Guest Blog by Judith Tarr

In 1985, Judith Tarr published her first epic fantasy novel, a finalist for the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and the winner of the Crawford Award.  Since then, she’s published dozens of novels under a variety of names, been shortlisted for several awards (winning a few), and appearing in many best of the year collections. If you don’t recognize the name Judith Tarr, then it’s time to go investigate her work. I’m pleased to welcome Judy as our first guest writer.

I Was a Teenaged Science-Fiction Writer

Judith Tarr


When I was a kid, I knew I was a girl. I liked being a girl, for the most part, though the ragging and teasing irritated me, and I wasn’t a huge fan of dresses or, later, pantyhose. Toys weren’t as gendered as they are now; my two brothers and I played many of the same games, and I had assorted dolls and they had GI Joe. It averaged out.

We took things for granted then. The tiny, skimpy costumes the women had to wear on Star Trek. The guys physically picking up my very mechanically ept college roommate when she set out to check or, god forbid, change the oil on her car, and huffily doing it themselves. The hoots and catcalls on the street. All the things a girl had to learn about self-defense, since every male was, by default, a predator.

And science fiction. Science fiction was in the boys’ section of the library. I read all the nurse romances and the horsegirl series and the Nancy Drews, but it was my brother who brought home the Nourses and the Asimovs and the Avalon books. I snaffled them as fast as he got through them, and sometimes faster. If he couldn’t find his library book, he knew where it was.

What I wanted to be was a dragonrider. Because dragonriders could be female, and they ruled. It was like riding my horse, but better.

Eventually I ventured to do my own strafing runs in the science-fiction shelves. I got odd looks from the librarians, but they’d learned long since not to try to stop me from reading whatever I set my sights on.

I didn’t question, then, why all the protagonists were male and white and American. They just were. I didn’t see myself in the books; I loved the sense of the scope of the universe, and the visions of alien life and strange worlds. When the media caught up with me, I wasn’t ever Captain Kirk, and I certainly wasn’t one of his chippies. I thought I might kind of like to be one of the crew, but then again, those costumes. Ick.

What I wanted to be was a dragonrider. Because dragonriders could be female, and they ruled. It was like riding my horse, but better.

When the writer gene manifested itself, it didn’t know about rules of genre, but it did know what it was seeing in all the books I read. It wanted to write male protagonists because that’s what protagonists were. Females were, at best, support staff. They were second class. The really good adventures happened to the guys.

Genre was fluid then. Andre Norton (who I knew was a woman early on, thanks to reading all the words including the bios and the reviews) had machines and Witches in the same world, and magical body-swappers in a starfaring universe. That was my style. I wanted space ships and the fringe stuff.

I got a little crazy with my scribbles and changed all the genders around and made the male protagonist female, because I could. I had spaceships and psi and adventures and characters that talked to me in my sleep.

Because I could.

That was science fiction. Infinite possibilities. Genre-benders and gender-benders and opinionated characters. Anything could happen. That was why I loved it so much.

When I grew up and became The One Who Writes Historical Fantasy, the kid in me was still wanting those spaceships and those characters who Would Not Shut Up. Then came Publisherdammerung and the ebook revolution and a publishing world in which anything could happen, and I could have those spaceships. I could do whatever I wanted. I could be a kid again.

Judith Tarr Forgotten SunsI’m still a teenaged science-fiction writer. Inside. Where the writer-genes are.

I’m still a girl, too, and at the age in which one becomes invisible, but that’s not a given any more. We’ve all stopped taking it for granted. We’re loud and we’re opinionated and we’re here. We write science fiction. We always have.

To find out more about Judy, go to Bookview Cafe. If you want to try her work, she has a novel in the Storybundle that runs until the end of August. If you’re reading this after August, you can buy the novel and all her other works from your favorite retailer.


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