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Author Topic: Feminist Fantasy and Sci-fi
El Camino
We Three Blings


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I don't know if you could call him "feminist," but Robert Heinlein's female characters tend to be pretty strong and competent. One of his big themes is sexual liberation and exploration gender roles, and there's a lot of interesting stuff there. His views of often radical and don't fit nicely within most typical broad ideologies, any given people will probably love some of his views and hate others (although if I had to cast him as anything, it would be a libertarian.)

He's one of my favorite authors because his views are so original and atypical, even if I do not agree with him all of the time.

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Minstrel gone caroling
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This is an amazing list. Thank you all!

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put it in writing
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Honestly, one thing that always stands out in Heinlein's books to me is how fake his female characters are. They always follow the same pattern: physically fit, very intelligent, but they "know their place" and look to the Heinlein-stand-in character for protection and affection.

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Nick Theodorakis
We Three Blings


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He's not exactly a feminist writer, but sfi-fi author John Varley (tinyurl link that points to a wikipedia article) often uses women as protagonists and strong supporting characters, and in a way (IMO) that seems more "natural" than Heinlein does.

from the wikipedia link:

quote:

Varley is noteworthy for the frequent prominence of female characters, unusual in science fiction, and especially so among male authors of hard science fiction. This prominence is visible not only in his Eight Worlds history where sex changes are routine, but in his other works as well. The idea of routine sex changes is also an example of the sexual themes that color his works without dominating them.

Nick

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Lainie
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quote:
Originally posted by put it in writing:
Honestly, one thing that always stands out in Heinlein's books to me is how fake his female characters are. They always follow the same pattern: physically fit, very intelligent, but they "know their place" and look to the Heinlein-stand-in character for protection and affection.

I think Heinlein sucked at writing women. It didn't bother me when I was a teenager, but when I tried to re-read his stuff 20 years later, it sure did.

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moonfall86
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Mercedes Lackey was the first one to come to my mind, too. I wish she'd lay off the sexual issues (In the books of hers I've read, there was always SOME kind of romantic/sexual tension going on), but her female characters are pretty good. She also deals with issues of sexism without (IMO) being preachy.

I liked Le Guin's Earthsea series, although the only major female character only appears in two of the four books.

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Minstrel gone caroling
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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I never really liked Heinlein's portrayal of women. A guy I was dating back when I was in college (the first time) convinced me to read Friday and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Especially with Friday, I got the impression that Heinlein couldn't quite get past thinking of women as sex objects.

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Cervus
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Glad I'm not the only one who noticed that trend in Heinlein's female characters.

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Seaboe Muffinchucker
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Cervus:
Glad I'm not the only one who noticed that trend in Heinlein's female characters.

Believe me Cervus, you are not alone. There is a large and vocal group who spend a lot of time dissecting his (as some perceive) misogyny.

In fact, we were discussing it just last night at my writer's group.

Seaboe

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ConstableDorfl
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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quote:
Originally posted by musicgeek:
Try Tanith Lee's reimaginings of classic fairy tales. "Red as Blood" is a personal favorite of mine, although the Christian allegory at the end might be a bit much for some.

My favourite Tanith Lee is When the Lights Go Out - set in an English holiday resort off-season it comes across as a mixture of Brighton Rock and The Wicker Man and features a very strong heroine.

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NewZer0
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Sorry for bringing up an old thread, but I wanted to add to the list:

My beloved Tamora Pierce. Her "Song of the Lioness" quartet and "Immortals" quartet, especially. The women are strong, but flawed, as are the men. The characters are well-rounded.

Plus, fighting, magic, political intrigue. Fun!

Now, they are meant for teens (I started the Lioness books at about 12), but I still read them now, over ten years later.

--NewZer0

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SiKboy
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quote:
Originally posted by NewZer0:
Sorry for bringing up an old thread, but I wanted to add to the list:

My beloved Tamora Pierce. Her "Song of the Lioness" quartet and "Immortals" quartet, especially. The women are strong, but flawed, as are the men. The characters are well-rounded.

Plus, fighting, magic, political intrigue. Fun!

Now, they are meant for teens (I started the Lioness books at about 12), but I still read them now, over ten years later.

--NewZer0

I'd second the "immortals" series. Loved those books when I was younger (though I only got around to the third one reletively recently, it was still good).

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Donelin
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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Horse Chestnut-Did you know that she actually went back and wrote "Of Mist, Grass, and Sand" into a novel called "Dreamsnake"? I felt it was pretty good-but I hadn't read much of her work before that. Actually I think I'd change that to really good-I remember I read 2 copies of it to tatters.(That is my gauge of a really good book)

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Morrigan
Happy Holly Days


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I would suggest the Kelley Armstrong's books.

Also, the first books in the Anita Blake series by Laurell K Hamilton.

And Mercedes Lackey is thirded. Or fourthed.

