Category Archives: SF Books

Meet Sean Williams …

I have been running a series of  interview with female fantasy writers to redress a perception I came across – that fantasy was a bit of a boy’s club. It really isn’t like that here in Australia. We have many wonderful fantasy writers who just happen to be female.

Today I’m interviewing Sean Williams. He’s a wonderful writer, supportive of the community and a real professional so I thought I’d ask him the same questions I’ve asked the female writers about fantasy writing and gender, to get his perspective as a male fantasy writer.

Watch out for the give-away at the end.

Q: Sean Williams, I see your second name is Llewellyn. Are you of Welsh extraction? Is there a wonderful story about your people coming out to Australia?

My father David was very proud of his distant Welsh background. He came from a long line of Owens and Selwyns and Bronwyns, but apart from his great and sometimes very intrusive love of male voice choirs it didn’t impact on my life terribly much. I’ve only been to Wales once, and that was this year, for one day. I felt more connected to my mother’s father’s German heritage (he was descended from the writer Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller) and my father’s mother’s Scottish heritage (I have a tartan tie somewhere). I’m  absolutely positive I don’t pronounce “Llewellyn” properly, but at least I know how to spell it.

Q: You have a page on Wookieepedia (the Star Wars Wikipedia). That is so cool. With 6 Star Wars books out now, you must be really comfortable writing in this world, or do you still have to do a lot of homework before starting a new book?

Every Star Wars novel is different–which sounds a bit pat, but it’s true. In my case, the obvious difference is that I’ve written in three quite different periods of Galactic history: the Old Republic era, three and a half thousand years before the Clone Wars; the dark days when Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader were in charge, just before Episode IV; and the New Jedi Order era, when Han and Leia have kids who are themselves becoming Jedi Knights. Each period has its own flavour, its own crises and characters, its own rich set of assumptions. Research is essential when it comes to embedding oneself creatively in these worlds. Luckily, it’s research I greatly enjoy. I can get lost in Wookieepedia for days if I’m not careful.

(Aside: one of the greatest thrills for me, as both a creator and a Star Wars fan from way back, is to see pages in Wookieepedia relating to elements of canon that I’ve created, be they characters, scenarios, weird aliens or whatever. There are no words for the sense of validation that brings.)

Q: You write for kids and you write for adults. (See TroubleTwisters with Garth Nix).Is there anything you do to get yourself in the right frame of mind when writing for kids? (hang out at the park, think back to your childhood, visit your friends’ kids?)

Having kids in my life really helps. And being childish at heart helps, too. I’ve written eight books for kids and four for young adults, and I’d have to say that I find the YA mindset much more difficult. I like to write characters who see the world through a fairly rational lens, and of course being a teenager isn’t really about being rational. That’s one of the reasons why it’s such a wonderful, terrifying time, and why it’s such a rich vein to mine, creatively speaking. I’m drawn to doing difficult things–each book is a new challenge–hence my focus on YA in my solo work at the moment.

Speaking more generally, I read to get in the right frame of mind. With every project, I’m hunting for a genre or author that will be the right fuel for my own writing. Sometimes it’s the Gothic or 19th Century romances. Sometimes it’s the books I loved as a kid–Weirdstone of Brisingamen or The Dark is Rising, as it was for Troubletwisters. For the next book it could be Tim Powers or Octavia Butler or someone completely know. I never know until I start. But I know when it’s working.

Q: You have a Masters in Arts in Creative Writing.  I see you are currently working on your PHD. What’s your research question? Is it something really interesting to do with the craft of writing?

I’m examining the use of the matter transporter in literature. Sounds pretty dry, doesn’t it? I chose it because my own work has often returned to this trope, from my first complete (and unpublished) short story to my latest novel, Twinmaker, which is so fresh it hasn’t even hit the market yet. It’s a trope that can be used to examine identity and humanity in so many interesting ways–and that, I think, is what science fiction is all about. Crime, too. The Resurrected Man, my second novel, just wallows in these issues, and so does a short story I have coming out in an anthology called Armored next year, “The N-Body Solution”, but in a very different way. I’ll probably keep exploring the trope until I die, or until someone builds a working version so we can explore it in real life.

Q: I see you’ll be at the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego in October. Lucky you! I’ve never been. Can you give us a glimpse of what it’s like?

