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Our Favorite Female Captains in Sci-fi and Fantasy

Being the boss of a ship, whether on the high seas or in space, is a challenging job. You have to balance the personalities of your crew, your goals (be they military, trade, etc.), and the inherent dangers of the environment. Oftentimes, being a woman and the one in charge can add yet another difficulty to the job. But the #FearlessWomen in these books can handle it, because they’re serious badasses. Here are some of our favorite female captains in science fiction and fantasy. Who’s on your list?

Captain Josette Dupre from By Fire Above by Robyn Bennis

Image Placeholder of - 66 When you’re an airship captain, you can’t be afraid of heights. Captain Josette Dupre, the first female airship captain in the Corps, isn’t worried about falling. She’s more worried about a bullet in the back. And while she proved herself to the world in Robyn Bennis’s debut The Guns Above, that doesn’t mean the prejudice against her is going to instantly disappear. To constantly combat it, Captain Dupre must always be the best of the best. But when her hometown of Durum is occupied by the enemy, and her mother taken as a prisoner of war, all bets are off.

Captain Leela from The Ballad of Beta-2 by Samuel R. Delaney

Image Place holder  of - 69 First published in 1965, Delaney’s short novel is framed by a graduate student’s search for the anthropological and historical meaning behind a short poem left by the Star Folk, who had left Earth in generation ships to colonize the stars. But it’s the story in between the frame that really caught our imagination–the story of Captain Leela, the alien she meets in deep space who gets her pregnant, and the Judges who declared her a “Misfit” and condemned her to death. And, of course, the Wonder Child that resulted from Leela’s pregnancy. We can only go along for the ride with Joneny, the student, as he discovers a story packed with wonder and horror.

Anne Bonney from The Queen of Swords by R. S. Belcher

Placeholder of  -71 The third book in Belcher’s Golgotha series, The Queen of Swords is the first to take place in the wider world, rather than in the confines of the small mining town Golgotha. In it, we follow the twinned narratives of the world class assassin Maude Stapleton and her several times great grandmother, the pirate queen Anne Bonney. Bonney’s journey serves as a guide for her descendant, but more importantly for readers, she’s a badass pirate queen who breaks out of prison and treks across Africa in search of treasure. Anne Bonney is the pirate and adventurer we wish we could be some day.

Captain General Zezili Hasario from The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

Poster Placeholder of - 44 If you love grimdark fantasy, but hate that it’s so often dominated by male characters, then Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire is for you. The women in Hurley’s world are the soldiers and rulers, taking charge even as they work to slaughter each other. One of our favorite characters is Zezili Hasario, the Captain General of the Empress of Dorinah. Zezili is definitely a complex woman: she’s abusive to her husband (as is the custom for many Dorinah), and often uses her mixed heritage to unnerve others. Her world, already complicated, becomes even more so when she must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Honor Harrington from On Basilisk Station by David Weber

Place holder  of - 38 When one thinks of female captains in science fiction, Honor Harrington is often the first name on the list. Debuting in David Weber’s 1993 novel On Basilisk Station, the newly graduated Honor takes command of her first ship, only to fail in her first outing. That failure leads to punishment duty: picket duty at the remote Basilisk Station. There, with hard work and a clever use of resources, Honor and her crew not only succeed in defending the station, but uncover and defuse a massive plot to invade the Star Kingdom of Manticore. From her very first posting and through the subsequent 13 novels (with a 14th coming this year), Honor Harrington embodies everything we want in our female captains: she’s resourceful, resilient, intelligent, and overall, a badass.

Zamira Drakasha from Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

While the focus of the second book in Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series is, of course, on our heroes Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen, our favorite character was without a doubt Zamira Drakasha, the middle-aged, black mother of two who ran her murderous pirate crew with an iron fist. She could leap between ships, wield her sabers with deadly accuracy, and cuddle her kids at the end of a hard day of looting. We would absolutely join the scrub watch and do whatever labor was demanded of us if only we got to join the crew of the Poison Orchid!

