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03 June 2010 @ 09:12 am
Female friendships in fantasy  
Got word while I was away that I'll be on a panel at Sirens on Female Friendships in Fantasy with Mette Harrison, Rachel Brown, Holly Black, and Sherwood Smith. Yay! It's a subject I've been thinking about a bit lately--one thing I'm beginning to realize is that female friendships are thick in the ground in middle grade fiction (for an excellent example of this, you all have to read Caitlin Brennan's House of the Star this fall, in which the fate of the world depends on the friendships among girls), but thin out starting in YA.

I've done this too, though I only realized it when I consciously wrote a YA short story about female friendship. (For the Bordertown antho. Because if you're going to Bordertown, of course you have to take your best friend with you, right?) My middle grade books have strong female friendships, but while my YAs have strong female relationships across generations (and I do think that's a hugely important bond as well), there's not so much going on within a given generation. I'm still thinking about that.

Anyway, Mette and Sherwood have already done this, but I thought I'd ask here, too: what are your favorite female friendships in fantasy? What books would you consider must-reads for a discussion of same?
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Janni Lee Simner: a girl and her dogjanni on June 3rd, 2010 04:52 pm (UTC)
You know, I've read a bunch of the more Companion focused books, but never the Tarma and Kethry ones, aside from a few short stories. Thanks for reminding me of them!
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Becky Levinebeckylevine on June 3rd, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
I've been thinking about this in my WIP--not fantasy for the characters, just for me--and I keep coming back to what each girl offers/gives the other. That sounds a little too much tit-for-tat, but I'm trying to see it as what they each bring to the friendship, what--on either side--makes the friendship work/be important for both. Still thinking... :)
Janni Lee Simner: a girl and her dogjanni on June 3rd, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC)
I think of it as not only bringing something to the friendship, but also as ... one's best friend is the person who brings out the best in the other person -- who makes her feel more like herself, and less like some sort of weird creature who doesn't belong anywhere, if that makes any sense ...

Best friends complete each other, and enhance each other, and ... the more I think about it, the more odd it seems that they tend to become less central starting in YA, when in high school female friendship doesn't take a back seat to romance at all, as I recall. (Indeed, it's more the other way around--any hint of romance gets taken back to the friendship for in-depth discussing and deconstructing!)
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(no subject) - janni on June 3rd, 2010 06:19 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Menollynolly on June 3rd, 2010 05:45 pm (UTC)
_Tam Lin_ by Pamela Dean. (IIRC, we've discussed the book before, and you dislike the way one of the girls is treated by the others...but girls can be like that in real life, too.)
The Sorcery and Cecelia series by Pat Wrede and Caroline Stevermer -- Kate and Cecelia are cousins, but also friends.

They're still on my to-read, but I suspect Jim Hines's Princess novels would qualify; I can't quite see how that concept could be written in a way that wouldn't.

"Even the Queen" by Connie Willis, perhaps?

I'm sure if I were home looking at my shelves more would come to mind...
Janni Lee Simner: a girl and her dogjanni on June 3rd, 2010 06:22 pm (UTC)
I was actually thinking of Tam Lin, too--I disliked the book overall, but it does put its female friendships front and center. And even when the girls treat Tina badly, it's as part of a three-way friendship dynamic, as I recall, not because they prefer to focus on boys.

Actually, Dean's Secret Country books (which I did very much like) aren't a bad example either--the friendship between Laura and Ellen is sort of a middle grade book friendship, but the books themselves have been marketed as either adult or YA over time.

I still need to read The Stepsister Scheme myself ...
(no subject) - nolly on June 3rd, 2010 06:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - supertailz on June 3rd, 2010 10:32 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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Janni Lee Simner: a girl and her dogjanni on June 3rd, 2010 07:53 pm (UTC)
I think that's part of it--even though when I think about it, that's not actually how it works as a teen, is it? At least not for all teens. Those female friendships still remain huge, and central. It's almost as if the fictional version of high school is a step sideways of the real one.

(Hope your final project is going well, by the way! :-))

Edited at 2010-06-03 07:54 pm (UTC)
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Elizabeth McCoyarchangelbeth on June 3rd, 2010 09:26 pm (UTC)
Does it have to be YA? Because I think my formative "female friendship in Fantasy" would be Frostflower and Thorn, in the book of the same name...

Um. Hm. Lessa and Ramoth totally don't count, do they... (Besides, Ruth was cooler.)

Others have mentioned Tarma and Kethry...

Dadgum! I can't think of anything else off the top of my head!
Janni Lee Simner: a girl and her dogjanni on June 3rd, 2010 10:16 pm (UTC)
Sirens is definitely both YA and adult.

It's interesting how few examples there actually are.
(no subject) - nolly on June 3rd, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - archangelbeth on June 3rd, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Catsupertailz on June 3rd, 2010 10:29 pm (UTC)
Oh! Oh! I've got one!!

Eddi and Carla in Emma Bull's War For The Oaks. Best friendship ever. I think I may have based all the important female friendships in my life on that book actually. Also to a lesser degree, in her and Steven Brust's Freedom and Necessity Kitty and Susan are pretty rockin'.

Not in fantasy - and I'm going post about this later, and then possibly email you too - I just finished an ARC from BEA called The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney that I am going to recommend to everyone ever in which female friendships are the foundation of this amazing, wonderful YA novel.
Janni Lee Simner: another arctic foxjanni on June 3rd, 2010 10:38 pm (UTC)
That's the second mention of War for the Oaks--I really do need to do a reread!

