Utopias In Literature (Scholar & Feminist Conference 2013)

Utopias In Literature (Scholar & Feminist Conference 2013)

This year’s Scholar & Feminist Conference theme is Utopia, and I’m honored to be leading a workshop about Utopia and Literature. I’m going to discuss mainly speculative fiction novels and short stories (thus the reading list below), explore how writers have handled the idea of utopia and dystopia, and discuss the ways writers can think about utopia going forward. I’m also going to get into how fiction handles utopia affects the reader and/or culture.

In preparation for this workshop I had some great conversations with other speculative fiction authors about utopia and dystopia so that I could incorporate their viewpoints into the discussion. I want to thank Justine Larbalestier, N. K. Jemisin, Rahul Kanakia, Nisi Shawl, Eileen Gunn, and Catherynne M. Valente for helping me expand and explore my own ideas about utopia by offering their own.

The ideas I will use as a jumping off point are:

  • Science fiction as a genre is well suited to utopias because it “explores our world by positing another one that works a bit differently.” (Eileen Gunn)
  • If utopia is an ideal, is there such a thing as an objective ideal? Can a utopia ever be a utopia for everyone? Or if you create a perfect society for one group, who then becomes dominant, does that mean the non-dominant group/s must be oppressed?
  • Utopia is relative. The utopias we see in fiction may work for one set of people but are dystopian for another set.
  • Many modern stories and novels are specifically dystopian in nature or are utopias that reveal themselves as dystopias. Why is this the modern mode of exploration?
  • What do the types of utopias we see in fiction reveal about the authors who write them and the society or culture they come from? The ideals they include and the ones they leave out speak to their point of view and what they value and don’t.
  • Is it possible to show a true utopia in fiction? One view is that fiction requires conflict, so the author must show the utopia to be flawed in some way. Another view is that the conflict doesn’t have to come from within the utopia itself but from outside. The point being not to show that the utopia is flawed, but that the outside forces are.
  • Utopia as positive text. Creating a positive text, be it a positive feminist text, positive womanist, positive toward the idea that people are equal and should be created with respect — can this be a form of utopian writing? What affect does this have on the reader, on culture?

The workshop begins at 12:25pm Eastern (3/2). You can follow what people are saying on Twitter about the workshop and the conference by checking out the hashtags #sfutopialit and #sfutopia. This post will evolve and grow as the workshop goes on and afterward as I incorporate what the workshop participants have to say. I’ve invited all of the people in the workshop to liveblog and Tweet as well as bring the discussion to the comments on this post. Even if you’re not in the workshop physically, I hope my regular readers will also offer their thoughts on utopia.

Very Selective Reading List

I will add links to all of these works later on. During the workshop I expect we will generate more stories and novels to include in this list.

  • Octavia Butler
    • Parable of the Sower
    • Parable of the Talents
  • Steven R. Boyett
    • Elegy Beach
      • N. K. Jemisin: Takes place 20 years after Ariel. The protagonist grew up in this world where magic works and science doesn’t, and he’s excited by the world’s magic. His father remembers the world as it was. It’s a utopia for the son, not for the father.
  • Suzy McKee Charnas
    • The Holdfast Chronicles (Walk to the End of the World, Motherlines, The Furies, The Conqueror’s Child)
  • John Crowley
    • In Blue” (short story)
      • Nisi Shawl: a future utopia, a socialist world. It’s hard to envision what a totally happy utopia can be. He does this, but from the point of view of someone who doesn’t get it. It’s not a perfect utopia for him but it is for everyone else.
  • L. Timmel Duchamp
    • The Marq’ssan Cycle (Alanya to Alanya, Renegade, Tsunami, Blood in the Fruit, Stretto)
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman
    • Herland
  • Kathleen Ann Goonan
    • This Shared Dream
      • Eileen Gunn: This book posits an attempt at creating a utopia. Here’s the blurb I wrote for it: “What if you could travel through time to fix what is wrong with the world? The world would resist, and the very act of trying would create parallel worlds with their own problems. This wondrous book, the story of a handful of people who seek to alter the twentieth century to create a better future, acknowledges the inhumanity of war and yet celebrates the joys of music, art, friendship, and family. And it reminds us that the future is made by the children of the present. I loved this book, and I heartily recommend it.”
  • N. K. Jemisin
    • “Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows” (short story)
      • Example of a relative utopia
  • Rahul Kanakia
    • Next Door” (short story)
      • Written from the point of view of a character who sees the world as dystopian, but when flipped to the antagonist’s POV could be utopian.
  • Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Kat Meads
    • Sleep
      • From the Tiptree Award website: This is a fierce, unrepentantly experimental, somewhat raw novel about motherhood in a highly gray utopia.
  • Marge Piercy
    • Woman on the Edge of Time
      • From the Tiptree Award website: Piercy not only creates a complex and intricate utopian vision, but tosses in a dystopia and an all too realistic real world as well. Connie Ramos is one of science fiction’s most genuine heroines. She has to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into utopia. The rest of us, at the end of the book, have to be dragged out.
  • Joanna Russ
    • The Two Of Them
      • Nisi Shawl: Secret agents across time go to this planet that’s been settled by people who are trying to set up a religious utopia based on Islam.
    • The Female Man
    • “When it Changed” (short story)
      • Takes place in the same world as The Female Man
    • “Houston, Houston, Do You Read”
  • Starhawk
    • The Fifth Sacred Thing
      • A post-apocalyptic novel depicting two societies, one a sustainable economy based on social justice, and its neighbor, a militaristic and intolerant theocracy.
  • Catherynne M. Valente
    • The Orphan’s Tales cycle (In the Night Garden, In the Cities of Coin and Spice)
  • Connie Willis

