Things are quiet here at the moment. I’m working away on Thief’s Magic whenever the weather isn’t stupidly hot, and my New Year resolution to read more traditional fantasy (after a couple of years of sampling around the edges – steampunk, urban fantasy, fantasy knit lit).
It’s that time of year again. The one where I try to work out some sort of schedule for the year. So far it goes like this
Jan-June: Finish writing Thief’s Magic
July: Start writing Angel of Storms
Late Oct-Early Nov: World Fantasy Con in Brighton, UK
Mid Nov: Continue writing Angel of Storms
But there’s a lot more fun to be had down under. Lots of tempting, distracting conventiony fun. Unfortunately, most of it happening in the last 2-3 months before my deadline so I’m going to have to be very choosy about which events I go to. Here’s the list:
Perth, Mar 29-Apr 1: Swancon 2013
Melbourne, Apr 12-14: Supanova
Gold Coast, Apr 19-21: Supanova
Canberra, Apr 25-28: Conflux 9 (We have memberships & hotel booked, so I’m definitely going to this.)
Sydney, May ?: Aurealis Awards
Melbourne, Jun 7-10: Continuum 9: Contraindicators (We have memberships, it’s in my home town and N K Jemesin is a guest, so I can’t miss this one.)
Sydney, Jun 21-23: Supanova
Perth, Jun 28-30: Supanova
Wellington, New Zealand, Jul 12-14: Au Contraire
Sydney, Oct 11-13: GenreCon
Brisbane, Nov 8-10: Supanova
Adelaide, Nov 15-17: Supanova
When it comes to choosing which Supanovas I’m going to, I’m torn. I wanted to go to a different pair of them each year so I regularly move around the country. But I attended the Brisbane and Adelaide one last year, and the other four are not just within the difficult deadline time but match up with two conventions I’m already committed to. Conventions wear me out. Two conventions in a row wipes me out.
But I reckon I could manage the Melbourne one since it’s in my home town, and maybe the Perth one as it’s right at the end of June and would be a fabulous way to reward myself for finishing Thief’s Magic. In both cases I get a two week break between cons. Hmm, I might just have a plan…
I’m not a fast reader these days, so I only get through between 25 and 30 books a year. I have a to-read bookcase of about 120 books which never seems to diminish, thanks to those few writers whose next book I always have to buy, my publisher giving me books, friends giving me their ms to read, buying books at signings, buying the books of authors I’ve met, Paul adding books he’s read that he thinks I’ll like, and books I acquire for research. (None of which I mind).
When choosing what to read, if not for research or to support friends, I aim to try a wide range of books. I like a mix of old and new. I like to read around and beyond the fringes of fantasy. I like both fast-paced writing and richly-told tales. This year I’ve certainly covered all those bases. Here are ten of the books that I enjoyed:
Rogue Gadda, by Nicole Murphy
A great ending to a wonderful trilogy. Nicole writes sexy paranormal romance set in the modern world, but not the usual vampire/werewolf/whatever scenario. Hers contains a secret race of Celtic magic-users, and since magic is my favourite fantasy trope I really like that take on the genre.
Bite Me, by Christopher Moore
Though this is the fourth book about these characters, you can probably pick them up at any point. I’d describe them as a hilarious take on vampires trying to get on in the modern world. I guess technically they’re urban fantasy containing vampires and a romance, but the tone is closer to the film Mall Rats. And unlike many humorous series, they don’t get less funny with each book.
Cold Magic, by Kate Elliot
It’s been a while since a scene in a book made me exclaim out loud, but that scene where the cold mage first turns up and all the lamps start going out, and what follows … I won’t spoil it, but simply say I ripped through this book faster than I have any larger sized fantasy for quite some years. Kate is writing some of the best fantasy around right now.
Casting Spells, by Barbara Bretton
This was my first taste of fantasy knit lit. Yes, that is a thing. This one, and the following Laced with Magic, qualify as paranormal romance since they are set in the modern day, contain supernatural creatures/peoples and the story revolves around a romance. You don’t have to be a knitter at all to enjoy it, but if you are the jokes and references are a nice addition. (What? Knitting IS funny. Trust me.)
Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan
Playing catch-up here. I’ve had this book in my to-read bookcase for a while. A marvellous story that goes to both bright and fanciful places as well as very dark ones. To use a term from the internet, something bad happens to a character that may be ‘triggery’, and the effect it has many years later is, well, I’d describe it as ‘uncomfortably satisfying’. But I love a book with such depth of emotion, and I have Margo’s Sea Hearts high on my list of books to read.
