Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dudes, it's a Special Day, Apparently

Fanatasy/SciFi Writers Day, that is. So proclaims Sharron Lee, and who am I to argue? Fantasy is the genre that first aroused true booklust in me. It's also what led me to want to write.

I'm giving a nod to just a few authors because you'd all be shocked--shocked, I tell you--to know how poorly read I am in what I claim as my favorite genre. I'd just like to thank them for giving me hours upon hours upon hundreds of hours of pleasure over the years.

J.R.R. Tolkien--well, no duh, really. Despite the occasional difficulty I had with his lofty prose (hey, I was like 9 or something), the moment I closed The Return of the King, I picked up Fellowship and read the whole shebang all over again.

Brent Weeks--my newest auto-buy author. The first book of his Shadows trilogy was an Orbit $1 special not long ago, and I picked it up from Sony. Three chapters in, I went and bought the other two at full price, and DAMN, it was awesome. No sex to speak of, but incredible nonetheless.

David Gemmell--can't really think of anyone who's written more fantasy novels, and though I didn't love every single one of them, there wasn't a DNF in the lot. From his futuristic/post-apocalyptic gunslinger Jon Shannow to his interpretation of Alexander the Great's story, to his latest (and last, sadly) Troy series, I gobbled them up like candy. Good thing my boss had pretty much every single one in paperback, sitting in a box in his closet. I spent six months back in 2005 reading nothing but Gemmell. And doing pretty much nothing but reading, heh.

George R.R. Martin--A Song of Ice and Fire. Dark, unpleasant, often leaving me with a vague nausea at how his characters treat other human beings, but so well written, I could not stop reading. Come on, George, how much longer must I wait for the next one? Do I have to beg? Send cookies? What?

Stephen R. Donaldson--this might seem strange, but I really did not love either of his most well-known fantasy series. I got through the first Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and it was good (not reread good, but I did like his unlikable hero quite a lot), but the second one? Ugh. He totally redeemed himself, however, when he wrote the Gap Series. Science Fiction is hit or miss with me, and boy, did this one nail it. It has all the horrible, hideous, self-serving cruelty of humanity at its absolute worst, tempered with moments of perfect, unflinching self-sacrifice. The good guys (or what passes for them, heh) win, and the fact that their battle is fought at such huge personal cost to them only makes their victory sweeter. And he's damn good at making you feel for a character who does unforgivable things.

Guy Gavriel Kay--I've always wanted to write, but his Tigana is the book that made me want to be a writer. And every book he's written since then has only made me fall in more deeply in love with his work. I've reread every single one of them, some more than five times. He makes me cry, he makes me care, and his prose is so heartwrenchingly beautiful at times, he made me fall head over heels in love with the English language. Which is doubly amazing, since if I recall correctly, his first language is actually French.

That's my shortlist. And as I look it over, I'm noticing there are no women authors up there. Can't help but wonder what that means...

So how about you all? Who are your absolute favorite Fantasy/SciFi writers?


Amy C said...

Hey Kirsten! So awesome to see this post make its way to you too!

When it comes to erotic fantasy romance well, your it for me!

You mentioned that your list is all men...mine is all women. Other than reading half of the Lord of the Rings, I've only read one other male fantasy author and that was James Clemens. I don't know why, I think it was the not so feminine covers on the majority of male author's books? Where as it seemed the female ones I would find myself drawn to had a more feminine feel to them.

kirsten saell said...

Aw, thanks Amy! And I confess, I saw this on your blog earlier today and thought it was a great idea. Thanks for blogging it!

As to male vs. female voice, I'm not sure why there are no female fantasy authors who are autobuys for me. I mean, I've really enjoyed certain books by authors like Barbara Hambly or Holly Lisle or whoever, but none enough for me to really reread. And then I'd try something else by them, and the feeling would be gone.

And I love romance, but in fantasy/sci-fi romance, which would certainly benefit from a feminine voice, so often the romance comes at the cost of the worldbuilding. And it may seem bizarre, but I'm just not that into paranormals, lol.

I do think it's often hard for women to relate to fantasy written by men--there's just a different, workaday sort of feel to a lot of it, and a lot of it is male-centric, bordering on misogynistic (a lot of that misogyny is simply a reflection of RL, but a lot of it really isn't. I think if I were a male author, I might have had some angry emails over what happened to Kaela in Crossing Swords).

