We’re No Angels: Leading Ladies of Science Fiction and Fantasy at NYCC

Patricia Briggs, author of the popular Mercy Thompson novels, was on-hand at NYCC this year

By Jamila Rowser from Girl Gone Geek

The “We’re No Angels: Leading Ladies of Science Fiction and Fantasy” panel at New York Comic Con was moderated by Colleen Lindsay (Book Country). It featured veteran female writers including Patricia Briggs (Mercy Thompson Series), Alison Goodman (Eon), Kim Harrison (Pale Demon), Jeaniene Frost (Night Huntress), Marjorie M. Liu (Tiger Eye) and newbie’s Sabrina Benulis (Archon) and Kristen Painter (Blood Rights).

The panel was filled with great advice for aspiring sci-fi and fantasy writers, lots of laughs (Kristen Painter is a riot) and tons of love for editors. Colleen Lindsay began by asking the women to dispel a common publishing myth. They disproved everything from not needing an “in” to get published to not all female SF/F writers are as rich as J.K. Rowling.

Jeaniene Frost, Kim Harrison, and Sabrina Benulis at NYCC

These leading ladies of genre literature had inspiring tales of their journey to success. Marjorie Liu, who also wrote comics for Marvel as well, quit her career as an attorney and moved out to a farm to save money so she could write full time. Despite the drastic choice she said it was, “worth devoting myself to words”, and we can see that it paid off. Jeaniene Frost chimed in and told the room, “It’s one thing to have a dream, but it’s another thing to chase it.” Patricia Briggs became so successful it allowed her husband to quit his job. Despite all of these success stories, they kept reiterating that it was a very long journey and without perseverance you won’t last.

It wasn’t a “leading ladies of SF/F” panel for nothing. Several questions and topics brought up revolved around the stigma that genre literature is seen as male dominated. Surprisingly, most of the panel said that they never felt any hesitation to write genre books. Briggs even claimed she thinks it’s harder for men to break into the fantasy genre than women. Most of the stereotypes that females can’t write good genre fiction were at its height a few decades ago; but as time passed and more and more women wrote amazing SF/F, those labels fell by the wayside.

Another gender question was asking if there are any unspoken and spoken conventions that female SF/F writers use that differs from males. Kim Harrison said that, “women writers tend to write female characters that are stronger internally rather than externally” and they focus on relationships and details more than men. Allison Goodman also mentioned that women writers aren’t afraid to have their characters gain strength from people around than, rather than exclusively within themselves.

Marjorie Liu, Jeaniene Frost and Kim Harrison

The Q&A from the audience focused on advice for aspiring writers. The ladies agreed that to write really good books you have to, “Take someone you really like, and destroy them.” The most memorable question came from a man who admitted loud and clear (no microphone necessary) that he reads tons of romance novels and asked if they ever feel the need to write alpha male characters since those seem to be a staple in many romance books. The panelists insisted they don’t; however because they write such strong female characters they need to write men that their protagonists can’t steamroll. Which is why many male characters in genre fiction written by women have larger than average personalities and… attributes.

The panelists didn’t sugar coat their advice or their stories and showed us that in regards to women writing science fiction and fantasy, the glass ceiling has shattered. Times aren’t a-changin, they have changed!

Jamila Rowser writes about her obsessions at Girl Gone Geek Blog. She's dangerously obsessed everything geek such as anime, games, comics, literature, sci-fi and fantasy. Her newest venture is The TV Geeks Podcast where she talks about the questionable amount of genre TV that she watches. She also tweets a lot about Doctor Who @girl_gone_geek. A whole lot.

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