-By Lauren Panepinto

Holy crap! Spectrum Fantastic Art Live is in ONE WEEK. So very excited to see many of you there. The exhibitors are amazing, the programming is going to be intense, and most importantly, it’s the start of convention season, and that means I get to hang out with some of my favorite people (and most inspiring artists) in the world. I’m absolutely swamped designing Bootcamp onesheets for this year (yes we’ll be posting them online again after the con), so in the meantime, I’m going to give you a bit of a sneak peek into an amazing project I’m involved with: Women of Wonder by Cathy Fenner.

Cathy certainly has her hands full with co-running Spectrum, but in her not-free time she saw an intense need for a book celebrating the women artists working in the fantastic genre. And, as Toni Morrison said, “If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” So she did, and collected an amazing amount of work from the past right up to the newest generation of women. I was honored to be asked to write the introduction, which you can read below in spread form, or over at Tor.com.

I had the opportunity to ask Cathy a few questions about her motivation for the project, since I’ll be moderating the Women of Wonder panel at Spectrum next week:

LP: What gave you the idea for doing Women of Wonder? Is there something significant about this time in the art world or in society as a whole that seems like this is the time to do such a collection?

CF: While co-editing the Spectrum Fantastic Art competition and books I had noticed an increasing number of very talented women entering the field who were producing exceptional work. It had been percolating around in my mind to find a way to shine a spotlight on their growing ranks, but I also did not want to overlook the many women artists who have made their mark and influenced the art world in years past, like Rose O’Neill or Sulamith Wülfing. When I approached Tim Underwood of Underwood Books with the proposal he felt like it was a wonderful idea and agreed to publish it. Art books aren’t the easiest things to sell these days so it’s hard to say if WOMEN OF WONDER will be successful or not; I divided the entire advance equally among the featured artists because the book is about them, not me.

LP: Why is it important to specifically to have a collection of just women fantastic artists? Why not just include them in books on fantastic artists in general?

CF: Really it was simply wanting to make people open their eyes. If you ask anyone to name the most popular or best-known fantasy or science fiction illustrator, they’ll most likely mention a very talented man. Who doesn’t love Frazetta, Whelan, or Donato? I know I most certainly do. But look at the art of Karla Ortiz, Forest Rogers, Claire Wendling, or L.D. Austin to name a few: women kick ass just as hard as the men do and this seemed like a great way to remind people and maybe help them shake off their preconceived ideas of who genre artists are and what they can do. Since there have already been many books highlighting the field which included both men and women I felt that a book dedicated specifically to women artists seemed like a natural. Pamela Sargent had edited an anthology in the 1970s (with the same title, as it turns out) calling attention to women SF writers; it seemed to me that something that did the same for women artists was long overdue.

LP: Do you feel fantastic art as a genre is more welcoming or difficult for women artists?

CF: The perception is that it is a male-dominated field; that was unquestionably true in the past, but there has been—and continues to be—a shift occurring in the publishing, gallery, and entertainment fields in which women, either as creators or as art directors, are making their voices heard. Increasingly, people are realizing that art is neither male nor female-centric, but is either “good” or “bad” (depending on how each individual distinguishes one from the other). Action/adventure, pin-up, SF, superheroes: there are no subjects that women aren’t currently painting and drawing with the same authority and excitement as their male colleagues. Although it may have been difficult to stand out in the past, this is a different time and I believe things are changing—and will continue to change—for the better.

LP: Is there a common theme you find running through women’s interpretations of fantastic art that is uniquely female and distinct from the male artists?

CF: Not really. My husband (and Muddy Colors columnist! —LP) Arnie has always said that art is art, regardless of the way it’s created or for whom or what it is created for. With that I mind, I think that, in the greater scheme of things, artists are artists. In publishing the art is driven by subject and content; for galleries it is likewise driven by subject as well as concept. I think each artist, regardless of gender, approaches their art the same way to create something that resonates with an audience. Hopefully, when readers pick up a copy of WOMEN OF WONDER, lightning will strike and their appreciation for all types of art and artists will instantly get a lot bigger.


You can read a longer interview with Cathy on this project at the SF Signal blog.

You can get copies of Women of Wonder at Spectrum, or order online.

If you’re coming to Spectrum, come check out the Women of Wonder panel with me, Cathy, Rovina Cai, Karla Ortiz, Tran Nguyen, and Forest Rogers, Saturday from 2-3pm.