Over the weekend, I attended Sirens, a conference on women in fantasy literature in Stevenson, Washington. This is the second year I attended, but I’m sure I will be back again in the future (especially if it continues to be held in the PNW). It was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends, meet new ones, and listen to smart people talk about literature and ideas. If I met you there, hi!
Like all of the attendees, I came away with a long list of books to read or re-read. I probably also contributed to a lot of other people’s to-read lists . . . I am, after all, a librarian, and there are few things I enjoy more than matching readers with books. Here are a few that I found myself mentioning or thinking about a lot this weekend, for a variety of reasons.
- Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman series, which has rich and varied roles for its women characters and one of my favorite female friendships in sf/f. I wish I could talk more about one of the other reasons I love it without spoiling the first novel. Start with The Steerswoman’s Road, which is an omnibus that collects the first two books. Warning: the author writes slowly, and there are two more books planned in the series, so you may be in for a bit of wait after reason book 4. It is still totally worth starting.
- Sherwood Smith’s Inda series and the related, brilliant, and totally readable as standalone, Banner of the Damned. I enjoyed the Inda books quite a bit, but I bounced Inda the first time I tried to read it. I am pretty sure that I would not have had that problem with Banner.
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, because it is an astute coming of age story that doesn’t come to the conclusion “fanfic is evil.”
- The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer, a sadly underappreciated YA novel from 2012, about a girl who discovers she is descended from a long line of exorcists after she herself is possessed. The descriptions of food will make you want to plan an eating tour through Italy.
- Ooku by Fumi Yoshinaga, which I somehow forgot to mention at my roundtable on women political leaders in fantasy until someone asked me for manga recs after we wrapped up.
- The Finder series by Carla Speed McNeil. Which is sf, rather than fantasy, but still totally something that I think most Sirens attendees would enjoy reading.
- The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett. It’s a six-volume epic historical fiction series which has been hugely influential on sf/f and romance writers, and if you’re about my age and have been involved in sf/f fandom for a while, you are probably aware of it even if you haven’t read it. However, I was reminded that it’s actually not terribly well known to younger readers. During Sirens, Ellen Kushner had a great one-sentence description of the protagonist that I failed to write down, but it was something like, “He’s a neurotic, polymath, omnisexual, impossibly beautiful, and tortured hero.” I am probably missing some adjectives, but even without them, this is a very accurate description of Lymond. Give the first book 150 pages or so before you say yay or nay…many readers who go on to enjoy the series find the beginning rather confusing.