Apropos of my several recent posts complaining about a lack of LGBTQ characters in fantasy (who aren't evil and don't all die), Diane Duane is once again thinking of completing her "Door" series. (Annoyingly, it seems to be impossible to comment on that post, even when I click the "post comment" button.)

Diane Duane's "Door" series is an old favorite of mine. Though it's that annoying thing, the unfinished series, the three existing books all have individual arcs with satisfying conclusions, and don't end on cliffhangers.

It's a charming swords-and-sorcery series with very likable characters in a "everyone is bisexual" world. There are important gay, straight, lesbian, and poly romances. Also dragons, a snarky shapeshifting fire elemental, angst, a fascinating magic system, and a non-sappy Goddess. Warning for non-gratuitous and plot-important but fairly graphic rape flashback scene in book two.

These are comfort books for me, which I re-read with undiminished enjoyment every year or so. In one sense, they're of their time: there was a sadly brief period when a lot of people were writing gender-equal worlds, including some where everyone is bisexual and there's a friendly Goddess. But fantasy drifted in different directions, and I see very little of that now. I have to say, I like that a lot better than "everyone is a total bastard and women are for raping."

If this sounds like something you might possibly like, check out her e-book site, where they are all available. If you decide to do this, use the discount code STARLIGHTGUILT when you check out: it’ll give you a 15% discount on your total purchase and also mark you as someone to be notified should something start happening with Starlight in 2012.
Once again, it has been made abundantly clear that female sf writers get less respect, less reviews, and less sales than male sf writers. In response, I’d like to take the meme going around (in honor of Joanna Russ) and give it a bit more content.

The original meme is a basic list, available here, which simply shows which writers you're familiar with.

My version: Drop the authors you’ve never read to the bottom. For the remainder, discuss or rec at least one of their books with at least one sentence of explanation about why you do or don’t like it. Ask your readers to tell you about the authors you’ve never read.

Eleanor Arnason. Ring of Swords. A first-contact story involving a race of furry aliens, hwarhath, with a strictly gender-segregated society. The alien culture is wonderfully detailed, unusual but not gratuitously bizarre, and it captivated me. The plot is fairly standard, but the characterization and prose style is good, and oh, those aliens!

Octavia Butler. Wild Seed is an exceptionally well-characterized and thoughtful novel set largely in Africa, about the multi-generational relationship and battle between two people whose mutant abilities make them effectively immortal. Most easily available in the compilation Seed to Harvest, but note that while it stands on its own and ends hopefully, the loosely related sequels are really depressing. Click her tag for more reviews.

Joy Chant. Only read one of hers, and was not enormously impressed. Click her tag to read the review.

Suzy McKee Charnas. I’m a fan of hers. All else aside, she made me read a horse bestiality book – and like it! Her books are all extremely different from each other, and several of the ones long out of print are back, either in paperback or Kindle, such as the unsentimental The Vampire Tapestry, the moving southwestern fantasy Dorothea Dreams (Heirloom Books), and the genuinely epic post-apocalyptic feminist quartet beginning with The Slave and The Free: Books 1 and 2 of 'The Holdfast Chronicles': 'Walk to the End of the World' and 'Motherlines'. For the latter, warning for upsetting content and amazingly non-gratuitous bestiality. If you can get through the first one, they get steadily less depressing and more hopeful as they go along. Click her tag for more reviews.

C. J. Cherryh. I love Cherryh, bizarre prose style and all. No one captures paranoia, sleep deprivation, and alien thought processes quite like she does, which makes reading her books a disconcerting yet immersive experience. I often have to plow through the beginning before I get sucked in, but I am immensely rewarded when I do. My favorites are Cyteen (you can skip the stultifying prologue to get to the juicy emotional and psychological dynamics between the clone slaves and their co-dependent owners), and the weird and wonderful duology Rider at the Gate (Nighthorse, Book 1) and Cloud's Rider, which is both revisionist of and glories in the tropes of the companion animal story, set on a planet where all the animal life is telepathic, and humans must huddle in enclaves protected by the bonded riders of native “horses,” lest they be driven insane. Click her tag for more reviews.

Diane Duane. I’m a huge fan of her, from her marvelous Star Trek novels suffused with a sense of wonder, to her great original fantasy. She can be uneven, but her better work is fantastic. So You Want to Be a Wizard and Deep Wizardry (The Young Wizards Series, Book 2) are still wonderful (the sequels are uneven), and I will never stop pushing her adult fantasy “Tale of the Five” books, which are charming and lovely and have dragons and polyamory and battles and shapeshifting and very cool magic, and make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. (Note: warm fuzzies notwithstanding, the second book contains a non-gratuitous, plot-essential scene of child sexual abuse.) Also, you have to click this just to see the most hilariously inappropriate cover in the history of anything: The Door Into Fire (The Tale of the Five #1). Click her tag for more reviews.

