Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Oh, hey, look, Andrea Höst has a guest post over at The Book Smugglers

“When asked to write a post recommending female SFF authors, I decided to remove my own self-imposed bias of favourites, and stick simply with “authors of books I kept”. And so here is a list of “Female authors with a physical book on my SFF bookshelves”.

Yes, this post will be long.”

Yeah, I bet. That would be a long, long list for me. Yet, oddly, I am missing quite a lot of the authors on Andrea Höst’s list. Or maybe it’s not that odd, as she goes from A right through Z, for a total of 99 authors. Wow! There are a ton of authors on this list who are new-to-me — way too many — some I definitely need to add to my TBR pile(s).

Constance Ash, for example, I’m sure I never heard of her, which is too bad, as I sure went through a horse-crazy period. (Actually, I am still more or less in that horse-crazy period, so I think perhaps I should look up this series.)

Pat Cadigan, I never read anything by her. TEA FROM AN EMPTY CUP is an amazingly evocative title.

Cara d’Bastian’s UF series sounds amazing — set in Singapore and Malaysia, really? I just have to try that.

I have Susan Dexter’s THE PRINCE OF ILL-LUCK on my TBR pile downstairs; it’s another for the reader who enjoys a horse-centered story, I hear.

And on and on. I mean, that’s only into the D’s! Lots of authors I know on this list, too, of course. Click through and I bet you’ll find both favorites and new-to-you authors.

One author from this list I’ve never heard of but am definitely planning to try: Cara d’Bastian

The author I’m most familiar with: CJ Cherryh, of course, though my favorites list from Cherryh would be quite different. I mean, CHANUR, sure, but where’s CUCKOO’S EGG? And ANGEL WITH A SWORD was never one of my personal favorites.

The author I’m most pleased to see on this list: Doris Egan, GATE OF IVORY, which is the first book in a wonderful trilogy that didn’t get the attention it deserved when it first hit the shelves. It came out in omnibus form some years ago and I made several friends buy it then. Ooh, ooh, and Margaret Mahy! I just love many of Mahy’s books and don’t think they’re as widely known as they should be. And there’s Judith Tarr’s LORD OF THE TWO LANDS, a historical fantasy I just love. Martha Wells! Another author who should be absolutely a household name.

Most beautiful cover: I really like the cover of THE RED COUNTRY by Sylvia Kelso. I’ve never heard of the book or the author, but that cover would make me pick up the book in a bookstore. “An Australian writer who writes densely poetic novels, most set in Australia, or fantasy worlds with Australian landscapes.” Densely poetic, eh? Sounds very much like my cup of tea.

Book I’ve most wanted to get to: THE STEERSWOMAN by Rosemary Kirstein. I’ve heard about this and the concept sounds really interesting.

Flawed books that I have nevertheless read many times: Anne Maxwell’s DANCER series, starting with FIRE DANCER. I think the series as a whole suffers from continuing romantic angst that keeps on going long after it should have resolved. And the romance is so clichéd. Yet . . . yet . . . I really like these books anyway. Now that I see this author on the list, I kind of want to go re-read at least the first book yet again. I do agree that it’s a real shame the series was cut short at three titles.

Most seminal: I agree, Andre Norton had a huge impact on me exactly in this way. I, too, think of weapons and vehicles in just these terms — needlers, skimmers. I never, ever thought of that before. But yeah, Norton sure did set up ideas about how to write SF adventure stories.

Click through and check out this list. Who’s your favorite? Any glaring omissions? You’re invited to fill in gaps in the comments.

I’m glad to see I’m on there already, otherwise, yeah, that’d be a glaring omission, all right. But no, I’m happy.

I do have an author to add, though, so I need to go leave a comment.

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16 Comments Oh, hey, look, Andrea Höst has a guest post over at The Book Smugglers

  1. elaine t

    Definitely get Kirsten’s STEERSWOMAN.

    I recognized Kelso for AMBERLIGHT, which I keep picking up and putting back down.

