Valente, Vaughn, Viehl

As promised, the next post in my women in science fiction and fantasy blog series, posting on Wednesday so we’re back to normal! Today, I discuss a short story by Catherynne Valente and books by Carrie Vaughn and S. L. Viehl. As usual, if you’ve read other books by these authors or have questions or comments about anything I say, please be sure to let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!

“How to Become a Mars Overlord” by Catherynne M. Valente

This poetic tale (found here) drops us into a world, a universe, that Valente never stops to explain. It is a place where many alien species co-exist, where even humans are not necessarily recognizable as the species we are today. Valente’s narrator speaks to the reader matter-of-factly, assuming they will know whereof she speaks, with her many Mars analogues, Makha and Raudhr and Lial and Mikto. Her language is beautiful and evocative, and this is definitely a tale told to capture the imagination.

There are only two steps to becoming an overlord of Mars, but they are not easy ones. Only those truly desiring Mars above all else will ever manage them. Is the result worth it in the end? If it is all you desire and you receive it all, it must be, mustn’t it? A beautiful story that just might relate to things other than being a ruler of a red planet.

Definitely recommended. I’ll also be reading some of Valente’s other work, especially Palimpsest, which I’ve heard many good things about.

Find Catherynne Valente at her Website,

After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

I’m a sucker for superheroes. I even check out trade collections from the library. Superhero novels that I’ve read, though, aren’t from the POV of the big-name heroes — there’s the Third Wave heroes, whose power are so minor they’re not even supposed to use them (Playing for Keeps by Mur Laffeety); the lesser hero who winds up teaming with a major villain to take down the world’s most powerful hero (novel in progress by my friend Ed, which I’m still waiting for the next batch of chapters on); and the daughter of two powerful superheroes, who has no powers herself (After the Golden Age). I knew going in that this was my type of book; nothing about reading it changed my mind.

The characters are archetypes, but they’re people. I cared about Celia, from her issues with her parents to her professional work (as an accountant) to worrying about whether she was going to wind up with a broken heart. As a girl who butted heads with her own dad, I empathized with her — a lot. The city (Commerce City) isn’t very detailed, but there’s always description of where Celia is at the moment, making it real.

It seemed apparent to me fairly early who the Big Bad had to be in the story, and who Celia was going to end up with romantically, but the journey to get there was delightful. Other books by Vaughn I want to read include Steel and Discord’s Apple. I’ll probably get to the Kitty series, too, as I do like urban fantasy.

Carrie Vaughn is on-line at

Stardoc by S. L. Viehl

If, like me, you read more Harlequin Romances than was good for you in high school, nothing that happens in Stardoc is a surprise. The surly alpha male is clearly intended to be the love interest for not just the book but the series. The only one surprised by this is Cherijo, who, having lived a sheltered life, is emotionally clueless.

Sound like I hated the book? Nope. I read not only it, but its first two sequels, Beyond Varallan and Endurance, in the span of a week. I’ve also read Blade Dancer and Bio Rescue, as well as Viehl’s first Darkyn novel. She writes well, with other characters who are engaging, and a universe that is exciting and well-developed. And, to be fair, part of me still harbors the wish of that high-school girl to see how the main character finally figures out that she’s supposed to be with the guy who’s been acting like a jerk. (I don’t approve, but I’m curious. Call it a guilty pleasure.) However, I don’t recommend reading Stardoc immediately followed by either Blade Dancer or Bio Rescue — you might start wondering whether there are any normal fathers at all in this universe.

Find S. L. Viehl (and her many pen names) on her blog,

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