You should come one day! It’s my favourite con. There are so many great people there, so many friends and writers and new people to get to know–the massed creativity is electric. Whether you go for the panels, the parties or the bar, there’s always someone fascinating to learn from. I go with the intention of hanging out, basically, but always return more energized and better connected than when I left. It’s well worth the effort and expense.

Q: There’s an Australian called Sean Williams on Smashwords. Is that you? Are you planning on releasing some of your backlist as e-books?

I have no recollection of being on Smashwords, so it’s probably not me. I have two other writer friends also called Sean Williams. One’s a musicologist who writes such wonderful books as The Sound of the Ancestral Ship and The Ethnomusicologist’s Cookbook. The other works in LA. We often talk about collaborating, but can’t agree on which name goes first. Boom-boom.

I think ebooks are the best thing to happen for readers since, I don’t know, the invention of the mass-market paperback? Public libraries? Whatever, it’s very cool. Some of my back-catalogue is already available through E-Reads and more is coming. I’m still pondering what to do with the rest. The immediate temptation is to start monetizing everything–short stories, novellas, all that–but I’m not sure I admire that impulse very much, so I’m being patient, waiting to see where it all goes. One day I’ll do something with my first novel, Metal Fatigue, which has been hard to get for a long time. What I decide to do with that, and how well it goes, will probably set the precedent for the rest.

Q: On an interview with Angela Slater, when asked what would you be if you weren’t a writer you said: ‘Dead bored”, because that’s what I am when I’m not writing.’ And then you followed it up with, if someone held a gun to your head and said you couldn’t write, you’d go back to your other love, music. (You won a Young Composer Award in High School). I know you make up play-lists for certain books. Are you doing anything with your music at the moment?

Nothing at all, I’m afraid. It’s a bit depressing. I keep saying that one day I’ll get back to it, but that day just never comes. If I really wanted to, I suppose I would make time, but given the RSI issues I have, the last thing I need is another hobby involving computers . . . .

Still, I’m always on the look-out for new music (current favourite is Erik Wøllo’s live set Silent Currents), and I’m still DJing occasionally, when people let me. I have the illusion of a relationship with my other lover, and that’s better than nothing.

Q: With over 70 short stories published and 35 novels you must be some kind of writing power-house. I once heard you say that you had to write 9 novels in 2.5 years, so you calculated out how many words a day you had to write and no matter what, you wrote them. At the time I asked you, What if you went wrong? And you said, I couldn’t go wrong. Are you still working yourself to such a hard self-imposed deadline?

It’s easy to be a powerhouse if you do something all the time and never stop. I don’t think I’m especially creative or anything. Just stubborn, and a bit OCD, and easily bored. Still, RSI has forced me to be more easy-going lately, wordcount-wise. I’m down to about 150k of new fiction a year, which is not a huge amount compared to what I managed in the past, but still pretty reasonable. Of course, not going for quite so much quantity means I can now engage with the quality side of things in a different way. I’m enjoying the time to rewrite more than I normally would. Although that’s still hard on the wrists, harder in some ways, it does demand more time spent pondering what the hell I’ve done and how I can make it better. Normally I’d have to squeeze this process into very short periods, and while I’d never suggest that I approached this kind of thing in a cavalier kind of way in the past–each book received the identical degree of commitment and passion, whether it was Star Wars or a collaboration or something entirely my own–I do sometimes think I could have done more if I’d had more time to do it in. Now I do have the time, I’m making the most of it, and finding new ways to be obsessive.


Q: As someone who has been shortlisted for and won genre awards, and someone who has taught at Clarion, you really know your writing craft. (Here’s the link to Sean’s list of useful advice for aspiring writers). The industry is changing so rapidly now that things professional writers would never have done (self publish) are now real options. Barry Eisler turned down half a million advance to self publish. Are you scrambling to keep up with the changes?

The industry has always been a bit of a scramble. I started publishing SF in the dying days of cyberpunk, and then space opera was hot, and then it was YA and zombies or whatever. Who knows what it’ll be next year? Meanwhile, publishers and magazines constantly fold or merge, the internet’s always changing the game, writing software and computers are constantly evolving. And that’s all good. Change keeps us awake. It keeps our eyes open. That’s the trouble with dreaming for a living: if you get too comfortable, you might nod off and miss something interesting

Q: You’re a member of the RIAUS. (An organisation to bring Science to People).  You must feel very strongly about the role of science in the modern world.  What do you hope to see this organisation achieve?  (Feel free to fiddle with this question, Sean).  