    Host didn’t mention that the Cheryl Franklin books link up, the fantasy world with wizards is is linked to a very high tech world, but through handwaving about topology got separated and timeslipped so umpteen thousand years have passed and the inhabitants have no clue that they were once part of a high tech interstellar civilization, and then whatever went wrong gets fixed (by the wizards (book 2 of the fantasy FIRE title side) while on the sf side the genius who developed the topological tools is still alive. Hostilities develop, adventure happens. Aliens intervene…. I like ’em. Too bad they’re way out of print.

    Midori Snyder’s books, too, were a surprise to see listed. I thought no one else had read her stuff. As well as UNLIKELY ONES.

    It was weird reading Host’s list, I’ve read almost everything, and what titles I haven’t read I’ve at least heard of the author and picked something up by them. No wonder I’ve liked her books.

    Pops over to check your comment – oh, yes, Randall’s SWORD OF WINTER, I love the scavenger hunt. MacAvoy .. meh,,, something about her writing reads as ‘cold’ to me, and I can’t get into her stuff.

  2. Kristina

    I bookmarked the link since I can see myself going back to it again and again. I was glad to see Susan Dexter getting some love, and I hope you will give her a try. My favorite of hers (and one of my lifetime comfort reads) is actually the second book in the series, THE WIND-WITCH. It seems grand in scope – a small coastal nation trying to defend itself against raiders from the sea – but it focuses on a widow trying to hold onto her lands for a year and a day and officially make them her own. (Fortunately she has a horse sired by the wind and some weather-magic herself.) This book just pushes so many of my buttons: a well-imagined setting, appealing characters, lots of cozy crafting details (spinning and weaving), plus a bonus of some great dogs that really act like dogs.

    I do need to try some more McAvoy, I think – I loved THE GREY HORSE!

  3. Craig

    I am charmed by having book cover images for everyone *except* Andre Norton, who gets a photo of dozens of her books instead. Just so.

    I should probably count how many of those authors I’ve never heard of, since there are quite a few.

  4. Maureen E

    I liked AMBERLIGHT but never finished the sequel, which seemed to lack some of the charm of the first book.

    I have Host’s post bookmarked, because my TBR list is already groaning under the weight of too many books and I need to get it down a bit before I can add mroe.

  5. Pete Mack

    While I agree Andre Norton belongs on the list, I’ve found that she really doesn’t age well. Her book really are YA that don’t work for adults.
    And Margaret Weis. Ugh… I guess she counts as original, in the sense that she and Hickman are the first to turn D&D adventures into novels.
    Volsky and Friesner do get a special shout-out, for very funny humor.

    And I’d put Linda Nagata on the list, for diamond-hard SF. Do read her short story “Skye Object 3270a.”

  6. Rachel

    Elaine, MacAvoy doesn’t work for you, really? Did you try THE GREY HORSE? I’m with Kristina in really loving it. And LENS OF THE WORLD. It’s true I didn’t get into all her books, though; for whatever reason THE THIRD EAGLE didn’t appeal to me and I didn’t ever read more than a couple chapters.

    Kristina — I’ve picked up the Susan Dexter more than once and put it down without opening it. Probably this year, though! I think the longest something has just sat on my physical TBR shelves without my reading it is about . . . oh, four or five years, but I don’t think that will happen with THE PRINCE OF ILL-LUCK. Because, horses!

    Craig, Maureen, yes, lots of new-to-me authors, so many I didn’t try to count. And if you run through the comments on that post, whoa. I have so many books already on my TBR shelves or my Kindle or my Amazon wishlist, I seriously do not need any more right now!

    Pete, yes, I think Andre Norton is very important as a YA author, but she doesn’t work for me very well at all now that I’m older. So different from DWJ, say. It’s a bit hard to decide just what the difference is between a YA-only title and a YA-or-adult title, and then that probably is different for everyone anyway.

  7. elaine t

    Elaine visits Amazon to check out THE GREY HORSE. Oh, it’s that one! Nope, slid off it, as if it were covered in ice. I might have been overdosed on Irish stuff, I suppose…. my mind is producing a memory of exasperation at Yet Another Irish Fantasy …. but given that I’ve only finished one MacAvoy and that was TEA and due to trying hard to see what others were praising, I doubt it. Something about her writing lacks the hooks to let me engage. The mental sensation really is of slipperiness. And she is (or was) a local, and I like to support locals when I can. So I kept trying when a new one would appear that looked like she was doing something different. Never worked.

