The 101 best whats of which?


Just before leaving for Readercon, as I was waiting for Sabine to show up at my DayJob so we could drive to Burlington MA, I was killing some time browsing the Readercon website.   More or less just because it was there, I clicked on my bio on the Guests page.


This is what I saw:

Rosemary Kirstein‘s eponymous first volume in The Steerswoman series from Del Rey (1989) was recently selected by Damien Broderick and Paul Di Filippo for Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010 and was a Compton Crook finalist . It and its sequel, The Outskirter’s Secret (1992), are available together as The Steerswoman’s Road (2003). Volumes 3 and 4, The Lost Steersman and The Language of Power, appeared in 2003 and 2004, and she is working on the untitled Volume 5 after having done much work on the concluding City in the Crags. Kirstein’s short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s and in Aboriginal SF. You can follow her blog at, or on Facebook. She tweets random non sequiturs on Twitter as @rkirstein.


Wait, what?  I say to myself, The 101 best whats of which?    (Well, actually, the first thing that I say to myself is: That’s not what “eponymous” means.  But after that.)

Well, apparently it is the case.   I am, as the Brits say, chuffed.

There it is

Click. You know you want to.

The link will take you Amazon (and so will this one), where you can read the entry for yourself (and buy the book, because these guys obviously must be encouraged as much as possible!).

Many wonderful things are said about me by these two gentlemen, who obviously have outstanding taste and discernment. Seriously. Their analyses are spot-on. I have clearly been read, and read well.

Plus: Even though it’s The Steerswoman that’s selected to be among the 101 best, they don’t stop there. They go on to recommend the entire series, book-by-book, in detail, which is astoundingly generous of them.

(They also quote the wonderful, Jo Walton, another reviewer who got it right.)

My favorite line: “What Kirstein is doing is portraying how humanity’s innate desire to unriddle the phenomenological universe will persist through all sorts of dark-ages setbacks. Rowan’s adherence to the tenets of her guild make her a kind of proto-scientist, and thus a perfect exemplar of the science-fictional mindset.”

Okay, as a favorite line, that sounds kind of dry… How about: “Kirstein’s compassion for even minor characters is evident on every page, and her prose is measured and alluring without being overworked.”

Ah. My prose is “alluring”. I do like that.

Well, I suppose I could keep gloating. But I’ve just used up most of today’s writing time writing this blog post!

But I must take a moment to say that I believe that what an author most wants in the world is to be understood. Broderick and di Fillipo clearly do understand my work — as did Walton, and any number of you reading this — and what I most feel, really, is gratitude.

14 Responses to “The 101 best whats of which?”

  • Brian Says:

    The Brit influence on you is more than just vocabulary. You are also adopting their habit of understatement. Thus, I propose that you not describe yourself as “chuffed”, but as “dead chuffed”. You’ve earned it.

    Congratulations Rosy!

    • Rosemary Says:

      Brian —

      While I agree that “dead chuffed” is more accurate, I fear that many Americans would react to the phrase with perplexity at best, and alarm at worst…

  • Lu Says:

    Congratulations! I’ve been lurking here since getting into your Steerswoman books–which are absolutely in MY top 100 (along with Bujold’s and Cherryh’s and McKillip’s) and just wanted to say “You’re good, girl!” Thanks for your stories.

  • Lindig Says:

    Yowie! and Wow! and Hot Damn, too! How nice for you, and how discerning of them. Well deserved. Congrats!

    • Rosemary Says:

      Lindig — Thanks! I’ve been browsing through the book, looking at their other choices, and know what? I’m going to look up some of the other books they mention, because they sound so interesing, and I seem to have missed most of them. It seems like a good guide to what to read…

      My sister points out that maybe other people will do the same thing, and come across my stuff for the first time!

  • Michael_gr Says:

    can I just say that while I find some of their choices (and omissions) debatable, having at least one Steerswoman novel in the “best sf of the last quarter century” list (I’d have added The Lost Steersman as well) is not surprising at all? I mean, of course it should be there!

    • Rosemary Says:

      Michael —

      One thing that was pointed out to me by Eric Van at Readercon, was that Broderick and di Fillipo didn’t repeat authors: One recommendation per. Which, if you’re being absolutely strict about the “best” books of that time frame, would skew the choices. However, it possibly also accounts for their very detailed inclusion of my other books in the entry for The Steerswoman. Really, as far as synopses go, they devoted the same amount of words to each book in the series, and just used The Steerswoman as the entry point.

  • Sabine Says:

    Oh, those Brits and their scardey-pants understatement.*I say, I was thrilled to bits when I read it! And so happy for you, Rosemary. It brought me to tears that you’re being recognized by more people, and in print, even! And such mostly spot-on analysis. They were mislead a bit by your sneaky writing, at one small point. Heh, heh. But so much the better.

    *Brit disclaimer:
    This sentence is a deliberate exaggeration by me, and in no way indicates any disrespect toward the stalwart citizens of that wonderful country. **

    **This disclaimer patent pending. See me for usage rights. ***

    *** End of disclaimers.

  • Vanth Says:

    I have so loved your books since they first came out. I was working as a bookseller at the time “Steerswoman” came out. I was horrified when the second copy, I’d already bought the other, was put on the strip list when it hadn’t even been out a week. I hid that copy, then re-shelved it after the purge. I knew it would sell and it did!

    I’m waiting eagerly for the next in the series!

  • Melinda Says:

    Oh Amen and Amen to all the cudos! I never assume that I understand anything until an expert agrees with me. (Am megalophobic). Since the British gents clearly agree with me… precisely… on every point, I can safely declare that – not only have I enjoyed your novels immensely, but I’ve also understood them.

    Perhaps thats exactly why I enjoyed them!

  • Sandie Says:

    At least one Brit thinks you are AWESOME. I love your books and just wish that you had the time to write so many more. But will wait oh so patiently for the next instalment.

  • Jamie Says:

    I ordered all of the Steerswoman books the day I read that Walton review. That was, oh, a month ago now and I’ve just finished the fourth. In the last few years, as a student and an activist and simply a person who exists in this world and sees all the hopelessness of fighting against entrenched power, these books…I cannot tell you what they have meant to me already. A single person seeking truth, speaking truth to power as they say, gathering knowledge, allies, they have been an immense joy and comfort to me. I tell everyone to read these books, I’m almost at a loss at where to begin in what all I love and enjoyed about them. You, certainly, obviously, clearly deserve to be written into such a best-of list, and ought to be mentioned in more. Congratulations! I, like everyone who has ever read your work I imagine, am eagerly awaiting more of your writing.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Jamie —

      Thanks so much for your heartfelt and encouraging words!

      When things get tough me, I think of people like you, who remind me that what I do is seen, and understood, and worth doing.