I’m enormously proud that we have the Royal Institution of Australia right here in Adelaide. As the only offshoot of the Royal Institution in the world, its aims are at the same time enormously simple and enormously broad. Scientific thinking has changed everything about human society and is in the process of shaping our entire world, for better or for worse, yet so many people still regard as something outside of them, something to be frightened of, to stay away from, to reject. As part of its brief to bring science to people and people to science, RiAUS performs a role very similar to science fiction–that of familiarising the mainstream with what might once have seemed very strange, and to have fun doing it. Hence things like art exhibitions at the Science Exchange, sci-ku contests (haikus based on science), talks on science in pubs, and so on. As someone who has never formally studied science but is immensely interested in it, being involved is a natural fit for me, and I’m proud to have been on their program several times now. If we can expand people’s understanding of the world we live in, in even a small way, I think that’s a win.

Q: Last time we spoke you were the ‘CurryKing’. Are you still into curries? (If you are, the next time you’re in Brisbane, I’ll take you to our fave Indian restaurant).

Which one is that? I’ve been to a few up there, now, and they’ve all been delicious!

I still love curries, although I’ve been a vegetarian for two years now, which has sadly meant no more lamb kormas. My favourite recipe at the moment is for a pumpkin, chick pea and Brussels sprout curry that most people regard with horror. Their loss, I say, and all the more for me.

Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy is a bit of a boy’s club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?

My gut feeling is that there’s more variation within the sexes than there is between them–that is, the way I write fantasy versus the way Garth Nix writes fantasy, say, might be greater than the differences between me and Sara Douglass–and if that’s the case then bemoaning boy’s vs girl’s clubs is a bit, I don’t know, off-mission for me, much like the talk about genre itself and its impact on what readers want. Some readers and editors undoubtedly have biases towards particular types of writers, but on the whole, I think, we are all genres of one. (I’m avoiding the word “brand” because that might lead us to a whole different conversation.) Every book I pick up is its own experience, and if I like that experience then I’ll pursue the author further. If I don’t, I won’t. So there are fantasy authors I’ve read lots of and others I’ve read almost nothing. Some of both categories are male, some are female. Some I have no idea (for years I thought Julian May was male) and it doesn’t matter. Each writer is different to my eyes not because they’re male or female, Australian or Alaskan, write fantasy or literary fiction, but because they’re different people.

I’m talking about my own perceptions and experiences, of course. I haven’t studied the field in enough depth to have a solid opinion on the subject. If there is a bias, I hope I haven’t contributed to it. All I can do is take hope from reviews like this one, in which Garth and I are praised for achieving “a level of gender-neutrality that is pleasantly surprising coming from two male authors”, and avoid despairing that such a thing should be surprising.

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?

I prefer to have no expectations. I’ll avoid reading the blurb and would love it if books had no covers at all (another reason why I love ebooks and the old Gollancz yellowjackets so much). I want to mainline the story in the purest possible form, and while I know that 100% purity is never possible, that I’ll always be lurking in the mix somewhere, I do figure it’s worth aiming for.

I feel this way because I know I know that expectations are unavoidable. Much as I hate it, I do judge a book by its cover. Bad clichéd cover art (from tramp stamps and leather pants to metal phalluses shooting fiery ejaculate) are an utter turn-off, and it can take ages to get past that, even for writers I love, books I’m really enjoying. And I can be kinder, too, to books that don’t deserve it, because I love the way it’s packaged. Mind you, I think that’s not quite so bad a thing, because every book is a sacrifice offered up by someone. Every book is a gift. That should always be celebrated, even if it involves a little delusion at times.

Q: And here’s the fun question. If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why?

Much as I’d dearly love to see what really happened on Golgotha, I think I’d have to go forward. No specific date, no specific place. As long as there are ftl spaceships, I’ll be happy.

Sean will give-away one each of MAGIC DIRT,


Give-away question:

As a long-time Dr Who fan, Sean says, if the Tardis appeared in your

living room and Dr Who stepped out and invited you on an adventure,

which of the Doctors would you like it to be and why?

Catch up with Sean on Facebook.

Catch up with Sean on GoodReads.

For a list of Sean’s numerous publications see here.

For a list of Sean’s opinion pieces see here.

Sean’s Blog.



Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Children's Books, creativity, Fantasy books, Fun Stuff, Nourish the Writer, Publishing Industry, SF Books, The World in all its Absurdity, The Writing Fraternity, Writing craft, Young Adult Books

Meet Lara Morgan …

As the next of my series featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) I’ve invited the talented Lara Morgan to drop by.