Lila Bard from the Shades of Magic Series by V. E. Schwab

Lila Bard was born to be a pirate. She knows it, deep down in her bones. Even after she starts going on magical adventures with Kell, she never sets aside this dream. Her first thought after meeting privateer Alucard Emery is, naturally, to steal his ship. Instead, she chooses to join his crew by becoming their thief—after killing the original crew thief, of course—and Alucard teaches her about the world of Red London. No matter how difficult the path, or how many obstacles kept getting in her way, Lila Bard knew she was meant to be a pirate. And she won’t let anything stand in the way of fulfilling her dreams.

Bonus Novella:

Captain Ann-Marie from The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark

This one’s a bonus title because it doesn’t come out until August, but we think you’ll love it. In an alternate America caught up in a Civil War that ended with a divided country, an independent New Orleans sits uneasily between North and South. Haitian airship Captain Ann-Marie and orphaned street urchin Creeper must work together to save the world from a mysterious weapon called The Black God’s Drums. Between sky pirates, powerful and cagey African Gods, and a pair of very interesting nuns, Clark’s debut novella will draw you in, and you won’t want to come back to the real world.


Feature image © Greg Manchess

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Brian Lumley eBook Sale: Necroscope and The Burrowers Beneath

For decades, Brian Lumley has been a defining voice in new Lovecraftian horror. The ebook editions of the first books in two of his major series are now on sale for only $2.99, perfect for some chilling Halloween reading!

Necroscope by Brian Lumley

Image Place holder  of - 71 Harry Keogh is the man who can talk to the dead, the man for whom every grave willingly gives up its secrets, the one man who knows how to travel effortlessly through time and space to destroy the vampires that threaten all humanity.

In Necroscope, Harry is startled to discover that he is not the only person with unusual mental powers–Britain and the Soviet Union both maintain super-secret, psychically-powered espionage organizations. But Harry is the only person who knows about Thibor Ferenczy, a vampire long buried in the mountains of Romania–still horribly alive, in undeath–and Thibor’s insane “offspring,” Boris Dragosani, who rips information from the souls of the dead in a terrible, ever-lasting form of torture.

Somehow, Harry must convince Britain’s E-Branch that only by working together can they locate and destroy Dragosani and his army of demonic warriors–before the half-vampire succeeds in taking over the world!

Order Your Copy of Necroscope:

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The Burrowers Beneath by Brian Lumley

Image Placeholder of - 89The Titus Crow novels are adventure horror, full of acts of nobility and heroism, featuring travel to exotic locations and alternate planes of existence as Titus Crow and his faithful companion and record-keeper fight the gathering forces of darkness wherever they arise. The menaces are the infamous and deadly Elder Gods of the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Chthulu and his dark minions are bent on ruling the earth–or destroying it. A few puny humans cannot possibly stand against these otherworldly evil gods, yet time after time, Titus Crow defeats the monsters and drives them back into the dark from whence they came. The Burrowers Beneath is the first novel in the series.

Order Your Copy of The Burrowers Beneath:

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*This offer ends November 3rd.

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Hugo Finalists eBook Sale

The Hugo Awards are coming up, and here’s your chance to read some of the nominees before the winners are announced! Ebook editions of Tor Books finalists are temporarily on sale for $2.99 each.* The Hugo Awards, presented annually since 1955, are science fiction’s most prestigious award. The 2017 Hugo Awards will be announced at WorldCon on August 11th.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Best Novel) 

Poster Placeholder of - 89An ancient society of witches and a hipster technological startup go to war in order to prevent the world from tearing itself apart. To further complicate things, each of the groups’ most promising followers (Patricia, a brilliant witch and Laurence, an engineering “wunderkind”) may just be in love with each other.

As the battle between magic and science wages in San Francisco against the backdrop of international chaos, Laurence and Patricia are forced to choose sides. But their choices will determine the fate of the planet and all mankind.

Buy All the Birds in the Sky: B&N Nook | eBooks.com | Google Play | iBooks | Kindle | Kobo

Death’s End by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Best Novel)

Image Place holder  of - 87 With The Three-Body Problem, English-speaking readers got their first chance to read China’s most beloved science fiction author, Cixin Liu. Now this epic trilogy concludes with Death’s End. Half a century after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. With human science advancing daily and the Trisolarans adopting Earth culture, it seems that the two civilizations will soon be able to co-exist peacefully as equals without the terrible threat of mutually assured annihilation. But the peace has also made humanity complacent.

