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  1. #1
    Registered User sonuvuce's Avatar
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    Looking for Independent Fantasy Heroines

    Friends, I want to try this genre for some time but am finding it difficult to get the books I want to read. I'm particularly looking for Urban Fantasy books with female main character but with NO romance whatsoever. I tried a few random books but from the first or second book onwards they start building on the romantic aspect of the books and sometimes start catering to the fantasies of their readers (based on my observations of the reviews from goodreads or amazon). I'm not interested in books where the main character starts developing feeling for men around her, no matter how subdued.

    Edit: Not particularly interested in YA books.

    Edit 2: The thread was created for contemporary fantasy heroines in particular but anything in any genre that fits the bill will do.
    Last edited by sonuvuce; August 30th, 2014 at 06:55 PM.

  2. #2
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    I would suggest, quite simply, that you just stick to contemporary fantasy works with male protagonists. There are plenty of them out there if you want to give contemporary fantasy a try. Since romantic sub-plots with male characters don't bother you, and female characters having a sex life does bother you, it really doesn't make sense for you to read stuff you are pre-disposed not to like in the first place and will judge mainly on its romantic sub-plots. Protagonists in most contemporary fantasy series are suspense protagonists -- detectives -- and detective characters traditionally run into a lot of potential love interests in mystery series, often having sex and pairing up with longer term partners. Romantic sub-plots are a main feature of suspense stories, and since you absolutely want to avoid the female protagonist ones, that leaves the males.

    So:

    Jim Butcher: Harry Dresden series
    Rob Thurman: Cal Leandros series
    Richard Kadrey: Sandman Slim series
    Mario Acevedo: Felix Gomez series
    Charles de Lint: those of his novels where it's a male protagonist
    China Mievielle: King Rat
    Charlie Huston: Joe Pitt series
    E.E. Knight: Vampire Earth series
    Christopher Golden: The Veil trilogy
    Dean Koontz: The Brother Odd series
    Mike Carey: Felix Castor series
    Simon Green: Nightside series
    Charles Stross: The Laundry Files series
    Tim Powers: Expiration Date, Earthquake Weather, Declare, Last Call, Three Days to Never
    Eric Nylund: Dry Water
    Terry Brooks: Running with the Demon and sequels
    Robert Holdstock: Mythago Wood and sequels
    Jonathan Lethem: Fortress of Solitude
    Sean Stewart: Mockingbird and others
    Michael de Larrambeiti: The Borribles
    Keith Donohue: The Stolen Child
    Esther Friesner: New York by Knight
    Joe Schreiber: Chasing the Dead
    Cameron Rogers: The Music of Razors
    Ray Manzarek: Snake Moon
    Mark West: In the Rain with the Dead
    Lavie Tidhar: An Occupation of Angels
    Jon F. Merz: Lawson the Vampire series
    William Mark Simmons: One Foot in the Grave, Dead on my Feet
    Dan Vining: The Quick
    Will Eliot: The Pilo Family Circus
    Sergei Lukyanenko: Night Watch
    John Connolly: Charlie Parker series
    Kevin Hearne: Iron Druid series
    S.M. Reine: Preternatural Affairs series
    Glenn Bullion: Damned and Cursed series
    M.L. Brennan: American Vampire series
    Lish McBride: Necromancer series
    Nicholas Kaufmann: Dying is My Business
    Devon Monk: Broken Magic duology
    Steve McHugh: Hellequin series
    Justin Gustainis: Occult Crimes Unit Investigation series
    Ben Aaronovitch: Peter Grant series
    Stephen Blackmoore: Eric Carter series
    Trent Jamieson: Death Works series
    Benedict Jacka: Alex Verus series
    Mark Del Franco: Connor Grey series
    Thomas E. Sniegoski: Remy Chandler series
    Anton Strout: Simon Canderous series
    Dan Wells: John Cleaver series
    Joe Hill: Horns
    Neil Gaiman: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
    John Levitt: Dog Days series
    Myke Cole: Shadow Ops series

  3. #3
    Registered User sonuvuce's Avatar
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    Kat, Thanks for the recommendations, i wonder whether you keep a custom made list for such purposes.

