Female-led epic fantasy isn’t very easy to find. So it’s great to see a new box set compilation come out, featuring stories from L.P. Dover, R.K. Ryals and Melissa Wright. And even better than that, it’s for charity!
Only thing is, my first reaction is that I wished they’d named it something else, instead of Skirts and Swords. Skirts and swords don’t go so well together, well, unless there’s lots of leather or metal underneath the skirt :). Though on the female armor bingo scale it’s not so bad a choice – better than the chain-mail bikini. (For even more fun, here is female armor bingo – the rhetoric edition :).)
But this started me thinking: how do you signify that a book is female-led in the title – if you want to? And, actually, it’s not so easy. Without thinking too much about it, I gave one of my book’s a woman’s name in the title (Chloe), and another has the word sister in the title – so several of my books have some indication. But outside that, what do you do?
Sifting through the online book sites, well, there is a variety of ways, for example, ahem, Chicks in Chain Mail, and its sequels Did you Say Chicks? and – who could forget the fabulously titled – Chicks n Chained Mails? But these titles have their tongues firmly in their cheeks (I hope) – and their covers really fail at armor bingo :)
More seriously, there’s a Goodreads list of Strong Female Characters in Epic Fantasy, and, looking down it, the answer to my question is – you don’t indicate it in the title very much. And I think this is a good thing. After all why should we bother, epic fantasy should be just as much female-led as male-led. It’s fantasy after all.
The covers, though, are a different matter. Yes, they feature women, but as for weapons, well there’s daggers, and – if they’re lucky – girl-sized swords, but as for actual armor that would be, er, safe to go out in, forget it. Some lovely dresses though :).
The winner in the not-ending-up-quickly-dead-in-a-fight awards must be Paksenarrion, in the eponymous series by Elizabeth Moon. She’s a woman with enough armor for her opponents not to laugh themselves sick.