    I haven’t reread Susan Dexter in years and years, but remember enjoying her stuff, and it’s still on our shelves. I think she also wrote a fantasy Richard III into one of them. As one who spent more than a few years reading up on all that, I did enjoy that spin.

    Andre Norton I read a ton of, but mostly I don’t reread as I don’t want to discover they don’t work any more. I’ll dip in to a favorite scene now and then, though.

  8. Kristina

    I enjoyed THE PRINCE OF ILL LUCK, but I adored THE WIND-WITCH, so if the first book doesn’t work for you, give the second a try. This series spans generations and is only loosely linked through setting and the character of Valadan, so the second volume ought to work as a standalone, I believe. PRINCE has more of a YA feel, at least to me. I kept wanting to send the female protagonist to her room – she was that much of a brat – and although she does redeem herself eventually, for a large portion of the book she is not pleasant company. In contrast, Druyan of THE WIND-WITCH has the weight of adult responsibilities on her shoulders. She’s not a spunky teenager or a warrior princess but simply a quietly strong woman who uses her resources to do what she can to make a difference. I love her so much.

  9. Rachel

    Good to know! A bratty girl protagonist certainly may not work for me, but I’ll remember that the second book is a step up.

  10. Pete+Mack

    @Rachel — I am not sure I agree with you about why Norton hasn’t aged well. Yes, part of it is because I am older, but part of it is because there’s a lot more (sophisticated!) YA to compare with.
    Tamara Pierce’s Tortall (and especially Protector of the Small series) is top of the list. But there’s also City of Ember (Jeanne DuPrau), and many, many others. Norton’s bad guys in particular are really cardboard cut-outs. She wrote books extremely fast; I think she wrote them a bit too fast: they all have almost the same plot.

  11. Rachel

    Pete, you know, I am not sure I would pick Tamora Pierce as writing great examples of sophisticated YA. I haven’t read all that many of hers, but to me her Alanna series was not very sophisticated; lots of “and the prince falls in love with her on first sight” kinds of things, and magic animals everywhere that read to me like wish fulfillment for young teen girls. Though I did think the first Beka Cooper book was a huge, huge step up in sophistication from that.

    Mind you, I believe you’re right that Andre Norton was writing stories that were very simplistic in some ways. It’s been so long since I read any of them, but I do think that’s true.

    For sophisticated modern YA, I would personally think first of Rae Carson, say. And Maggie Stiefvater — though not for the Shiver trilogy, I’m thinking of THE SCORPIO RACES. Oh, and Andrea Host! If The Touchstone Trilogy counts as YA — and to me it reads on the edge of YA/adult — then I think it definitely counts as layered and sophisticated.

  12. Pete+Mack

    Fair enough — I don’t really like the Alanna series either. But to be fair, it was her first. (I can’t even read the “Circle Magic” books. I finished, like 1/2 of one book.)
    The “Protector” series is very different indeed: the protagonist has the single positive attribute of being, well, stubborn. And loyal, although that’s largely a result of stubbornness. There’s no angst at all. It’s quite a refreshing read. And yes, Beka Cooper is quite similar, although stubbornness is not quite the same as dogged persistence.

    Perhaps sophistication is the wrong word. What I am looking for is internal consistency in an interesting way.

  13. Pete+Mack

    Update: I actually had a fascinating book study session with my then 12YO niece on the PotS series. She’s interested in writing fiction: this series was exactly the right thing for discussing:
    * the results of personality on plot.
    * how grammar (especially sentence structure) can enhance perception character. In PotS, sentence structure is usually very simple, but with lots of active verbs. (House of Shadows pulls this off too, in a different way.)
    * How to focus on writing something that is in your area of expertise. (Not that it’s Pierce’s area of expertise, but middle school is definitely an area of expertise for a 12yo.)

  14. Pete+Mack

    PPS: Oh, also too: Robin McKinnley. I loved her 20 years ago. HER stuff ages very well, like wine.

  15. Rachel

    Yes yes yes on how grammar and sentence structure contribute to the “feel” of a book and of course to “voice.” Now I feel like going back to Protector of the Small and looking at sentence structure.

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