Also, characters in George RR Martin's series a Song of Ice and Fire.

Morrigan

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snoozn
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I haven't had time to read an actual novel for awhile. This thread makes me want to read one.

I did recently look up some stories by James Tiptree, Jr. (actually a woman) after watching a Showtime "Masters of Horror" episode based on one of her stories. I would say she's feminist but not man-hating (well, maybe a little). You can find some of her stories free at www.scifi.com.

I agree with a lot of the suggestions made. You might also want to read Holly Lisle. She's definitely a feminist who has no truck with man-hating feminists.

NewZero, Tamora Pierce is my daughter's favoritefavoritefavorite writer in the world. I read one of her books just to see what the big deal was. I liked it well enough that I'll probably try more if I have time some day!

snoozn

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Llewtrah
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Fantasy/SF authors you might like to try who have done good female characters: Jennifer Roberson, Sheri S Tepper, Elizabeth Moon, Gayle Greeno, Melanie Rawn. Not necessarily feminist and their books vary, but they're worth a try!

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Jenn
Layaway in a Manger


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quote:
Originally posted by Minstrel Raindrop:
(Admittedly I've never read those; yes, I AM judging them by their covers. [Razz] )

One of the biggest problems with doing that is that authors usually have little to no say in the covers and often don't even see the cover art until the book has gone to press. Additionally, often the illustrator hasn't read the book (or met the author) but is instead going by what the publisher has told them to draw. This may include deliberate deviations from the story if the publisher thinks it will expand the interest with the target audience.

For example, a YA author I know wrote a book with a 13 year old female protagonist. The cover illustrator was told to draw the protagonist to look closer to 16 or 17 because kids tend to like protagonists slightly older than themselves and are less likely to want to pick up a book depicting someone younger than they are. The author was unhappy with the cover, but the first time she saw it was with her advance copies a couple weeks before the general release.

ETA: And all of Tamora Pierce's series have strong female protagonists.

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Clarity
Toys to the World


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This is a great thread!
I did my highschool senior english project on feminist themes and writers in science fiction, so this is bringing back some memories.
I second the reccomendations for:
Octavia Butler
Marge Pierce
Ursula K LeGuin (love her Ekumen universe books!)
Patricia McKillip (Riddlemaster, Cygnet)
It bugs me a lot when feminist writers (like LeGuin) get called "manhaters"! A lot of her books have fully developed and simpathetic male characters too.
Of course, I'm a fan of intelligently written sci-fi by men as well. Roger Zelazny, Robert Heinlein, Cordwainer Smith, etc. Old-school, mainly.
I read all of Tamora Pierce's stuff when I was about 12. I liked it a lot then, but when I re-read one a few months ago it just wasn't the same anymore. The characters and plots seemed flat and formulaic. But it's unfair to judge it by adult literary standards, I think. It's very good stuff to empower young female bookworms. Diane Duane is also good for that. Anyone know her Young Wizards series? Very fun.

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Menolly
We Three Blings


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quote:
Originally posted by glisp42:
How about Anne McCaffrey? I seem to remember several strong female characters, in particular the Harper Hall trilogy.

Anne McCaffrey *highly* recommended. Her female characters are mentally and physically strong (most of my favorite characters overcome great odds to succeed as well). The women are not background characters in books where they are not the main characters, either. I'd have to say this is true of all her novels--Minstrel, feel free to PM me if you want more info on a specific series from McCaffrey.

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Jenn
Layaway in a Manger


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quote:
Originally posted by Clarity:
I read all of Tamora Pierce's stuff when I was about 12. I liked it a lot then, but when I re-read one a few months ago it just wasn't the same anymore. The characters and plots seemed flat and formulaic.

I'd agree when it comes to her early series (especially The Song of the Lioness) but I think she's gotten better with her more recent work. Have you read the larger novels she's published in the last couple years?

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Nick Theodorakis
We Three Blings


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quote:
Originally posted by Clarity:
...
Of course, I'm a fan of intelligently written sci-fi by men as well. ..., Robert Heinlein, ...

C'mon, make up your mind! Or at least read Friday before you say that.

Nick

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Clarity
Toys to the World


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quote:
Originally posted by Nick Theodorakis:
quote:
Originally posted by Clarity:
...
Of course, I'm a fan of intelligently written sci-fi by men as well. ..., Robert Heinlein, ...

C'mon, make up your mind! Or at least read Friday before you say that.

Nick

Okay, okay. I haven't read Friday. I have a soft spot for him because of SIASL and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. And yes, his female characters tend to be a little flat. So do his males, actually. I've enjoyed the general themes and ideas in his books, though, and it probably matters that I read them before college and I turned into an angry young feminist. [Razz]

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Nick Theodorakis
We Three Blings


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quote:

... that I read them before college and I turned into an angry young feminist.

