Women Unsuited To Writing Fiction For Adults, Struggle, Says Author Rod Rees.

Women Unsuited To Writing Fiction For Adults, Struggle, Says Author Rod Rees.

Tuesday June 26, 2013

Rod Rees, author of the infamous Demi-Monde series (where untethered breasts jiggle across an alternate reality landscape, and the cult of nuJus worship the Book of Profits in the face of Vampire Fascism), today made a stunning attempt to rebut criticism of his ability to write, and especially to write female characters. Living with women, Rees claims, gives him special knowledge of the female mind. “What I discovered is that like all quasi-religions, Feminism has its zealots: so much so that I found it damned difficult to make [my alternate reality “feminism”] more extreme than the world envisaged by the out-there radical-feminists,” says Rees.

He went on to say: “I thought I was pretty clued up on feminism… It seems to be a fixture at the SF conventions I’ve attended to have a panel discussion debating why there are so few women writing in the adult SF and fantasy genres… Once female writers venture into the more visceral world of adult fiction they find this stereotype [Ed – of women who don’t exist purely for the male gaze and male consumption] doesn’t work and hence struggle. Just a thought.”

Rees’ UK publisher and host for this rebuttal, Jo Fletcher Books, could not be reached for comment at this time.

Author and critic Foz Meadows responds to Rees’ “utter gobsmacking cluelessness.”

Tune in for further updates as they happen.

Sleeps With Monsters: Tomb Raider is Bloody Awesome

A new post over at Tor.com:

I want more games like this. More like this, dammit. Bad archaeology (*cough*LOOTERS*cough*) and all: I felt so goddamn happy and welcome and at home playing Tomb Raider, it only reinforced how often before I’ve felt alienated by a game (or by a film, but that’s another story).

Is this how guys feel most of the time? Because the difference is shocking.

I’ve fond feelings towards the Irish Defence Forces

And this is the sort of thing that explains why:

“Earlier today soldiers from B Coy, 27th Infantry Battalion based in Gormanston Camp assisted in a rescue of an adult Pilot whale on Laytown beach, Co Meath. The Boyne Fishermen’s Rescue and Recovery Service were at the scene but due to the weight and size of the whale (2 ½ tons and 6 metres long) they were very happy to receive the extra assistance offered by the troops. Picture shows Sgt O’Connor, Cpl Carville, Pte McCaffrey and Pte Forde with members from the Boyne Fishermen’s Rescue and Recovery Service who were successful getting the whale back to sea.”

Go on those lads in green! And the rescue folks in red too!

Epic Lists of Epicness: Postmortem

Following on from our posts about “essential” epic fantasy (mine here and here), Jared’s followed up with some number-crunching.

What have we learned from this experiment? Across all four lists, only two works are universal: The Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire. We have a little better luck with authors – but even there, we don’t have a list of even ten we all agree on.

Participants in the list-making exercise are based in Ireland, UK, Australia and USA. Two identify as men, two as women. We’ve covered the bases of the Anglosphere, I think. And what we’ve learned is that there is no universal agreement on

a) what constitutes epic fantasy
b) what constitutes essential epic fantasy
c) whose opinions are the most wrongheaded.

Useful data all around, wouldn’t you say?

Go read Jared’s post. He has charts.

So. It has come to this. Part II: gratitude.

After posting “So. It has come to this,” last night, I went to sleep.

I logged on today, twelve hours later. Guys. I am gobsmacked and speechless at your generosity. You’ve given me more than I asked for – twice as much as I dared hope for.

(In consequence of said twiceness, only let me know and I will refund half of the donation.)

You are all amazing, and I am humbled and grateful.

I promised rewards. Let me talk about the timeframe for fulfilling my promises.

I will write the 500-word review of a book chosen by the person who donated most (I will be in touch to confirm who you are) before the end of July.

I’ll write the 500-word review of Lucian’s True History also before the end of July.

I’ll write the 500-word review of G.W. Bowerstock’s The Throne of Adulis: Red Sea Wars On The Eve Of Islam (Oxford University Press, 2013) before the end of August.

I’ll write the 750-word review of Mary Renault’s The King Must Die also before the end of August.

I’ll write up every session I attend at the conference within two weeks of coming home from said conference.

I’ll review with as much detail as possible Paul Roberts’ Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum (Oxford University Press, 2013) before the middle of September.