Q: Your mother is from Bermuda and your father from Croatia and you grew up in Western Australia. I’m assuming that you had access to the cultural heritage of both your parents. Does this help you when you are creating fantasy worlds?

I was definitely brought up with stories about countries overseas  but I think what influenced me more was both my parents are avid readers. We always had so many books in the house and I don’t recall ever being told I wasn’t allowed to read anything. I was brought up on a diet of fairy tales, Enid Blyton and CS Lewis and was read Tolkien before I was in double digits so I think naturally veering toward fantasy worlds was unavoidable. Being encouraged to use our imaginations to create our own worlds when we were playing and not being allowed to watch much tv also helped – although I might not have thought that at the time!

Q: On your web site it says you’ve also written under the Lara Martin and Lara Brncic (pronunciation?) names. Did you use these when you were writing as a journalist? And leading on from that why did you choose to write your novels as Lara Morgan?

Martin is my mum’s maiden name which I used once when I was trying to figure out a pen name. Brncic is my maiden name and the name I used when working for the newspaper. I chose to use Morgan because, firstly, having a last name with only one vowel makes it difficult to spell and pronounce, and secondly because my middle name is Marie the M sound worked. I also love having a pen name because it’s like a secret identity to my normal self. Lara Morgan is my writer name separate from the everyday reality of bills and housework.

Q: You write the Rosie Black Chronicles which is set 500 years in the future and is aimed at Young Adults. Genesis has been released with Equinox coming out soon from Walker Books. Set in a post apocalyptic world where Rosie is on the run with a mystery to solve, the story takes Rosie from Earth to Mars. There’s an environmental thread running through the narrative. Is this something you feel strongly about?

Yes very strongly and I know I’m not alone. I live in a state that has a huge amount of money and people invested in mining of all kinds and it’s impossible to live here and not think about how long we can keep all this up. It’s so problematic and complicated, because we need the energy, people need the jobs, but I worry that planet wide we are going to be doing too little too late to find other alternatives to feed this consumerist monster of a society we’re growing – and that a future similar to Rosie’s world might be the result, only possibly worse. I think that’s a fear most people relate to.


Q: You also write adult fantasy books. The Twins of Saranthium series was published by Pan Macmillan. From the cover of The Awakening there looks to be dragons. Were you a Dragon Riders of Pern fan growing up?

I have never read any of them, which surprises the hell out of most people because, Pern being the classic dragon text, most assume I have. Also the dragon – which I call serpents in my books – on the cover was a decision by the publisher because it made sense at the time. The story line itself really focuses much more on the people, the twins, of the series than the serpents. But they are in there so…

Q: In an interview on the ASIM site you say: ‘I … think good fantasy and science fiction can go just as far in exploring the nature of humanity as any literary novel and I get as much satisfaction from reading someone like LeGuin as from reading Hemmingway, if not more.’ What are the themes you keep coming back to when you write SF and F?

I don’t know if it’s really a theme, but I always find myself writing about identity – how no one is ever who they seem to be – and how power and corruption so often go together. It probably relates to my cynical view of authority and corporations – we as humans can’t seem to get our acts together and behave in a moral way when too much responsibility is allowed to too few, or there is too much money involved.

Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy is a bit of a boy’s club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?

I hate, hate that boy’s club assumption. It’s so insulting not only to women who write fantasy but also to the vast number of women who read it. And it only encourages the appalling level of ignorance of the amount of women writing fantasy today. (*jumps off soap box*).

I think in early genre writing there tended to be a stronger focus on the technical side, the world building and the wars from male writers as opposed to a greater concentration on the relationships between the characters in those worlds from the (very few) women writers. But now I think those lines are increasingly blurred. Whether it’s because it’s more acceptable now for men to talk about their feelings, and so write more emotionally accessible characters, or for women to go beyond the domestic and explore technology or because we are just learning more from each other, I don’t know but I think it’s of benefit to both. However I do think that women still tend to write more, and in greater detail, about the emotional undercurrents of characters than men, especially in YA fiction.

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?

I rarely pay attention to the sex of the author, but I think it depends what kind of book I’ve picked up. In epic fantasy I think what men are writing and what women are writing are pretty similar. I mean I would expect the same kind of fabulous detail of character and complex world from a Kate Elliot book the same as I would from a George RR Martin. It’s the same when I’m looking at adult dystopian like The Windup Girl or Zoo City. When it comes to YA though I do have different expectations simply because the division is fairly clear. Women are writing a lot of paranormal romance whereas men are writing more action orientated/spy thrillers. But there again, the rule is not absolute. It’s not what I write and Suzanne Collins with her Hunger Games series shows that as well.

