This post was not only prompted by a remarkably stupid NY Times review of the "Game of Thrones" TV series, in which the reviewer thought the story was a polemic against global warming, claimed that women don't like fantasy, and further claimed that women do love sex, so the sex was gratuitously crammed in to please them.

It was also prompted by curious fact that while many of the most successful, and by successful I mean bestselling, writers of YA fantasy and sf are women writing under clearly female names, and most of the bestselling writers of urban fantasy are women writing under female names, most of the bestselling writers of epic/high fantasy are men or women writing under male or ambiguous names.

To quickly define terms, by "urban fantasy" I mean "Set in contemporary world much like ours, but in which magic and/or magical creatures exist. Typically involves romance, fighting evil, and/or detecting." By "epic fantasy," I mean "Set in non-contemporary world which is not just our world plus magic or an alternate history of our world, big sprawling stories, typically a series of fat volumes, typically involves a huge cast of characters, war, battles, monarchies, and politics. Typically set in a vaguely medieval period."

I have some questions for you all.

1. Am I correct that the bestselling writers of epic fantasy are typically male or writing under possibly-male names? I'm thinking of Robin Hobb (woman writing under possibly-male name), Patrick Rothfuss, George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan, Brian Sanderson, Tad Williams, Terry Goodkind, Terry Brooks, etc.

I am under the impression that the female authors writing under clearly female names, like Kate Elliott, Katherine Kerr, are midlist or at least not hugely bestselling authors.

Anomalies: Jacqueline Carey - bestselling, I think, but clearly female. Gender of names may not be clear to readers: Sherwood Smith, Mercedes Lackey. I think Sherwood is considered a midlist writer, while Lackey is maybe in between midlist and bestseller?

2. Is epic fantasy really read more by men than by women? In general, women read far more than men do. Is epic fantasy an exception? I would love to see some actual figures here, because I honestly have no idea.

3. Do male or male-seeming epic fantasy authors get a bigger marketing push from the publishers? Are readers more willing to buy their books? Why is this different from urban fantasy and YA fantasy? (Maybe the latter are considered "less serious," because of the association with romance and teenagers, and so the proper province of women?)

(I don't even ask, "Is epic fantasy by women reviewed less?" because we already know that answer. All fiction by women is reviewed less than fiction by men. One of many statistical breakdowns to that effect here.)

ETA: A brief reading list of non-bestselling female writers of epic fantasy:

Sherwood Smith: Overview: Yo, epic fantasy authors. I'm real happy for you, and I'mma let you finish (uh, sorry, George R. R. Martin, I swear that was not a dig) but Sherwood Smith has already written one of the best epic fantasies of all time. OF ALL TIME.

Buy on Amazon: Inda

Kate Elliott: Cold Magic (The Spiritwalker Trilogy)

Mary Gentle: A Secret History: The Book Of Ash, #1

Michelle Sagara: Cast in Shadow (The Chronicles of Elantra, Book 1)

P. C. Hodgell: The God Stalker Chronicles

Judith Tarr: The Hound and the Falcon: The Isle of Glass, The Golden Horn, and The Hounds of God

Barbara Hambly: Dragonsbane: The Winterlands Series (Book One) (Note: This book stands on its own, and is a perfect work of art on its own. For the love of God, AVOID THE SEQUELS.)

Laurie Marks: Fire Logic (Fire Logic)

N. K. Jemisin: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy)

Katherine Kerr: Daggerspell (Deverry Series, Book One)
For [personal profile] estara.

I have re-read this novel and its sequel, Dark of the Moon many times and with great pleasure. There are two more sequels which I have read once each. (Other people like those more than I do.) And there is a fifth book which I have not yet read, but plan to. That being said, God Stalk stands on its own.

God Stalk isn’t very much like anything but itself, though it partakes of a great many fantasy tropes: amnesia, gods, magic, weird cities, zombies, animal companions, dark lords, thieves’ guilds, bandits, books that drive their readers insane, etc. It’s an object lesson in the fact that originality and charm usually lie not in amazingly new ideas that no one ever thought of before, but in uniquely individual perspectives on, in this case, pretty much everything. Hodgell’s perspective is quirky, funny, odd, dark but not grim.

Jame hesitated. Many of her people had such talents if not far greater ones, but those that did were feared and often compelled to enter the priesthood. Apprehensively, she recited the charm. It usually took Cleppetty half an hour to ready her bread for the oven; Jame's rose in five minutes. When the widow sliced into the baked loaf, however, they discovered that its sudden expansion had been due to the growth of rudimentary internal organs.

That was the end of Jame's apprenticeship in the kitchen.

The whole book is like that. Isn’t it great?

Jame, an amnesiac woman with strange powers and possessions she doesn’t like to think about, stumbles out of the ghoul-infested wilderness and into the bizarre city of Tai-Tastigon, where small gods are mostly safely confined to temples. But Jame, whose talent for attracting trouble surpasses my own, has managed to show up on the festival of Dead Gods, when a pool of water may be both inches and infinitely deep, and scraps of paper flutter down to warn that Nurk lurks in doorways. (“Who or what is a Nurk?” Jame wonders.)

She joins the thieves’ guild, dances at an inn populated with incredibly strange eccentrics, runs a scientific experiment centering around the weeping god Gorgo and his unhappy priest Loogan, and nearly brings the entire city down around her head, as the unknown avatar of the God of Destruction is wont to do.

This is one of those weird quirky books beloved of a small cadre of highly enthusiastic fans who long to prove its wonders to the larger world – an impossible task, as most weird quirky books have an inherently small audience. But if it sounds remotely like something you might enjoy, I encourage you to give it a try.

The sequel, Dark of the Moon, is good but not as good, in my opinion. (My favorite character in that was Ashe, by the way.) Like God Stalk, its ending works reasonably well as a conclusion. I was largely unimpressed by the subsequent two sequels, Seeker’s Mask and To Ride a Rathorn, though I do like the characters and world enough that I will keep reading. But I think the series lost a lot when it left Tai-Tastigon.

One of the things I found frustrating about later sequels, in addition to incoherence and not enough of the random weird details and humor that I was so charmed by in God Stalk, was summed up by an Amazon reader:

“Jame and Tori (and Kindrie and...everyone, basically) have so many Issues (and more keep piling on top of them with every book) that at times I felt I was in an IEP meeting and going through one of those interminable checklists for whether my kid had met the educational goals... ("Objective 1: Tori overcomes his hatred of Shanir and accepts that he is one himself. Progress Report 5: Progress Code: [] achieved, [x] Making sufficient progress to meet goal, [] Not making sufficient progress to meet goal (Team needs to address insufficient progress), [] Not yet introduced..."

The latest book, Bound in Blood, is out now. Has anyone read it who can comment?

The God Stalker Chronicles (Contains the first two books.)

Seeker's Bane (Contains the second two books.)

Bound in Blood (Seeker) (Fifth book)


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags