A New Year’s Best Gives Me Thinky Thoughts About Existing Year’s Bests

Nisi Shawl

Yesterday a bit of news I’ve been sitting on excitedly finally went public. Aqueduct Press is going to start publishing a Year’s Best volume titled The Year’s Illustrious Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy! Nisi Shawl will edit, and I’m among a handful of fabulous volunteers who will help her by reading everything I can and suggesting stories for Nisi to consider. It’s like slush reading except I’m slushing through published stuff.

This dovetails nicely with my gig at io9 (new post up today!) since I’m already reading all the short fiction I can get my hands on. Any story I like that I also consider feminist will go on the recommended list.

If you have a story you think is feminist that was (or will be) published in 2014 and you want it considered for this year’s best, you can submit it for consideration using this form.

Before you ask me to define a feminist story, know that this is an ongoing discussion amongst the folks working on this project. Likely there will be a definition or idea included in the call for submissions, coming out in a little bit. For now I say: if you think your story is feminist, fill out the form.

I’m so excited that Nisi is editing this volume as I don’t think there are enough female Year’s Best editors, especially for science fiction. You find prominent women amongst the horror and fantasy editors, but guys dominate volumes that include SF. And while many of those guys are good editors, this situation just feeds into the idea that science fiction isn’t for women. You know how I feel about that stupid idea.

Nisi may also be the only POC editor of a current English language Year’s Best–please do correct me if I’m wrong. The fact that I can’t think of any says volumes. The Year’s Bests have been edited by mostly male (all likely cis), maybe all-white editors for years and years. Giving a black woman the editing gig for a new one is a great first step.

It’s shouldn’t be the last step, though.

I’d be really interested to see what would happen if Dozois or Horton decided to turn over or share editing duties for a year or two to someone like An Owomoyela or Andrea Hairston or Amal El-Mohtar or Nalo Hopkinson or Saladin Ahmed? How different in sensibility would those volumes look?

Some of the story choices might be the same as there are always ones that stand out and get near universal praise. I imagine that there would also be many stories in the books that wouldn’t even have been considered by the traditional editors.

It doesn’t end at Year’s Best volumes–of the few outlets that review short stories professionally, how many of the reviewers are women or people of color?

So much of the conversation around which stories are best is dominated by white guys. But the genre is changing via both the writers of stories and readers of them. I’d like to see that change reflected in the editors and reviewers, too. As I said, Nisi Shawl editing this Year’s Best is a great first step. Let’s make sure it’s not the last.

Seanan McGuire on why she will not add rape to her stories to add “realism”

Seanan McGuire on why she will not add rape to her stories to add "realism"

If you’ve been reading my blog long enough, you know my feelings about the way rape is used in most fiction. If you’re unaware or have forgotten, please click over to my post here, my post on ABW, and my post on Jeff Vandermeer’s blog about the subject.

The bottom line of each of those is that I really do not like it when authors decide to have their female (and it’s almost always female) characters raped for bullshit plot or character development “reasons”. The kind of writers who do this are generally not very good ones since they have to use cheap tricks in order to show that the female character is “strong” or the male character is “evil” or to wink and nod to any reader out there who might think that a female character could possibly ever get away with being smart and confident and badass without being taken down a peg.

I also get angry at this trope because I firmly believe that it contributes to rape culture in a big way. When the message from fiction is constantly that rape is inevitable, especially if you as a woman step outside of the box of what is acceptable, and that’s just how it is. Whenever I suggest that authors just NOT include rape as an inevitable consequence of being a woman in fiction, I get told that this is completely unrealistic.

Thus, I am not at all surprised that this happened to author Seanan McGuire:

Last night, I was asked—in so many words—when either Toby or one of the Price girls was finally going to be raped.

Not “if.” Not “do you think.” But “when,” and “finally.” Because it is a foregone conclusion, you see, that all women must be raped, especially when they have the gall to run around being protagonists all the damn time. I responded with confusion. The questioner provided a list of scenarios wherein these characters were “more than likely” to encounter sexual violence. These included Verity forgetting to change out of her tango uniform before going on patrol, Toby being cocky, and Sarah walking home from class alone[1]. Yes, even the ambush predator telepath with a “don’t notice me” field is inevitably getting raped.

When. Finally. Inevitably.