Any funds remaining after I have covered conference costs, I will donate to a good cause. There being so many worthy causes, I will investigate and report back which one(s) after the conference is done.

So. It has come to this.

I’m giving a paper at Swords, Sorcery, Sandals and Space: A Science Fiction Foundation Conference, Liverpool, 29 June- 1 July 2013. My paper’s on the reception of Minoan civilisation in science fiction. I had a fun time writing it, and putting together the slideshow. I think it’s an interesting paper – even if it is rather tangentially related to my thesis.

I applied for my university’s postgraduate travel funding to help with the 600 euro it’s going to cost me to go, stay, eat enough to stay on track, and get back. Yesterday, I got a message from the travel fund administrators: they’re giving me one hundred euro.

I can’t afford to go.

This isn’t hyperbole. The reasons are to do with family health. (And perhaps, with certain misjudgements, like choosing to buy new clothes when the old ones develop holes.) I prefer not to discuss the awful whole, but suffice to say I was rather counting on the postgraduate travel fund administrators being reasonably generous.

If the travel fund had awarded me 300 euro, I’d be able to attend secure in the knowledge that the month of July wouldn’t involve a diet of beans and an embarrassing inability to leave the house. (Two hundred euro! A lot of money when you haven’t got it…)

So, it’s come to this. After talking it over with some friends, I’m swallowing my pride and appealing for donations. If you can spare a few pence to forward academic intercourse, I’m asking.

Donate here.

The done thing is to follow the Kickstarter model and offer rewards. So here goes.


If donations reach E50.00, I will write a 500-word review of a book chosen by the person who donated most.

If donations reach E100.00, I’ll write a 500-word review of Lucian’s True History as though it were an SFF novel written this century.

If donations reach E150.00, I’ll write a 500-word review of G.W. Bowerstock’s The Throne of Adulis: Red Sea Wars On The Eve Of Islam (Oxford University Press, 2013).

If donations reach E200.00, I’ll write a 750-word review of Mary Renault’s The King Must Die.


If donations exceed E250.00, I’ll write up every session I attend at the conference.

If donations exceed E350.00, I’ll review with as much detail as possible Paul Roberts’ Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Thank you.

UPDATE 1200 June 14.

Your generosity has humbled and overwhelmed me. The cost of attending the conference has been more than covered: I will write proper thanks as soon as I am able, and follow up when I am slightly less gobsmacked, humbled, and overwhelmed.

Epic List of Epicness Part II: The EPICENING

As I said, Jared and Justin talked me into this. This half of the list reflects more closely my personal preferences, rather than what I see as influences/important works in the field. In rough order of preference. Very rough. Ask me a different day, and I will have a different order.

Also, I am ignoring Rule #2. Because I can. Because I want to bring up many individual works!




1. Elizabeth Bear, Range of Ghosts. (Tor, 2012)

This is best described as “the epic fantasy I had been waiting to read all my life, unknowing.” I love it. It is amazing.

2. Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls. (Harper Voyager, 2003.)

This is one of the books that changed the way I look at the world, and had a profound, fundamental affect on me. Sometimes, I think it helped save my life.

3. Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion. (Harper Voyager, 2001.)

I don’t love The Curse of Chalion quite as much as I love Paladin of Souls. But it is still one of those books that touched me deeply, in ways difficult to express.

4. Martha Wells, The Wheel of the Infinite. (Eos, 2000.)

I don’t know if I can express how much I love Wells’ The Element of Fire – and after Element, Wheel is the book of Wells’ that I love best.

5. Kari Sperring, The Grass-King’s Concubine. (DAW, 2012.)

Is it epic fantasy? I don’t know. I don’t care, either. It is the best thing to come out of DAW in 2012.

6. Elizabeth Bear, All The Windwracked Stars. (Tor, 2009.)

Peri-apocalyptic fantasy! Epic in scope, amazing, brilliant, I love it.

7. Amanda Downum, The Bone Palace. (Orbit, 2010.)

It is epically amazeballs, even if it doesn’t fit a subgenre definition of epic fantasy. Its sequel, The Kingdoms of Dust (Orbit, 2011), does fit such a definition – and is also amazing.

8. Beth Bernobich, Passion Play. (Tor, 2010.)

Neither its title nor its cover do this excellent novel justice. It and its sequel, Queen’s Hunt (Tor, 2012), are very strong character-centred epic fantasy.