ETA: I have been tipped off that "Tale of the Five," several of the Young Wizards books, some uncollected short stories and an original fantasy novel I never heard of before are all available now in e-book form, DRM-free and for anyone in any country to read, here.

Mary Gentle. I either love or hate her books, which vary widely in tone and subject matter. Her completely engrossing A Secret History: The Book Of Ash, #1 (one book split into four due to length), is an alternate history/science fiction/steampunk/war story, about a medieval woman mercenary on a very, very strange journey, featuring stone golems, incursions from the future into the past (and vice versa), a Carthage that never fell and where the sun never shines, and a whole lot of pigs. Dark and violent but not depressing, and laced with black comedy. It might well have been hailed as one of the essential classics of the field had it been written by a man and had a male protagonist: in terms of ambition, scope, and cutting-edge ideas, it’s up there with Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun.

Authors I’ve never read, A-G: Lynn Abbey, Moyra Caldecott, Jaygee Carr, Jo Clayton, Candas Jane Dorsey, Phyllis Eisenstein, Sally Gearhart, Dian Girard, Eileen Gunn. If you’ve ever read anything by any of them, please discuss in comments.
The list of currently nominated fandoms is up here. It closes at 9:00 PM, USA Eastern Standard Time.

If you are planning to participate, what are you thinking about requesting?

I am thinking about Marjorie Liu's "Dirk and Steele" series, Willo Davis Roberts The Girl with Silver Eyes (now there's a novel that begged for a sequel), George R. R. Martin's "Thousand Worlds" series, my perennial request for Diane Duane's "Door" series, my other perennial request for Modesty Blaise, and the Carter and Grammar song "The Mountain." Last year I wrote a story based on the Carter and Grammar song "The Disappearing Man," and I think that anyone who would even offer "The Mountain" could probably write something good. (Click the tags for more details on the stuff I mentioned here - I recommend it all.)

Note: I know that many of you hate fanfic, hate Yuletide, hate AO3, hate the (bizarre) new rules on determining what constitutes a rare fandom, etc. This is not the post to say so.
"The Doors Into Otherwheres: Five Women Segnbora Didn’t Sleep With (And Three She Did)"
A multi-fandom femmeslash extravaganza
starring Segnbora of Diane Duane’s “The Door Into…” series
co-starring Kylara of Pern, Karen Kasumi of X/1999, and Storm of the X-Men
and featuring several mystery cameos

Fandoms: Diane Duane’s “Door” books, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, The X-Men (Chris Claremont-era comicverse), and X/1999
Word Count: 6600
Rating: R
Warnings: Consensual sex including mild BDSM; adventure-style mild violence.
Synopsis: Segnbora travels to other universes via the worldgate doors, meeting women, saving lives, having adventures, and getting new perspectives on herself.

This story is for [personal profile] cmattg, who won it in the [profile] helphaiti auction.

If you haven’t read the Door books, Segnbora is a failed wizard who is canonically bisexual and polyamorous. The Fire or Flame is the magic she can’t access, though she does have other magical abilities. The story takes place during the first book, The Door Into Fire, when she and her friends are hanging out in the ruin with the doors into otherworlds.

It’s not significantly spoilery for anything in any canon. But if you want to know what was up with the dragons, you will have to read the second book, The Door Into Shadow.

This story contains several additional bonus surprise crossovers. The person who correctly identifies the highest number of them in comments can make an original or fic prompt request, and I will attempt to fill it.

The trailing ends of Storm’s hair fell across Segnbora’s shoulders, caressing them like a breath of wind. )
On [livejournal.com profile] liviapenn's suggestion, I am writing up a couple Yuletide-eligible fandoms which I recommend that people check out before Yuletide.

BATTLE OF RED CLIFF PART 1 & PART 2 ENGLISH SUBTITLES - 2 DVDS. Thrilling battles with extra-cool strategies, a sense of humor, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung being extremely slashy at each other, and the chance to painlessly learn the Cliff Notes version of some important Chinese history and literature. What's not to love?