But, if you were willing to try a male-penned fantasy, I'd unreservedly recommend Guy Gavriel Kay. Not so much his first three--the Fionavar Tapestry--but his stand-alones, or the Sarantine duology. Gorgeously written, strong, complex female characters, and it's not all about swords kings and stuff.

He writes alternate histories: The Lions of al-Rassan was based on the battle between the Christians and the Moors for the Iberian peninsula, The Sarantine Mosaic on the Byzantine era, and The Last Light of the Sun on the viking forays into the British Isles.

He takes regular people and sticks them in the thick of things, and they don't wake up and discover they're the secret children of kings or anything. Very human.

Tigana had me crying--literally sobbing--for the last eighty pages. Sure, I was PMS at the time, but still...

Amy C said...

I added Tigana to my wishlist. Tears and sobbing are always a plus when looking for new book recommendations.

I had said it in my post that eventually I needed the romance to hold my interest in a fantasy book. I'm sure I could still read one without any romance, but I would certainly feel like something was missing, simply because romance is what i like. And since it's that connection between two people, whether it be a main focus or just a little, makes no difference to me, so long as it's there. I guess it's that one thing I can connect with in the awesome worlds that are created, love is universal! No matter what race, species, whatever, that connection between two people is always the same! Because I like that connection, I don't think it takes away from the world building. For me, it adds to it, because love is something we all need. The romance doesn't even have to be the main focus. I'm good with a simple look, or the brushing of a hand, the acknowledgment from the author that the two characters are beginning something special.

kirsten saell said...

You should enjoy Kay, then, I hope! He always has a love story (or two or three) in there, although at times it's very subtle. It seems, actually, that his overt "grand romances" between characters are often ill-fated, and it's the ones who've been toiling side by side for the whole book and just suddenly realize, "Holy crap, I'm in love with him/her! How did I not realize it?" who end up happy.

And you can tell he loves women. Which is not something you can tell with every male fantasy author (frequently quite the opposite, in fact). He often has them making such difficult choices and huge sacrifices, and the way he writes them, they're just so damn brave.

Tigana is also a love story about a place, and the whole premise is completely hearbreaking. He makes you feel for all the characters, even the main villain (not the secondary one, though, Alberico that bastage), and you end up wishing there were some way for them all to set aside their differences and all find an HEA. But you just know human nature being what it is, it can't happen. And that's what I find most incredible about almost all his books: no matter who wins, someone you've grown to care about loses. The Lions of al-Rassan was just like that--you just want to stop time or something because you care so deeply for people on both sides.

And Dianora's story in Tigana? Oh, I cried and cried and cried. Had to tell people for three days I'd had an allergy attack to explain away the puffy eyes.

That kind of pure emotional release is almost as good as an orgasm, IMO. LOL

Cathy in AK said...

I'm a little wary of reading such highly recommended works but I might have to give Guy Gavrial Kay a try.

Tolkien may be an original Master, but man oh man his stuff is dense. I liked "The Hobbit" more than the LOTR trilogy. And yeah, George R. R. Martin is amazing.

Faves for me include David Weber, Barbara Hambly, Anne McCaffrey, CJ Cherryh(who I haven't read in a bit and plan to re-read), Alan Dean Foster, Marion Zimmer Bradley. They aren't necessarily auto-buys, but they are the names that light up my reader radar.

Some "And then there's" are Elizabeth Bear, Catherine Asaro, Terry Brooks and Steven Brust.

Cathy in AK said...

Oh, forgot to include Nicola Griffith. I just finished her "Ammonite" and loved it. It might be considered more literary sf. Whatever. It was excellent. I'll be looking to pick up more of her work, sf or otherwise.

Evie Byrne said...

I'm so glad to hear you like Brent Weeks. Just yesterday I bought the whole trilogy on a whim. This is something I never do, and I was really hoping I hadn't made a mistake.

I'm a Guy Gavriel Kay fan too-- though I've not read Tigana. There's another for the TBR pile.


Jacqueline Carey.
Phillip Pulman.
Sarah Monette

Robin Hobb--though I have a complex relationship with her. I adore her assassin trilogy, but she sometimes lets me down. Still, I love her characters and worlds so much I keep going back for more.

