From the Archives: Unexpected Dangers

Dangerous Women edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Written by Brandon Sanderson

What makes a woman dangerous? Well, what makes a person dangerous?

To me, the best kind of danger—which is, in a way, also the worst kind—is unexpected. It’s that twisted kind of dangerous that takes something familiar and safe and reveals it as something deadly. Wolves are frightening. To me, a loyal pet going mad and killing a child is ten times more terrifying.

For the Dangerous Women anthology, I wanted to find a way to express this unexpected sort of danger. I didn’t want a lean, professional assassin or a warrior in her prime, dangerous though those characters might be. I wanted something closer to home, a blend of the expected and unexpected. That is where I found Silence Montane.

The first name is one I ran across while reading puritan names. It was the second piece of the puzzle, as it raised questions. Who names their daughter Silence, and what does it imply? What is it like to grow up with this name? The answers built into the concept of a stout pioneer woman who ran an inn on the frontier, drawing the seediest criminals the land had to offer. She’d then track them after they left her inn and murder them for their bounties.

Familiar, yet unexpected. Kindly, yet deadly. The story turned out better than I could have hoped, and I’m thrilled to have had the chance—and the prompting—to write it.

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7 thoughts on “From the Archives: Unexpected Dangers

  1. I asked for Dangerous Women for Christmas last year. I was REALLY looking forward to it. Except for Jim Butcher’s story and Sanderson’s, I was sorely disappointed. I expected to find women who did things. Women who were the centerpiece of their stories. Women who were smart and powerful in their own way. Instead, I got a boy’s coming of age story where the female character made a two paragraph appearance. Great. Thanks. Sure can’t find any stories like THAT anywhere! (<– sarcasm) Another one I remember was the "inept-character-maneuvered-into-a-corner-kills-to-get-away". There's a big surprise.

    I was just really unimpressed. I kept wondering when we'd get the dangerous women. Then I didn't care and didn't finish. GRRM needs to stop messing about with this sort of project if he's not going to do it well, and go back to finished the Song of Ice and Fire series. I see there's a new one called Rogues out now. That will definitely be a library book first to see if it is as poorly named as this one was. Sorry Brandon. Yours was one of the really good ones, but not everyone made the effort you did.

    1. Leigh,

      For a fun read, have you tried any of the fantasy anthologies edited by Esther M. Friesner?

      – Chicks in Chainmail (1995)
      – Did You Say Chicks?! (1998)
      – Chicks ‘n Chained Males (1999)
      – The Chick is in the Mail (2000)
      – Turn the Other Chick (2004)

      -Jeff

  2. I was lucky enough to hear Brandon read an early draft of this when he visited the UK the time-before-last (this year I was in Spain. Dammit!). It was a super-intriguing idea, so I’ll be picking it up, especially having so enjoyed the Writing Excuses anthology “Shadows Beneath” last month. I don’t expect I’ll like all the stories, but anthologies tend to be a bit like that. I also know that in the fullness of time Brandon will share author’s notes and early drafts on his site. I’m no aspiring author, but I love looking under the hood and Sanderson is both particularly awesome and generous in this regard.

  3. Obviously the comments made by Leigh gave me the impression she really didn’t read all the stories. Okay some of them needed a reread to appreciate but I enjoyed all the stories by all the authors. It gave me a nice introduction to some whom I have not considered reading and now will read a full novel. As for the title, a woman doesn’t have to be physical to be dangerous. I would give this a thumbs up .

    1. To be fair she’s only criticizing two of the stories [Sanderson, Butcher]. Presumably the rest of them were not suffering from that sort of unbalanced writing which Leigh is criticizing.

      1. She was criticizing all the stories except those two, and also admitted that she gave up and didn’t finish reading all of them. It’s hardly fair to claim that only those two stories were worthwhile without reading the entire anthology.

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