Anthologies

Favorite Fiction from January 2013; New Related Projects; Fiction Review Contraption?

Favorite Fiction from January 2013; New Related Projects; Fiction Review Contraption?

First favorite fiction post of 2013 and there is a lot to talk about besides the fic I liked! I’ll begin with business.

First, I am posting a short list of favorite fic every month over at io9 now. Click here to see January’s picks. Each month I’ll choose my top favorites, usually 5 or so, to list there. I’ll also do more with print/subscription/non-free fiction there and podcasts. That list won’t mean that these lists will go away, though. There are shorts listed here that aren’t listed there.

Second, I’m now part of the Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth crew, so I will contribute to the Twitter account and possibly the podcast (I’m not in Australia or anything, so I have no clue how that works). So if you want to keep up with the stories I like as I read them, follow that account. I’m not the only one who tweets, so you get bonus thoughts from other folks doing the same thing I am.

Last, ever since I started reading short fic regularly I’ve wanted to have a place where I could go to have discussions about the stories. Not just the stories I like, but the ones I don’t that I still find interesting enough to discuss. Last time I brought this up on Twitter many were interested, so I’m bringing it up again. The thing I’m unsure about is where to host this discussion. G+ communities are now live and could work. DreamWidth communities might be better since it can be a little bit (but not totally) private. I’m just worried about people who may want to join the discussion feeling like they can’t unless they join DreamWidth. Maybe that’s an unfounded concern. Anyway, I would love to hear suggestions on this.

Okay, all that taken care of, it’s now time for the favorites list!

Visit my Favorite Fiction tag to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.

Would you like to nominate me for awards? I would not object.

Would you like to nominate me for awards? I would not object.

Earlier this month when I posted my personal Best Of list of short stories for the year, I stated that I would like to see any of those works nominated for awards. This is very true. Later on I’ll also make a post about other folks or works I think deserving of nominations, including novels and such. But this post is all about me.

Yes, it’s completely selfish, blah blah. Moving on.

I had a handful of pieces published in 2012, both fiction and non. And since it’s all the rage to mention lately, I am eligible to be nominated for the Fan Writer Hugo based on my blogging and other non-professional publications, such as this piece that went up on io9.

As far as fiction, my story “The Birth of Pegasus” in Dark Faith: Invocations is under 7,500 and eligible for the Hugo, World Fantasy, and Nebula awards. My story “Uncertainty Principle” in Diverse Energies is over 8,000 words (I believe), so counts as a novelette for the Hugo and Nebula awards.

I would also love to see Chicks Unravel Time nominated for Best Related Work in the Hugos. That’s not just about me, but about all the really amazing contributors to the book and the editors who so wisely put it together.

So there you go, my award eligibility for 2012 stuff. Act on it as you will.

The Best Short Fiction of 2012 (According To Me) + 2012 Fiction Stats

Now that I’ve finished reading short stories for 2012, it’s time for some lists and statistics! I know, I know, lists can be boring. But not this one. I put together a list of what I consider the best short fiction of 2012. This is culled from my Favorite fiction lists I’ve been doing all year. Keep in mind that this is pretty much limited to free fiction online, so it doesn’t include stories from print mags like F&SF, Asimov’s, and the like.

