Marie Brennan and Mary Robinette Kowal talk fantastic women throughout history

Marie BrennanHistorical fantasy authors Marie Brennan and Mary Robinette Kowal are currently touring the country in support of their latest novels, Voyage of the Basilisk and Of Noble Family respectively. They will be visiting the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale next Saturday, May 16.

voyage of the basiliskIf you have the opportunity to see these wonderful authors, go for it. Here’s a taste of what you’re in for, from their tour last year.

of noble familyI recently interviewed the pair about their novels, what attracted them to the 19th Century time period and how women are portrayed in sci-fi and fantasy. You can read the interview at

They also celebrated some women who have been overlooked by history:

Kowal: A real world example of erasure that relates to Marie’s books have you ever heard of Mary Anning? She found the first associated skeleton of an ichthyosaur when she was twelve and went on to become the first professional fossilist. She was highly regarded, and all of the natural scientists thought she was THE go-to person for fossils. But when those fossils went into museums, the name of the discoverer was listed as the man who donated them. Later, when she passed away, she was the only non-member — to this day — that the Royal Geologic Society eulogized. Her sister donated her papers to the Natural History Museum. The director then would give them to visitors as “curiosities” because a woman couldn’t have made a significant contribution to science.

Brennan: I could list so many more, too. Emmy Noether was a mathematician who impressed Albert Einstein — just stop and let that sink in for a moment —and yet I’d never heard of  her until a couple of years ago. “Bluestocking” wasn’t always an insult; if you go back to the eighteenth century, you find this entire community of  intellectual women in England, working in a number of different fields.

Kowal1 - Rod SearceyWe also touched briefly on the Hugo controversy, with both authors weighing in, although Mary understandably was reticent to discuss Puppygate. Here are some excerpts from the interview.

Brennan: I sincerely hope that slates will not become the wave of the future, because I find them utterly antithetical to the entire spirit of the Hugos. It is one thing to say “here’s what I published last year” (I’m grateful for that one, honestly, because it reminds me of when things came out, and which categories they fit into, and oh hey I meant to read that story); that doesn’t bother me. Neither does people posting to say “here’s stuff I think is Hugo-worthy” — that’s just fannishness at work. But a named campaign, stretching across multiple years, whose public rhetoric focuses less on the awesomeness of the stories and more on the political message they will send to the “other side”? I’m not in favor. And that would be true even if the slate in question were filled with stories I had already enjoyed.

​​Kowal​: I can’t actually comment on this much, because I decided to try to do something to bridge the gap between the multiple groups of fans and am crowdsourcing a set of supporting memberships for WorldCon. So I’m trying to stay neutral to avoid swaying votes. Which means that I’m declining any Hugo nominations next year (since a supporting membership this year means you can vote next year) and attempting to not express opinions about any of the nominees.

I will say that I’m seeing a lot of people, all around, who are feeling alienated. I think everyone needs to do a better job of listening.

Brennan: I think your sponsorships are a great response. I also wound up starting the #AppreciateAnAuthor hashtag on Twitter, because I felt like we could use a dose of sheer, unadulterated love for stories and the people who write them.

Love of stories and the people who write them… That’s why I’m here, and that’s why I signed up to vote in the Hugos.

About Michael Senft

I am a freelance writer and critic from Phoenix Arizona. I spent 10 years covering music, the arts and pop culture for the “Arizona Republic” before life circumstances took me away from newspaper. But I never lost my joy at writing. Or reading.
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3 Responses to Marie Brennan and Mary Robinette Kowal talk fantastic women throughout history

  1. They sound like they’d both be great authors to go listen too. I’ll have to keep a look out for them locally.

    Thanks for the interview! Mary Anning sounds fascinating.


  2. Pingback: The Ballad of Lost C’Nine 5/13 | File 770

  3. Pingback: I’m Back! (I hope) | Relentless Reading

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