9. Jacqueline Carey, Kushiel’s Dart. (Tor, 2001.)

The first book in a revolutionary epic fantasy trilogy. I’m serious when I call it revolutionary: Carey’s work is distressingly underrated by critics, but its ability to mix sexual desire and grand, sweeping narratives – to combine the personal and the political both so closely and so coherently – is an achievement in itself.

10. Tanya Huff, The Silvered. (DAW, 2012.)

Epic! With shapechangers and pregnant women and war and things going boom and a prophecy and everything: and not only that, it stands alone. (I also love Huff’s Quarters books – Dear DAW Books, please reissue them in an omnibus or two. I want to give them to my friends.)

11. Kate Elliott, Crossroads trilogy. (Spirit Gate, Shadow Gate, Traitor’s Gate, Tor US/Orbit UK, 2006-2009.)

Elliott can always be relied upon to do something interesting in her work. In the Crossroads trilogy, she’s interrogating the assumptions of epic fantasy – and has people who ride griffins. Good stuff.

12. Michele Sagara, Chronicles of Elantra. (Luna, 2005-?)

A long series, at this point. It is an urban fantasy set in an epic fantasy world, and Magical Doom regularly appears in the narrative. Dragons! Elves! Fun stuff! One of the many interesting ways by which epic fantasy can be interrogated.

13. Celine Kiernan, The Poison Throne. (Orbit US/O’Brien, 2010.)

IRELAND REPRESENT! Ahem. With that display of gross nationalistic fervour out of the way, let me say that this book, the first (and best) in a trilogy aimed more into the YA demographic? Is really very essential reading.

14. Sarah Monette, The Doctrine of Labyrinths. (Mélusine, The Virtue, The Mirador, Corambis; Tor, 2005-2009.)

A strange, baroque, not infrequently grotesque entry into the lists of epic fantasy. I have some strong affections for it, despite problematic elements.

15. Sherwood Smith, The Banner of the Damned. (DAW, 2012)

Epic fantasy with a scribe and a scholar as its protagonist. An asexual protagonist. It stands alone well enough, too.

16. Claymore.

I mean the anime series, but I’ve got about five volumes into the manga, too. Shocked it’s not a book? Don’t be: it’s still EPIC.

17. Dragon Age: Origins.

Bioware’s giant RPG has its problems. But it is definitely epic fantasy, and I think despite its problems, it’s still worth looking at – particularly for how it takes epic fantasy elements long familiar to us from literature and adapts them to a new medium.

18. Violette Malan, The Sleeping God. (DAW, 2008.)

Mercenaries. Kicking arse, taking names, killing people in the face and saving the world.

19. Rae Carson, The Girl of Fire and Thorns. (Greenwillow, 2011.)

Aimed at the YA demographic, this is again the first book of a trilogy (better than its sequel, I think). Lovely coming-of-age epicness.

20. Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette, A Companion to Wolves. (Tor, 2007.)

The frozen north. Trolls. Men bonded to intelligent wolves. Trolls.

21. Jacqueline Carey, The Sundering. (Banewreaker, Godslayer; Tor, 2004-2005.)

Epic fantasy. As told from the villains’ point of view – but more complicated than that.

22. Steven Erikson, Deadhouse Gates. (Tor, 2005.)

I’m picking only one novel from Erikson’s opus magnus, The Malazan Book of the Fallen – because, well, I fell off the wagon at book five, and have yet to go back. But Deadhouse Gates would be a stellar entry in any epic series: it certainly is here.

23. Simon R. Green, Deathstalker series.

Epic fantasy in a science fictional horror universe.

24. Ursula Le Guin, Voices. (Harcourt, 2006.)

24. Ursula Le Guin, Lavinia. (Harcourt, 2008.)

Yes, you get two entries for #24. I couldn’t choose between them. I love them both.

25. The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy.

Every adaptation is a fresh recension. LOTR on film brought epic fantasy to a massive audience, and paved the way for epic fantasy to come to the screens again.

A fond mention for Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora, which I don’t think is epic but which is cool nonetheless.

The Odeion of Herodes Atticus

Built by Herodes Atticus, Greek, Roman senator, confidante of the Emperor Hadrian, to the memory of his wife Regilla (whose brother accused Herodes of her murder). Mid 2nd-century CE. Incorporated into the Byzantine and later Ottoman fortification walls of the acropolis.

