Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

December 20, 2011

Reading women writers

Filed under: reviewage,women writers challenge 2012 — lexifab @ 4:00 pm

Apropos of that discussion we were having a couple of weeks ago about the writers that have influenced us, in which it was quite rightly observed that very few of my big influences were women (Dame Agatha aside), the Australian Women Writers blog has come along with a very timely challenge: read and review more books written by Australian women. More, in this case, would really mean ‘any’. With the exception of a personal friend (Andrea K Host) and a close relative (my mum), I don’t recall the last time I read anything by a female Australian author.

As far as I can tell, this has not been by deliberate act of exclusion, mind. I just…haven’t. Clearly there’s some kind of blind-spot bias going on there that warrants examination. So to that end I am accepting the challenge above. In 2012 I will read and – to some lesser extent to be determined at the time – review a number of books by Australian women numbering not less than six. This lofty goal corresponds with the “Miles” Challenge Level (read six, review at least three). To place a further constraint on myself, I won’t count anything by either Mum or Andrea in my count. I would have read whatever they put out anyway, so it seems like a cheat to bolster my figures thus. I’m also reserving the right to not review anything that doesn’t really appeal to me. I don’t have the energy to write recommendations for things I think are mediocre. If I love, like or really hate a book, I’ll review it, but if you don’t hear details on a particular title then it’s safe to assume that I didn’t especially care about it.

So, to get things started, Australian writer (and woman) Tansy Rayner Roberts has helpfully posted a list of recent award-winning works  in the SF&F genres that meet the basic criteria herein. (Note that Tansy Rayner Robert’s ‘Power and Majesty’ beat out  Andrea’s ‘The Silence of Medair’ for Best Fantasy Novel at the 2010 Aurealis Awards, so I’m thinking I will include it on my list for purposes of comparison. It will have to have been bloody good to be better than TSoM, in my opinion). There’s clearly plenty of action in this part of the publishing industry, and that’s before we even widen the net to include non-speculative fiction genres.

Who would like to recommend something – what is it, who’s it by and why do you think I might be interested? (Outside the speculative genre is fine – I like crime and mysteries too, and am very partial to good comedic fiction, but I will consider all recommendations).

(Thanks to Patrick O’Duffy for tweet-alerting me to the AWW 2012 challenge).


  1. I have actually read very few Australian SF writers as well (male or female!). Other than Garth Nix and Michael Pryor, I noticed I had very few Australian authors on my shelves. I’ve been addressing that a little in the past year (I started out by reading the other finalists for best fantasy for last year’s Aurealis).

    Of the Aurealis nominees, the Juliet Marillier was the one I liked most. Solidly-based historical fantasies (though I gather most of her books are of the semi-heart-rending variety, which is not usually my faves).

    I’ve just recently finished Justine Larbalestier’s “The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction”, which is worth reading if only to see Isaac Asimov being an ass at the age of 18, but also to be just so thankful that things have moved on a little in terms of attitudes.

    You might like the Phryne Fisher books – Melbourne mysteries set in the flapper age by Kerry Greenwood. [Though they could also be read as “Phryne’s sexy romps” I enjoyed the early books in that series.]

    Comment by Andrea — December 21, 2011 @ 8:50 am

  2. Yeah, I probably should have made the same point – that I read very few Australian writers full stop. I’m a fan of John Birmingham’s fat airport thriller trilogies and…um, I haven’t read Nix and I’m not sure I could even name a Michael Pryor title. I suspect that the Australian author I’ve read the most after Birmingham may well be either Mem Fox or Jackie French (kids’ books).

    Thanks for putting me on to the Phryne Fisher stuff. The best attempts of the ‘Underbelly’ producers have not managed to cure me of my interest in the Squizzy Taylor-era Melbourne crime scene, so I will look out for that.

    Asimov started his career as a sexist pig pretty early, yeah. I admire him in many ways, but I suspect that he would have been one of those authors I would not have enjoyed meeting in real life.

    Comment by lexifab — December 21, 2011 @ 9:09 am

  3. I can’t think of a single female australian spec fic author that I’ve read, apart from May Gibbs and Dorothy Parker.
    Poets, yes.
    Playwrights, yes.
    Novelists, no.

    Let me know what you find!

    Comment by emmajeans — December 21, 2011 @ 10:47 pm

  4. (http://www.librarything.com/ might be useful. Or not.)

    Comment by emmajeans — December 21, 2011 @ 10:49 pm

  5. Emma: Thanks for that link, I’d never heard of it. Librarything looks like a slight variant on the Goodreads concept (http://www.goodreads.com), which I am already playing with. I will have a poke around and see what’s there though.

    In related news I have just been to the actual library (which is about 100m from work) and have checked out two horror/dark fantasy novels by Kaaron Warren (http://kaaronwarren.wordpress.com/): ‘Walking the Tree’ and ‘Slights’. So they’ll be up for review first.

    Oh, rats – she’s a local writer. It’s possible I could have met her if I’d remembered to go to the monthly meeting of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild last night. I forgot and stayed home to do accounts while I listened to everyone else watching the Survivor finale… #thislifeisathrillride

    Comment by lexifab — December 22, 2011 @ 11:44 am

  6. I like Sylvia Kelso, who is a Townsville author – so even more local than generic Australian author. I’m not sure where to get her books because Andrea sends them to me as gifts (fantasy genre…goes off to pull some out of the bookcase to reread).

    Comment by Jenny — December 22, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

  7. Thanks Jenny. I will check her work out!

    Comment by lexifab — December 22, 2011 @ 1:45 pm

  8. Syvlia was my English lecturer/thesis supervisor! 🙂 Her work is densely poetic, very different from the standard mass market fare. I was just talking to her a couple days ago and she apparently has at least one book up on Smashwords. Most of her fantasy books are set in an Australian landscape, which is definitely a change from standard fare. Heh – and one of her (unreleased) books is set in an alternate Townsville (as a jumping-off point to a more alternate universe). I spent my time playing “spot the Tville landmark”.

    Comment by Andrea — December 22, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

  9. “The woman novelist, if she be skillful enough to arise out of mere imitation into genuine self-expression, never takes her heroes quite seriously. … I can’t recall a single masculine figure created by a woman who is not, at bottom, a booby.” (H. L. Mencken)

    Comment by The Once and Future Dr Clam — January 14, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

  10. It seems strange to me that Mencken would not have read ‘Pride and Prejudice’, but it seems he is unfamiliar with that paragon of fictional manliness, Mr Bennett, a character so presciently hardcore as to require no Christian name.

    Comment by lexifab — January 15, 2012 @ 8:51 am

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