Tor Teen: Who Runs the World: Stories of Female Empowerment: The future of SFF is feminist AF. Join your favorite Tor Teen YA authors Bethany C. Morrow (A Chorus Rises), Elayne Audrey Becker (Forestborn), Susan Dennard (Witchshadow), Sarah Henning (The Queen Will Betray You), and Shannon Price (The Endless Skies) as they discuss crafting female-driven storyworlds and the state of feminism in fantasy. Moderated by Amanda Foody (All of Us Villains).
Tor Teen brought six of their bestselling young adult fiction authors to San Diego Comic-Con to tell us what most of us already know: teens run the world. The six panelists talked about what it’s like creating female-driven stories and what the state of feminism in fantasy really is.
Bethany C. Morrow is a bestselling author who writes adult and young adult fiction. A Chorus Rises is the sequel to A Song Below Water. The sequel follows Naema Badshaw blessed with talent and a bit of magic too. Morrow’s books deal with our always-online lifestyle and the ramifications of what it means to live in public. Morrow says, “I had to write A Chorus Rises because feminism has left Black women behind and has not taken Black women into account. Feminism as a movement has not taken my needs and my liberation seriously and falls into.” Morrow says A Chorus Rises rejects misogynoir, “My work is to honor and to edify Black women.”
Elayne Audrey Becker is the writer of the upcoming book, Forestborn. She’s also a lover of history, myth, and everything wilderness-related. Following her love of the wild, Forestborn tells the story of Rora, a shifter born in the forest. It’s a story of magic, bravery, and carving out a place for yourself in the middle of men who would rather see you…tamed. Forestborn will release on August 31. What Becker loves about reading and writing fantasy is the ability to create new worlds says, “Thinking about feminism specifically, it’s important for me to create inclusive worlds where the social hierarchy isn’t based on sex, sexuality, the color of skin, or someone’s gender.”
The Witchland series by New York Times Bestselling author Susan Dennard is now in its fourth book entitled Witchshadow. The series traces the turbulent lives of witches Safiya and Threadwitch Iseult. The friends flee their homes, and after that? They travel and meet a bunch of other witches along the way, each as independent and strong-willed as they are. In the fourth book in the series, war has taken over the Witchlands. Friends and foes will come from all over to battle and test the prophecy of the Trustwitch and Threadwitch. Dennard says science fiction and fantasy tropes often get a bad rap, “I’m okay with tropes! I love chosen ones still. I love seeing them refreshed.” She added, “There’s an absence of women of color throughout fantasy, but a lot of that is changing and a lot of that change is happening in YA.”
Finally, for some romance that pays homage to The Princess Bride, we turn to Sarah Henning and her latest book, The Queen Will Betray You. The series features the love story of Princess Amarande and stableboy Luca. Their love is tested as the four kingdoms of The Sand and Sky seem to do everything they can to keep these two apart. Here’s to hoping Luca is let out of his barn and perhaps into a new role of Prince)?
Shannon Price makes her YA fantasy debut with The Endless Skies set to come out on August 16. Price wanted to reject the idea of the strong-female character cliches. Price says her characters are complicated and nuanced and engage with strength differently.
Of strong women, Morrow says it’s a phrase often used against her, “When I create characters, I think, am I making them whoever they actually are? Am I making them three-dimensional and able to take care of themselves in a world that has required the adultification of young teenage Black girls? Of course, they can take care of themselves.” Morrow added, “I think it’s really interesting to talk about the trope of strong women because it’s when you find out when the word “women” is coded as white, and unless we say that, then it looks like I’m doing the trope wrong, but the trope doesn’t apply to me.”
For these six Tor Teen authors, writing for young adults is about exhibiting grace in how stories are told. With writing YA, Henning says, “I don’t have a really big meaning for doing this other than I really enjoy it and I hope the kids do too.” Henning also thinks teens deserve a break and hopes her books can provide them with something exciting and fantastic to escape to.
For these Tor Teen writers, appreciate what it means to be a YA reader. It’s about helping young readers navigate their lives and give them something to hold onto as they grow and learn about who they are.