Women Write Classic SFF Readathon 2021

I haven’t done a readathon since I was a little kid, but now I am really feeling like pushing myself to do one. The Women Write Classic SFF Readathon is a straightforward challenge to read three classic books by female authors in just over a week. For this challenge, the term ‘classic’ is used to describe anything written before the year 2000, so there are a lot of options. So now it’s time to find a combination of three books that will be practical to read in such a short time, that fit the readathon challenge criteria, and that will help me tick off some of my book bingo squares.

Before I get to my books though, go check out the Classic SFF readathon over on twitter @ClassicSFFReads. Click here for the announcement video explaining all the rules of the readathon.

The basic idea is that there are three challenges participants can choose from;

Time Traveller; Read three books from three consecutive decades.

Portal Expert; Read a book from three different speculative genres.

Arcane Scholar; Read three books from the same decade.

I had to think long and hard about which challenge I wanted and which books to choose. Part of the problem is that I wanted to do slightly lesser known stories, so that when I review them I’ll be introducing readers to lost gems. On the other hand though, I really should read Wizard of Earthsea. I’m not a Le Guin newbie, but I haven’t read anything Earthsea yet, and I feel that there may be something wrong with that. This could also be a good time to start Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga, or become acquainted with C. J. Cherryh. I’ve also been wanting to read Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow for ages, but I still have The Postman in my head, so I don’t think I can stomach another post-nuclear-apocalypse America so soon. The one requirement I am putting here is that I have to read one of the James Tiptree Jr. short story collections that has been sitting on my desk for years. (Tiptree is a pseudonym used by Dr. Alice B. Sheldon, so yes these still fit the rules.) With all that in mind, here are the three books I chose for the readathon.

I’m choosing the Portal Expert Challenge. Here are the books I will be reading.

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Fantasy: A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula K. Le Guin

As I said before, I haven’t read Earthsea yet. I’ve been wanting to read more Le Guin, and this is one of her most famous series. I know I’ve said before that hype alone isn’t enough to get me to read a book, but I have read enough of Le Guin’s work to trust the hype. Besides, a fantasy ocean world sounds rather different, so I have been interested in this series.

The description of the plot involves a wizard going on a journey to fix a mistake that led to some dark creatures being unleashed on the world. This sounds like I could possibly tick off the ‘Epic Quest’ tile on my book bingo card.

I’ve enjoyed the science fiction and the short stories I have read by Le Guin. I am looking forward to seeing how she does a young adult fantasy book.

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Science Fiction: Warm Worlds and Otherwise – James Tiptree Jr.

Never heard of James Tiptree Jr. until I saw one of her short story collections (Crown of Stars) in an op shop. This discovery may have been before I’d gotten my Kindle, because back in those days I bought pretty much any science fiction book I found second hand. Years went past, and whilst I never got around to reading it, it seemed too interesting to cull.

Then last year – I mean, late 2019, 2020 is over with not a lot achieved – I found Warm Worlds and Otherwise, another James Tiptree Jr. short story collection. I have no idea why I bought it. I’ve been trying to get less physical books and already had an unread collection by the same author. I honestly don’t know. Maybe it was the creepy bendy dish head guy on the cover. Either way, for the past year I have had two short story collections by this woman who I know absolutely nothing about gathering dust on my shelf.

This readathon for me is about reading one of these neglected Tiptree collections. Crown of Stars should be first in line, but Warm Worlds and Otherwise is shorter, and with only eleven days to read three books that is an important consideration.

So yeah, I know very little about what I am getting into with this one, just that I am long overdue to check it out.

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Horror: The Vampire Tapestry – Suzy McKee Charnas

Whilst I know very little about Warm Worlds and Otherwise, I know absolutely nothing about The Vampire Tapestry, and all I knew about Suzy McKee Charnas was that her short story Boobs won a Hugo the year I was born. Or at least I didn’t know, but I found out a few things whilst adding this book to my Goodreads and googling to make sure I spelt Suzy McKee Charnas’s name right and that this was indeed a horror novel. I found out that it is made up of a collection of interconnected novellas about the star Vampire (hence why it is a tapestry), reviews seem to either love it or hate it, with the poor reviews suggesting some parts of the book have not aged well. Also found out that McKee Charnas’s publisher refused to publish book 2 of one of her other series because all the characters were women and the book had ‘controversial sexual relationships’. Then while looking for another home for her book a publisher told her that they’d take the book if she made all the female characters male. She refused. Yay the 70s. Or 80s, or whenever.

The readathon runs from 1st April – 11th April. The timing works out perfect for me, since I’ve already taken time off work to go see Hamilton on the 7th. The long train rides to Sydney and back plus the night off should give me time to read quite a lot of the books.

Happy Reading,

~ Lauren

2 thoughts on “Women Write Classic SFF Readathon 2021

  1. I’m happy you’re joining! I loved A Wizard of Earthsea as a kid and have been planning to reread it as an adult. It’s also very cool to hear about Suzy McKee Charnas, since that is an author whom I haven’t heard about before! I hope you have fun during the readathon, don’t stress too much about the amount of reading. You could always count just one short story from the Tiptree Jr collection for the challenge, and read the rest if you have time.

    1. Thanks so much, I think if I do struggle, I’ll call the collection done with just one and go back later. I am really looking forward to Earthsea, and hearing from people who did enjoy it is very encouraging.

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