    I never said that romantic sub plots with male characters don't bother me but perhaps that was the vibe coming from my post. I understand the conventions of the mystery/detective genres but then I was looking for the books that break this convention. I prefer lone wolf kind main characters and who are happy with their life, male or female. Though i must say that a male having a long term stable partner does not bother me as much as much as a female having the same. May be it's just a case of looking through cultural/social prism and things aren't always such, I understand but the romantic sub-plots often becomes too heavy in such books with readers also wanting their characters to settle down, a case of the genre overlapping with paranormal romance. An independent, sassy female settling down and perhaps giving a part of her independence is something I don't find appealing. I know I'm making it too simple yet this is the long and short of it.

  4. #4
    Registered User sonuvuce's Avatar
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    Moreover,

    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    Since romantic sub-plots with male characters don't bother you, and female characters having a sex life does bother you, it really doesn't make sense for you to read stuff you are pre-disposed not to like in the first place and will judge mainly on its romantic sub-plots.
    On reading your post again I felt I need to reply here as I recalled a series I had read a long time ago and liked. It was a spy series by David Brierley where main character, an ex female agent named Cody didn't want to be controlled or interfered by anyone and especially men she was not averse to occasional hook up but it would never be the focus of the plot or came out to be exploitative. So female characters having a sex life is not my problem but in almost all the books their sex life is an offshoot of the romantic sub-plot.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by sonuvuce View Post
    I'm particularly looking for Urban Fantasy books with female main character but with NO romance whatsoever.
    Good luck with that!

    MOST urban fantasy ends up with some sort of romance element -- and that includes series with male protagonists as well, like Dresden or Rivers of London or Monster Hunter or whatever. I'd be surprised if anyone could find any UF series that has no romance anywhere in the series.

    eta -- great list, Kat. Now I've got to go through that list and see which ones I've missed. :-)
    Last edited by Contrarius; August 21st, 2014 at 09:42 AM.

  6. #6
    It occurs to me that you might like the Jane Yellowrock books by Faith Hunter. I've only read the first two so far, but the MC is seriously kickass and takes no prisoners. Yes, there are sexual attractions -- but as of the second book they are very much of the wham-bam-thankyou-boy variety, in stark contrast to anything lovey-dovey or starry-eyed. Worth checking out, anyway.

  7. #7
    Registered User sonuvuce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Contrarius View Post
    Good luck with that!
    Before asking here I had already looked on the web and it was all in vain. Makes me wonder about the diversity of these books.

    I thought there still might be some obscure series or books from 80s or early 90s which long term readers may be aware of, hence I asked.

  8. #8
    Registered User sonuvuce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Contrarius View Post
    It occurs to me that you might like the Jane Yellowrock books by Faith Hunter. I've only read the first two so far, but the MC is seriously kickass and takes no prisoners. Yes, there are sexual attractions -- but as of the second book they are very much of the wham-bam-thankyou-boy variety, in stark contrast to anything lovey-dovey or starry-eyed. Worth checking out, anyway.
    I kept an eye on the series when it first came out in 2009. Didn't read it (I had just started reading fantasy back then and didn't find much time to read in the past three years due to other commitments) then but may be I can try.

  9. #9
    Registered User sonuvuce's Avatar
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    While we are at it and as it looks like, at one extreme there aren't characters existing in which I'm interested, may I ask about the other extreme of the spectrum?

    I was going through the first review of Jane Yellowrock's fifth book and the reviewer on goodreads and made a point and even urged the author not to let go the series Anita way. Now I've read only one book of LKH's series and that was perhaps 4th or 5th book when the series was going 'good' apparently before it took a different route.

    I have a query here- L.KH's both series feature characters who are promiscuous but are they romantically involved to all their suiters or with one or two of them like Richelle Mead's Succubus series (read the two books of her Dark Swan series years ago) or Keri Arthur's series. This is what I meant by the other end of the spectrum as it is possible to not have romance yet sex in your books. Are such books in existence in this genre or is it devoid of them too like the celibate heroine?

  10. #10
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Contemporary suspense fantasy novels, which most contemporary fantasy stories are (also called sometimes urban fantasy,) use elements of suspense. And one of those elements is a loved one in danger, which makes the danger more intense. Consequently, a contemporary fantasy protagonist usually has love interests as well as friends and family members who become endangered and also dedicated parts of their army of useful people. A typical mystery thriller protagonist, male or female, in a series is likely to have four-five major love interests of varying lengths, sometimes on-off relationships with those, plus various flirtations. Even James Bond fell in love and got married.