Q: And here’s the fun question. If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why?

I’ve always loved history, and would love to see ancient Greece, but the reality would undoubtedly be a lot less romantic. Plus I’m a woman so they’d probably immediately make me some kind of slave, so I’ll have to choose the future.  I’d love to go forward about one thousand years to see, firstly, if humans survive that long without killing ourselves, and if we do, how far our technology goes. Are we going to become a Class 3 civilization? Do we colonise other planets and live like Star Trek and will cake still exist? Fundamental questions of course.

Podcast with Lara Morgan at the Sydney Writers Festival.

Follow Lara on Twitter: @Lara_Morgan

See Lara’s Blog.


Filed under Australian Writers, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Genre, Nourish the Writer, SF Books, Young Adult Books

Give-away 2 e-books

Two of my short stories have been High Commended in World Best anthologies. I’ve decided to turn them into little e-books and give them away. Here’s the link.

‘Purgatory’ is one of my Social Engineer stories set in a near future Australia which is run by the Council of Social Engineers. According to them they live in the best of all possible worlds. It is social science fiction and explores questions of moral choice.

‘Suffer the Little Children’ is set in the late 1960s in a small Australian town. It is dark fantasy and it explores small town predjudices and the responsibilities of neighours.

This is the first time I’ve done this. Thank to my DH for doing the covers and putting the stories into e-book format. We’ve had a couple of friends with e-readers read them and they were working, so there shouldn’t be any problems. Hope you enjoy … or more accurately, hope they stories resonate with you and keep you thinking about the characters long after you finish them … muaahha ha ha …


Filed under Book Giveaway, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Genre, SF Books

Ripping Reads …

A couple of weeks ago my writing group did really well at the Aurealis Awards. I thought I might do a round-up of their books, so if you’re looking for a ripping read like Richard is, you’ll be able to find it.

So … Starting with Trent Jamieson. Trent’s Death Works trilogy is set in Brisbane (yay!) and it’s really quirky. It starts with Steve sitting in the food court in the city when a dead girl saves his life. Steve works for corporate death, helping souls into the afterlife and there’s a take-over bid. Suddenly he’s on the run with the dead girl …   Book one was a finalist in both the horror and the fantasy section of the Aurealis Awards.










And coming out next year is Trent’s new series The Roil. Very dark and full of daring do!










There’s Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Creature Court series. The first book of this series was a finalist in the fantasy section of Aurealis Award and won this section. This series combines a threatened city, with powerful shapeshifters and a dressmaker who suddenly finds herself caught up in a battle to save her home.










Marianne has been really busy. If you like Janet Evanovich’s Stepanie Plum books you’ll love her Tara Sharp series. Book one won the Davitt Award for female mystery writers. There’s just a touch of paranormal as the main character has the ability to read body language.








Then there’s her new YA series. Dark, sensual and exciting. I like reading YA because the focus is on the protagonist and you get straight into the story.








And don’t forget her two SF series. The rollercoaster ride of the Parrish books. (Aurealis Award finalists)






And the slightly more cereberal but just as addictive Sentient of Orien series. (Aurealis Award finalists and book four won the award)





Then we have Richard, who’s been having heaps of success with his quirky steam punk series. Worldshaker has just won two awards in France. It gives him an excuse to dress up in waistcoats and top hats!










And there’s Margo’s latest book Tender Morsels. I’ve  lost track of the number of awards Margo has won for her writing. This book should come with a warning – disturbing.










If you like time travel, there’s Maxine McArthur’s series and her robot mystery nove, Less than Human. (Once again, finalists and winners of the Aurealis Awards).







With so many good books to read, it’s hard to know where to start!


Filed under Australian Writers, Dark Urban Fantasy, Genre, Promoting Friend's Books, SF Books, Young Adult Books

Books by friends

My friend AA Bell has just released her latest book, something she’s been working on for 10 years. (I know that feeling). Here’s her blog post about it. Her book is called Diamond Eyes.

And here is her ROR blog post about crossing genres. Go AA!


