Serial Bookseller

Because all of life is stories.

Women You Should Be Reading

Let me make this clear to start.  I am an asshole.  I am not a hero or a savior or even particularly cool for writing this post.  These women don’t need me and my tiny endorsement.  But they all changed the way I read, write, and think about fiction.  I want to thank them for that.

Last year I decided that my reading list was far too full of straight white dudes.  I made, probably for the first time, a conscious effort to diversify my reading.  Did you know that if you spend your whole life just picking up books it becomes a really weird thing to go searching out authors who don’t look like you and have a different world view?  It really shouldn’t.  But it was.  And now so many of those lovely people and their incredible books rank among my all time favorites.  It was a great year for reading.  Like, holy jebus white dudes did you know how many fucking amazing POC and women are out there writing really really incredible shit?  Today, I want to call out some incredible authors for International Women’s Day.  Cliche?  Maybe.  But they deserve it today and all year, every year.  So, without further ado, people you should be reading:

 

NK Jemisin

NK Jemisin is the author of The Inheritance Trilogy, which starts with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Fifth Season, and a host of other novels and short stories.  Her narratives about oppression and systemic abuse are both harrowing and thrilling, and her world building skill is absolutely first class.  She’s won or been nominated for pretty much every SFF award under the sun, and consistently manages to blow me away.

Where to Start:

The Fifth Season is her latest and greatest, is sure to nab her a few more awards, and is already nominated for the Nebula award this year.  It’s an excellent jumping in point to explore her phenomenal work.

 

VE Schwab

After just hitting the New York Times Bestseller list for the first time (Congrats!) Ms. Schwab projects to go nowhere but up.  Her twisted superhero novel Vicious made me question what it meant to be a hero, a villain, a person.  Her ongoing fantasy series that started with A Darker Shade of Magic and recently continued with A Gathering of Shadows is everything I love in a book.  Mad villains, wonderful magic and worlds, incredibly deep and complex characters, an aspiring pirate queen, and a series of very lovely coats.  Schwab can cut with words as easily as her characters with knives, and is a must read for any fan of genre fiction.  Or any fiction really.

Where to Start:

A Darker Shade of Magic.  The second book having just come out, readers can fly through the first book and straight into the second and join the rest of us in our pain.

 

Connie Willis

If I asked you who the most awarded writer in the history of SFF was, who would you guess?  Asimov?  Heinlein?  Clarke?  You’d be wrong.  Connie Willis holds the title, and for good reason.  A Grand Master of the genre, Willis’ body of work stretches from dozens of short stories to novel after novel of genre tilting greatness.  From time traveling grad student historians to dystopian movie theatre rebels to zombie Emily Dickinson enthusiasts Connie Willis shows her strength in her frankly ridiculous breadth of ideas and consistently powerful words.

Where to Start:

The Best of Connie Willis: Award-Winning Stories.  How many authors can say they have a book out filled exclusively with stories that have won the highest awards in their field?  I’m willing to bet the list is short.

 

Kameron Hurley

Readers of my blog are aware of my undying love for the brutal and unique stories that bear Hurley’s name and signature brand of mayhem.  In addition to her Worldbreaker books (The Mirror Empire and Empire Ascendant) Hurley also boasts an impressive and growing list of short stories and novellas, and her original God’s War trilogy.  There’s so much to love about Hurley’s work.  The world building and magics are fascinating and unique, the characters display a hugely broad representation, (So many queer characters guys.  It’s great) and despite the violence you always know that Hurley is on the trail of something more than the sum of the words on the page.  She’s always topical in her writing, and is absolutely unapologetic about shoving it at you in a visceral and entertaining way.  I will always buy stories written by her.

Where to Start:

The Mirror Empire is the first of Hurley’s newest trilogy about a multiverse that is slowly being torn apart by blood magic and an ominous black star that rises only once every few thousand years.  While the first book sets us up to clearly view certain sides as “Good Guys” and “Bad Guys” her second installment takes everything she’s put on the table and flips it over, burns it, and laughs over the ashes.  Strap in.

 

Laurie Halse Anderson

The only writer on the list I’ve had the luck to personally meet, Anderson is a phenom of YA and Mid Grade publishing.  Her books consistently tackle tough issues that range from dealing with rape, to eating disorders, to PTSD.  Anderson, a survivor herself, offers up perspective and an important message of belonging and being heard to readers who, statistically, think otherwise.  Not only are her stories entertaining, heartfelt, and passionate, but they come with the weight of someone who has been there.  She also happens to be one of the most kind and encouraging people I have ever met, demanding survivors she meets at book cons keep in touch with her if they ever need support.

Where to Start:

Speak is an important book for both the subject matter it covers and the controversy it draws.  The more and more it finds itself in the spotlight the more we as a people talk about the issues it refuses to remain silent about.  Like a bone that’s been set, sometimes a heart has to break before it becomes stronger.