    There are protagonists who have very active sex lives and serial through a fair number of love interests. (They are still likely to have several serious love interests during the series.) Only a percentage of the series with female protagonists have them settled down with anybody for very long. Usually, after a few books, they break up and move on (again 4-5 major love interests.) Quite often the reason they break up is that the woman doesn't want to settle down, or doesn't feel she can because of life stuff (in fantasy, magic stuff.) It depends on the series. And frankly, partnering up doesn't necessarily mean that they can't be sassy. Marriage isn't death.

    So basically, you have contemporary fantasy protagonists in series who have a mix of relationships, several of them serious, the amount of success of those depending on the series' chosen structure rather than the gender of the protagonist. These are not paranormal romance series. You also have team series in which the series is about a couple, usually a straight couple, in which their relationship is a major part of the plot and suspense and their investigation efforts. In the case of a team series with a straight couple, quite often it's the male character who is the protagonist by a hair, but not always. These are not paranormal romance series.

    Paranormal romance series usually have a different couple in each book of the series. In each book, a couple meets or re-meets, falls in love or re-falls in love, and remains a couple at the end of the book. The main plot of the story, irrespective of suspense crises, is about whether they will have that relationship. It's not a sub-plot while the protagonist deals with other stuff. In the next book in the series, the first couple may make cameos, while a new couple takes center stage (say the brother of the first protagonist gets to be the guy in the second one, etc.) Paranormal series build a universe of characters operating in a particular setting that support whichever love story is central per book. It is largely unlikely that you will run into a paranormal romance series and not know what it is.

    So that leaves again the contemporary suspense fantasy series that are not team series. In that case, if you can't stand to have a female protagonist in a serious relationship, even temporarily, but you're okay with a male protagonist in a serious relationship, stick to the guys. Because even if I've read say three books in a series and the female protagonist didn't have anything serious going on romantically, it's entirely possible she does in the fourth book. (Bear in mind, also, that when people talk about series written by female authors with female protagonists, they'll tend to emphasize the romance aspects of the books out of proportion to the main plots.)

    Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series is a unique series. Except for her other series, there really isn't very much out there that is like it. It is a hard-boiled, noir crime thriller fantasy series with heavy erotic elements. The erotic elements, however, are not usually that often erotic, as they have magic battles during the sex scenes. The sex lasts for two paragraphs and then Anita is on an ethereal plane fighting the oldest vampire and trying to keep control of her spirit tigers before they rip her body apart, etc. Hamilton uses the old chestnut of sex magic as a tenant of her supernatural universe and then develops it further with essentially love magic (and fear magic, etc.) Anita builds a giant polyamory family, which increases her necromancy powers enormously, and she has to keep that family/army alive while they have to keep her alive in order for folks to survive. This is akin to a regular suspense set-up -- the protagonist builds a web of useful people that he or she cares about -- but a lot more complicated, as it involves alliances between large tribes of supernatural folk and the equivalent of political treaties, as well as multi-dimensional and mental battle stuff. Anita has to balance also alliances with police characters and mercenary/assassin characters, and those relationships change. Anita goes from the equivalent of an insurance investigator with some necromatic power to a demi-goddess. That works for some people and not for others.

    So one of the things you might also look at is not simply serious romance but power development. A lot of series are structured with a protagonist who has some power and is found to have/develops a lot more power as the series progresses. And a lot of series take the Buffy approach (which is not original to Buffy,) in which the lone wolf who has to be separate in power use then finds that the pesky people who keep helping him or her actually make the protagonist stronger against opposition forces, that it is the web of relationships and caring that provides the strength. So this is why you are seeing a pattern of "settling down" or family gathering, and it isn't unique to female protagonists. If you don't like that with female protagonists, but are okay with the males doing it, then again, stick to the males. (Including F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack series to the list.)

    I'm not sure we've had a lot of Clint Eastwood type protagonists in these things. And even in Clint Eastwood's movies, he would family gather, thawing a bit of his tortured soul and often have a love interest. An inhuman protagonist who cannot love might be what you are looking for. And spy-oriented series over detective series are more likely to have less romance overall -- look for series that involve an agency or organization with agents or a series in which the protagonist has to wander and travel a lot. But the majority of the regular mystery thriller series will again have a protagonist who has 4-5 serious relationships plus flirtations and stick mainly to one setting. A minority percentage will have a main serious romantic relationship that lasts. Another section will be the team novels. There are also some authors who rotate things. Myke Cole's Special Ops series, for instance, switches protagonists book to book, and Kelley Armstrong has a universe of characters and switches protagonists for different sub-trilogies.

