Women to Read: Where to Start

Last week, Kari Sperring launched a wonderful campaign to promote women in the sf/f/h genre(s). This got me thinking about the women I love to read, and what I would recommend as a starting point for people who have never read their work. This is by no means a comprehensive list, a logically organized one, or one with really any kind of rhyme or reason (though I occasionally try to ascribe one). This is simply a list of women in the genre whose work I admire, along with a suggested starting point for discovering their work. Some are established, some are just starting to make a name for themselves. Hopefully folks stumbling across this list will discover something new to love – an author, an editor, a novel, or a story. And hopefully they’ll go on to share that new-found love with the world.

Catherynne M. Valente: There are probably very few people at this point who haven’t read any of her work. She’s insanely prolific and multi-award-winning/nominated at this point. Still, if you haven’t read her work and are looking for a place to start, I recommend The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Why? Not only is the title awesome, but it’s a gorgeously written book for young readers (which can be appreciated by readers of any age) with a female protagonist, which never talks down to its audience.

Ysabeau Wilce: Another established author, but possibly not as well-recognized as Cat Valente. I would recommend starting with Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog. Why? Pretty much ditto all those things I said about Valente’s Fairyland series – defying gender stereotypes, never talking down to its audience, delicious use of language, and a kickass title.

Caitlin Kiernan: Again, I’m sure most people are familiar with her. For those who are not, I’m somewhat torn on where to recommend starting. Ultimately, I have to settle on The Red Tree. Please don’t let the bad cover scare you away. I almost made that mistake, but I’d seen so many people praise the book, I felt the need to pick it up. While I’ve come to adore Kiernan’s other work, both long and short, this is the book that made me fall in love, the one that haunted me for days. One of the ones that haunts me still. Go read it.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Publisher, author, and editor extraordinaire. As I mentioned in my recent interview with her, she’s incredibly prolific, and she’s another one on the list where I had trouble picking just one place to start. So I’m going to cheat. First, I’ll say check out anything and everything she’s done as editor and publisher of Innsmouth Free Press. The world needs more weird fiction, and it needs more inclusive weird fiction, and Innsmouth Free Press accomplishes both of those things. As for stories by Silvia, I’ll pick Flash Frame as a starting point, since it hits several of my fictional weaknesses. It originally appeared in Cthulhurotica, and has since been reprinted elsewhere. It’s even available in audio format from Tales to Terrify.

Carrie Cuinn: Ooh! An opportunity to segue! Cthulhurotica was published by Dagan Books, of which Carrie Cuinn just happens to be the publisher, and editor of several of their titles. So there’s a starting point right there. Additionally, I urge you toward Carrie’s blog, where she says smart things about publishing, editing, writing, and life in general.

E. Catherine Tobler: Yet another incredibly prolific author. Her short fiction has been all over the place lately, so I’m going to cheat again by recommending her most recent piece, because it’s fresh in my mind (having read it just today), and because it’s lovely – Grandmother of Ghosts. Once you’re done there, go and seek out her other short stories (they’re seriously all over the place), and then commence the eager anticipation of her first novel, forthcoming from Masque Books.

Beth Wodzinski: Another opportunity for a segue, for those who are paying close attention. When speaking of publishers/editors extraordinare, Beth is an essential name on the list. As a starting point, I recommend Shimmer, of which she is Editor-in-Chief. (E.Catherine Tobler is the Senior Editor. See? I told you there was a segue.) Beth took Shimmer from a smallish publication to a pro-paying market, publishing consistently beautiful fiction and garnering critical praise at every turn. Now that she’s starting to focus on her own fiction again, too, you’ll start to see her name all over ToCs soon enough. I guarantee it!

Ellen Datlow: She’s another name that needs no introduction, another incredibly prolific, multi-award-winner/nominee. I couldn’t make a list without her name, as every single on of her anthologies is a must-buy for me, and she’s long been an inspiration. As a starting point, I recommend her fairytale series, co-edited with Terri Windling, of which Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears is just one. This is the anthology series that made me sit up and say: yes, I want to do this; I want to work and work and work until some day, I’m good enough to be published in a collection like this.

I’m realizing I could go on and on. And so I will, but I’ll break it into another post for another day. In the meantime, since it is Women in Genre Month (for a few more hours at least), I’ll point you to two series of wonderful posts celebrating women in genre. Haralambi Markov has been featuring a different woman in the genre each day this month. His series has already introduced me to several new authors, editors, and publishers whose work I need to seek out, and he gives every post a personal touch by sharing how each woman’s work has personally influenced him or intersected his life. Similarly, Fantasy Book Cafe has been hosting a series of insightful guest posts by and about women in genre, all of which are well worth a read.

Stay tuned for more women in genre. Until then, get on with the reading!

8 Comments

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8 Responses to Women to Read: Where to Start

  1. Thank you for including me on your list!

  2. A few add-ons:
    Kelly Link
    Lisa L Hannett
    Kirstyn McDermott
    Tanith Lee
    Jo Walton
    Joan Aiken
    Angela Carter
    Sarah Pinborough

  3. E. Catherine Tobler

    …this comment captcha made me do math, but I still appreciate you very much. :D This is a great list!

  4. Carrie – you are most welcome!

    Angela – Thank you for the wonderful suggestions! At least a few of those names will be covered in part 2 of my post!

    Elise – Heh. I didn’t realize until after I’d installed it that it was a math captcha. Then I was sad. :)

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  7. Thanks! I was running them through my library’s card catalog and was amazed at how many of these writers had also written for anthologies as well.

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