Dangerous Women

Sunday , 1, March 2015 12 Comments

DNGRSWMNQB2013Dangerous Women is the cross genre anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois that came out in between Warriors and Rogues. This is also the last of the Tor books before the editors moved over to Bantam. Hardback, 784 pages, twenty one stories, nine by men, twelve by women, $32.50, published in 2013.

Martin’s introduction is an attempt to make us believe that women are dangerous.

“In the real world, of course, the question has long been settled. Even if the Amazons are mythological, their legend was inspired by memory of the ferocious warrior women of the Scythians, who were every much not mythological. Gladiatrix, women gladiators, fought other women–and sometimes men–to the death in the arenas of Ancient Rome. There were female pirates like Anne Bonny and Mary Read, and even female samurai. Women served as frontline combat troops, feared for their ferocity, in the Russian Army during World War II, and serve so in Israel today.”

I will be upfront, I did not read all the stories in this book. I scanned or looked through seeing if it might be of interest but I was not going to slug through every story if it did grab me in the first couple pages.

Joe Abercrombie appears to be a favorite of Martin and Dozois for these anthologies. He has a spunky swords woman by the name of Shy in “Some Desperado.” Have you noticed the trend in fantasy to give characters names from adjectives? Abercrombie is riffing a spaghetti western right down to a ghost town and bounty hunters but this time with swords. Sorry, it does not work for me. This is the third Abercrombie story I have read and the third that has failed to make a positive impression on me. I have an analogy to make. Back in the mid-1930s, there was a writer Peter Ruric who wrote as “Paul Cain” for Black Mask magazine. He took Hammett’s stripped down prose approach to the extreme in a style with no adjectives. Some people love Paul Cain. I do not. Abercrombie is tilling similar soil.

I generally like Cecelia Holland who has a pedigree of historical novels going back to the late 1960s. “Nora’s Song” is an historical about one of King Henry II of England’s daughter. A story about a little kid did not interest me.

Carrie Vaughan of course in included with “Raisa Stepanova,” a story about Soviet female pilots in WWII. I would have loved to read a story about aerial warfare but the story has more talk, talk than machinegun bursts.

I mentioned about burning out a long time ago with Joe Lansdale. His stories in prole dialect of Jethro, John Boy, Cooter Bob and other East Texas in-breds wore its welcome out with me in short order. In “Wrestling Jesus,” he has a misfit teenage weakling taken under the wing of an aging former Mexican wrestler.

“Shadows for Silence in the Forest of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson might be the best story in the book. I have never read Sanderson before. He came to the rescue of Tor Books by wrapping up Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series. To go off tangent for a moment, for entertainment I used to go to Amazon and read the reviews of the later Jordan books by ex-fans. George R. R. Martin, take note.
A fantasy with settlers on a continent where ghosts known as shades will suck the life force out if you are not careful. An inn-keeper makes extra money nabbing outlaws for the bounty while not attracting the shades.

For some reason, I did read Sharon Kay Penman’s “A Queen in Exile.” The reason being it was about Queen Constance de Hauteville, daughter of Roger II of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in the 12th Century. The Italian Norman kingdom is an area of interest for me. This was a typical female historical almost romance.

Nancy Kress’ “Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” is a post-apocalyptic story. We have a character with the name of “Pretty.” Again, the trend of adjectival names. The apocalypse happens when most of the human race becomes infertile. I would think civilization would go out more with a whimper than a bang.

Diana Gabaldon’s “Virgins” is a tie-in with her Outlander series with Scottish mercenaries in France in the 1740s. She manages to make Scottish mercenaries boring.

If there is a character I really hate in fiction, it is S. M. Stirling’s Juniper Mackenzie in Dies the Fire. I really hoped cannibals would eat her, but no such luck. She returns in “Pronouncing Doom” in which she is a judge on a rape accusation. I still hope Mackenzie gets eaten in the future.

Judging from the library stamps on the back of the copy of this book, this has been  popular. My educated guess is the inclusion of a George R. R. Martin Game of Thrones novella is the reason. Last week, I mentioned the civil war generations before the events in Game of Thrones. This is classic Martin. The latest story concerns events before this story. He is writing them out of sequence and events that he should put off until after finishing his big, fat fantasy series. This is the distant relating of events as the other story of the civil war within two branches of the Targaryen dynasty. It is the same shifting of sides, brutal murders and torture, treachery, and general nastiness we equate with Martin. Also in true fashion, he fails to wrap the story up. The story ends with “Aegon II would sit the Iron Throne again, but he would never recover from his wounds, would know neither joy nor peace. His restoration would endure for only half a year.”
So now we have two unfinished story lines of two different times in Westeros. Get this man an editor!

The idea for this book was not a great one. The editors and publisher were probably going on the idea that if they can get both males and females to read this book, sales will be double. It never works out this way. I just can’t see more than a few men reading this book. How many readers total read the Martin story and blew the rest of it off?

12 Comments
  • Dave Hardy says:

    The theme of women warriors has its charms. The trouble is that it has become faddish. There’s a sense that reading such an anthology shows one’s rebellious, daring even, opposition to the dominant straight white male paradigm. You buy it and you’re in the super-secret goodthink club.

    It’s a conformist rebellion, but I guess it moves some product. I have nothing against a good amazon story. The keyword there is good.

  • “Abercrombie is riffing a spaghetti western right down to a ghost town and bounty hunters but this time with swords.”

    Ahh, but that’s where spaghetti westerns come from– they’re rip offs of Kurosawa movies, particularly the fantastic Yojimbo.

    • Morgan says:

      I think Abercrombie is unaware of the Kurosawa part of the equation.

      • No doubt. No one cares to look at the history of genres anymore.

        • VD says:

          Fortunately, a number of bloggers here do. If nothing else, we can hope to avoid some of the obvious mistakes of the past. And it’s interesting in its own right.

          Speaking of Kurasawa, I made the mistake of renting RAN on a date once. Nearly three hours later, after not saying a word the entire time, the girl turned to me and said: “Don’t ever do that to me again.”

          • Daniel says:

            That’s so damn funny. Thanks for the laugh. I can picture her face for every minute of it: the old guy’s 15 minute lament…the pretty colored armies slaughtering each other, the suicides. Nothing says romance more than RAN.

            At least it ends happy.

  • Deb says:

    Do you want dangerous women warriors? Watch Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. There, you have a sniper, a Gal. Ice Queen (aka Wall of Briggs), a prince’s bodyguard, a tiny alchemist who’s a hard time on those who despise her skills and many others, but those are my highlights.

  • Deb says:

    Do you want dangerous women warriors? Watch Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. There, you have a sniper, a Gal. Ice Queen (aka Wall of Briggs), a prince’s bodyguard, a tiny alchemist who’s a hard time on those who despise her skills and many others, but those are my highlights.

    In books, I found the women vampires of Anne Rice. Her witches are tough too. All of them are sexy, not the chaste type.
    Also, the saga which starts on Rootless (Chris Howard) has desert female pirates who are very savage.

  • Deb says:

    Noticed the references to our history? The massacre of Ishvals as the massacre of mongolian monks by Hitler, the Amestrians as the Arians, the alchemists serving the state as the scientists working on secret (or not so) projects for wars, the end of Xerxes as the defeat of Babylon maybe… Just think of it.

  • You might want to try Sword and Sorceress 32 for reasonably upbeat non-boring stories about sword & sorcery heroines:

    http://www.mzbworks.com/s32.htm

    Full disclosure: I have a story in that anthology.

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