    I do not keep custom lists, but as it happened, we had a thread several years back in which the person asked for contemporary fantasy novels with male protagonists, in which I'd done a list, so half the list came from that and the other half from typing in search contemporary fantasy novels with male protagonists. There are thousands of them, so this is just a sample.

  11. #11
    Registered User sonuvuce's Avatar
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    Kat, I've been waiting for your long post on the subject..

    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    Contemporary suspense fantasy novels, which most contemporary fantasy stories are (also called sometimes urban fantasy,) use elements of suspense. And one of those elements is a loved one in danger, which makes the danger more intense. Consequently, a contemporary fantasy protagonist usually has love interests as well as friends and family members who become endangered and also dedicated parts of their army of useful people. A typical mystery thriller protagonist, male or female, in a series is likely to have four-five major love interests of varying lengths, sometimes on-off relationships with those, plus various flirtations. Even James Bond fell in love and got married.
    I think I might be interested in such books where relationships with family members are explored. From what I've read or seen so far, I have found that in Western media, as opposed to the stuffs from let's say Japan, if there are people around a protagonist they are more likely to have a romantic interest in him/her and apart from close friends there isn't much focus on the family aspect of the protagonist like his/her mother, father or sisters/brothers or other siblings. Much of this has to do with the individualistic traditions of the West. If it is not a historical book, how often do we see a main character living up to his/her father's expectations or involved in a family feud, having an enormous responsibility to uplift the family status etc. Just a cursory look at the average plot from the video games from Japan and from America insinuates this-while the Eastern protagonist would be out there to take revenge because the main bad guy killed or captured his/her sibling or parent, the Western hero would get involved in battle because of his beloved.

    As for love interests, it is the notion that has been around there for past 50-60 years and before that it wasn't very popular. I was a reading a book by Orson Scott Card where he, while discussing about the various forms of storytelling tells about the stories that convey an "idea". Mystery and detective genre falls in this category and according to him the character development is not important in these genres and main character having few idiosyncrasies would be enough, he does mention that it has been more common in American writing to develop the character as the series progresses than that of British. What he does not mention that such were the conventions back in the times of Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie and they aren't anymore (as I see how difficult it is to get even a single series like that). So you could have a series of books where the main character keeps solving the cases without any significant development in his character and hence no love interests.


    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post

    There are protagonists who have very active sex lives and serial through a fair number of love interests. (They are still likely to have several serious love interests during the series.) Only a percentage of the series with female protagonists have them settled down with anybody for very long. Usually, after a few books, they break up and move on (again 4-5 major love interests.) Quite often the reason they break up is that the woman doesn't want to settle down, or doesn't feel she can because of life stuff (in fantasy, magic stuff.) It depends on the series. And frankly, partnering up doesn't necessarily mean that they can't be sassy. Marriage isn't death.
    The main character not having a 'serious love interest' is the very point of this thread. Someone who is in serious relationship, has the propensity to settle down- doesn't matter whether it happens during the course of the books or not. And say, if they are clear from the start that they do not want marriage or settle down (as you have pointed out Kat) then they should be dating a likewise character who is also not looking for marriage, otherwise if there is a case of proposal from the other person and the heroine rejects then does it not going to break his heart? She shouldn't have kept him in delusion by being his 'serious love interest' and wasting his time when he could have invested it in some other person who wouldn't reject him. Worse even is that if they know (or they are too dumb to figure it out) and are aware about the dangers in their lives, they should be considering it at least thrice before allowing someone in their lives and exposing him to the dangers they face (in contemporary fantasy this might be a moot point as the other characters around her would already be exposed to the dangers). But as you pointed out Kat, authors put it in their stories to make it intense and taking it to more personal level, it helps in resolving the motivation more convincingly because the Boy Scout kind of characters who would be doing good to the world without any personal motive are outdated.

    Personally these things in my books are obnoxious to me. Involved in a relationship for some time, breaking up and then moving on to someone else...shows how much they are blinded by their emotions. I want them to be rational beings and not act like the normal folks of our everyday lives. This is one of the pivotal points of me reading fantasy, otherwise why shouldn't I go and read a contemporary literature or watch a likewise movie if I'm interested in what happens in our everyday lives. It gets on my nerves when I see that my main characters are supposed to be smart and problem-solver (which often requires them to have a good understanding of human mind and behavior including human psychology) yet they cannot decide what is good for their own lives. More often than not, the first person they have dated would always come out to be a dork and it doesn't stop there. During the course of the series they will get involve with other similar person and in some further book they will find that he had always been a manipulative bad guy. And then there are some series where, one fine day, out of the blue, the authors will get their characters engaged and/or married only to sacrifice it later at the altar of the plot. Yes the authors like to write such plots because they are easy to construct and adds tension in the story and contributes to the development of the character but somewhere it also damages the characters and trivializes them. I have read first five books of Kim Harrison's witch and the relationships in it were shallow, I could have told right from the start that it won't be working for her but the main character wouldn't listen to me because you know 'love is blind'.

