The Influence of Books, Part 6

When I listed favorite authors from my reading past on a scrap of notepaper a few weeks ago, the three names I wrote on the science fiction line were Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Lois McMaster Bujold.  Known for long series, detailed world building, and complex cultures (Bradley’s Darkover, McCaffrey’s Pern, and Bujold’s Barrayar and its neighbors and colonies), these women added human elements that were missing from much of earlier science fiction: strong female characters, romance, even sex.

They aren’t the only women on my SF keeper shelf.  (Another sheet of notepaper here.)  I have single titles by quite a few female writers, and multiple books by C.J. Cherryh, Suzanne Collins, Charlaine Harris (although the Sookie Stackhouse series could be shelved with the mysteries), Elizabeth Moon, Naomi Novik (I’ve been saving the newest Temeraire book as a special treat), Jo Walton, and Connie Willis.  And there are books on my shelves (and on my computer’s hard drive) with one foot in SF and one in romance.  It’s been a long time now, thankfully, since SF took the “No Girls Allowed” sign off the club house door.

I don’t remember if I discovered Bradley or McCaffrey first, but Bradley began writing for the pulp magazines as early as 1949.  She wrote a a good number of series and single title books over the years, but her best known (and by far my favorites) were the Darkover novels, set on a planet colonized and then long forgotten by Terrans.  The series began in 1968, with The Planet Savers, and has continued past Bradley’s death in 1999 with novels written by various authors she mentored.  I’m pretty sure I have them all, although I haven’t read some of the later ones.  (I will never run out of books to read.)  The earliest Darkover novels were short and relatively simple, but they grew longer and far more complex as Bradley developed the culture and mythology of the planet (several of the earliest novels were later revised to fit).  Bradley not only built a world, she populated it with a variety of societies, families, and governments–just like a real planet.

McCaffrey began writing in the 1950s, but didn’t begin publishing novels until 1967.  She wrote a  stand-alone novels and a number of series, but she’s best known for her Dragonriders of Pern stories, which began with a novella in 1967.  Over the years McCafrrey moved up and down the time line from the original trilogy (Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon) to fill in the long history of a planet (like Bradley’s Darkover) colonized by humans and then forgotten, providing a surprisingly scientific explanation for time-travelling, telepathic dragons in the process.  Between my shelves (Keeper and To Be Read), I have all the Pern books, the four-volume Freedom series, and a few more.  McCaffrey began collaborating with her son Todd well before her death last year, and he has continued the Pern series.

Bujold has written two fantasy series, but she is best known for her Vorkosigan Saga novels, beginning in 1986 and happily continuing through the most recent novel, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, published a few weeks ago (the only one I haven’t read).  Most of the novels center around the adventures of Miles Vorkosigan, a member of the ruling family of the planet Barrayar, and he’s had more than his share.  Bujold combines elements of military SF, a complex economic system and high technology paired with the almost medieval social structure of Barrayar, romance (that of Miles and his eventual wife Ekaterin, and that of his parents Aral and Cordelia), and mystery.

These three authors have entertained me as a reader and inspired me as a writer.  Writing this makes me want to go back and read all those stories again–if only I had the time.  If you haven’t read them, pick one up and jump in.  You will enjoy the adventure.

 

 

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Vorkosigrrl
    Dec 03, 2012 @ 10:27:18

    Hello, Kay! I found your site because I have a Google alert for Lois McMaster Bujold, one of my favorite authors. I enjoyed your comments, and will look into the other authors.

    My comment is, thank God for women authors! I love fiction that is character driven and plot driven, with good writing and world building. I find myself much more drawn to women writers. I’m sure I’d like many male authors, too, but the ones I’ve read recently seem quite dry compared to the women. Or the characters aren’t fully realized (e.g., Brandon Sanderson). One exception to that is Patrick Rothfuss. Have you read any Tanya Huff? I really enjoy her Valor (military sci-fi) series, and she’s got some great urban fantasy. Linnea Sinclair is my favorite sci-fi romance author.

    I see you have some manuscripts on your site. I look forward to taking a peek at your writing.

    Like

    Reply

    • Kay Hudson
      Dec 03, 2012 @ 12:08:24

      Welcome, Vorkosigrrl. I’ve been a big fan of the Vorkisigans since the beginning of the series, particularly the books featuring Cordelia.

      I haven’t read Tanya Huff, but I enjoyed the TV series (unfortunately short-lived) based on her Vicki Nelson series (I thought Christina Cox was perfect for the part).

      Wish I had time to catch up with ALL these writers!

      Like

      Reply

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