Timeless, by Gail Carriger
An excellent conclusion to the humorous, romantic, paranormalish, steampunk fantasy series. Alexia’s daughter is a wonderfully amusing addition to the extended family. I’m pleased to see there are many more books to come from this author.
Colour, by Victoria Finlay
Part travel literature, part history, this book traces some of the most romantic pigments used before the invention of chemical colours. Fascinating. Research should always be this much fun.
Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
Paul recommended this to me as an example of urban fantasy before the term stopped being what books by Charles deLint were called. Wonderfully written. The vampires are properly scary, the threat to the character and world truly worrying. The world is an alternate version of this one, kind of an alternate urban fantasy scenario. Also, there’s a lot of baking, so don’t read it when you’re hungry.
The Gift, by Alison Croggon
Another catch up read, and a pleasant surprise because the writing is actually the closest I’ve found to the feel of Lord of the Rings. I’ve read many that are closer in terms of plot and characters, but all written as if conscious of keeping the attention of, say, fourteen-year-old boys. That’s not to say that The Gift is a difficult read, but I wanted to slow down and appreciate each portion of the character’s journey and the world that was unfolding. I have the rest of the quartet, and look forward to savouring them all.
Winter Be My Shield, by Jo Spurrier
I actually acquired this book free twice. The first time in a con bag, and I confess gave it away because I was being ruthless about not adding to my to-read pile. When Paul got another copy as a freebie with a purchase at Supanova I cursed because I was only travelling with carry-on luggage. But I hate not giving a book a chance, so I decided to read the first chapter and if it didn’t grab me I’d give it away again. Well, obviously the first chapter did grab me. And it didn’t let go. Now I’m cursing because I’ve gone and started another series before the next book is out. Bring on book two!
It’s that time of year. People are feeling reflective and that inevitably leads to lots of Best Book of 2012 and Most Anticipated Fantasy of 2013 blog posts and articles – and analysis of their content. Last week someone on Twitter noted the lack of women writers on the latter, and I started to wonder why this would be.
This is no criticism of those blog posts and article, of course. One person’s best/most anticipated books won’t be the same as another’s. I thought I might do my own Most Anticipated Books of 2013 list to go with the planned 10 Books I Read in 2012 post and include some books by women writers. After all, I’m a reader and fan of other fantasy writers and some of those writers are women.
So I went looking for books scheduled to come out next year – that is, I went looking for fantasy fantasy, not urban fantasy, written by women. I searched Amazon and some publisher sites and I found very few books listed as coming out in 2013.
I was intrigued. Why? Well you see, here in Australia most writers of fantasy are women, so seeing the opposite happening in the general english-speaking world is interesting. After all, whenever I go overseas I get the ‘why does Australia have so many great female fantasy writers?’ question a lot and I try to have a good answer.
I think the reason is partly to do with there being no market here in Australia for adult fantasy until the 90s, so when one appeared plenty of good books and undiscovered authors were ready and waiting to be found. That doesn’t explain the gender difference though, and the only reason I can find for that is cultural. When I was a teenager the assumption among my peers was that women read fantasy and men read science fiction, so perhaps a lot more women grew up comfortable reading and writing fantasy than men.
But while the gender split here favours the women over the men, it’s by roughly a 2:1 ratio. My search gave the impression that, at best, it’s more like 1:20 in the general market.
In the 80s and 90s there were heaps of books by non-Australian female fantasy writers to choose from. More than I could keep up with. If I go looking for recommended reading lists I see lots of familiar names. But a lot of these women seem to not have any books coming out next year. Or at all. I admit, at that point I did start to wonder if the reasons more women are published than men in Australia is simply ‘because we didn’t stop publishing them’. Still, maybe some stopped writing for personal reasons. Or they only write one every few years and there’s some kind of bad alignment of the stars for publishing fantasy by women next year.
Why aren’t there new female writers filling the gaps, I wondered? I have a pretty even ratio of male/female fans, and plenty of both gender tell me they write fantasy. And one thing you can always be sure of: a LOT of people write fantasy. When a lot of people do something odds are some will be brilliant at it, and while the ratio of good male to female writers may not be even it’s unlikely the ratio is as dramatic as 1:20. (After all, look at Australia’s fantasy writers.)