    I know all the books out there are not like that but trying out ten series before finding one that works for me is not something I am going to do. Kat you are trying to tell me to read books with male main but they aren't a priority right now (for that matter let me tell you, I abhor James Bond) and I'm interested in this discussion.

    Marriages and relationships in the present socio-economic milieu is something I'm not very fond of. The more they change with time the more they remain the same. Part of the joy of reading the fantasy is it being an escapist medium, I want it to take a different and radical take on the systems, beliefs and institutions and something that challenges my understanding of the world as I know in entertaining and non-academic way but I guess not many people are fond of that. They are more comfortable with what they see in their everyday lives as it is easy for them to relate.
    One book that is coming to my mind where the majority secondary world was without any marriage is Heartreaders by Kristin Kathryn Rusch. There must be others (tell me if you know). Though a large number of fantasy books do not deviate much from the Tolkien's steps and end up being conservative rather than radical.



    Aren't there heroines like Phryne Fisher in contemporary fantasy or otherwise (in traditional fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary or period piece)?

    Perhaps a feminist contemporary fantasy will work for me, are there any such series? What about Jacqueline Carey's urban fantasy books? Though I'm not fond of her Kushiel's series (read first three books only-skimmed through the third one) not because of the sex in them but oddly, the romance aspect (mawkish kind of-Joscelin's jealousy). The world building and some characters (Hyacinthe, Melisande etc.) were great but her flowery language was hindrance.


    shall come for more later

    Edit: Few punctuation marks for easy read and some afterthoughts.
    Last edited by sonuvuce; August 23rd, 2014 at 09:52 AM.

  12. #12
    Registered User sonuvuce's Avatar
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    Last edited by sonuvuce; August 23rd, 2014 at 11:23 PM. Reason: double post

  13. #13
    Registered User sonuvuce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post

    These are not paranormal romance series.
    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    Bear in mind, also, that when people talk about series written by female authors with female protagonists, they'll tend to emphasize the romance aspects of the books out of proportion to the main plots.
    I only made a point about how contemporary fantasy is affected due to the paranormal romance. The lines you've defined to demarcate both sub-genres are broad ones, it gets blurred as many readers who read paranormal also read contemporary fantasy, there are many authors who have written in both sub-genres and thus bringing their audience from PR to UF, they take more interest in where the relationships are going than the larger stakes and the dangers of the world. After Karen Monings first two books of fever series I didn't bother to read any further because of course the story wasn't as much interesting to me and second reason was that even though the books were pure contemporary fantasy and there was only a slightest hint of romance many people had started demanding a HEA for the main character. Perhaps these people were fans of her Highlander series and had switched the tracks along with her.

    I had read (if I remember correctly) somewhere that Laurell K. Hamilton changed her Anita Blake universe so much only when the audience had started grouping themselves as team Richard and team JC. That was a brave move indeed. Not many authors would do that, it has risk of alienating and eroding your fan base.

    And Kat this emphasizing on the romance aspect does not always come from the detractors (so that they want it to remain as a mere sub category of women's fiction) but also from the lovers of the series.

    More about Anita later.

    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    There are protagonists who have very active sex lives and serial through a fair number of love interests. (They are still likely to have several serious love interests during the series.) Only a percentage of the series with female protagonists have them settled down with anybody for very long. Usually, after a few books, they break up and move on (again 4-5 major love interests.) Quite often the reason they break up is that the woman doesn't want to settle down, or doesn't feel she can because of life stuff (in fantasy, magic stuff.) It depends on the series. And frankly, partnering up doesn't necessarily mean that they can't be sassy. Marriage isn't death.
    If people haven't got the idea then let me say it explicitly, I'm not bothered by someone having a very very active sex lives or if pages and pages of the books are filled with them, it also doesn't matter to me if it is contextual or gratuitous because not all the sexual activity that happens between humans has to have any significance or always make sense (for that matter I think that people deliberately insert sex in their books in some context so that it comes out to be meaningful and they are not lambasted for it). They do come out to be shocking, evoke different emotions and sometimes do a good job of titillating but physical needs and emotional needs aren't the same things necessarily, how the authors balances it out is the key whether it will work or not and it works differently for different people.

