Help: looking for some suggestions
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I'm trying to come up with a proposed science fiction and fantasy literature class. I have the science fiction end pretty much covered with an anthology that includes most of the genre's major authors. For the fantasy end, however, I need to come up with novels. Here's what I have so far:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
However, I'd like to include one more book. I'm just not sure what to choose.
First, of course, it needs to be good.
Second, I'd like it to have a female lead character. I'd much rather have a female lead character than a female author for this slot, because female authors are already represented on this list but female protagonists are not. (It will not, however, be The Golden Compass, because though it may be heresy to say as much, I couldn't get into that book or warm up to its heroine.) If, of course, it has a female author AND a female protagonist, so much the better.
Third, it can't be too unwieldy in length.
Well, just to point this out...I would not consider Frankenstein to be fantasy. It's actually often considered one of the earliest science fiction novels. Shelley was attempting to extrapolate based on scientific knowledge of the time...the monster wasn't created by magic but by science. (An interesting essay on the topic: http://books.google.com/books?id=N1WWSRVeOC8C&pg=PA78#v=onepage&q&f=...)
Also, I'm wondering...what age level should the books be? The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and Watership Down are aimed somewhat toward the younger side....
A classic, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia (an excellent fantasy author to know)
My personal favorite, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest---author with amazing female protagonists
Fledgling by Octavia Butler
Some consider a classic: The War For the Oaks by Emma Bull. Thoroughly enjoyed it
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Let us know what you choose!!
3: The books can be just about any age level. I'm in my forties and I still enjoy reading Watership Down immensely. I've included The Hobbit on my prospectives list largely because you can't talk about the modern fantasy genre without touching on Tolkien, and The Lord of the Rings is too long to allow for the inclusion of anything else.
4: The Blue Sword may be worth consideration. I don't know much about Bradley's work beyond The Mists of Avalon, and that's much too long. What's her best shorter stuff?
5: I do love The War for the Oaks and it's just about the only urban fantasy I would even consider putting on my list. (I don't care for the genre as a whole.) I haven't read Fledgling yet, but as I understand it, Octavia Butler is one of the most significant and profound female voices in sci-fi. Is Fledgling fantasy?
I'm afraid The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is out. Though I like it a great deal, I really want this last work to be centered on a female protagonist. Lucy, charming though she is, has to share the spotlight with her siblings, and, in fact, Edmund is far more central to the story as a whole than she is. Lucy doesn't really come into her own as a protagonist until The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
I might consider Lewis's Till We Have Faces, however.
A female-centered book with a strong protagonist sounds like a great idea. Everyone's crazy about The Hunger Games right now, and you could even contrast the protagonist with that book to the protagonist of Graceling. It's evil, because the first has Katniss while the second has Katsa. >:D
There's also Dealing with Dragons, though it is a bit tropish, and McCaffrey's written some good female characters, but knowing them typically requires reading a series. Plus, I'm always irritated with her focus on height.
Fledgling is fantasy. It is about the journey of a vampire who appears as a 9 year old african-american girl. Interesting themes of loyalty, race, perseverance, tolerance.
Sabriel by Garth Nix has a good female lead, whether the book would be considered rich and layered enough to be worth a class might be another matter though.
My personal vote is strongly in favor of including something by Octavia Butler so to that extent GirlMisanthrope and I agree. I have a little bit of a question just how "fantasy" Fledgling is versus sci-fi, but I think it could possibly fit into the"urban" fantasy genre to some degree. For an alternative choice by Butler, there's Kindred, which she herself personally considered "fantasy" since there's no science in it (but I've yet to read Kindred so I want to be careful on recommending it). Since I'm strongly in favor of including something by Butler, though, I'll go along with GirlMisanthrope on Fledgling.
kmiarz (2&3), though, makes a good point both about Frankenstein as fantasy rather than sci-fi and an even better point in her question about age level. Your answer (6), that it could be any age level because you still enjoy Watership Down, isn't really the point. My concern is whether your students might be too young for some of these suggestions, and I'm particularly concerned about Fledgling for a middle-school audience -- and perhaps even for a high-school audience outside of an advanced placement track. Also (and this depends on age level and school administration policies), beyond simple reading level, there's the issue in Fledgling of the vampire protagonist, who appears to be a girl child, engaging in physical contact with a male adult (possibly sexual, though it's been a while since I read it and I don't entirely remember). Not knowing what grade level and how broad-minded your school administration might be, I just want you to be aware of this as a possible issue.
My main reason for wanting Butler in there is because of race. Although the four books already on your list are lacking in strong female characters, they're also lacking in racial minorities, and here Butler would be a perfect addition for multicultural purposes.