Cheng Xin, an aerospace engineer from the early twenty-first century, awakens from hibernation in this new age. She brings with her knowledge of a long-forgotten program dating from the beginning of the Trisolar Crisis, and her very presence may upset the delicate balance between two worlds. Will humanity reach for the stars or die in its cradle?

Buy Death’s End: B&N NookeBooks.com | Google Play | iBooks | Kindle | Kobo

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (Best Novel)

Place holder  of - 93 Mycroft Canner is a convict. For his crimes he is required, as is the custom of the 25th century, to wander the world being as useful as he can to all he meets. Carlyle Foster is a sensayer–a spiritual counselor in a world that has outlawed the public practice of religion, but which also knows that the inner lives of humans cannot be wished away.

The world into which Mycroft and Carlyle have been born is as strange to our 21st-century eyes as ours would be to a native of the 1500s. It is a hard-won utopia built on technologically-generated abundance, and also on complex and mandatory systems of labelling all public writing and speech. What seem to us normal gender distinctions are now distinctly taboo in most social situations. And most of the world’s population is affiliated with globe-girdling clans of the like-minded, whose endless economic and cultural competion is carefully managed by central planners of inestimable subtlety. To us it seems like a mad combination of heaven and hell. To them, it seems like normal life.

And in this world, Mycroft and Carlyle have stumbled on the wild card that may destablize the system: the boy Bridger, who can effortlessly make his wishes come true. Who can, it would seem, bring inanimate objects to life…

Buy Too Like the Lightning: B&N NookeBooks.com | Google Play | iBooks | Kindle | Kobo

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley (Best Related Work)

Placeholder of  -63 The Geek Feminist Revolution is a collection of essays by double Hugo Award-winning essayist and fantasy novelist Kameron Hurley.

The book collects dozens of Hurley’s essays on feminism, geek culture, and her experiences and insights as a genre writer, including “We Have Always Fought,” which won the 2013 Hugo for Best Related Work. The Geek Feminist Revolution will also feature several entirely new essays written specifically for this volume.

Unapologetically outspoken, Hurley has contributed essays to The Atlantic, Locus, Tor.com, and others on the rise of women in genre, her passion for SF/F, and the diversification of publishing.

Buy The Geek Feminist Revolution: B&N NookeBooks.com | Google Play | iBooks | Kindle | Kobo

This offer ends August 4th.

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What Are You Fighting For?

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The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron HurleyWritten by Kameron Hurley

When I die, I want to leave behind an exceptional body of narrative. To do that requires a dedication to creating novels and essays and stories at a clipped pace. I get asked a lot about how I find the time to write, which is a little like asking someone how they have the time to raise children. If it matters, you find the time. Sometimes you aren’t great at it, though, just as sometimes the best you can say is that you’re the world’s OK-est parent. But there are days when you’re the best, too, when you feel like you’re the most accomplished person in the world, and no one has parented quite like you have. And then there are the days your kids drive you nuts, and you feel so overwhelmed that you lock yourself in the bathroom and sob.

Yes, writing is a lot like that.

We’re all fighting some kind of battle. Life itself is a game that none of us are going to win. It’s just not set up that way. We have to decide what to do with the time we’re given.

I’ve chosen to write.

Charles Bukowski once wrote, “Find what you love and let it kill you,” and this is something I think about when I’m not writing. I think about it when I see my reflection in the Netflix loading screen. I think of it when I’m playing video games, tapping some keys to kill hordes of fake digital objects in exchange for fake digital goods. I think of it while scrolling through the reams of outrageous things people say on Twitter. My day job is in marketing and advertising, and so I’m keenly aware that we have built a society that would prefer that we consume content instead of create it. Consumption has always been easier than creation. But I want to leave more behind me than a series of unfulfilling temp jobs and a top score on Angry Birds.

We are each awarded a finite amount of time. For me, it will be shorter than most. I have a chronic illness, which is mostly invisible, but I know it will get me eventually. It inspires me to type a little faster. Probably too fast. But when I consider what else I’d rather be doing with the time given, I can’t come up with any alternatives.

It is this type of work, this work that you must carve out time for, work that is worth giving up so much for, that should be the work that kills you. It should be the work you are engaged in with your last breath. None of us will wish on our deathbed that we had spent more time answering work email. But it requires fighting. Not just against a society that would rather we consume, but against our own negative self-talk, our own internalized negging.

