In this foray into the past, I cover women fantasy and science fiction authors who debuted between 1970 and 1979. In stark contrast to the previous instalment, this essay covers a sparsely populated range of the alphabet. Accordingly, it will include authors whose surnames begin with N, those whose surname begins with O, and those who begin with P. Even so, it’s not as long as the M entry.
Previous instalments in this series cover women writers with last names beginning with A through F, those beginning with G, those beginning with H, those beginning with I & J, those beginning with K, those beginning with L, and those beginning with M.
Mary C. Pangborn
Mary C. Pangborn’s published works were all short pieces published in respected venues like Terry Carr’s Universe anthologies, Silverberg and Randall’s New Dimensions series, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Lamentably, her body of work was both small and is very much out of print (and too recent for Project Gutenberg to be of any help.). My tendency is to recommend an author’s novel(s) if possible, but the sole Mary C. Pangborn novel of which I am aware, Friar Bacon’s Head, has never been published. Pangborn died in 2003; one hopes that despite recent distractions executor Peter Beagle finds time to see her novel through to publication.
Anne Spencer Parry
Australian author Anne Spencer Parry died in her mid-fifties some thirty-three years ago, which no doubt contributes to her comparative obscurity. She wrote juvenile fiction, of which perhaps the best example is 1975’s The Land Behind the World, in which an idealistic young girl finds a world she can truly belong to on the far side of a magical portal. Unlike a lot of the books mentioned in passing in this series, The Land Behind the World is back in print.
Katherine Paterson’s list of awards includes the Newbery, the National Book Award, the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, among others. Her well-known novel Bridge to Terabithia, which helped inspire the Death by Newbery trope, is if not genre, then at least genre-adjacent. Bridge is strongly recommended to parents of children unduly burdened with excessive levels of joie de vivre.
Barbara Paul is a prolific mystery author, but before she wrote mysteries, she wrote science fiction (a common pattern; authors who notice how much larger the mystery genre/market is when compared to SF often migrate over.).
One of the great pleasures of doing this series is rediscovering someone I read almost half a century only a short time ago and somehow inexplicably forgot. As soon as I saw the covers of Pillars of Salt, An Exercise for Madmen, and Under the Canopy, I had the most delicious memory of having read them. Alas, not to the point that I remember what any of them were about, aside from the anthropologically-focused Under the Canopy. Well, print runs were huge back then—I bet I can find and review at least one of her SF novels.
Ian Sales is more diligent than I. His review of Paul’s interstellar diplomacy adventure Bibblings can be found here.
Susan C. Petrey
Susan C. Petrey might have been one of science fiction’s grand old figures if only she had not died at age 35 back in 1980. Her focus on short fiction, in particular a series of stories featuring the somewhat vampire protagonist Spareen, means there are no novels I can recommend. Happily, there is a collection, 1990’s Gifts of Blood. Less happily, it appears to have been out of print since Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister.
Rachel Pollack is both prolific and justifiably well regarded: she has won the Clarke and the World Fantasy Award, and has been nominated for the Tiptree, the Lambda, and the Nebula. Often one is at a loss to recommend authors in this series because their body of work is so small. Pollack presents exactly the opposite problem. Does one focus on her comics work, like her run of Doom Patrol and the Brother Power the Geek one-shot (which, unlike the two-issue Joe Simon original, is actually readable)? Perhaps the best place to start is her Clarke-winning novel Unquenchable Fire, set in a world transformed by a global spiritual revolution, whose reluctant protagonist is drafted to play a role in which she has very little interest.
Susan Price is also prolific, with works in genres as diverse as historicals to science fiction, from fantasy to alternate history. Genre fans may find her 1987 The Ghost Drum of particular interest. Drawing on Russian sources, it tells the tale of a brave young witch determined to use her mastery of magic to rescue a young prince from the tower in which he has been imprisoned by his father, the Czar.
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The upside of having such a short list of authors is that my List of Shame, those authors of whom I know little, is proportionately short. Still, if any of you have read and can recommend books by the following authors, please do:
- Winona Morris Nation
- Pamela Oldfield
- It is not that I have not heard of prolific author Francine Pascal but having not read her books, I don’t know which are of genre interest.
- Diana L. Paxson is another prolific fantasy author, but I leave it to others to decide which, if any, of her books to recommend.
- Daniela Piegai
In the words of Wikipedia editor TexasAndroid, prolific book reviewer and perennial Darwin Award nominee James Davis Nicoll is of “questionable notability.” His work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times as well as on his own websites, James Nicoll Reviewsand Young People Read Old SFF (where he is assisted by editor Karen Lofstrom and web person Adrienne L. Travis). He is surprisingly flammable.