Even so, at this point I was full of doubts. Maybe I wasn’t finding these women because I wasn’t searching hard or well enough. But in the arena where authors gain the greatest exposure now – the internet – it shouldn’t be harder to find books by women than books by men. After all, if publishers aren’t on the ball with internet-based publicity, it’ll be for books by all their authors, not just the ones by men… right?
Next I considered what I know about publishing and bestsellers.
1) New authors are a gamble for a publisher. Chances are their book/series won’t earn out its advance. They take on new authors in the hope some will succeed.
2) Midlist authors are those whose books do consistently earn out their advance, but don’t make much more. In more ruthless markets, if their earnings drop or level out they may find they can’t sell their next book.
3) Bestsellers make extra money which allows publishers to take on more of 1) in the hopes some will become 3), and hopefully continue to support 2).
Not surprisingly, publishers like uber-bestsellers like Twilight and Game of Thrones that made extra money so they can grow as a business. So of the many brilliant manuscripts to reach a publisher’s desk, odds are the ones similar to what’s earning gadzillions of dollars are going to be picked up.
And then what we have is a trend. These days the author is increasingly part of the book’s package, and as a group they come to represent their genre. Their gender shouldn’t matter, but if most of the latest trend is written mainly by men or women it creates the false impression that only people of that gender write it well. And when trends go in cycles of ten or more years you get a whole generation of readers growing up assuming the bias is natural and are unaware that genres really aren’t that limited.
I could be completely wrong. I’m always happy to admit that. I have only observations made during many years association with writers and the publishing industry, and no time to hunt down the exact stats. I suspect the attempts to deal with the bias by publishing women under their initials or non-gender specific pseudonyms like ‘Lou’ and ‘Alex’ means I have missed one or two in my searches, though I did look up the names I wasn’t sure of.
But on the up side: trends pass. Readers get bored with the same old thing. Publishers know this, and that the next uber-bestseller will start a new trend, not be part of an old one. So when they can they take on new writers, both male and female, who do things a little differently to see if it’ll take on.
So if you want to read something fresh and wonderful that might be the Next Big Thing, you’ll increase the odds by reading books by both men and women. In fact, odds are the book that starts the next trend is already out there, since the time between past uber-bestsellers first publication and becoming a ‘craze’ seems to be 3-5 years.
And I can tell you with confidence that, as we Aussies know, if you’re not reading books by women you are missing out on some seriously awesome fantasy.
I’m still catching up on posts I couldn’t publish while this site was being fixed. Most frustrating of all was not being able to get this one blogged. I could have posted it while I was at Supanova, but then it might have disappeared too quickly among posts about the expos. Better to wait and give it a full week at the top of the front page of my site.
And it is an excellent present suggestion for this time of year.
Anyway… remember the novella I wrote covering the story behind the banning of black magic? The one that was published in an anthology that was only available in Australia for ages? Well, it’s been reprinted in this fabulous book:
And not only that, but alongside an amazing list of authors:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Foreword — Brent Weeks
Introduction — John Joseph Adams
Homecoming — Robin Hobb
The Word of Unbinding — Ursula K. Le Guin
The Burning Man — Tad Williams
As the Wheel Turns — Aliette de Bodard
The Alchemist — Paolo Bacigalupi
Sandmagic — Orson Scott Card
The Road to Levinshir — Patrick Rothfuss
Rysn — Brandon Sanderson
While the Gods Laugh — Michael Moorcock
Mother of All Russiya — Melanie Rawn
Riding the Shore of the River of Death — Kate Elliott
The Bound Man — Mary Robinette Kowal
The Narcomancer — N. K. Jemisin
Strife Lingers in Memory — Carrie Vaughn
The Mad Apprentice — Trudi Canavan
Otherling — Juliet Marillier
The Mystery Knight — George R. R. Martin
See? An impressive list of authors and an excellent present for someone who loves fantasy – especially if you can’t remember exactly whose work they like to read or if they have that author’s book already. There’s sure to be something in this they know and love, and perhaps someone whose work they haven’t yet discovered.
(I never thought I’d see my name listed alongside Ursula K. Le Guin’s. Every time I see that my heart does a little flutter.)
The theme of the VIP cocktail party was Moulin Rogue. After admiring all the costuming during the day, it was fun to have a chance to dress up. Paul brought along an instamatic camera, which is always entertaining. (I call it faux-instagram.)
Me & Missy
Felicity & me
Jo & Ineke
Me, Howard & ? (anyone help?)
