♦ Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by thatartsyreadergirl! ♦
I missed last week’s T10T, and unfortunately, it was due to the death of my grandma, my mother’s mother who us grandkids called Nanny. She lived for 90 years, and I count myself as lucky to have shared 26 of those years with her. She had been in ill health for a long time and told us she was “ready to go,” but saying goodbye was still hard. The funeral service, while beautiful, was emotionally and mentally exhausting. I’ve tried to keep blogging, reading, and reviewing somewhat normally, but I also felt that it was best for me to take what small breaks I could so that I could reserve mental space for myself to remember her and be there for my family.
Okay, that was heavy. How about I talk about some stuff that brings me joy? The week’s post is about some authors I’d love to meet and why. Some of them I would never be able to meet in real life, as they’ve already passed away. This list is much more of a “Top Ten Authors I’d Wish to Meet in A Cozy Cafe Contained In a Strange Rift Within the Space-Time Continuum” than a realistic list of authors I would physically go to a meet and greet for (though plenty of them are alive in meatspace and do author events). Let’s get to listing!
#1 – Ursula K. Le Guin
This author’s work has had an indelible effect on me as a reader, despite me only beginning to read her works in the past five years or so. Her passing in January of this year deeply affected me, and I am still frustrated with myself for not reading more of the novels in her Hainish cycle series. As it is, the Earthsea books and many of her short stories (along with her more recent and obscure MG/YA series, Annals of the Western Shore) loom large in my imagination. Her nonfiction writing – about politics (especially anti-capitalism and anarchy), about fantasy, even about the process of writing itself – and the powerfully-conveyed philosophical ideas conveyed through her work are things that I think about often.
I hope that as people remember her legacy, they don’t defang her and erase the brilliant, simmering anger she portrayed toward societal injustices. Famously, at the National Book Awards, while receiving an award honoring her contributions to literature, she said the following:
Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.
So, yeah. Given one wish for an author to meet and chat with, it’d without a doubt be Le Guin.
#2 – Anna-Marie McLemore
This may seem a strange pick, given that I’ve only read one book by this author. The thing is, that wasn’t just any book. It was When the Moon Was Ours, one of the most beautiful and affirming books I’ve ever read, with achingly beautiful prose.
The truth slid over her skin, that if she loved him, sometimes it would mean doing nothing. It would mean being still. It would mean saying nothing, but standing close enough so he would know she was there, that she was staying.
I’d love to meet Anna-Marie McLemore and ask her all sorts of questions, like her inspirations, writing process, and where she imagines her characters after the stories they live in have reached their last pages.
#3 – Catherynne M. Valente
Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.
I haven’t read all of Valente’s works, and I also have the impression that she had a sort of cavalier attitude toward appropriation of Japanese culture and toward criticisms about that when she was younger (she wrote two Japanese-inspired fantasy novels, The Book of Dreams and The Grass-cutting Sword in 2004 and 2006, respectively.) Since then, from reading her social media accounts and her more recent books, I think she’s grown and developed her viewpoints.
Of course, I don’t know her personally. I do know, however, that a few of her books are ones that I’d count as all-time favorites of mine – The Orphan’s Tales duology, her Fairyland series, and the fucking amazing novella, Silently and Very Fast. I’d love to have a chat with her over tea and discuss ideas of myth, fantasy, and even to ask her about her current opinions on appropriation in fiction.
If you haven’t read any of Valente’s work, I would actually recommend starting with the Fairyland series – it’s middle grade, but that doesn’t stop it from addressing themes of identity, growing up, found families, and love. The prose and settings are also developed beautifully, at least in my opinion.
#4 – Rachel Hartman
Rachel Hartman’s books have some of my favorite things in them: dragons, well-developed fantasy settings, complex characters, music, and contemplation of how language and linguistics play into selfhood. (Possibly a weird combination, but I love it.)
Your credo goes further than you realized: walk on, yes, but don’t walk past people who need you. Uncurl yourself so you can see them and respond.
Years ago, I read Seraphina, and it’s stuck with me ever since. This year, I read Tess of the Road, which pretty much instantly became a mega-favorite of mine. It spoke to me so deeply. I’ve since realized that I have committed an actual book crime by not reading Shadowscale as well (I am awaiting my day in court as I write; I can only pray the book courts show me mercy). I need to remedy that as soon as the towering specter of my TBR pile allows me.
#5 – Octavia Butler
Along with Le Guin, I think Butler is one of the fantasy/sci-fi authors who has had the longest and most influential effects on speculative fiction as a genre. Also like Le Guin, she is no longer with us (though she passed in 2006, and not this year). I still need to read more of Butler’s works, but what I’ve already read by her – especially Kindred – has left a deep impression on me as a reader.