Dreamsnake, by Vonda N. McIntyre, is post-apocalyptic biological sf in which a doctor named Snake travels with her actual snakes, which have been genetically modified so that their bites can deliver medication. She encounters non-medical problems in the communities she meets as well, which she also tries to help with if she can. Very humane and compassionate, and the biology is pretty cool. If I request this, I'd be asking for the further or earlier adventures of Snake.

Tale Of The Five: The Sword And The Dragon. Diane Duane's perpetually unfinished (though luckily stand-alone) series begins with The Door Into Fire. In an intriguing world where polyamory and all other sorts of sexuality are totally cool with everyone, for generations only women have possessed the magic which enables great works and kills you young. But that's all beginning to change. Extremely sweet, with lots of companionship, adventure, banter, and love. Canonical gay, het, bi, lesbian, poly, and cross-species relationships.

Down a Dark Hall, a YA novel by Lois Duncan. This combines the genres of Gothic with "school for psychic kids," and so of course is a favorite of mine. Four teenage girls with special talents are trapped in a spooky boarding school run by a headmistress with an agenda. There's an obligatory hot young man (the headmistress' son) but really it's all about the relationships between the girls and how they cope with the situation.

Dreamsongs: Volume I and Dreamsongs: Volume II. Early in his career, George R R Martin wrote a bunch of lush, romantic, colorful space opera stories in a milieu called "The Thousand Worlds." They were full of weird planetscapes, vast distances, incomprehensible aliens, and an air of romantic tragedy and sense of wonder. If I ask for this, I'm looking for the setting and atmosphere; they all have different characters because they tend to conclude with the death, despair, or retirement of the protagonist, though there are exceptions.

Fire Dancer, by Ann Maxwell. The sequels are Dancer's Luck and Dancer's Illusion. Romantic space opera with cool aliens, including an adorably vain translating, shapeshifting snake, and a compelling romance. Rheba and Kirtn are the last survivors of their race -- or so they think! -- after their sun went nova. They are two races in a symbiotic relationship. Rheba is a humanoid dancer, which means she has psychic powers -- in her case, the control of "fire" (heat, electricity, etc.) Kirtn is a catlike humanoid, who can help Rheba control her powers. They are madly in love, but for complex reasons which, for once, actually make sense, they both think it's one-sided and are afraid to ask. Cue tons of adventure and smoldering (literally) glances.

Please comment or write your own post reccing small and eligible fandoms.
I notice that many people have gotten curious about the original series after seeing the movie. There are also some quite good novels, many by writers known for original sf/fantasy. Here's a brief, non-comprehensive guide:

The Spirit of Wonder

Diane Duane did the best job of capturing the joy I felt when watching the series. You want to serve on her Enterprise – and her Enterprise probably has a place for you. Her crew is full of aliens, and her stories are all about the longing to breathe in the air of a strange new world.

Spock’s World intersperses a mission to Vulcan with a series of heartbreaking vignettes from Vulcan’s history; the alternation of the intense emotional content of the historical chapters with the more contained emotions of legal trial in the main story works beautifully. Spock's World (Star Trek)

In The Wounded Sky, the main character is a female giant transparent spider physicist, and the story is about the ultimate in exploring strange new worlds, a journey both inward and outward. Poignant and beautiful. The Wounded Sky

Enterprise: The First Adventure, by Vonda N. McIntyre. An epic of alien contact, featuring nice roles for all the main characters (even Janice Rand, who is mentored by Uhura), plus backstage comedy via an interstellar circus (!) and a very angsty and interesting original Vulcan character. Her new crew realistically fails to mesh, then gradually bonds; her aliens and descriptions of zero-g are lovely. Star Trek Enterprise The First Adventure

John M. Ford, as always a category unto himself

The Final Reflection
might as well be an original sf novel, as most of the characters are Klingons – and much more sophisticated and interesting Klingons than actually appeared on the show. A beautifully written and powerful story about power, politics, identity, and the costs and rewards of the choices we make. I can’t be more specific because I have no idea what was going on for a great deal of the story (let me know if you do!), but that’s true of most of Ford’s novels. The Final Reflection (Star Trek, No 16)

How Much For Just The Planet? A musical comedy. No, really. No, really. And it’s actually funny! It’s kind of a parody, but a very fond one. Kirk and the rest end up on a planet in which everyone acts like they’re in some old movie. Uhura lands in a film noir, and Kirk in a chorus line. There are hilarious film strips and an attack milkshake. Oh, just read it. How Much for Just the Planet? (Star Trek, No 36)

What if the Series Hadn't Been Totally Sexist?