    I must add here that I always prefer sex to be from the point of view of women stemming from my belief that issues like sexuality and relationships should firmly rest with women but evolutionary psychology would suggest otherwise. This also brings the question of independence and sassiness. Yes partnering doesn't means a woman can't be spunky or loose her independence but these novels aren't taking place in a secondary world that is completely different from our own and since in our world the issues of sexuality and bodily integrity does not rest firmly with women, it would be fair to assume that the same is happening in the fantasy setting I'm reading about. I'm not interested in reading about a woman whose hormones are triggered by the presence of this alpha male in her vicinity, this does not give her an ownership over her sexuality-a detrimental factor to her independence. I've seen people in their reviews or discussions complaining about cheating if the character is dating two men simultaneously. If she or the men around her doesn't have problem nobody should have but if anywhere there is a doubt or if she feels guilty she shouldn't do it. Her mores are her own and the mores of the readers are theirs.

  14. #14
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sonuvuce View Post
    Kat, I've been waiting for your long post on the subject..
    Well, I aim to oblige...

    I think I might be interested in such books where relationships with family members are explored. From what I've read or seen so far, I have found that in Western media, as opposed to the stuffs from let's say Japan, if there are people around a protagonist they are more likely to have a romantic interest in him/her and apart from close friends there isn't much focus on the family aspect of the protagonist like his/her mother, father or sisters/brothers or other siblings.
    No, family members come into it. It is, for instance, a common ploy to have the mom and/or dad missing or believed dead and then turning up alive, for instance, or to have someone who was just a comrade turn out to be a long-lost brother or something. Thurman's Cal Leandros series, for instance, focuses on Cal and his half-brother who is human. In Jaye Wells' new series, Prospero's War, the protagonist is a cop from a crime family who is raising her younger brother and dealing with the threat of her imprisoned uncle who runs a magic crime syndicate. (I read the first book, Dirty Magic, and liked it a good bit; the threat there is to the brother.) Seanan McGuire's October Day series has a fae protagonist who has a daughter in the course of the series, etc. Kelley Armstrong's universe involves mothers and daughters and a whole family clan of werewolves. What western ones do probably have are much smaller families, rather than the extended ones, but it depends on what sort of magic is involved.

    And there is also the family gathering in general, which is the building of a family out of people who become important to the protagonist, and not all of those relationships are romantic ones. They are work and personal related with some characters serving a parental-mentor role and others serving an apprentice child role, and still more a sidekick-comrade roll (lots of those if the protagonist is a cop or works with cops.) While this is definitely extremely common in western literature, I don't think it's that unusual in eastern literature either. The idea of a band of heroes and comrades is a universal and that band of people forms a family.

    If you can find a wanderer character -- one who has to or chooses to keep moving -- then there may be family building in a book, but it will be temporary. Spy thriller and commando military contemporaries concentrate on dealing with the organization and tend to be more global -- romances may develop but not necessarily strong ones and the protagonist probably travels more. And these may be easier to find in eastern literature. But there is the tradition in detective suspense literature to establish a setting -- a city or town -- that operates as an additional character of sorts, and the protagonist only sometimes travels from it and protects those in it, and the writer populates the setting with a web of useful people and antagonists, some of whom may eventually become useful people instead. So Anita Blake stays mainly in St. Louis. Harry Dresden is in Chicago. John Levitt's Dog Days series is set in San Francisco, Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels occur mainly in the small town of Bon Temps, and so forth.

    As for love interests, it is the notion that has been around there for past 50-60 years and before that it wasn't very popular.
    I don't know how you get that, as the idea of using love interests for suspense and threat has been around for thousands of years. The damsel in distress was pretty much a universal. The hero proved his worth by rescuing the princess and got the princess as reward. And then there's Cinderella, Tristan and Isolde, etc.

