More Female Reads

A while ago I saw this post by Larry on gender bias in reading. And whilst I can see that he has clearly read enough female writers to put most of us to shame, it made me think about my own reading patterns. Whilst I’d want to read books which seem good and appealing, irrespective of the author’s gender, I was conscious of adding more genre novels written by women to this year’s reading pile – even if I’d read that author before.

Here are a couple of recent reads:

First up was Hope Mirrlees’ Lud-in-the Mist, a quaint, charming tale set in the sleepy town of Lud, and of the casual penetration of fairy fruit from the dreaded Land of Faerie upsetting the status quo. There are some nice subtleties, and casual symbolism, though with a bit of a flat ending, but still worth picking up.

Next was Ursula Le Guin’s award-winning The Dispossessed, which was a cracking read. Following the life of Shevek, a brilliant scientist from the anarchist (in the true, political sense) world of Anarres. This is a far-future tale of fundamental political difference between an exploitative resource-rich capitalist world and a resource-impoverished anarchist one. Very thought provoking, and excellent characterization.

So thanks to Larry for bringing gender bias to mind. Hopefully this year I’ll manage to read some C.L. Moore and Patricia A. McKillip too, but if you have more suggestions (particularly gritty and very stylish prose) then do add them in the comments.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

12 replies on “More Female Reads”

I’ve read a few of Kelly Link’s stories, yes. Ah, now Mary Gentle is definitely one I need to look into soon.

Thanks for the suggestions so far! Keep ’em coming. (I’m writing them all down.)

Glad that my post helped inspire you to discover some great authors, Mark!

Have you read any Angela Carter? I’m going to be reviewing her 1972 classic, The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, either later today or sometime this week.

Margo Lanagan and Kay Kenyon are two more that I’d suggest, but these are just the tip of the iceberg of course.

Thanks for the post, Larry. (And as an aside, I really enjoyed your commentary on Wolfe’s New Sun books you wrote ages ago.)

I haven’t read Carter, either! I’ll check out the review: I can see a big spend coming on.

I’ve got some of Lanagan’s stories – I read one or two but they left me pretty cold, but I’ll return to them again.

If you haven’t read any Carter that’s a great place to start.

Otherwise, Elizabeth Bear, Mary Gentle, K.J Bishop, Connie Willis, occasional J.V Jones, Emma Bull, Mary Shelley, Octavia Butler, Cathrynne Valente. And there’s a lot of good Young Adult writing out there as well.

I’ve just finished reading Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels and it is very impressive. There’s also Jacqueline Carey who does nothing for me but is hugely admired by a number of people.

Aishwarya: okay, I’ve ordered some Carter!

I’ve read KJ Bishop and Shelley; I hear good things about Valente, so must give that a read. And Butler is on the pile at the moment!

Alex: read ’em both. Come on, they’re new weird, of course I have… 🙂

J. V. Jones, Sword of Shadows series. Ignore the shite name, this is an excellent epic fantasy series. Well, the first two books are. Not read the third, but I’ve heard it’s a little disappointing.

Seconded, J.V.Jones. The Sword series (I think she is one of the best yet unassuming prose stylists in the genre) and The Barbed Coil, a standalone. The Book of Words is earlier work and really YA (despite someone being skinned alive and someone else being raped in their sleep!).

Marie Brennan, she just gets betterer ‘n’ betterer!

And if you haven’t already got round to it, put Natasha Mostert’s Season of the Witch right near the top of your list, Mark. You can find her on Myspace!!! ;-))

If not, here:

Outside of the genre of the fantastic, Lorrie Moore. Her stories are superb and hilarious with it. Her novels no less fine. Her novels were optioned by Madonna for a film that was never made… Thank God!

“When you were six you thought mistress meant to put your shoes on the wrong feet. Now you are older and know it can mean many things, but essentially it means to put your shoes on the wrong feet. ”

More quotes here:

Her wit is wonderful, her intellect diamond bright and she has the guts to allow her words to draw attention to themselves. That’s the difference between literature and life! It’s like life, but it isn’t! It’s made up of words!

I’d certainly echo those who’ve suggested Mary Gentle, particularly the Valentine and Casaubon stories currently collected in the White Crow omnibus.

There is a lot of proto-New Weird stuff going on in there.

And I also think that scholar-soldier Valentine and her husband Lord-Architect Casaubon are possibly as interesting and witty a duo as Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. And probably a lot scarier.

Sticking with genre, I’d also recommend Elen Kurshner’s Riverside novels Swordspoint and The Privilege of the Sword. They have no fantasy in them as I recall, but they are effortlessly readable and witty (though apparently the writing was anything but) and portray a decadent medieval court, its hangers on and its servants, its swordsmen and their masters vividly – not to mention the gay central couple who are so tenderly depicted your heart almost breaks for them.

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