Hmmm. I see a trend. Monette with her fantastic assassin Mildmay the Fox, the Hobb assassin books, this Brent Weeks series -- and your work, Kirsten -- I think I have an assassin thing!

Oh, there's Robin McKinley, the other Robin. So gorgeous! I forgive her for rattling on so much.

When I was a kid I devoured the LOTR and the Pern books. I was also obsessed with Le Guin's Earthsea Trilogy. I think those books did something to my brain--they got etched into it like myth.

But all in all, like you, despite my professed love for the genre I don't spend that much time reading it, but I'm trying to change that.

I've declared this summer "Fantasy Summer," so I'm looking for suggestions. I'll grab some here.

kirsten saell said...

Hmmm. I see a trend. Monette with her fantastic assassin Mildmay the Fox, the Hobb assassin books, this Brent Weeks series -- and your work, Kirsten -- I think I have an assassin thing!

Well, don't forget when you read the Shadows books--Assassins have targets. Wetboys have deaders. A target is a thing that can be missed. A deader is dead the moment the contract is accepted--he just doesn't know it yet. :)

I love assassins, too, and mercs, and people who do horrible things but still somehow make you like them. I have a whole race who are like that--the Kurgae'in--who do (did) terrible, awful, hideous things because they're oath-bound, but OMG, they are some of my fave characters ever. Unbending honor acting as the Achilles Heel for a whole people. Swoon.

I think I'm rather poorly read in fantasy (as in my fave erotic/romance subgenre of f/f/m), because the first few books I read were so brilliant. I measure every other fantasy (and f/f/m) I read by that high standard, and when it falls short I just stop reading after a few pages. When you were raised on filet mignon, you just can't enjoy hamburger very much.

I swear, Michele deLully ruined me for 90% of the girl-on-girl-on-guy erotic romance out there.

Although there is one female fantasy author I will mention (probably should have in my post)--Ellen Kushner. Her Thomas the Rhymer and Swordspoint were stunning. But then I tried Privilege of the Sword and the magic just wasn't there...

Evie Byrne said...

OMFG--Kushner has a book I don't know about? How could I not know about Thomas the Rhymer? It's even about fairies. *headdesk*

Well, thanks! That's another for Fantasy Summer.

But yes, Kushner--Swordspoint--fantastic. I liked POTS a lot too, but I think that's because I read it first. In that way, reading Swordspoint answered a lot of questions in a really delightful way. If I'd read it the other way around, it may have been a bit of a letdown.

And I think I'll have to check out Michele deLully too...

kirsten saell said...

And I think I'll have to check out Michele deLully too...

Well her f/f/m, La Bonne (The Maid), is contemp (not something I would normally read--I picked it up for the f/f/m), and even has a Mediterranean prince and a yacht. And it's first person POV, which I'm not usually fond of, either. But it was so gorgeously written it sucked me right in, and the trope of the jaded, world-weary straight woman falling for the unblemished innocence in another woman, just resonated with me. And the love triangle-turned-HEA for three made me cry and cry and cry (I'm emotional that way).

I loved it so much, I bought her other two from Samhain, La Ceinture (The Belt), and La Queue de Chevale (The Pony Tail), and despite the *ahem* unusual subject matter, I really enjoyed them as well.

Thomas the Rhymer is an interesting book, written in first person, but in four different POVs. Kushner did a wonderful job of finding a unique voice for each character, and oddly, the "non-faerie-world" bits were the best part of the book, IMO. It was the first I tried of hers (I think I was about 16 or 17), and when I saw Swordspoint the next time I was in the store, I grabbed it without even reading the back. The slashy bits came as a bit of a shock--not least because of how much I enjoyed those scenes... :)

Amy C said...

Hey Kirsten,

I was browsing the bargain books at B&N and I found a Guy Gavriel Kay book. It's Ysabel. Have you read that one? I ordered it, since it was only 4 bucks :). I have Tigana in my wishlist. That's the one I wanted but I'll have to wait and maybe it'll get marked down too!

kirsten saell said...

Ysabel is the only GGK book I haven't read. I think the only thing holding me back is the fact that it's a departure from his normal thing--set in contemporary times and all that. I have it on my TBR, but I just don't have the guts yet to read it, in case it's TOO different.

But I have heard other GGK fans say it's a wonderful book. :)

Amy C said...

Isn't that the way it works? :) But I couldn't pass up the 4 dollar price!