Then, somehow, I got caught up in one of Kevin’s World War II books – a book of excerpts from the recollections of concentration camp survivors. Stories of beatings, starvation, filth, disease, torture, every possible degradation. As though the Germans had been trying to do in only a few years what the Americans had worked at for nearly two hundred.
…Like the Nazis, antebellum whites had known quite a bit about torture – quite a bit more than I ever wanted to learn.
I definitely think people of any age who want to broaden their perspective on the massive storytelling potential contained in SFF (sci-fi/fantasy) media should read Butler’s work. I know that if I had the chance to meet with her, I’d want to ask her about her writing process, real-world inspirations for her work (if they existed), and works in genres like Afrofuturism.
#6 – Madeline Miller
A trend is forming with this list – I may not have read a huge number of books from these authors (even Le Guin, who I’ve read the most from on this list), but the books I have read by them have left a huge impact on me. Miller’s books Circe and The Song of Achilles continue that trend.
Circe, he says, it will be all right.
It is not the saying of an oracle or a prophet. … He does not mean that it does not hurt. He does not mean that we are not frightened. Only that: we are here. This is what it means to swim in the tide, to walk the earth and feel it touch your feet. This is what is means to be alive.
If I were to meet Miller, I would love to discuss Greek mythology and philosophy with her, asking who are counted among her favorite characters among the pantheon of gods and heroes.
#7 – Andrea K. Höst
‘Medair an Rynstar.’ A statement, not a question. Inelkar’s voice was mild, but the part of Medair which hated herself for this deed heard it as an accusation, and shame washed through her. She had betrayed her oath.
Andrea K. Host, The Silence of Medair
This author is a self-published one, from what I can tell, but her works are so thoughtful and her characters so well-drawn. Even if her world-building is sometimes a bit strange initially, and her plots are not high-octane, they’ve brought me to tears quite a few times from their emotional depth and lyricism. I want to give all her books a big hug. They’re the ultimate comfort reads – but also contemplative on issues like colonialism, power dynamics in relationships, and so on.
I would be thrilled to discuss characters, relationships, and worldbuilding with her (and I’m also really curious about her writing process in general).
#8 – Megan Whalen Turner
I inherited this country when I was only a child, Nahuseresh. I have held it. I have fought down rebellious barons. I’ve fought Sounis to keep the land on this side of the mountains. I have killed men and watched them hang. I’ve seen them tortured to keep this country safe and mine. How did you think I did this if I was a fool with cow eyes for any handsome man with gold in his purse?
Megan Whalen Turner’s work in the Queen’s Thief series is fantastic. That said, I’ve begun to learn over the years that I have a major thing for well-done political fantasy (which is what I call fantasies that focus not on magic – though it may be present in the story – or a journey or quest but on twisty political intrigue). I would put the Queen’s Thief series in that camp, especially book two onward. (The first book is more of a middle-grade adventure novel.)
I would love to pick Turner’s brain on how she comes up with her plots and develops her settings.
#9 – Robin McKinley
McKinley is, from my understanding, very anti-fanfiction, which does genuinely puzzle me. Not upset, really, though it does sadden me that her position may have lead to a serious lack of fanwork for her books. Just puzzled. (She’s not alone in her perspective; Anne Rice is another example of an author nearly getting litigious over fanficiton.)
Feeling at peace, however fragilely, made it easy to slip into the visionary end of the dark-sight. The rose shadows said that they loved the sun, but that they also loved the dark, where their roots grew through the lightless mystery of the earth. The roses said: You do not have to choose.
Still, even with that wrinkle, I admire McKinley’s work. She has told not one but two direct Beauty and the Beast retellings, and two of her other novels, Chalice and Sunshine, could be argued to contain not-so-subtle shades of that fairytale within it as well. Each time, she brings something fresh and vivid to the story. I’d love to ask her about the influences of her hobbies on her work – something she’s spoken about before in author’s notes.
#10 – Garth Nix
Finally, the sole male author of this list (lol). He’s written some of my favorite fantasy books – Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen; he’s also since added more books to his Old Kingdom series. I really love how he writes the magic in his books – it’s so vivid and easy to picture in my mind. His characters, as well, are well-drawn and deliciously complicated.
Five Great Charters knit the land
Together linked, hand in hand
One in the people who wear the crown
Two in the folk who keep the Dead down
Three and Five became stone and mortar
Four sees all in frozen water.
I would love to ask him about writing magic or magic systems as well as developing his fantasy worlds. Also, coming up with fantasy names – he seems to have a knack for coming up with unique and appropriate-sounding names for his characters.
If you made it all the way to the end of this post, I love you. 💕 Also, do you like any of these authors as well? Do you have any authors you’d want to meet in person?
If you want to see more from me, I also post reviews and updates on goodreads, photos on instagram, and sometimes, tweets on twitter. 💕 (Supposedly there’s a bloglovin’ account somewhere in the ether as well, but it’s a bit confusing to navigate as a newbie.)