Entrance to the lower tiers!

The Odeion was quite tall.

And not just tall…

They’re setting up for Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” opera.

The Cats of Athens

Because the internet is for cat pictures.

Cat of the Hill of the Muses

Cat of the top of the Classical Agora

Cat of the Tourist Information Office, Dionysiou Areopagitou

Cat, very pregnant, of beside the Panathenaic Way

Cat of the Athenian Acropolis, shortly before she bellied herself under the leftmost marble block.

Bonus! Unsociable Tortoise of the Pnyx

Epic List of Epicness

Jared (of Pornokitsch fame) and Justin (Staffer‘s) between them conned me into this. I don’t know why I didn’t say no – perhaps because, despite all the things piling up on my plate, I remain a sucker for punishment.

The challenge: construct a list of 50 essential works of epic fantasy. I confess to having played a little fast and loose with the definitions, but I like my list. I had fun with it.

Today, you lot get to see the first 25.


Jared’s list is over here.

Tansy Rayner Roberts was persuaded into joining us here.

Justin’s wrongheaded opinions may be found here.


The list that follows should be considered as – partly – descriptive of what I view as major influences on the field of epic fantasy. And partly me having fun.


1. Homer, The Odyssey.


Opinions are divided over whether one can call the epic narratives of antiquity epic fantasy, as such: but Homer stands at the beginning of the entire history of European literature, and the fantasy genre has itself made multiple uses of the adventures of quick-tongued Odysseus.


2. Plato, The Republic.


Plato’s ideal city is utopianist and dystopian at the same time. A fantasy of perfect governance, it is also a fantasy of perfect, stratified oppression. Philosophy may not be fantasy, exactly, but Plato too stands at the head of a whole number of intellectual traditions…


3. Ovid, Metamorphoses.


More even than the Aeneid, the influence of the Metamorphoses – changeable gods, shape-shifted mortals – is a rich vein that’s been mined throughout the history of European letters.


4. Lucian of Samosata, The True History.


A fantastical, satirical epic journey, encompassing the Moon and the Isles of the Blessed. War, peace, shenanigans, humour.


5. The Táin.


IRELAND REPRESENT! The Cattle-Raid of Cúailnge’s Cow. A story of jealousy, sex and revenge from Iron Age Ireland. This too, falls under the heading of “debatably fantastic” – but it’s part of my canon, and I’m keeping it.


6. The Mabinogion.




7.  Marie de France, Lais.


Medieval Europe isn’t a period I’m much enamoured of, but today’s epic fantasy is still recognisably in part a descendent of the courtly romances of the middle ages. Marie de France here stands for an entire genre – as one of the first to write courtly lays in English, and one of the first to involve Arthurian elements.


8. Snorri Sturlason, The Poetic Eddas.


No one can ignore the influence of Norse myth. As the Avengers have so rightly proven.


9. Geoffrey of Monmouth, A History of the Kings of Britain.


History? Well, maybe. There’s some Arthuriana here…


10. Margaret Cavendish, Duchess Newcastle, The Blazing World.


Is it fantasy? Is it science fiction? A utopian vision of a different world, ruled by a queen advised by spirits of the air…


And now we skip forward a few more centuries…


11. Poul Anderson, The Broken Sword. (1954)


Not nearly as foundational as The Lord of the Rings, and more in the sword-and-sorcery vein, still it can be said many works of epic fantasy are in dialogue with Anderson’s.


12. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. (1954-1955)


A foundational text of modern epic fantasy, and the one with which most subsequent texts are in dialogue.


13. Frank Herbert, Dune. (1965)


Sometimes science fiction and epic fantasy come in the same package. I’m just saying: Dune has as much in common with epic as it does with SF, perhaps more.


14. Barbara Hambly, The Darwath Chronicles. (1982-1983)


Portal fantasy, where the protagonists from our world cannot return home. The world of the Darwath Chronicles faces a cataclysmic threat: monstrosity and climate change combine to threaten all life. Brilliant, horrific, astonishing: read the later sequels as well.


15. P.C. Hodgell, Godstalker Chronicles. (1982-?)


It never ceases to delight me that we now actually have some hope of seeing Hodgell’s series finished and published in its entirety. Really imaginative epic fantasy that incorporates sword & sorcery elements, it is made of pure, delightful win – at least for me.