Urban fantasy in may be a place to look given its popularity in the genre today- I tend to prefer the quieter side to the badass side, but I will second Emma Bull's War for the Oaks and also Nina Kiriki Hoffman's A Red Heart of Memories as well as Thread that Binds the Bones (if they are still available). Charles de Lint's Newford books too, which feature an ensemble cast with many central female characters and start with the short story collection Dreams Underfoot. Diane Duane's The Book of Night with Moon follows a (female) cat wizard on a quest against evil in roughly contemporary New York.
Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn has the Unicorn as the main character and may be familiar due to the animated movie and recent comic book adaptation.
Jane Yolen's Sister Light, Sister Dark mentioned above is interesting for it's well-done concept of interweaving the story with the history, myths, and legends that were told by later generations in the society, but if memory serves it ends on a cliffhanger that leads into White Jenna.
Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown has some tropes like a dragon-slaying princess, but also has a fairly accurate literary portrayal of depression (I preferred it to The Blue Sword). She also has several fairy-tale retellings that may be of interest, like Beauty.
Though it borders on sci fi, Tanith Lee's Biting the Sun (short duology in one volume) is a future dystopia and interesting from a writing technique perspective, the first-person protagonist is never named (I didn't even notice this until I read a review, after having read the book through twice!)
Because the above list also has a lot of straight characters, here are some books that deal with LGBTAQI and gender themes:
Malinda Lo's Ash is a popular recent lesbian retelling of Cinderella that I wanted to like but ultimately couldn't get into- a lot of people do like it, though. There is also a prequel, Huntress, in the same setting.
Tanya Huff's The Fire's Stone (available as part of the omnibus Of Darkness, Light, and Fire) has a strong asexual female protagonist in a quest to recover a stolen magical stone that keeps a volcano from erupting.
Delia Sherman's Through a Brazen Mirror is based on an old Anglo-Saxon ballad. It has a historical feel and centers around a woman who disguises herself as a man, and deals with themes of gender identity and sexuality while providing an immersive view of a medieval society. I have also heard good things about The Privilege of the Sword, which she co-wrote with Ellen Kushner, and which falls into the fantasy-of-manners subgenre, but I haven't read it yet.
Laurie J. Marks' Delan the Mislaid is set in a fantasy world with no humans at all and also deals with gender/sexuality among both dual-sexed and hermaphroditic sentient species (unfortunately, I think it's hard to come by these days).
And though it's definitely sci fi, Melissa Scott's Shadow Man is set in a future where humanity is split into five sexes, and deals with the social consequences of a person of one of the new sexes on a world that recognizes only male and female. Also, her Burning Bright explores the relationship of roleplaying games (think what if virtual-reality Dungeons and Dragons because everyone's favorite pastime) and political intrigue in very interesting ways.
I'm glad the previous poster mentioned The Last Unicorn, that is far and away my recommendation. It's a very deep allegory, a fantasy classic, the unicorn is a female (turns into a human being for part of the story). Many years ago I saw this one being used for a similar class; very sorry I missed that class, incidentally.
After that I would point to The Neverending Story although that doesn't tick nearly so many of your boxes.
For many more ideas, you might consult the 1001 Fantasy list as voted on by LTers a few years ago:
I trust you're preparing for class discussion over whether SFF is anything more than just fluff. I'd recommend reviewing the following threads here on LT for some ideas and thoughts to explore:
Wow, tall order.
For me, the no-brainer choice would be The Forgotten Beasts of Eld - Short, a definite classic, female protagonist, and covering that lyrical/mythic side of fantasy that I don't think is represented in the other books yet.
I can see Till We Have Faces or The Last Unicorn filling that "mythic" slot well, too.
Regarding Robin McKinley, maybe Deerskin?
15: Actually, Niko, Patricia McKillip is a very good idea. Winter Rose might also be a good one, though I still need to read its sequel, Solstice Wood, to ensure myself that the brave but disregarded heroine of the first book does get something like a happy ending.
14: Thanks for the links!
And thanks for the suggestions, everyone. You've given me a lot to think about.
15: Patricia McKillip is a good thought. Her works are not too long (except for The Riddle-Master of Hed, because it's a trilogy), and most of them center on a female character. Deerskin, I'm afraid, bumps into my dislike of stories with incest plots, but Spindle's End may be worth consideration, since the Sleeping Beauty character is surprisingly non-passive.
12: This is for a college course. So I'd be more worried about The Hobbit being too young than Fledgling being too old. As for Frankenstein, it's true that it is science fiction rather than fantasy, but I felt the need to include it, despite having a sci-fi anthology already, because it's so pivotal and deals with so many crucial things. It needs to be there the same way that Tolkien needs to be there, because you can't really talk about "speculative fiction" without dealing with them.
