Men Reading Women

With the passing of fantasy author  Ursula K. Le Guin, it seems a good time to reflect on the women authors of my life, especially in science-fiction and fantasy where the percentage has been more skewed.

When I was a young reader, science-fiction got my attention. Imagining other worlds, traveling in space, or dealing with futuristic possibilities was my thing. I started at a young age reading such sci-fi authors as Ben Bova and Robert Silverberg. Also an author named Andre Norton. Mostly these were short stories, often in an anthology edited by Silverberg. One day, though, I was surprised to learn that one of my favorite authors was a woman. I thought Andre was a boy’s name! It made me think.

Boys tend to want to read stories of other boys or men doing things, heroic things. At that age I honestly didn’t care what the girls did in stories. It was just that male authors tended to write about men doing manly things (I’m generalizing, of course), so I had no reason to try female authors. I also did not have much knowledge then of how difficult it was for female authors especially in the genre of science fiction and fantasy; I just wanted a good story. My mother pushed A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle on me, telling me it was a good story, but as a young boy I was not so interested in reading a story about a girl!

Gradually, I grew up. Focusing deliberately on a wider range of fiction, literary and decidedly non-SF works, many of them were written by women. I enjoyed them: I got to experience life as a female character, got to understand the issues they dealt with, and perhaps gained from perspective I did not previously know. It was educational. Whether or not the authors were women still did not matter to me as a reader more than what the story itself was. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s books about Authorian legend interested me, not because of the author but because of the Arthur. Nancy Kress and her sci-fi and books on writing mentored me for a time, as well.

Classic women authors starting with Mary Shelley and continuing through the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen entered my experience in college by making me play along as the man in the pages of their books. I could empathize, to a point, with the women in the novels. That experience helped develop the Romantic qualities which have eventually ruined me. I can’t confidently say, just from reading, that I now “get it” or that I understand all the characters endured and could cheer as they rose up and took whatever position they deemed in the story to be a success. Yet my empathy continued to grow.

In grad school, read Francine Prose and Annie Proulx, partly to see a view of life which I could not see without the lens of a woman author writing about a woman protagonist. A couple years ago I read a teenage romance series by Stephanie Perkins, not for the thrills of young love and relationship conundrums but to understand how a young girl thinks and acts. I used what I learned from those books for my own novel which featured a young girl. More than research, I deliberately tried to learn to see what I could not with my own experiential eyes. And then a film on cable TV one night prompted me to check out Margaret Atwood’s novels, starting with The Handmaid’s Tale. Now, of course, it has returned in a new series.

Having a daughter further instilled in me the urge to seek women authors for her to read. The Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer became a milestone in my daughter’s life. Inspired, she even wrote fan fiction herself. No matter what word or label you may apply to me and my experience with women authors, I want the best for my daughter, and for her to understand other women’s lives and times, struggles and triumphs.

More recently, as I worked on my own epic fantasy involving dragons, I returned to the novels of Anne McCaffrey. While her dragons and their world are remarkably different from the ones I was writing about, I very much appreciated the craft, the imagination, the pure exhilaration of the world she invented in Pern.  Then the sci-fi/dystopian trilogy by Marie Lu caught my attention as something my daughter might like to read…but I read it first. Before reading these authors, Marian Perera, a fellow newbie, came out with Before the Storm, which wonderfully taught me how women think and act in sci-fi romance. It was liberating as I was composing my own sci-fi trilogy.

Now Ursula has passed on, never to write another novel. Yet we remain blessed to always have the products of her mind, the outpouring of words that frame and construct and fulfill our own hopes and aspirations for years past and years to come…for the world of make-believe is our world, today’s world, in disguise.

 

Ten Thousand Lines by Kate Bitters

TEN THOUSAND LINES by Kate Bitters

TTL Cover Front w BorderSet in the harsh backdrop of a dystopian future, an unlikely friendship flowers among the weeds of oppression. Ten Thousand Lines takes place during a time when human beings are sharply divided by class and discontentment brews under the placid surface of the city called Superbia. When a Hive 14 Worker snaps out of his drug-induced haze, the brew becomes a boil and a series of events sets into motion a witch hunt, a forbidden romance, and a revolution. But the Hive 14 Worker doesn’t care about politics and social justice. He only wants to sit quietly and watch the dusty sunset.

Available on Amazon.

The Dream Land 3 – Diaspora

Swartz_TheDreamLand-3-FrontCvr_200dpi_3in The Dream Land 3 – Diaspora

They’ve changed history, but not even an Interdimensional Voyager can stop a comet!

Set-d’Elous (a.k.a. Sebastian Talbot) lies paralyzed, tormented by the evil Empress—his wife. Meanwhile, the other Voyagers were blown far and wide by the terrorists’ bomb. Tammy and Chuck awaken on Earth, unable to explain where they’ve been. Chucker, lost in the jungle, discovers his assassination team shot the wrong man.

Chucker must track down his mentor Set-d’Elous and free him from captivity, then search for his parents. Back on Ghoupallesz, a violent new cult has arisen, warning of destruction, led by the disfigured Michael, former IRS Service Center playboy.