 

Ursula Vernon

Ursula Vernon writes and illustrates children’s books that are just so much damn fun I can’t rightly put the degree of my love for them into words.  They’re beautifully illustrated, full of sharp wit, elder gods, hamster princesses, dragons, and wombats.  Are they technically “For Children?”  Sure.  So was Harry Potter.  Vernon is also a font of social media wonderment that comes in the form of lovely drawings and stories about her wonderful garden, the creatures therein, and a glorious tipsy rant about potatoes.

Where to Start:

Digger is the story of a no nonsense wombat coming out of a tunnel into a world that is very much about nonsense.  Intensely weird, terribly funny, and it may make you cry.  It will totally make you cry.  Rib breaking and heart shredding tears.

 

Nnedi Okorafor

I am forever sad that I left my university the semester before Nnedi Okorafor started teaching there.  She weaves cultural narratives into science fiction and fantasy in such a hopelessly beautiful way.  Like Hurley and Jemisin Nnedi Okorafor is unapologetically brutal with her stories.  I won’t lie, some of them are a hard read.  But they wouldn’t work nearly as well if they had been cleaned up for a PG-13 rating.  Some things in this world are tough, and Okorafor knows the power in showing us that.

Where to Start:

Binti is a novella about a woman who is the first of her people to leave her planet and attend the most prestigious university in the galaxy.  She deals with racism, prejudice, violence, and must use both her vast intellect and cultural heritage to save no only herself, but several distinct races as well.  Binti is a perfect jumping in point to the nuanced worlds of Nnedi Okorafor.

 

Catherynne Valente

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is the best title ever.  Partially because of the wide eyed fear it registers in the eyes of parents I hand the book to, because “that seems like a lot of title for my fifth grader.”  But mostly because Catherynne Valente is a genius with words.  She knows their hidden magic in a way that few people I’ve ever read do.  Her stories are poetry in prose, both magical and beautiful in a way I can only hope to write one day.  Her Fairyland series is only the tip of the iceberg.  Valente has a string of short stories that beguile and amaze, in addition to her most recent adult offering, Radiance a novel that is somehow steampunk, art deco, hard sci-fi, and a love letter to Golden Age Hollywood.  I just…HOW does she DO THAT?

Where to Start:

The aforementioned Fairyland books are lovely and and warm your heart in unexpected and perfect ways.  Perfect for a cozy nook, with a cup of hot tea or cider, while it rains outside.

 

Kelly Sue Deconnick

Kelly Sue Deconnick is one half of the dynamic House DeFraction power couple (Her husband Matt Fraction writes comics as well) and has engendered a revolution in the world of comics.  Her run on Captain Marvel helped launch not only a string of incredible woman led comics but a movement of confidence, support, and badassery amongst her fans as well.  The Carol Corp grew into a huge fan movement that helped bring a generation of fans together in support of something wonderful.  And Carol is just a magnificent badass.  Her current creator owned series Bitch Planet is a marvel of powerful women, feminist essays, and trope destruction.  You can even receive daily inspirational texts and reminders to get shit done from Kelly Sue by texting @bitchesg to (971) 244-8342.

Where to Start:

Pretty Deadly Vol 1.  DeConnick’s surrealist fantasy western is like nothing I’ve ever read.  It’s like if True Grit and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman had a violently colorful and weird child.  You won’t be sorry you picked it up.

 

G. Willow Wilson

G. Willow Wilson is not only an activist and powerful voice in the world of feminism, but she is also a damn fine comic book writer.  She writes the current Ms. Marvel, whose title character Kamala Khan is Marvel’s first Muslim superhero.  Balancing her strong ties to family and her religion with her relatable fangirling and love of all things superhero Kamala Khan broke records with her sales run going into over half a dozen printings, nearly unheard of for comic books.  G. Willow Wilson, along with co-creators Sana Amanat, Stephen Wacker, and Adrian Alphona has ushered in a superhero that resonates with a massive and diverse fan base that is finally gaining recognition on the back of Ms. Marvel‘s huge sale numbers.  Wilson’s stories speak to the dispossessed, the young, a generation told that they were lazy and didn’t matter, and rallies them to strive for better.

Where to Start:

Ms. Marvel: No Normal is the beginning of a historic run of comics that are breaking sales records, empowering a generation, and breaking down all the ideas of who can be a hero.

 

There are any number of authors I could have included in this post who are making fiction a better, more, exciting, more inclusive place to be.  Ann Leckie, Sofia Samatar, Ursula LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Mary Robinette Kowal, Naomi Novik, the list goes on forever.  The tradition of amazing women in fiction isn’t a new one, but it’s one far too many of us are only just now falling in to.  I hope that you hunt down some of these incredible people.  Well, not in real life.  I know at least a few of them would stab you.  Books.  Hunt down their books.  And Happy International Women’s Day.  Celebrate it all year.

(Feature Image credit to Sarah Satrun)

 

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