In that case you definitely should read Friday.
[Razz]

Nick

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Loony
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I'll have to second Morrigan's reccomendation of the Kelley Armstrong series, it starts off with Bitten, the story of Elena the only female werewolf.

I have also say that Mercedes Lackey is also one of my favourite authors.

I'm going to go back and use this thread to get some new reads though, so thanks for starting it Minstrel ! [Smile]

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BamaRainbow
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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While this doesn't necessarily fall in the category of "fantasy and sci-fi", both Tamora Pierce and Laurell Hamilton are currently involved with some comics projects. Ms Pierce is writing a limited series for Marvel Comics called "White Tiger", featuring an updated, female version of the character (first introduced back in the 1970s) and Ms Hamilton's Anita Blake books are being adapted to comics format by Dabel Brothers Press (that's a company; the adapter is Stacie M Ritchie, of whom I know nothing) and distributed by Marvel Comics. On a personal level, I wasn't really wowed by either book's first issues, largely based on the artwork; storytelling seemed okay enough, but just not quite up to what I wanted to buy.
Also, Scottish mystery author, Denise Mina, has been relating tales of John Constantine in the DC/Vertigo series (usually known simply as) "Hellblazer"--the character was the basis for the Keanu Reeves' film, but that film was essentially "translated" for a mainstream (read, American) audience (it got *most* of the Constantine/Hellblazer mythology pretty right but the comic book character is much more disturbing--and likable). She's contracted for only a few more issues, but her take has been pretty spot on.
AND, author Jodi Picoult will be handling writing duties (for at least 5 issues) for "Wonder Woman" beginning in March. (Incidentally, this marks the first time EVER, in some 65 years, that the series will have been written by a woman.)
Also, Joss Whedon will be writing a new "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" series starting sometime in 2007 which is to be set following the events of the tv show's final episode (an 8th season, so to speak). While Whedon will be kicking the series off, it's expected that several of the show's writers (such as Jane Espenson) will be writing some issues as the series continues, much in the same way the tv show was handled.

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christmas tree kitapper
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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Might I suggest looking up any or all of the authors that have been GoHs at WisCon? I hate the Con for a variety of reasons, but they are a good source of feminist SF/fantasy.

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The Sultana of Beetroot
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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Can't believe that Maggie Furey and Juliet E. McKenna haven't been mentioned. [Eek!]

Both of them have very strong female protagonists - my favourite being Livak from The Tales of Einarinn by McKenna.

*hides in case I've unwittingly spoken about books that will make people laugh about my reading tastes*

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Fusca 1976
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quote:
Originally posted by Clarity:
Okay, okay. I haven't read Friday. I have a soft spot for him because of SIASL and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. And yes, his female characters tend to be a little flat. So do his males, actually. I've enjoyed the general themes and ideas in his books, though, and it probably matters that I read them before college and I turned into an angry young feminist. [Razz]

Heinlein probably changed his views during his life; Podkaine of Mars ends in a long diatribe against women working - certainly a view that doesn´t seem to fit the author of Time Enough for Love.

He was very weak in building characters, and very imaginative in creating scenarios.

Luís Henrique

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El Camino
We Three Blings


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Okay, since I've never read Friday and am not likely to do so anytime soon, especially since it seems to be so detested, what is it about the book that makes it so bad?

I tend to like Heinlein because of his nonconventional philosophy and cool future scenarios, even though I often disagree with his views (and yes, his characters are means in his novels, not ends, and it reflects in their "quality" as characters.). It's like a logical challenge, as he clearly displays views and argues for them and I in my head respond, deciding whether I agree or not. It probably does help that I have some libertarian tendancies...although I am obviously not a true libertarian because he goes a bit overboard. Plus the fact that his views obviously changed somewhat over time indicates that he is at least open minded, which I'll take over close-mindedly agreeing with me most days.

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Dog Friendly
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I'm a strong Heinlein partisan. I've read all, or at least all I can find in forty years of searching, of his sf, up to and including "For Us, the Living". I maintain that for a man of his time, born in 1908, he was amazingly advanced in his thinking on feminism. People who call him misogynist are, IMO, forgetting the time in which he wrote and judging him by 21st-century standards.

He wrote strong female characters in novels published in the 1950s, particularly his juveniles. Writing stories intended for a Young Adult audience, he went much further than virtually any author of his time in portraying women as starship captains, soldiers, executives, scientists and so forth.

What his women are not is resentful. Very, very rarely in a Heinlein story does a woman show feelings of anger or dissatisfaction at having been born female. His women invariably deploy their own competence in pursuit of their own priorities. They will politely accept assistance from anyone, male or female, who offers it, and aren't above using a little manipulation if it seems appropriate. When a male character reveals more than a little sexism, he is usually outmaneuvered, outthought and embarrassed, at least to the reader if not to himself.

