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There’s always been one question I’ve asked in my author interviews that gives some of the most interesting and enlightening answers, so this week’s MInd Meld question is:

Q: What book, or books, would you love to read and experience again for the first time, and why?

Here’s what our panelists had to say…

Philippa Ballantine
New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. She is also the co-author with her husband Tee Morris of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, the Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice, and a Sir Julius Vogel. She currently resides in Manassas, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and a furry clowder of cats.

I wish I could read again for the first time, Wild Seed by Octavia Butler.

It was a story that was so full of the beauty of the other, and spread over such a huge expanse of time and the globe itself. It opened my eyes to so many things, and it struck me very deeply. I was able to think beyond my little space as a teenager in New Zealand, and experience something much, much wider. I would love to feel that wonder again.

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MIND MELD: Strong Women in SF/F

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This one is for the ladies! In the past few years we’ve seen the rise of some pretty kick-ass (physical and otherwise) women in SF/F and Urban Fantasy, and I thought it might be fun for the ladies to weigh in on what they think of the evolution of women in fantasy, what “strong” means to them, and also include some examples of strong women in fiction that have caught their eye! I want the guys involved too, so please don’t be afraid to weigh in in the comments!

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: With the recent popularity of kick-ass ladies in fiction, especially in urban fantasy, how do you see the evolution of women in scifi/fantasy in general, and what are your thoughts on the future of women in fiction? Feel free to add some of your favorite strong women of fiction, past or present, to your answer!

Here’s what they said…

Linnea Sinclair

Linnea Sinclair is a former news reporter and retired private detective who yearns for more adventure than ‘Hold the presses!’ and stacks of case files can provide. The role of starship captain was her dream long before James T ever uttered “Beam me up!” Writing stories is her way of living that dream. When she’s not tinkering with a recalcitrant sublight drive, you can find her in southwest Florida (winters) or central Ohio (summers) living with her very patient husband, Robert Bernadino and their thoroughly spoiled cats!

I think that, to a great extent, SFF pioneered the stronger female character, so as far as the evolution of women in SFF, we’re to some extent “there” already. That “there” has now flowed over into other genres, like mystery, romance, and the cross-genres such as urban fantasy, SFR, etc.. But does this mirror changes in society or is society mimicking its favorite reads? I’m not qualified to answer that. I know there’ve been articles done on the influence of Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura on female fans’ decision to pursue the sciences. Wikipedia and Helium are two of many sites that reference the character’s impact on Dr Mae Jemison’s career. And I’ve received many emails from fans citing one of my female characters as “role models” for their own lives; one fan told me how she deliberately channeled Captain Chasidah Bergren (GABRIEL’S GHOST, SHADES OF DARK) in order to take control of a particularly difficult corporate meeting.

What I do hope to see is more women reading science fiction, and I think that will come from the genre promoting strong lead female characters.

As for my own list of fave kick-ass femmes (in no particular order as I’m right now two-finger typing around a large cat sprawled on my laptop keyboard…): Tanya Huff’s Torin Kerr, Lisa Shearin’s Raine Benares, Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax, Elizabeth Moon’s Kylara Vatta, Julie Czerneda’s Sira, Sara Creasy’s Edie Sha’nim, PJ Schnyder’s Kat Darah, Marianne de Pierres’ Parrish Plessis… then there are fabulous secondary female characters in books by R.M. Meluch, Ian Douglas, Jack Campbell…and that’s just for starters.

Totally out of the genre, I can recommend Laurie R King’s Mary Russell Holmes character. Brilliant!

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REVIEW: Hunter and Fox by Philippa Ballantine

SYNOPSIS: On a young world on the borders of literal Chaos, the tyranny of the Casiah and omens drive a disparate group of characters to intrigue, rebellion and resistance.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW
PROS: Distinctive universe and cosmology; interesting characters.
CONS: Worldbuilding far too thin on the ground given the milieu.
VERDICT: A potentially excellent novel weakened by thinness of world design.

Conhaero. A young world, whose borders seethe with primal Chaos. A world where the terrain might change abruptly overnight, changing a gentle plain to a series of jagged hills. A world that a variety of peoples have reached through that same Chaos. A world where the previously dominant race, the Vaerli, have been overthrown by a singular being of power and vision, the Caisah, who now rules the land with an unforgiving tyranny. High among his servants is one of those self-same Vaerli, Talyn the Dark, the titular Hunter of the novel. And yet, omens and portents suggest that this situation cannot, and must not remain, or else the entire world is at work. Thus, Conhaero is a world ripe for, yes, change.

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MIND MELD: What Places Inspire Your Worldbuilding?

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Places. Be it distant cities, or even beyond Earth entirely, strange, unusual and beautiful places can inspire creativity and ideas for stories and novels.

Q: What places, on Earth or beyond, inspire worldbuilding in your writing? What appeals to you about them? Share!
Philippa Ballantine
New Zealand author Philippa Ballantine, is a fantasy writer and podcaster. Her novels Geist, Spectyr, Hunter and Fox and Phoenix Rising; a Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel (co-written with Tee Morris) span many speculative fiction genres. Her works have won an Airship and a Sir Julius Vogel Award, and been in the Goodreads Top Science Fiction books of 2011. Her newest book will be Hunter and Fox, a Shifted World novel, from Pyr.

New Zealand has been my inspiration. Even though it is home there are still places there that I cannot get out of my mind.

Everyone thinks of New Zealand as beautiful and green, but there are places that are far different. They did film Mordor in New Zealand too!

The desert plateau right in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand is a pretty bleak, but it is full of secret rivers, volcanoes some dark and dreary, some topped by snow. Wild horses can still be found racing across the plains there. There are skree slopes that if you don’t keep running down, you’d get buried in. In other words it is beautiful and frightening…just the place for me.

It’s a place made for adventure…and consequently the final showdown in my last book of the Order, Harbinger.

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