But our life’s work is worth fighting for.

So what will you fight for? What do you want to die doing?

Go and do that, because life is shorter than your Netflix queue.

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Follow Kameron Hurley on Twitter, on Facebook, and on her website.

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New Releases: 5/31/16

Here’s what went on sale today!

Dancer’s Lament by Ian C. Esslemont

Dancer’s Lament by Ian C. EsslemontEsslemont’s all-new prequel trilogy takes readers deeper into the politics and intrigue of the New York Times bestselling Malazan Empire. Dancer’s Lamentfocuses on the genesis of the empire, and features Dancer, the skilled assassin, who, alongside the mage Kellanved, would found the Malazan empire.

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

The Geek Feminist Revolution is a collection of essays by double Hugo Award-winning essayist and fantasy novelist Kameron Hurley.

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron HurleyThe book collects dozens of Hurley’s essays on feminism, geek culture, and her experiences and insights as a genre writer, including “We Have Always Fought,” which won the 2013 Hugo for Best Related Work. The Geek Feminist Revolution will also feature several entirely new essays written specifically for this volume.

Unapologetically outspoken, Hurley has contributed essays to The Atlantic, Locus, Tor.com, and others on the rise of women in genre, her passion for SF/F, and the diversification of publishing.

Trail of Echoes by Rachel Howzell Hall

Trail of Echoes by Rachel Howzell HallOn a rainy spring day in Los Angeles, homicide detective Elouise “Lou” Norton is called away from a rare lunch date to Bonner Park, where the body of thirteen-year-old Chanita Lords has been discovered. When Lou and her partner, Colin Taggert, take on the sad task of informing Chanita’s mother, Lou is surprised to find herself in the apartment building she grew up in.

Chanita was interested in photography and, much like Lou, a girl destined to leave the housing projects behind. Her death fits a chilling pattern of exceptional girls–dancers, artists, honors scholars-gone recently missing in the same school district, the one Lou attended not so long ago.

NOW IN PAPERBACK:

The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán

The End of All Things by John Scalzi

The Long High Noon and The Adventures of Johnny Vermillion by Loren D. Estleman

Margaret Truman’s Internship in Murder by Margaret Truman and Donald Bain

The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man by W. Bruce Cameron

NEW IN MANGA:

A Certain Scientific Accelerator Vol. 3 Story by Kazuma Kamachi; Art by Yamaji Arata

Non Non Biyori Vol.4 by Atto

See upcoming releases.

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Sneak Peek: The Geek Feminist Revolution

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley The Geek Feminist Revolution is a collection of essays on on feminism, geek culture, and more by double Hugo Award-winning essayist and fantasy novelist Kameron Hurley.

Unapologetically outspoken, Hurley has contributed essays to The Atlantic, Locus, Tor.com, and others on the rise of women in genre, her passion for SF/F, and the diversification of publishing.

What’s So Scary about Strong Female Protagonists, Anyway?

There’s a woman in the alley you should be afraid of, but you aren’t, and you aren’t sure why. You know her: She is the woman on the cover of those urban fantasy novels.

She’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s the woman on that show—you know, every show—who wears the tight leather pants and the bright lipstick and maybe she carries a gun or knows how to throw a punch.

But if you ran into her in an alley instead of a police station, you would most likely mistake her for a lost partygoer or perhaps a sex worker, and therein lies the real source of the trope she is meant to evoke to an assumed young male audience.

She is not meant to be scary, though she carries a gun and wears more leather than a man in a biker gang. She has tattoos, but not too many. She wears makeup, but not too much. She is neither too masculine nor too feminine. The coveted audience for much of our television programming remains the young (generally white) male, ages eighteen to thirty- four. It’s why so many shows on the Syfy channel seem to want to find ways to disrobe their heroines for no good reason. And it’s why the woman in the alley, the woman with the leather and tattoos (but not too much) is not actually scary. She is not meant to be any more dangerous than a carnival fun ride. She’s meant to be a catalyst for an adventure, for a young man’s sexual awakening—available, but not clingy. She is the woman you fuck, not the woman you marry.

It was not until I realized this that I understood why so many of the “strong female protagonists” I saw trotted out in many films and televisions shows and even a lot of fiction weren’t the sort of strong female heroines I wanted to watch. These women were not created for me.