I wonder whether there are more female friendships in mainstream YA than fantasy? Hadn't thought about that before.

(Pulling out the arctic fox icon just for you, even if she has no female friends visible)
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BookWenchqueenbookwench on June 4th, 2010 03:44 am (UTC)
Do sisters count? My current book (which isn't YA although both authors have written YA) is Except the Queen by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder, and I am loving the friendship between sisters Serana and Meteora.

I second whomever mentioned the girls from Pamela Dean's Tam Lin and Kate and Cecy from Sorcery and Cecilia.

Now that I'm really thinking about it, I'm surprised by how few YA fantasies I can think of that have strong (or even seriously flawed) female friendships as an important element.

Carrie Vaughn's _Voices of Dragons_ was one that did--I found the main character's best friend a bit annoying, but she worked for me as a character. Technically this is SF, but Exodus by Julie Bertagna was another where, although there was romance, the main character's relationship with female friends was significant.

In the books that don't have a romance, the main character is often basically alone in the world as she deals with her issues or else her relationships take some other form. For example, in _Flora Segunda_, as I recall, the main character's best friend is a gay boy.
~twilight~_twilight_ on June 4th, 2010 05:34 am (UTC)
Justine Larbalestier has female friends that are actual friends in her books.
dpeterfreunddpeterfreund on June 4th, 2010 12:08 pm (UTC)
Oh, yeah! You've got Reason and Jay-Tee in the Magic or Madness series and then the main character (ack,w hat's her name?) and Fiorenze in How to Ditch Your Fairy (their friendship (or lack thereof) is central to the plot.
dpeterfreunddpeterfreund on June 4th, 2010 12:07 pm (UTC)
I'm surprised how many people here are having a hard time finding examples, especially in modern YA!

The entire A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY series is about the nature of female friendships -- and it crosses generations, too (because the actions are all set in motion by the relationships with women of the main character, Gemma's, mother.)

The entire Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead is predicated upon the strength and (literal) bond that the main character, Rose, has with her vampire charge, Lissa. They run away from school together so that Rose can better protect Lissa. I can't imagine talking about female friendships in fantasy without bringing either of these two recent smash hit series up.

I actually wrote an essay for a BenBella anthology about the friendship between Tally and Shay in Scott Westerfeld's UGLIES series, which, as I argue in the essay, is the driving force behind the entire plot. I don't know if you'd count that as SF though.

Also in "might be SF" you've got the heartbreaking friendship between Katniss and Rue in THE HUNGER GAMES.

In recent high fantasy, I'd look to FIRE, and the way that the difficulty the main character has cultivating female friendships (because of her beauty) is such an important part of the story. However, she does end up making several -- and that's multi-generational, too.

My own series (RAMPANT and the upcoming ASCENDANT) is filled with mostly female characters and deals with the intricacies of their relationships. The main character Astrid's close friendship with her cousin Phil and her often tempestuous friendship with Cory are central to the storyline, and there's a cross-generational friendship that's very important in the upocming release. I also have a story coming out set in that world in the KISS ME DEADLY anthology this summer that is based entirely around the notion of female unicorn hunting friends.
Menollynolly on June 10th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
I totally should have thought of Tally and Shay. Haven't read the others yet.
R.J. Anderson: Faery Rebels - Knife with kniferj_anderson on June 4th, 2010 12:29 pm (UTC)
They're not conventional friendships, because the characters involved aren't human and have their own rather unusual social structure. But in my Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, the relationship between my female MC and her foster-mother (who is never much of an authority figure and becomes more like a peer as Knife grows older), as well as the relationship between her and the woman who becomes her mentor, are instrumental to the story.

Also, in Sarah Rees Brennan's just-released The Demon's Covenant, there's a rather important female friendship that develops between Mae and Sin -- I think it's likely to have major repercussions into the next book.

Oh! And Attolia and Eddis in Megan Whalen Turner's A Conspiracy of Kings.
crookedfeetcrookedfeet on June 5th, 2010 02:58 am (UTC)
Take a look at Wish by Alexandra Bullen-a fairly new YA. One of the things I really liked was the way the main character's new friendship was tested and how it resolved. It was neat after all the mean girl stuff you see in lots of YA fiction, fantasy or not.
Harvestar / Karenharvestar on June 5th, 2010 06:37 am (UTC)
Patrick's going over the bookshelf as I read the thread to him (or at least the books/characters).

Our additions are:

Jennifer and Kimberly in Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay (and for intergenerational friendship: Kimberly and Ysanne)

Lois McMaster Bujold's Chalion series - Iselle and Beatriz (very strong and positive friendship) - in Paladin of Souls there's the intergenerational friendship of Ista and Liss.

Bujold's Sharing Knife series - Fawn and Berry

Bujold's Vorkosigan series (ok, more Sci-Fi) - Cordelia and Drou, Ekaterin and the Koudelka girls, Aunt Alyss and Taura (a small part), and there's Ekaterin and Bel during Diplomatic Immunity (though Bel is a hermaphrodite but was formerly interested in Miles)

Patrick's additions (i.e., I haven't read these yet):
S.M. Stirling's Change series (though it's not the center of the story)

Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time (he says there's a number of examples)