Great to hook the young people in your life on the genre.
  10. Eon/Eona by Alison Goodman – I loved these when they first came out (initially the first book was titled The Two Pearls of Wisdom) and still recommend them to people but I really need a reread, it’s been a while.
  11. Farseer trilogy (and all related books) by Robin Hobb – The Farseer trilogy is just the beginning of the story in Robin Hobb’s world. I love all of them and am delighted to still see the same quality in the newest books as in the early ones.
  12. Gina Champion Mysteries by Kim Wilkins – I love a lot of Wilkins’ adult novels but her work for younger readers is how I first discovered her and the Gina Champion books are criminally underread.
  13. The Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal – beautiful alternate history with beautifully drawn characters and situations.
  14. Graceling Realm books by Kristin Cashore – Bitterblue was perhaps my favourite book of the year it came out, and I love the way the three work together without being a technically consecutive fantasy series.
  15. Indexing by Seanan McGuire – Seanan McGuire and her alter ego Mira Grant have written many of my favourite books from the past few years, but of her (urban) fantasies, I think this is my favourite series so far, though I love Velveteen and her traditionally published ones, too.
  16. The Keepers trilogy by Lian Tanner – Multi-award winning and deservedly so, even though this series is aimed at younger readers it is excellent reading for any age.
  17. The Last T’en series by Rowena Cory Daniells – I think this might have been the first series I bought at a science fiction convention, way back in 2002, and I loved it – Daniells writes dark and nasty fantasy, and she writes it well.
  18. Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta – I didn’t expect to like this series, and to be honest, I didn’t love the first book, which seemed a little generic, but the second and third were astonishingly good and the character of Quintana is one of the best I’ve read.
  19. Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan – Another recent discovery, another alternate history with (a very different kind of) dragons. I adore the style of this one, and the lead character, Lady Trent, is excellent.
  20. Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs – Still one of my favourite in the urban fantasy field – Briggs writes good.
  21. The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger – fabulous fun and seriously good. Banterrific dialogue and solid storytelling come together to create great reads.
  22. Phèdre’s Trilogy by Jacqueline Carey – Another on my “must reread” list – the Kushiel books are dark and twisty and racy, and populate a world I love when I’m immersed in it. Not for the fainthearted…
  23. Raksura books by Martha Wells – I’m quite bewildered that I only discovered Wells a couple of years ago, when she’s been writing brilliant books for ages. I found her, and binged her entire backlist in a matter of weeks, starting with the Raksura, but they are all great.
  24. Rogue Agent books by KE Mills – I could have chosen other books by Karen Miller (KE Mills) but these ones are a lot of fun to read, with her steady hand on the wheel to make them solidly good books.
  25. Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce – Possibly my earliest fantasy novels, and still awesome. Seriously, just read them.
  26. Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn – Bordering on being not-quite fantasy but they totally are. I read the prequel, Heaven’s Net is Wide, before the previously published series proper, and promptly tracked down and devoured the lot. Beautifully written.
  27. Temeraire series by Naomi Novik – Oh look, one I agree with from the original post! I only discovered Temeraire last year, and have just recently finished the final book. I’m a bit of an alternate history fan so throw in dragons and you had me at hello…
  28. Watergivers trilogy by Glenda Larke – Recently awarded the Sara Douglass Book Series Award and deservedly so. Amazing worldbuilding, wonderful characters, and the trademark Larke brilliance.
  29. The Witches of Eileanan by Kate Forsyth – It’s been a goodly while since I read these ones but they were in my early “read all the Australian fantasy I can get my hands on” phase and have survived several book purges. Must reread…
  30. World of the Five Gods series by Lois McMaster Bujold – Most recently I’ve been reading the Penric novellas set in this world, but it was very odd I only read the original Chalion books last year. Apparently I had them conflated in my head with Bujold’s other fantasy series, so it was a great delight to read and love these ones too.

What’s that you say? There are no men on this list? Oh. Huh. Well, I guess if I tried a little harder, I could probably come up with a bunch of male names to add, because I do, on occasion, enjoy the odd book by a man, but you know what? I think I’d rather let the list stand as evidence that oh look, ladies do indeed write awesome fantasy series and you should totally read some of them. Go on, it’s fun…

So, what would you have on YOUR list? Let me know in the comments!




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