    I was a reading a book by Orson Scott Card where he, while discussing about the various forms of storytelling tells about the stories that convey an "idea". Mystery and detective genre falls in this category and according to him the character development is not important in these genres and main character having few idiosyncrasies would be enough, he does mention that it has been more common in American writing to develop the character as the series progresses than that of British.
    Well no, I'd have to disagree. That seems to fall under the old saw that some types of stories are plot stories and some are character stories, and mysteries being plot stories (mystery to solve, action suspense,) that character is not that important. But in actuality, in most mystery series, the individual mystery stories themselves are largely unimportant. It's the detective character and supporting characters that the readers are interested in. That's why there is so much family gathering in them. I suppose that he was thinking of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Ms. Marple. But Holmes does change in the course of his association with Watson, with Watson weaning him off his cocaine addiction, and Watson develops a romance and marries. Poirot and Marple are both older people; Poirot is affected by his cases and has a flirtation with a Countess (while his sidekick Hastings also falls in love and gets married,) and Ms. Marple family builds entire communities; and Christie also wrote novels and stories about Tommy and Tuppence, a married couple who turn detective. In Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey series, Wimsey is shell-shocked from WWI, becomes better over time, falls in love with a woman accused of murder and gets married. You probably can find a number of British series about cops where they keep a stiff upper lip about their personal lives and try to keep them off the job, compared to the U.S. noir tradition of the drunken P.I. tortured by his tragic past. But in general, any long series will have character development of the main characters, because it's how they tackle the mysteries, the notion of justice, redemption, forgiveness and violence in terms of their perspective that form the backbones of those series. In particular in the past 20th century stuff, there were love interests because people were expected to get married. But even when it was a guy cycling through a lot of women like Travis McGee, they did change from their experiences and regularly had love interests, some serious.

    The main character not having a 'serious love interest' is the very point of this thread.
    Well no, the topic was a female protagonist in contemporary fantasy without any love interests, later qualified to serious ones, thus setting very tight limits on stories with female protagonists. In general, what bothers folks about female protagonists, especially in the sex and romance department, does not bother them much with male protagonists, because males are the default -- we're conditioned not to be bothered by them. So when someone says they don't want icky female love stuff in a series, my tendency is simply to steer them to the males where it's not going to be an issue. If it is an issue with male protagonists as well, you're pretty much up a creek. There is no way to guarantee that in a 6-20 book series that there are going to be no serious love interests.

    And say, if they are clear from the start that they do not want marriage or settle down (as you have pointed out Kat) then they should be dating a likewise character who is also not looking for marriage, otherwise if there is a case of proposal from the other person and the heroine rejects then does it not going to break his heart? She shouldn't have kept him in delusion by being his 'serious love interest' and wasting his time when he could have invested it in some other person who wouldn't reject him.
    It doesn't usually work that way. A person may believe that they can settle down safely and then realize that they can't, that it would be too dangerous because of stuff that comes up (that wasn't necessarily there originally,) or not who they really are when they learn more about themselves or are affected by events in the stories that change them. A protagonist may realize that the feelings for another he thought he had were not what he thought, or that the person he loves isn't going to be somebody he can be permanently with. Events may occur that thrust two people apart for a time, but eventually they come back together. Sometimes the relationship has to be sacrificed in order to save the world. The protagonist may keep pushing a person away as a romantic partner, but eventually realize that's who they love. There are lots of different ways to do it. Events change, dangers change, people change. Series may go slower in chronological time than real life, but they don't usually remain static.

    It's also a matter of the fact that characters aren't emotionless, undamaged by their pasts or what occurs, and unaffected by interactions with other human beings. In fantasy stories particularly, the stakes are high, the events often violent and traumatic, whether it's a love interest involved or not, and magic often causes emotional and mental changes. Having main characters not react to that would seem strange and kind of robotic. But what might work is to look for a series where the protagonist is a nun, monk or Catholic priest. I know James D. Macdonald and his wife Debra Doyle had a Catholic priest character called Peter Crossman for some stories. James Blaylock did a Christian trilogy which are essentially three linked but standalone novels: The Last Coin, The Paper Grail and All the Bells on Earth. While they aren't without love interests necessarily, they might be of interest, but not really a series.

    Another thing to look at are the thrillers that have fantasy elements in the general fiction market. James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell, for instance, have a series called The Order of the Sanguines, and one of the main characters is a Catholic priest. They are adventures dealing with divine magic, archaeology, etc. There are quite a few of those kinds of things on the bestseller list and globe-trotting adventure conspiracy stories tend to have fewer love interests, though again, you'll have to check.