14: Thanks for the links! And I agree that The Last Unicorn needs to be considered. It's been years since I read it, but as I recall, it touches on gender issues intriguingly, in that the female unicorn is a far freer and more active creature than the human "princess" she becomes. (Doesn't Beagle have a lot of important, if not always central, female characters in his books?)
So here are my top choices so far:
Fledgling (still need to read it)
Till We Have Faces
The Last Unicorn
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
The Blue Sword
The Hero and the Crown
The War for the Oaks (possibly to show my students that there IS such a thing as urban fantasy, even though this is the only example of the genre that I actually like)
Summers at Castle Auburn (because I like Sharon Shinn; still need to read it, though)
The Hunger Games (could work as a stand-alone)
The other suggestions are intriguing but I still need to research them a little bit, to be sure they're what I'm looking for.
You guys have been EXTREMELY helpful! Thank you!
What about Tamora Pierce? She's writing mostly for MG/YA readers, but definitely features strong female protagonists. Diane Duane's Young Wizards series is another possibility for a female writer writing strong female characters.
And another vote for The Wee Free Men. Pratchett is a huge name in fantasy.
Why not The Princess Bride ? Swashbuckling fantasy but admittedly not a huge female focus.
Actually, female lead/ literature sort of course. Jasper Fforde The Eyre Affair could be pretty suitable as the first Thursday Next book.
I was thinking about Wild Magic just now, in fact.
My feelings on The Wee Free Men: liked it but didn't love it. I'd be far more inclined towards Wyrd Sisters. My favorite Pratchett novel of all is Guards, Guards. While it doesn't fit the requirements for my fifth slot (although I really, really like Sybil Ramkin), I am not necessarily married to the other four books. I could knock one of them off and put Guards, Guards in its place. How to make room? Well, most of the people who sign up for my class will have probably read Harry Potter, although they wouldn't necessarily have studied it. And I am re-thinking the inclusion of Watership Down. This book is one of my absolute favorite books of all time, and I'm a little bit shy about sharing it with students. Sometimes, when a book is close to your heart, you may find yourself feeling protective of it. Have any of you guys ever felt this way?
The only novels that HAVE to be on my list are Frankenstein and The Hobbit. On the rest, I could be flexible. I do have a little bit of time to work this out, and again, your help is much appreciated.
I actually think Hogfather might be a good one if you want to use a Pratchett title. Death has that whole lovely scene in which he's talking to Susan and explaining the nature and necessity of fantasy in human existence... "HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE."
I agree that there might be better Pratchetts...Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg as two types of strong female characters would be fun. And yes, Hogfather would be an excellent choice just because it does explore that theme of fantasy. And Susan is awesome. ;)
I completely know how easy it is to feel protective of a book you love--I feel that way about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which people seem to either love or hate. Maybe another Richard Adams book? Is there a specific "kind" of fantasy you want for the slot Watership Down would have taken?
And a different take on Urban Fantasy--Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale. That's another book I love and feel protective about. :)
24: Glad you know how I feel about being protective of books. Adams' other work is rather on the long side, and I don't want anything too lengthy, or anything that "reads too slow," if you know what I mean. Some novels I love quite a bit -- e.g. Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest, Robin Hobb's Ship of Magic (which cannot work as a stand-alone) -- are off the list because of their length.
My favorite of Pratchett's books with Death as a central character is Reaper Man, though I also like Mort a great deal. Both of those have interesting women in supporting roles. This I do feel somewhat strongly about, given how male-centric my two "touchstone works" (Frankenstein and The Hobbit) are.
What exactly is the gist of Winter's Tale? I've heard of it frequently but know almost nothing about it.
Just be careful if you like fantasy books, don't fall into the wardrobe when your getting your coat or a lion might eat you! best, stu.
Kushiel's Dart would be a good choice, except that it is so long.
I would second The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, since that one is probably something they haven't seen before. And it fits a combination of genres: fantasy and mythologies, which just makes it so much more interesting.
Are you looking for something as a stand-alone rather than the first of a series? That makes it tougher since so much in Fantasy is at least part of a trilogy...
Edit: What about The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater? It's called YA, but frankly I think that genre has branched and become so much more lately. And it should be something fairly quick but with meat.