Legend tells of a cleansing comet. Fortunately, Jinetta-d’Elous (a.k.a. Gina Parton, Interdimensional Voyager) comes forward to drive industry ahead from airships to interstellar spacecraft. But will they make it in time? Or will petty differences and ancient grievances get in the way for survival of the few lucky ones?

THE DREAM LAND Trilogy concludes with an epic crash of parallel timelines and a comet that will test even the hardiest of Interdimensional Voyagers!

The Dream Land 2 – Dreams of Futures Past

Swartz_TheDreamLand-2_FrontCvr_200dpi_3inThe Dream Land 2 – Dreams of Futures Past

So you’ve conquered a new world…. Now to change their history!

Sebastian Talbot (a.k.a. Set-d’Elous, legendary warrior) has exiled himself to a desolate island, content to laze away the days writing his memoir. Until the emissary from Queen Tammy arrives with a mission he cannot refuse. Tammy, the IRS clerk he took to Ghoupallesz, wants him to go fetch her son who she left on Earth.

That mission raises questions for Sebastian: If he can go back and forth through these interdimensional doorways and arrive in a different time period, perhaps he can prevent the big war he fought through, the war that destroyed his family as well as millions of others. Then, while on patrol duty in his “next” life, he comes upon a young poetess he knows will become the rebel leader who helps overthrow the monarchy and initiates the wars. What would you do?

THE DREAM LAND Trilogy continues in Book II with parallel timelines, world domination and global destruction, and as always the crazy minutiæ of heroic minds daring to play God without a rule book.

Dark Places | Horror and Darkness

I am Death.  I know who you are…

Dark Places Front Large

There is darkness and madness in each of us. We must do battle with our own demons.
What if those demons opened the door in the back of your mind and stepped out.  What if they became real?  If the night, the shadows, the reflections and Death himself walked among us?  And what if they were watching you?  Waiting?  Thirsting…?But…

Dark Places.  Thirteen stories.  Thirteen poems.

Thirteen doorways.

Praise for Dark Places:

“He paints a surreal picture that sucks you into the terror.”

“Wow.  Brilliantly written!”

Find Dark Places on Amazon, Smashwords and Lulu.

The Dream Land | Love, Strange Worlds, and Time Portals

How far would you go to save the love of your life? Through a portal to another world?

Sebastian, that quiet tax examiner at the corner desk in the IRS service center, carries a dark secret: once upon a time he and his high school sweetheart Gina found a rip in the universe and stepped through it to a strange world of magical beauty.

Far from being a Disney-esque playground, the world of Ghoupallesz bursts with cosmopolitan elegance, alien perversions, and political strife. Gina, the adventurous one, falls in love with the adventurous possibilities. Not Sebastian; always practical, he insists they return to Earth. Gina refuses so he goes back alone, vowing never to return. Yet he finds himself drawn back repeatedly–he calls it “research”–and often crosses paths with Gina. Sometimes he saves her, sometimes she saves him, forever soul mates.

Now years later, life on Earth hasn’t gone well for Sebastian. Then the headaches revisit him, with flashes of memories from Ghoupallesz. Gina is in trouble again, he senses, and he must, as always, save her. Meanwhile, a pair of too-curious IRS co-workers have accidently overdosed on the Elixir of Love he brought back on his last trip and the antidote exists only on Ghoupallesz. With these co-workers in tow, Sebastian returns through the interdimensional portal, fearing it may be his final adventure. He must gather his old comrades from the war, cross the towering Zet mountains, and free Gina from the Zetin warlord’s castle before her execution. Perhaps then she will stay with him.

But are his adventures to the other side real? Or are they just the dreams of a psychotic killer? That’s what the police want to know when Sebastian returns without his co-workers.

THE DREAM LAND is a genre-mashing epic of interdimensional intrigue and police procedural, a psychological thriller marbled with twisted humor, steampunk pathos, and time/space conundrums.

Find the trilogy on Amazon.

Land of Nod, The Prophet (Land of Nod Trilogy) | Still searching for the Prophet, Jeff faces new dangers…

In this second book of the popular Land of Nod Trilogy, Jeff Browning continues his quest to find his father in the strange new world he has discovered. His journey takes him across a savage wilderness in which danger is inescapable.

While Jeff searches for The Prophet, his friend, Artimus, faces a less obvious but just as deadly maze of political conspiracies as he tries to convince a reluctant public that the invasion he helped thwart was only the beginning of a much more serious threat.

An epic science fiction, fantasy adventure with action and intrigue on every page.

War is coming.

Land of Nod, The Artifact | Trapped on an alien world…

Jeff Browning has been haunted by terrifying dreams since the mysterious disappearance of his father (a renowned physicist). But when he finds a portal in his father’s office, he must overcome his fears in an attempt to find him.

The portal takes him to another dimension – one populated by fantastic and dangerous creatures and also an advanced society of humans.

As Jeff looks for clues regarding what may have happened to his father, he is accused by some of being a spy while thought by others to be a prophesized figure . . . who may be the key to victory in a developing war.

 

Buy it from Amazon here