Dark skies, misty drizzle, and towering trees hang heavily over the treasures of fantasy in Portland. The Pacific Northwest is home to a host of fantasy authors, and our city is no exception. Here are three authors who span fantasy’s roots to fantasy’s present in this beloved genre.
Ursula K. Le Guin is the author of the Earthsea Cycle fantasy series. Although Le Guin was born in Berkeley, California, she has lived in Portland for most of her adult life and began teaching at Portland State University in 1979. Le Guin is most known for her science fiction, but she began her career writing fantasy.
The Earthsea Cycle began as a trilogy from 1968 to1972 but was then added to in 1998 and 2001 to create a total of five books. Earthsea is Le Guin’s fantasy universe that begins with A Wizard of Earthsea. The wizard in question is the young Ged, who is pushed to travel across Earthsea to be trained as a wizard. When he feels slighted by another trainee, his hubris pushes him to cast a spell well beyond his ability, which releases a shadow that haunts him. Ged is stalked by this doppelganger of his ego until he is forced to chase it down and face it. It is a wonderful fantasy story with great philosophical undertones. Ursula K. Le Guin died in 2018 as a respected champion of women, fantasy, and science fiction.
Wendy Wagner’s debut novel was Pathfinder Tales: Skinwalkers in the Pathfinder Tales series, which supports the Pathfinder gaming universe. Like Le Guin, Wagner writes a broad range of genre fiction, but fantasy, sci-fi, and horror are their favorites. Wagner’s prose is intricate and eerie, weaving a folkish feel into her magic—a perfect complement to winter reading in Portland.
Wagner also focuses on eliminating gender bias from their writing as much as possible. In an interview with Chuck Wendig of Terribleminds, Wagner recalls how hard the process can be:
When it was time to revise, my editor pointed out many, many instances of gender-biased language. I lost count of the number of times I referred to a group of fighters as “men.” In situations with a crowd, I almost never described anyone but the guys. Jendara may have been a well-rounded female character, but she was definitely a rarity in her world. I’m a woman and I believe very firmly in equality for all human beings. I was pretty ashamed to see my own work, and I’m glad I got a chance to fix it before it went out in the world. It’s all too easy to use those same old phrases without thinking about them, but as a writer, it’s my job to think hard about the world I’m making with my words. Do I want it to be the same world that’s told women they have to stay home out of sight, or do I want it to be a world where everyone can adventure, no matter their gender?
Annie Bellet is the newest of the three writers. Her first book, Justice Calling, was published in 2014 and kicked off her Twenty-Sided Sorceress series. Her genre is fantasy with a heavy gamer influence. Justice Calling introduces us to Jade Crow, a sorceress who is taking a break from magic in Idaho. Jade is forced back into spellcasting when an evil shapeshifter finds her and her friends. Bellet’s writing is fast-paced, and her world is familiar to ours. She has parlayed the Twenty-Sided Sorceress into a long-running series that is now at ten books and counting.