Filed under Australian Writers, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Nourish the Writer, Promoting Friend's Books, Publishing Industry, SF Books, Writing craft

Pssst, want to hang out with some writers …

Come to Victoria Point Angus and Robertson bookstore this Saturday, 11 am. (This is Brisbane, Queensland, Australia).

I’ll be there along with the cute, but canny Kylie Chan.

One of life’s true romantics, Trent Jamieson.

And the effervescent Marianne de Pierres (who moonlights as Marianne Delacourt).

Leave a Comment

Filed under Australian Writers, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Fun Stuff, Promoting Friend's Books, Readers, SF Books, Specialist Bookshops, The Writing Fraternity

Thanks to Jessica

Thanks to Jessica who set up this promo for KRK in the bookshop where she works. World’s Biggest Bookstore Canada.

And here is the interview on SciFiFanLetter blogspot. Always a pleasure to talk to someone who loves books!


Filed under Fantasy books, SF Books, Specialist Bookshops, Writing craft

A Salute to Female Writers of the 70s

Recently I came across an interesting phenomenon. Young women of today (educated, professional young women) find feminism a bit passe. ‘What’s all the fuss about?’.

I was there in the 70s  when the books written by female SF writers were being published.

In the 70s I had a bookshop where I sat and read all day. I’d read a book before lunch, a book after lunch and a book after dinner. It was heaven. Amongst the authors I discovered were  Joanna Russ, Vonda McIntyre, Ursula K Le Guin and Doris Lessing.

This was back in the days before the web and you could hardly discover anything about writers. I never knew that Russ had won both the Hugo and the Nebula, I just liked her books. When I discovered Joanna Russ, I read everything of hers that I could find. I can still remember scenes from her books 30 years later. Her characters were so different, they resonated with me. Now I can google her bio to learn about her. Her wry sens of humour came through her writing. Here’s a great quote from her on ‘How to Suppress Women’s Writing.

“She didn’t write it. She wrote it but she shouldn’t have. She wrote it but look what she wrote about. She wrote it but she isn’t really an artist, and it isn’t really art. She wrote it but she had help. She wrote it but she’s an anomaly. She wrote it BUT…”

And here’s a review of ‘How to Suppress Women’s Writing’.

Then there’s Ursula K Le Guin, much has been written about her work.  In 1969 when Le Guin wrote Left Hand of Darkness it won the Hugo and the Nebula. See here for some background info. (And here is a study guide for the book. Don’t you love the web?). When I read ‘Left Hand of Darkness’ I had no trouble identifying with the  non-gendered aliens. But the first time I read it I didn’t notice  that Le Guin had used  the male pronoun for these aliens. This book is all about gender and perception, yet  she used ‘he’ as the generic pronoun. When asked years later, Le Guin said she had used ‘he’ as a default. (I came across this quote while researching for my MA, and don’t know where the reference is now). But since then …

‘Le Guin has written essays since about the assumptions she made in writing the book. She’s also written the story “The Winter King” where she uses “she” as the pronoun for all Gethenians, rather than “he” as she does in the book (The Left Hand of Darkness), and the story “Coming of Age in Karhide.” Both of these explicitly feminise the Gethenians. They’re interesting, as are her writings about the book, but they’re afterthoughts from a different world.’

It is amazing how the perception of the character changes if you believe the narrator to be male or female. I once read a whole short story where no gender specific pronouns were used. (No ‘he’ or ‘she’). It made for some challenging grammar.The author used non-gender specific names and I found my perception of whether the character was male or female changed depending on whether they were being active or passive. The author was making a point about our perceptions as readers. (This story was also published in the 70s, when feminism was pushing boundaries).

Vonda McIntyre came out to Australia for a convention in the late 70s. (Can’t remember which one). I read her book ‘Dreamsnake’ . It won both a Hugo and Nebula. One line made me realise how gender blinkered I was by my upbringing. We are all products of our time. We don’t see it how blinkered we are unless writers and artists hold a mirror to us. SF and Fantasy create their own worlds, so they can hold a slightly distorted mirror that can surprise us with its insights.

In 2007 Lessing was awarded the Noble Prize for Literature. With Doris Lessing I must have discovered her in the brief period that she was writing Fantasy and SF. It is all a bit fuzzy now, but what stands out in my mind is the humanity of her writing.

All these years later, I’m taking my hat off to those writers. Thank you, Ladies.

It is because of people like you that feminism can seem passe.

What writers have impressed you with their insights?


Filed under Fantasy books, Nourish the Writer, SF Books, The Writing Fraternity, Writing craft