Not too long ago some of us Lady Writers were talking on twitter about the Invisible Woman phenomenon—about how women are so often disappeared from the arts, the sciences, and everywhere else. Their inventions are credited to the men who worked with them or who came later. Their contributions to literature are dismissed or elided. They just don’t count.
And of course, since we are Lady Writers, and many of us write fantasy, we all made ritual signs and spat on one of our, ahem, favorites: “Women don’t write epic fantasy. That’s a men’s genre.”
One even talked about being up for a major award with—yes!—an epic fantasy, and being told to her face, at the ceremony, that a male writer’s epic fantasy that had also been nominated for the award was ever so much better than hers. “Oh, but his is original.”
This person hadn’t read her book, of course. Why would he? All he needed to know was that she was female, and therefore…
Then we started bouncing names off each other—well-known or well-regarded women fantasy writers of the Eighties who have since faded or vanished. Some are still writing and publishing, but none has achieved the success of her male peers. Many have simply given up, or else published in such tiny venues that their devoted fans haven’t even known how to find them.
“You know,” one of us said, “nobody seems to have done a reread of a woman epic fantasy writer. The boys have been getting their innings, of course. But here we are again.”
One name that kept coming up was a very big one back in the day. She took a long hiatus because of family issues, and is now back—at Tor, no less (yay!). She was a star then, and a bestseller, and her books were big and bold, with huge casts of characters and complex emotional arcs. She was both a fan favorite and a writer’s writer. She could hit the notes, and she could do it with virtuoso skill.
Backwards. In heels.
We agreed that she would be an excellent candidate for a reread. So I proposed, Tor.com accepted, and here we are.
Welcome to the weekly Wednesday reread of Melanie Rawn and her great, big, beautiful, kickass Dragon Prince trilogy. It begins with Dragon Prince (DAW, 1988) continues with The Star Scroll (1989), and concludes with Sunrunner’s Fire (1990). If you haven’t read it (and why not? Go, dig up the books, read along with me!), be warned: Spoilers Ahead.
If you have read it, sit back, strap in, and get ready for the ride. The first two chapters are extremely meaty and chewy, with a lot of setup, so I’ll be blogging each one individually. After that I’ll do multiples—two or three at a time. I’ll tackle them in pretty much the usual way: summary of what happened, then my take on it.
Eighties Me and 2014 Me will share the commentators’ desk. Every so often, things that were perfectly ordinary or naturally assumed in 1988 will make the person I am in 2014 stop and go, “What?” There have been a whole lot more epic fantasies published since, too, and themes and characters that may seem standard now were new and fresh when these books were written. Eighties Me can get excited over that while 2014 Me yawns and says, “Oh, so been there.”
I’ll talk about all this as it comes to me, and engage with comments, too—so please do read along with me and offer your own take on what we’re reading. Rereads are even more fun when they’re a group activity.
You ready? Set? Then let’s go. Off to the Desert! Dragon-sign ahead!
Judith Tarr’s first epic fantasy novel, The Hall of the Mountain King, appeared in 1986. Her YA time-travel science fiction/fantasy/historical novel, Living in Threes, appeared as an ebook from Book View Café in 2012, and will debut in print this fall. Her new novel, a space opera, will be published by Book View Cafe in 2015. In between, she’s written historicals and historical fantasies and epic fantasies, some of which have been reborn as ebooks from Book View Café. She lives in Arizona with an assortment of cats, two dogs, and a herd of Lipizzan horses.