>25, I've yet to read Winter's Tale but it's oft compared to the magical realism tradition most often associated with South American authors like Gabriel Marquez in One Hundred Years of Solitude - which is exactly why I intend to read it soon. Although Mark Helprin dislikes this comparison and disowns the 'influence' of those authors, as Wikipedia describes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter%27s_Tale_(novel)
I have to find time to read Winter's Tale. I picked it up in the bookstore and started reading it and it was one of those magical experiences where outside sounds and distractions just went away and you felt transported into another world. Completely absorbing. The writing was so lyrical and beautiful it was almost transcendent.
Other things got in the way and I haven't returned to it yet, but I want to set aside enough time where I can disappear into the book for a couple of days. Maybe the plot won't hold up, but the writing is incredibly beautiful.
Mercedes Lackey has some strong female protagonists, including Talia in Arrows of the Queen, which might make an interesting counterpoint to both Harry Potter (Hogwarts vs. the Collegium) and Watership Down (rabbit protagonists vs. supernatural horse Companions. The length is also likely more manageable than By the Sword, whose female protagonist first saves the family keep and then goes on to become a mercenary captain.
I love The Fire's Stone by Tanya Huff, which sounds like it would be a good length for your purposes, but I have to confess to connecting more with both male protagonists than the female protagonist. And although I think Ellen Kushner would be a great addition to the list, I prefer Swordspoint with its male protagonists to The Privilege of the Sword and suspect that a large part of the pleasure in Privilege is catching up on what's happened since Swordspoint.
Although not my favorite Earthsea book, The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. LeGuin has a female protagonist, a coming-of-age theme, and gender roles clearly at the forefront.
Another (fairly short) fantasy with gender roles on its mind is Sword-Dancer by Jennifer Roberson and its sequels. Although the POV character is male, I'd certainly argue that there's a female protagonist here.
Then there's the urban fantasy/paranormal romance side of things, which abounds with female protagonists. I think Sookie Stackhouse (in the books, at least) is a pretty deserving representative of a female protagonist, but I could see a reading of Dead Until Dark leading to lots of meaty discussions about female as well as regional and other stereotypes.
The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon comes to mind. I haven't read it yet, but it's been recommended to me (by men, if that's a consideration).
I consider Hunger Games to be more science fiction than fantasy, which makes me want to open the door to the leading women of sci fi, but I'll hold myself back ...
I would not recommend Sword-Dancer at all. I'm usually oblivious to gender issues in books but this one really hit me. My review with SPOILERS is below.
Shows its age with a lot of stereotypical behavior even though the heroine is supposed to be outside the norm. Too much "from frying pan into the fire" plot devices, not enough characterization. And I found out half way through the book that Del was NOT a nice person. It felt like a betrayal.
>32, I definitely see your point, but for me, although there are certainly stereotypes here (genre as well as gender as well as a hefty dose of what I might call Orientalism in a non-fantasy environment), I still enjoy the books, for entertainment & for having a female character who actually drives some of the action (through acts bad as well as good). I wonder if you read the second book of the series Sword-Singer, which I think further develops Del's character ... although sometimes in ways I found frustrating!
I think Watership Down is important because it illustrates the breadth of the genre. as well as being a damned fine book.
Despite what some people have implied, I wouldn't have have described Watership Down as primarily a children's book; like many such excellent fantasy titles it works for a broad range of readers though I do think its themes and language and resonances are aimed more for an adult audience.
I read this thread a few days ago, and had a couple of ideas (which I've now forgotten, of course), but then I saw someone had recommended The Blue Sword
I would like to second The Blue Sword with enthusiasm, and add the first of the Damar chronicles (may there be many more) The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley.
I'm reading Sheepfarmer's Daughter right now, so I second Morigue's suggestion. Melanie Rawn has some rather strong female characters in her Sunrunner series. This scoots into SF but (a lot of people tend to think of it as Fantasy because of the dragons) Anne McCaffrey's Lessa is a great character too. From Dragonflight? So, I'd say consider that one if you can. :)
Not a suggestion, but perhaps of interest on the topic, I've recently discovered the online archives of the Science Fiction Review and there is a whole issue (from November 1996- almost 16 years ago to the month!) on the teaching of science fiction in academia available in full here.
I found the list of books, authors, and films most widely assigned (here) of particular interest. The top six (two were tied for fifth place) were:
1. Ursula K. Le Guin, Left Hand of Darkness
2. H.G. Wells, The Time Machine
3. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
4. William Gibson, Neuromancer
5. Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz and Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (tie)
I'd be interested to see the rankings of a similar survey of today's academic programs.
For a strong female character in a fantasy world that is very different you might consider Daughter of the Empire by Feist and Wurts. It came out of the riftwar saga, but is definitely a book on its own and is very different from the standard stuff. I will admit that it's not particularly short though.
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