Felicia & me
Ineke & me
Brit & me (Actually, this was on the Sunday night, but I had to get a shot of the lovely Brit up as well.)
After having such a great time at Supanova in Brisbane, I did wonder if Supanova in Adelaide could live up to it. But it did – in spades. And this time I didn’t catch camnesia. (However, I did catch the con bug, and have been a bit under the weather since I got back.)
I arrived late Friday night, so missed the opening, but soon after settling in the hotel bar many of the other guests began arriving and next thing I knew it was midnight.
The next day we all headed to the Showgrounds and to the Dymocks stall. In addition to Rachel, Heidi and Joe I was joined by Fiona McIntosh, Sean Williams, Juliet Marillier and D M Cornish and Colin Taber.
Each day we were whisked away to talk on a panel:
But most of the time we signed books, chatted, shared survival rations (chocolate, lollies, nuts) and took photos of the passing crowd. The Dymocks stand was positioned right by the entrance to the trading room, so we got to see the costumes as they came in from the entrance hall. These two paused to discuss their next strategy:
Star Wars was a popular theme. Here’s Sean Williams with the 501s:
Batman looks on proudly as his son tests his light sabre training:
I had to run after these guys in order to catch them before they disappeared into a panel:
But this one stopped to strike a pose:
Fiona McIntosh, as it turns out, has a soft spot for wookies:
Cat woman struts her stuff:
Steampunk bellydancer and some scary companions:
One of Fiona’s fans with awesome eyes and what looked like a very heavy pair of wings:
Flirting with the Dalek:
Some friends of mine dropped by:
Including Steve, in his steampunk costume:
And his wife:
Then Steve returned on Sunday with this awesome face make-up:
I have more photos – I well and truly made up for the camnesia of the weekend before – but I’m saving them for another post. Stay tuned…
Last week I headed up to Brisbane to join in the fun at Supanova. Arriving on Thursday, I had dinner with the guests who had also already arrived, and found myself at the end of the table chatting to Howard Chaykin and Tom Felton.
The next day I did some shopping, heading to The Pen Shoppe where I bought my signing pen a year and a half ago. I needed some ink and new nib for my signing pen (turned out a year and a half of signings had worn it out!). Then I headed to my favourite Brisbane clothing shop, Maiocchi, for a new frock.
Suitably prepared, I then joined the guests waiting for the shuttle bus to the show, and met a lovely pair of writers, Rachel Caine and Heidi:
We headed to the show and the signing began. I was seized by the magnetic charm of a fan in a Sailor Moon costume, and when a photograph was requested I begged for one in return:
Awesome. In fact, I wished I’d had more time to watch all the costumed attendees go by but, on the other hand, I got to meet a whole lot of wonderful fans.
Later on Friday Joe Abercrombie arrived. Much stirring and hilarity ensued.
Joe totally gets Aussie humour (or he does a great job of pretending to). If he wasn’t dubbed an honourary Aussie at GenreCon the previous weekend, he certainly will be by the end of Supanova Adelaide.
On Saturday I suffered a bout of camnesia and didn’t take any photos. But I can tell you it was fabulous. Lots of signing. John Birmingham, Alison Goodman, Kylie Chan and Marianne Curley joined us and much signing, writing advice and general good fun ensued at the Dymocks stall.
Oh, and there were actors. Lots of actors. And voice actors. And comic book illustrators and writers. I finally remembered my camera on Saturday morning, and took the opportunity to have a pic taken with the charming Luke Perry:
And the totally awesome Felicia Day:
(We hadn’t quite got the ‘everybody look at the same camera at the same time’ thing going.)
On Monday I headed into Brisbane on the hunt for bookstore stock to sign. First I visited Pulp Fiction, then A&R at the Post Office Centre, then Dymocks, leaving plenty of signed copies of all my books behind.
Yesterday I headed home. I had a fabulous weekend and I’m still on a Supanova high. In fact, when I unpacked my bags I immediately began repacking them ready for next weekend, when I’ll be heading over to Supanova Adelaide.
Supanova Brisbane is only a week away! And Supanova Adelaide only two weeks away! I keep looking at the awesome line-up of stars and muttering ‘Wow!’ under my breath. Go look. That slide show of amazing guests goes on and on and on.
My humble self will be at the Dymocks stand with my signing pen and bookmarks, so come by with your books (or anything else you’d like autographed) and say hello.