My response: “None of my protagonists are getting raped. I do not want to write that.”

Their response: “I thought you had respect for your work. That’s just unrealistic.”

Go and read the whole post, because everything that Seanan has to say in response to this nonsense is right on and should be read by every person ever, especially authors.

I’ve said this before and I will say it again: Writers, when you write fiction you get to create the world. Yes, even if are writing in the “real” world and not that of the speculative, you get to decide what happens to your characters and why. Spec writers in particular get to create stuff out of whole cloth, if they like. And more of them should choose not to bring rape into their narratives. Because if we want to create a world in which rape happens less, we need to show worlds where rape isn’t the inevitable consequence of being a woman.

Then maybe there won’t be readers out there who claim that no rape means a book is unrealistic. Because: really? Gross.

Footnotes

  1. Does it occur to anyone else that this person has thought way too much about the ways in which these characters may end up raped? If I were Seanan I would stay away from the fan fiction for a bit…[]

And Now For Something Completely Awesome

And Now For Something Completely Awesome

Hugo Award nominations were announced yesterday and this shiny book got a nod in the Best Related Work Category:

That’s right! Chicks Dig Time Lords is a Hugo nominated work! I am so incredibly happy, yay!

And, if I am allowed to say: well deserved! Lynne and Tara put together a really solid lineup and the fan response has been overwhelmingly positive. I hope that remains the case as Hugo voting commences :)

On equally happy notes, I see a lot of friends scattered throughout the nominations, but I wanted to give a special shout out to fellow Altered Fluidians N. K. Jemisin and Saladin Ahmed. Ms. Jemisin’s first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, is on the best novel list and Mr. Ahmed is up for the Not A Hugo Campbell award for best new writer.

I posted the whole list over on the ABW and noted that there are quite a few women on the list, more POC than I’m used to seeing, and many “new” or young writers, which is an achievement for the Hugos. Can’t wait to see how the winners balance out on these fronts.

5 Awesome Things Make A Tempest Happy

5 Awesome Things Make A Tempest Happy
  1. Apex Magazine’s special Arab/Muslim issue is now live and is full of brilliant, beautiful, amazing writing. Go read.
  2. Cat Valente — editor of Apex Magazine — celebrated the release of her book this past weekend. The Habitation of the Blessed: A Dirge for Prester John vol 1 is available in many fine bookstores and in eBook form. I have a copy of this book and have been clinging to it jealously ever since it was handed to me.
  3. If the name Cat Valente doesn’t get you excited, and you’re all: WTF is Prester John, then partake of this video that explains it all with action figures. It is the best thing on the Internet right now.
  4. The other book I got my hands on this weekend is M. K. Hobson’s The Native Star. People, you need this book.
  5. The 50th issue of Clarkesworld Magazine is out and, lo, it contains fiction by two people who I am not only proud to call friends, but who regularly shake me to the core with how wonderful their fiction is: Genevieve Valentine and N. K. Jemisin. That is too much awesomeness for one issue, right? Read it, anyway.

Honey And Tea Are Sacred

Honey And Tea Are Sacred

A few months ago I gave one of my bosses a small jar of my favorite honey from the farmer’s market because she was out of hers and looking for new honey to try. We often bond over just how good the honey is because local honey by skilled beekeepers is the bombdiggity! In fact, one of the sellers for this particular vendor gave me an appreciation for honey I never had before.

He taught me how honey has different flavors and why the stuff you buy in the store is often just flat and sweet instead of complicated and deep. Now I treat honey like fine wine and good chocolate. I need many jars of different flavors to match the different teas or foods I put the honey in or on.

I once told one of my co-workers that I spent a weekend pairing up my favorite teas with my favorite honeys looking for the perfect combination. Her response was priceless: “Girl, you need a boyfriend!” When I related this tale on Twitter, Amal El-Mohtar tweeted back that it seemed like an excellent way to spend a weekend to her, as tea and honey are sacred.

That they are.

Which is why I need to get my hands on her excellent book, The Honey Month. I have had peeks at it at various conventions but it always sells out before I get around to buying. Sadness! However, I am going to enter this fabulous contest and win a free copy so that I can enjoy the honey and tea prose and poetry goodness. You can, of course, also enter the contest. I won’t hold it against you if you win. Promise.