A Different Look at Queens & Courtesans

Queens & Courtesans – by Kristen Blount

A queen and a courtesan: That’s your writing prompt.

What comes to mind? Maybe two women, each powerful in their own spheres, fighting for dominance of court or a king. Sex vs. Politics? Sex as politics?

Until I signed on as a beta reader and editor, I never imagined the number of possibilities that the prompt could produce. Queens & Courtesans: A Sirens Benefit Anthology, edited by Jessica Corra, showed me a wide range of ways powerful women could interact. In fact, it tells the stories of women who are powerful in so many different ways … from ruling queens, to spy masters, to experts at swordplay, to space navigators, to mothers, and so much more!

I have often said to my friends (and anyone else who cares to listen) that a good working definition of modern feminism is supporting women in making the best choices they can in the places they are. No given path is right for every woman. Queens & Courtesans offers the best illustration of that principle as I have ever seen. Just take one of the stories I was lucky enough to proofread: All the characters are female: the ex-military space navigator/pilot, the nuns, and a bevy of school girls, one of whom is queen presumptive. You only think you know what’s coming in this story, but you really, really don’t. Plot twists aside, these women with different skills, agendas, and needs come together in frightening circumstances to work for a common good.

In another story, one for which I acted as a beta reader, I met a prince’s lover … who was chosen by his mother because she’s blind. This story is strictly told from the blind girl’s point of view, and it brings a richness of other sensory details with it. I have begun looking for those sorts of interesting bits of knowledge from hearing or touch, and miss them when they are absent. Every story in this anthology gave me something to mull over in the days, or weeks, after reading.

As interesting as the individual stories, the group of women who wrote, edited, and organized this project is equally wonderful. We are connected through a literary conference, Sirens, that focuses on women in fantasy. Sirens offers a valuable weekend each year for women to come together to discuss topics that matter to us, both within literary boundaries and in our communities. The anthology group began as a subset of Sirens conference attendees, and quickly agreed that the sales of the book should benefit the experience that brought us together as friends and colleagues.

If you have the opportunity, please consider supporting Queens & Courtesans. It offers encouragement and professional luster to up-and-coming authors. It promotes the voices and concerns of women within the speculative fiction field. And mostly, it contributes to continuing the Sirens Conference. If you have the opportunity, I also encourage you to consider joining us some year for a weekend of reading, talking about reading, and writing.

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