Fran Wilde

Yet again.

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It seems like every week (or more) another person lists the “history” or “best of” science fiction and fantasy while failing to mention women, people of color, or LGBTQIA+ contributors to the genre. Surprise.

I’m not going to mention the particular posts prompting this. Suffice it to say that the past two weeks have been surprisingly full of them ranging from well-established bloggers to bookstore lists.

While I find it difficult to imagine a full picture of science fiction and fantasy that doesn’t (at the least) include the works of Mary Shelley, Margaret Atwood, or Ursula K. Le Guin, the argument continues to be made that the “highlights” of SFF are largely male.

Rather than raging against the machine, though that certainly has its place and I’m prone to do it, I’m going to highlight some authors you should try out to broaden your SFF horizons. Huzzah!

Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian-American woman with a sense of the spectacular. Her most recent novella, Binti, is a fantastic examination of humanity at its most complicated. It takes the examination of race, gender, and their intersections to space and succeeds in every possible way. Plus, once Binti makes you fall in love with Nnedi, her backlist will make your soul scream (in a good way).

Genevieve Valentine is an American author and comics writer. She has a wide range of stories, including The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, a retelling of the twelve dancing girls set in the 1920s and Persona, a futuristic political thriller. She’s a highly acclaimed author well worth the check out.

Rachel Pollack is a transsexual woman who has had a large influence on feminist science fiction and fantasy, the women’s spirituality movement, and a wide variety of authors like Neil Gaiman. On top of her novels, she also wrote for DC comics. Her work is pretty surreal, mixing spiritualism with futuristic and fantasy elements. Her Temporary Agency is definitely the place to start for a temperate taste of Pollack’s works.

Angela Slatter is an Australian author. While most of her works are short fiction, included in a number of short story collections and anthologies, you can also snag her stand-alone novella Of Sorrow and Such. She’s fantastic at creating heart-wrenching stories with complicated characters all in a short period of time. She’s got all the awards to prove it, and a contract for a full novel release this year.

¬†N.K. Jemisin is just fantastic. I’m just going to gush about her for a minute. N.K. Jemisin is an African American author with some amazing talent. Her newest book, The Fifth Season, is easily one of my favorite books of 2015. She blends non-western settings and characters with fantastic magic and world building. Her characters are ridiculously well developed. I can’t get over her. Go read The Fifth Season. You’ll see.

Angelica Gorodischer is an Argentinean author whose works have been translated into English through Small Beer Press. She came into the scene in 2003 by way of Ursula K Le Guin, so you know it’s got to be good. Her stories focus on more than just the typical character and plot driven stories. They are fairytale like, with settings that act on the story as well as on people and a sort of wide-view of fantasy that’s hard to describe. Her Kalpa Imperial and Trafalgar collections are fantastic. I’ve yet to read her newest, but it’s on my list.

Now, I know what you’re saying, “But, Bree, this list is only seven authors and all are women.”

So true. This is far from a comprehensive list. This is only really the authors who came to mind in the 30 seconds following me reading one of the aforementioned articles about SFF being a male domain. More comprehensive lists are definitely out there. In fact, here are links to some fantastic lists of authors:

 

From Fran Wilde: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2015/08/not-so-invisible-ninjas.html

From women in science fiction (blog): http://www.womeninsciencefiction.com/?page_id=54

SF Mistressworks: https://sfmistressworks.wordpress.com/womens-press-sf/

Lightspeed Magazines POC Science Fiction project: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lightspeedmagazine/people-of-colour-destroy-science-fiction

Kevin Hearne: https://t.co/mQZCjoNYr6

Kev McViegh: https://performativeutterance.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/225-rising/

Or, hey, maybe you know those guys. Here is a list of people on twitter (mostly bloggers and authors who promote, read, write, etc. diverse books. The list is short, but I plan on adding to and maintaining it.

https://twitter.com/reev2550/lists/authors-and-bloggers

Please comment below with your suggestions for people to read, blogs to follow, and the like!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Review | Updraft by Fran Wilde

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You may be familiar with Fran Wilde. While Updraft is her debut novel, she’s been an SFF presence for years. She’s a prominent blogger and has a slurry of short stories to her name. Her blog, http://www.franwilde.net/ , features her own original fiction, interviews, reviews, editorials, the works.

So, knowing that Fran has been around a while, I was interested in picking up her book Updraft, but I was hesitant.

Updraft by Fran Wilde

Updraft is the kind of story I know off the bat has the potential to be a huge hit with the YA crowd. It’s about a young girl, Kirit, who wants to be a trader. This isn’t an easy task in a city made up of huge, isolated towers. Kirit will not only need to fly, a fairly common task, but be able to outfly the migrations of skymouths, huge nearly invisible beasts that devour the population of entire towers and can hide in plain sight.

I would be lying if I said that this didn’t make me a bit nervous. It sounded AMAZING, but also like it was going to be prone to the YA pitfalls that so often turn me off. Holy crapola was I pleasantly surprised.

Updraft is the kind of story that is going to rock some SFF socks off. Better yet, it’s the kind of story 13 year old me would have loved and 23 year old me can still really enjoy.

The world Wilde creates in Updraft is very cool. The population lives in towers that rise above the clouds. The towers aren’t built, they’re grown out of bone. It features individual flying machines and has a great steampunk meets Dinotopia feel. The city is plagued by giant beasts with voracious appetite. Politically and socially, the world is fraught with problems. It’s run by the Singers, mysterious and extremely powerful people with control over the legal system. The Singers manage the city from a central hub known as the Spire. The towers live in fear of the Singers, but the Singers are the only thing standing between the towers and the Skymouths.

The main character is a young girl named Kirit. She’s lived in the top of her tower, which marks her as the daughter of a well-to-do family. Her mother is a powerful trader who rose to rank on her own. Kirit idolizes her mother, but she accidentally comes to face with a Skymouth and lives, which basically screws up Kirit’s plans to work with her mom.

Throughout the book, Kirit goes from a fairly impulsive and naive girl to a strategic thinker. Kirit is one of my favorite parts of the book. Her growth is fairly drastic. She grows away from idolizing her mother, to simply wanting to succeed at new challenges, to wanting to do what’s right. Better yet, Kirit has her priorities straight. She’s pretty wrapped up in the problems she’s facing and is one of the few YA heroines I’ve read about in recent years to not get wrapped up in a romantic subplot that undermines the main character’s autonomy and self-empowerment. I did think that some of Kirit’s growth is a bit unsatisfactory. I would have liked to see more time spent on her going from one stage to another, but there was plenty of growth.

Similarly, there are plenty of times where Kirit doesn’t really go for the impulsive decision off the bat. I liked that there were “dumb” things she had to be convinced to do. Even better, Kirit is hesitant to jump into any big conspiracies.

I did think that there were some oddities with pacing. The beginning third of the story alternated between slow and quick without always transitioning or changing pace where it seemed that it naturally would. The middle had a great feel, but the end again seemed to have a bit of a stop and go motion to it.

Overall, though, I was pleasantly surprised by this debut. Wilde really showed some fantastic worldbuilding. I liked the tone, setting, and characters. It’s rare for me to say, but the only thing that this book needed was a bit more length to flesh out some of the transitions and character growth. Another 50 pages and this book would have been perfect.

Note: I did receive a review copy of Updraft from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.