Worse, by parading this specific type of “strong woman” around as being the only type of “strong woman” there is, we’re telling a generation of women that the only way to be taken seriously is to pick up a gun and get a tattoo. Guns and tattoos are fi ne things, but they are less a path to power than a head for mathematics and political reform. Our society may respect the fist, but it is the one who controls the person with the stick, not the person with the stick, who has the most power in our culture.

Yet there continues to be a proliferation of these women in much of the science fiction landscape—from books to film to television. The “post Buffy” urban fantasy heroine has become a bit of a cliché, in no small part because the covers that portray her have all started to look alike. Hot pants, tattoos, over-the-shoulder glances; these are largely faceless heroines, women whose skin the assumed female reader can neatly slip into. They are witty and know how to use a weapon, but their “scariness” ends there. If the leather pants weren’t a clue, the sexy poses should have tipped you off. These women are not meant to actually be threatening. Even if you’re a vampire and she kills vampires, there’s just as good a chance she’ll sleep with you as shoot you. That’s the conflict, after all. But it’s a conflict that isn’t all that scary. It’s just sexual tension wrapped up in another form. It’s tough women as fetish, not as real people. The first time somebody wrote a Buffy rip- off was about as good as the first time somebody wrote a Tolkien rip-off, and then everything started to fall apart from there. It’s not that there aren’t plenty of good knock- offs, but at the end of the day, there are far more knock- offs than there are reimaginings. Or evolutions.

Unfortunately, once a marketing movement gets going, it becomes very difficult to kick your book out of it. I know one author who only tangentially included a fiery woman with a sword in their book, but lo, right there on the cover was a woman with a sword in skintight clothes with over-the-shoulder pose.

I don’t begrudge urban fantasy as a genre. It can certainly be a lot of fun for folks, though it’s not generally my cup of tea. What bothers me about it is that it seems to reaffirm something I’ve suspected for a long time:

Women aren’t allowed to be scary. Not really scary. Not in a nonsexualized, nonfetishized way.

Why is it all hot pants and back tattoos? Why the symbols of toughness instead of actual dark alley terror? Why do we celebrate “girl power” but sneer at “ women power”?

I’d argue this is because women can be and are incredibly scary, and even if that’s something powerful that we’d like to read about, we have to dress it up as something else. Something more relatable. Safer. Something that doesn’t offend our loved ones and ensures that we are still loved and respected and not beaten up or harassed or made fun of for appreciating stories about women who can scare the crap out of the guy in the alley.

Urban fantasy is a great avenue for exploring women’s real-world negotiations with power, but its heroines struggle with the same syrupy- sticky half- power that their real world counter parts angst over. I want to be tough but lovable. I want to be cool but acceptable. I want power but not all the stigma that comes with power. I want to be special, but not so special that nobody loves me. I am equal, right, so why do I still feel like I have to be married or partnered or buried in children in order to be a real person? And if I’m so equal and so good at killing demons, why am I still making less money than guys? And if I’m so equal why do I still get terrified by every guy I see in a dark alley?

These are all great questions, and fun to explore, but they’re not questions I’m interested in. I’m interested in what happens when women are no longer afraid of the guy in the alley. I’m interested in what happens if it’s the woman in the alley who incites terror. Could that world exist? What would it look like? I want to unpack and reimagine what a truly free, powerful female heroine would look like. I want a Conan for women, who can chop up monsters and fearlessly bed whom she wishes without fear of repercussions or dirty conscience. Who is she? What world does she live in?

And, most important of all . . . why don’t we see more of her?

Are we just as afraid to write about her as we are to imagine her in that dark alley waiting, gun drawn, without pity or sympathy for man or beast or vampire or child, to blow off our head and hit the bar on the way home before slipping into blissful, dreamless sleep—the sleep of the unfettered, the conscienceless, the powerful? Her power, the real power, threatens our established social order. Women with real power can use it against men. Women with real power are not there to be looked at. They are there to act.

She is not the Strong Female Protagonist. She is the Scary Female Protagonist, and we don’t see enough of her.

Copyright © 2016 by Kameron Hurley

Pre-order The Geek Feminist Revolution today: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iBooks | Indiebound | Powell’s

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