    In terms of radical social systems, a lot of that was 1960's, 1970's fiction, with the New Wave in SF, which had some spillover into fantasy. But contemporary fantasy series are mainly set in the current world or an alternate version extremely similar to the current world. You aren't going to have radical new social systems in those. You can find polyamory -- Hamilton as mentioned, Elizabeth Bear's Promethean Age books and some other works, but polyamory usually does involve serious and emotional relationships to one degree or another, not just sex. There is a lot of experimentation going on, but I don't know of any particular series that would specifically meet your needs.

    Best bet, if they have the words "ladies man" on the cover copy, grab that one. You might also enjoy a contemporary fantasy series that started back when in the seventies and that's The Destroyer series, originally by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir. The series went on into the oughts and there's a possibly new movie version coming out. It's a spy series, involves some humor and martial arts, and mild fantasy elements in terms of the protagonist's training and abilities.

    Have not read the Phyrne Fisher novels, but she has a romance interest with the police guy, so not sure what you mean there. Haven't read the Carey Agents of Hel series either, but from what I know of it, it will not fit your needs. It's set in a small town of magic, she gets a boyfriend, etc.

  15. #15
    Registered User sonuvuce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    What western ones do probably have are much smaller families, rather than the extended ones, but it depends on what sort of magic is involved.
    Yes West tends to focus on the immediate family members usually parents and their children only.

    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    And there is also the family gathering in general, which is the building of a family out of people who become important to the protagonist, and not all of those relationships are romantic ones.
    I wanted to write more in my post about this family thing, I got it that by family you meant the acquaintances and companionships that are formed during the series where these people support and help each other out and finding themselves a role in this family that suits best for them.

    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    I don't know how you get that, as the idea of using love interests for suspense and threat has been around for thousands of years. The damsel in distress was pretty much a universal. The hero proved his worth by rescuing the princess and got the princess as reward. And then there's Cinderella, Tristan and Isolde, etc.
    I meant in mystery detective genre in particular, it should be read together with my whole paragraph of what OSC has to say but you are right that if the series tends to be long there is a strong likelihood that we'll see some growth of character and usually that means a romantic interest or two.

    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    But in actuality, in most mystery series, the individual mystery stories themselves are largely unimportant. It's the detective character and supporting characters that the readers are interested in.
    Perhaps where the difference comes is between the readers of yesterday and the readers of today. Earlier, they might not have a keen interest in the character development of the protagonist than the mystery element. That's where OSC must be getting his idea, that a few eccentries were enough for character.

    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    But Holmes does change in the course of his association with Watson, with Watson weaning him off his cocaine addiction, and Watson develops a romance and marries. Poirot and Marple are both older people; Poirot is affected by his cases and has a flirtation with a Countess (while his sidekick Hastings also falls in love and gets married,) and Ms. Marple family builds entire communities; and Christie also wrote novels and stories about Tommy and Tuppence, a married couple who turn detective. In Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey series, Wimsey is shell-shocked from WWI, becomes better over time, falls in love with a woman accused of murder and gets married.
    One must take into account that these detectives were in the tradition of the gentlemen detectives of the Britain, they were not above the times they were operating in and were supposed to have a soft spot towards the women. They may flirt sometimes but it would be in good humor and not some ulterior motive, it was very likely that if they fell in love they would get married because courting and dating weren't so common and perhaps they didn't have time for it.

    I would take a gentleman detective any day than the troubled-dark-past-redemption-seeking American detective.

    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    Well no, the topic was a female protagonist in contemporary fantasy without any love interests, later qualified to serious ones, thus setting very tight limits on stories with female protagonists. In general, what bothers folks about female protagonists, especially in the sex and romance department, does not bother them much with male protagonists, because males are the default
    Ah! You are right Kat but as you can figure out by now what I want is the female protagonist shouldn't be looking for a man to be happy and that's it. Doesn't matter if she is a celibate or a nymph. Yes in the latter situation she still needs men but that isn't the same as the need of a man for a lifetime, someone to care for her, to make her feel secure, to keep her happy-to declare his love for her-things that have been norm with the fairer sex since the advent of humanity.

    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    Have not read the Phyrne Fisher novels, but she has a romance interest with the police guy, so not sure what you mean there. Haven't read the Carey Agents of Hel series either, but from what I know of it, it will not fit your needs. It's set in a small town of magic, she gets a boyfriend, etc.
    I have read only a few, the sexual tension with the detective inspector is there in the TV series only (haven't seen).
    So Carey's series also wouldn't fit, perhaps instead of reading I should play video games and read some old comics where protagonists usually do not have love interest(s) because it hasn't been a convention there.


    still some matters to write about

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