Aaah. Enough. Anyone interested in a more throrough treatment of the above is recommended to Spider Robinson's "Rah, Rah, R.A.H.". He does a better job of defending Heinlein than I can, and that's not what this thread is about anyway.

I second many of the authors mentioned above, notably Sherri Tepper, Elizabeth Moon, David Weber and Anne McMas-- oh, wait. Has anyone mentioned Anne McMaster Bujold yet? Her main characters are pretty exclusively male, but there are plenty of strong female characters in evidence as well. Cordelia Naismith is my personal favorite, but Elli Quinn, Elena Bothari-Jesek, Sgt. Taura, Droushnakovi and Team Koudelka all deserve mention.

S. M. Stirling has written some outstanding female characters. Adrienne Rolfe comes to mind, from Conquistador, Lady Juniper and several others from Dies the Fire, The Protector's War and A Meeting at Corvallis, and Marion Alston and others in the Oceans of Time trilogy.

Jessica Amanda Salmonsen's "Tomoe Gozen" trilogy certainly features a strong female character, though her (Tomoe's) medieval Japanese ethical sensibilites clash more than a bit with my own modern attitudes.

Dog Friendly

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Ryda Wong, EBfCo.
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by Dog Friendly:
I'm a strong Heinlein partisan. I've read all, or at least all I can find in forty years of searching, of his sf, up to and including "For Us, the Living". I maintain that for a man of his time, born in 1908, he was amazingly advanced in his thinking on feminism.

Yeah, but in a thread looking for feminist sci-fi/fantasy, he wouldn't stand up to the test.

And, for the record, Margaret Cavendish published a far more feminist sci-fi/fantasy text than anything I've ever read by Heinlein, and did it in 1666 ("Description of a New World, Called The Blazing World").


Also, Sam Delany's work, like Babel-17 (hence my handle, which I misspelled), appeared a decade after Heinlein, and would stand the feminist lit test.

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tweetilynn
I Saw Three Shipments


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quote:
Originally posted by Fusca 1976:
quote:
Originally posted by Clarity:
Okay, okay. I haven't read Friday. I have a soft spot for him because of SIASL and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. And yes, his female characters tend to be a little flat. So do his males, actually. I've enjoyed the general themes and ideas in his books, though, and it probably matters that I read them before college and I turned into an angry young feminist. [Razz]

Heinlein probably changed his views during his life; Podkaine of Mars ends in a long diatribe against women working - certainly a view that doesn´t seem to fit the author of Time Enough for Love.

He was very weak in building characters, and very imaginative in creating scenarios.

Luís Henrique

I really like RAH. I think he was simply a product of his time with regard to his female characters. Having said this, I really must say that I hated Friday! The only two books that I haven't read and re-read are Friday and Farnhams Freehold...didn't care much for that one either.

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LOVE: the condition in which the welfare and happiness of another become essential to your own.
-Jubal Harshaw

Posts: 89 | From: Eagle Rock, Virginia | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
DevilBunny
Deck the Malls


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Strong female characters, y'say?

Definitely Barbara Hambly, Mercedes Lackey (try to get hold of the Diana Tregarde books) and Sherri S Tepper (I do love The Gate To Woman's Country, but even I have to admit that it gets a little over-feminist!). Hmm. Who else?

It might be worth trying some Guy Gavriel Kay or Julian May; they have a few strong female characters without any 'men suck' overtones.

That and I recommend Guy Kay every time I get a chance [Smile]

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"For God has seven thousand names, and one of them is bastard"

Posts: 420 | From: UK | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
snoozn
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by Dog Friendly:
I second many of the authors mentioned above, notably Sherri Tepper, Elizabeth Moon, David Weber and Anne McMas-- oh, wait. Has anyone mentioned Anne McMaster Bujold yet? Her main characters are pretty exclusively male, but there are plenty of strong female characters in evidence as well. Cordelia Naismith is my personal favorite, but Elli Quinn, Elena Bothari-Jesek, Sgt. Taura, Droushnakovi and Team Koudelka all deserve mention.

You mean Lois McMaster Bujold. I thought of mentioning her, but as you said, she doesn't have too many main female characters. I have to brag now: My copy of "Barrayar" is the first one she signed after it won the Hugo at the '91 WorldCon! (Luckily for me, a friend of mine had the same publisher, so I got to go to the Baen party right after the announcements and I took my copy along!)

Lots of books and authors for me (and my daughter) to look into here. So many books, so little time...sigh.

snoozn

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Dog Friendly
Carol of the Bills


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Oops! My apologies, I used to know a lady named -- oh, never mind. The author I meant to recommend is, indeed, Lois McMaster Bujold.

Dog ("It's how I get results beyond hope!") Friendly

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"Nobody ever got stoned and beat up his old lady" -- Spence, snapdragonfly's friend

Posts: 768 | From: North Hollywood, CA | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
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