16. Tamora Pierce, Tortall. (1983-?)


Pierce was writing epic fantasy YA since long before YA was the New Hot Thing.


17. John M. Ford, The Dragon Waiting. (1983)


Debatably epic, but astonishingly fantastic.


18. Elizabeth Moon, The Deed of Paksenarrion. (1988-1989)


A trilogy about a shepherd’s daughter turned mercenary turned god-chosen paladin.


19. Robert Jordan, The Wheel of Time. (1990-2013)


The first of a series of writers to reshape the landscape of epic fantasy, beginning in the 1990s.


20. Janny Wurts, The Wars of Light and Shadow. (1993-?)


I’m a book behind on this series, which – it must be said – seems to have lost a little steam over the last couple of instalments. But its initial arcs are a powerful, imaginative entry in the epic lists.


21. Terry Goodkind, The Sword of Truth. (1994-2007.)


Goodkind followed in Jordan’s footsteps, and although now I can’t see what I ever saw worth reading in his first six books, at the time I first encountered them they contained elements that delighted me – like women who did fighty things. His financial success probably didn’t hurt in terms of paving the way for the next slow-growing blockbuster, GRRM.


22. Melanie Rawn, Exiles. (1994-1997)


An incomplete trilogy that is still one of the best pieces of fantasy I’ve ever read. Also, let Rawn’s place here on the list stand in for the place she also deserves for the fantasy-soap-opera of The Dragon Prince and its sequels.


23. George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire. (1996-?)


These days, Martin’s part of the bedrock establishment of epic, but when A Game of Thrones first hit the shelves, its particular brand of medieval grittiness was doing something rather subversive with narrative expectations. In those days, killing off characters was still a shocking thing to do… and I got tired of it after the second book. But its influence can’t be denied.


24. Michelle West, The Sun Sword. (1997-2004)


I haven’t finished this series, but I admire what West’s been doing with it, and with its prequel-continuation, The House War.


25. Joe Abercrombie, The First Law. (2006-2012)


I read the first book. I didn’t really like it. But Abercrombie’s success – and, consequently, his influence on the features of epic fantasy – can’t be denied: I’ve been recommended The Heroes and Red Country, and will probably be reading them.


Tune in on Monday for the next exciting installment of EPIC LIST: PART II: THE EPICENING.



Old Men Yelling At Clouds

…is now the official name for people yelling about progress and censorship dammit.

I’m not weighing in on the SFWA kerfuffle: I’m not an author, I’m not an American, it’s none of my beeswax when the SFWA Bulletin hosts a pack of asshats whose outdated chauvinism is no longer in the least amusing. Foz Meadows, however, has a lovely takedown of the ridiculous stuff.

(Some evil person linked me to Sarah Hoyt’s take on the mess. Nasty gender essentialism and wrongheadedness there.)

Meanwhile, Tansy Rayner Roberts has interesting things to say about gender in A Song of Ice and Fire:

What intrigued me most, to tell you the truth, is that whenever the big discussion about female characters in epic fantasy fiction starts up again, ASOIAF (Game of Thrones is SUCH a better series title, just saying) is frequently cited on both sides of the argument – that is, as an example of a male writer writing a variety of female characters in a rich, nuanced and substantial way, AND a male author writing female characters in an extremely problematic way.

Looking at the books from the other side, I have to say – well, yep. Both those things are true.

At A Dribble of Ink, Kate Elliott and Aidan Moher are Reading Katherine Kerr. Go! Look!

And in more Game of Thrones news: It’s a nice day for THE RED WEDDING. Billy Idol, meet the King in the North. LITTLE SISTER CROSSBOW. It’s a nice day GET REVENGE.

Karen Lord, The Best of All Possible Worlds

The summer issue of Ideomancer is up, in which I have a review of Karen Lord’s The Best of All Possible Worlds:

The Best of All Possible Worlds is not a domestic work. It doesn’t centre around a domicile, around social interiors. But it is concerned with emotional interiority in a manner not often see in the wider SF field, a novel immensely – one might even say intensely – personal in scope and concerned with small-scale actions, despite the world-destroying tragedy lurking in the story’s near past and looming over its shoulder. This concern with the personal combines with a gentle nod at SF’s mythic furniture to create a thematic, tonal continuity with Lord’s first novel, Redemption in Indigo, although the two books are otherwise very different animals.