My Enemy, My Ally,
by Diane Duane. A Romulan woman commander develops a prickly friendship with Kirk when they’re forced to adventure together for reasons of political intrigue. Lots of convincing detail about Romulan culture. My Enemy, My Ally There are sequels that aren't quite as good.

The Entropy Effect, by Vonda N. McIntyre. Time travel, Angsty!Fencing!Sulu, cool alien characters, several cool original female characters, and a rather slashy Kirk/Spock relationship: what’s not to love? The Entropy Effect (Star Trek)

Uhura’s Song, by Janet Kagan. This is another one that’s almost an original sf novel. When a plague hits, the cure involves going on a quest with a bunch of catlike aliens on their home world. There’s an original female character whom a lot of people call a Mary Sue, but all I can say is that I only wish Mary Sue was usually portrayed as Buckaroo Banzai, Trickster Archetype. Sweet and fun. Uhura's Song (Star Trek No 21)

Crossroad, by Barbara Hambly. A remarkably dark and often darkly funny story involving Lovecraftian horrors in spaaaaace. Christine Chapel is a major character, and her (non) relationship with Spock is developed convincingly and poignantly. Crossroad (Star Trek, Book 71)

Not My First Choice, But Worthwhile

Star Trek, Log One,
by Alan Dean Foster. Based on the animated series, this is nothing really special but nicely written.

The other novels by Barbara Hambly and Diane Duane are worth reading if you enjoy the series, as are Jean Lorrah’s. I note that Laurence Yep, Peter David, Joe Haldeman and Greg Bear all wrote novels for the original series; I don’t remember them, but they should be at least decent. I vaguely remember enjoying A. C. Crispin’s books.

Run Fast, Run Far

All the novels by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath are unreadable, though the “Phoenix” ones do have Kirk naked (and tortured) for most of the book. Avoid, even if that’s a selling point.

The Tears of the Singers, by Melinda Snodgrass. Oh God. Uhura meets a tousle-haired, temperamental asshole of a hot genius musician with a heart condition that will kill him if he gets excited. A planet of baby seal aliens are being clubbed to death by Klingons for the jewels they weep at the moment of death, only their song is holding the universe together. Kirk drafts the musician because he’s the only one who can translate the song, and he dies operatically in Uhura’s arms after saving the world. A baby seal alien spontaneously sheds a single perfect tear of woe, which Uhura makes into a necklace. The Tears of the Singers (Star Trek, No 19)

Did anyone read Spock, Messiah? Was it as dire as it sounds? SPOCK, MESSIAH! (Star Trek)
This is the seventh book in a series about teenage wizards. The first two books, SO YOU WANT TO BE A WIZARD and DEEP WIZARDRY, are brilliant by any standard-- touching, funny, filled with that sense of wonder, populated with interesting and likable characters, and dealing seriously with serious issues. The nature of wizardry is carefully thought-out, internally consistent, and appealing.

The second book, much of which takes place underwater, is the best in the series, but the first, which mostly takes place in a weird and creepy alternate Manhattan, is also wonderful and a prime example of how to create a memorable, sympathetic, but unsentimentalized non-human character who does not talk, in this case a carnivorous sports car.

The subsequent books are more variable. HIGH WIZARDRY suffers from an over-powered main character, Dairine, who isn't as interesting a person as Kit and Nita from the previous books, and a plot which involves computers. That may be a personal problem. I find computers boring. But it has some good bits.

A WIZARD ABROAD, which takes place in Ireland, is an incoherent mess.

THE WIZARD'S DILEMMA has a powerful theme dealt with well and returns the focus to Nita, but the plot is somewhat meandery.

A WIZARD ALONE reads well, does not dodge the issues brought up in the previous book, and has a good premise: what if there was an autistic wizard? However, the premise isn't pursued to the extent it could be.

Now for WIZARD'S HOLIDAY. Kit and Nita do a wizard's exchange: they go for a vacation on a far-off and seemingly perfect planet, and three young wizards from other planets come to Earth and stay with Nita's family. Needless to say, there are complications. The visiting wizards-- a tree, a centipede, and a snob-- are fun chracters, and the Lotus Eater Planet is well-evoked and atmospheric. I was really enjoying this up until...

It's impossible to discuss this book at any length without huge spoilers for it and everything in the entire series after the end of WIZARD'S DILEMMA. So I hope I'm correctly using the cut tag.

Read more... )

Enjoyable book, highly questionable ending, more on philosophical than artistic grounds though. Oh, and the last line is dumb.


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