If you plan on nominating works for awards, I encourage you to consider these. All are eligible for the Hugo, and some are eligible for other awards (I marked the ones I could think of below).

I’ve listed them in chronological order from most recently published backwards.

Now as to stats.

There are 19 stories on my best of list, that’s out of 82 favorite stories for 2012. I don’t have an accurate count for how many stories I read in total, sadly, but I know I read a great deal. I can’t claim to have read every story published for free online. A lot of time I stuck to the magazines I know I like the most. But toward the middle of the year I did pick up some new reading and tried to dip into new-to-me markets more often.

Just taking the 19 stories on my Best Of list, it’s clear that I dig Clarkesworld and Lightspeed Magazines the most, since there are 4 stories from each. Next is Strange Horizons, with two stories that made the list. (Also keep in mind that this only represents stories published in 2012 and not reprints from other years).

This pattern pretty much holds when you look at the breakdown of all magazines that made my favorites list this year.

Lightspeed is at the top (again, this is with originals) followed closely by Clarkesworld and Strange Horizons. Apex also has a good showing. After that it drops pretty dramatically. For some magazines, this is because they publish far fewer stories in a year. Eclipse Online is new, so the percentage of stories I’ve liked from the magazine is high, relatively. However, it is telling that DailySF is only on my list once. If you include the reprints I liked (9 total) then Lightspeed gets 22 thumbs up from me for the year.

I would be interested to hear from the editors of these magazines on how many stories they published in 2012 so I can get an idea of what percentage of their offerings I liked.

Of my favorite stories, 60 were written by women and only 19 written by men. Two were written by persons of unknown (to me) gender. There are 18 authors of color on my favorites list. Most of the male authors I like are POC.

The SF/F split continues to be about even. 48 of the stories I liked are science fiction and 51 are fantasy. Only 4 horror stories and 3 I classed as Interstitial (with some overlap with SF/F).

Several authors show up in my favorites more than once: Aliette de Bodard, Rahul Kanakia, Ken Liu. This is partially a testament to how prolific they are, but also does represent my fondness for them. Liu in particular comes to mind whenever someone asks me about favorite authors or for suggestions on what to read. Should also mention here that I’m in Diverse Energies with both Liu and Kanakia — to be in this company makes me very happy. (I also really liked their stories.)

Overall, I’ve enjoyed reading all this short fiction in 2012. It’s definitely inspired me to write more. Plus, I like being able to see the growing expansion of the genre as I discover new gems. I will continue to read as much short fiction as possible in 2013. In fact, I’ll likely read way more.

The crew over at Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth asked me to join the blog, and I happily said yes. So more print mags are in my future. I also talked to AnnaLee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders about possibly doing a short fiction roundup for io9. Hopefully that will happen this month.

You can see all of the short stories I liked this year by surfing the tag on my blog or over on Delicious. On Delicious you’ll see some more numbers that may interest you.

My Favorite Fiction from November and December 2012

Welcome to 2013, everyone! Since I was so abominably late with my October favorites I decided to spend my vacation time reading and thus get you my final favorites for 2012 just as we rang in the new year. In a separate post I’ll also put up my top picks for the year. The stories that I would put in a year’s best collection were I in charge of one.

There’s a nice, long list of great stories here with some new names among them.

Visit my Favorite Fiction tag to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.

My Favorite Fiction From October 2012

Yeah… so October. I realized today that the reason I’m behind on posting this list is that I just haven’t had the energy to write up a little review/summary of why I like these stories. And that continues and continues to be the case. Since we’re deep into December and I haven’t even posted November’s picks yet, I figured I would just toss the list up.

Here’s what I’ll say about them all: I liked each of these stories and loved others. If I had to pick out one that stood out, it’s Said The Princess. That one totally charmed and amused me. I think I was most surprised because Daily Science Fiction rarely publishes anything I like.

Visit my Favorite Fiction tag to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.

Chicks Unravel Time Readings & Signings in Worcester, MA & New York City

Chicks Unravel Time Readings & Signings in Worcester, MA & New York City

Chicks Unravel Time comes out in just a few days! Eee! I’m very excited. This book is bound to be really special. I’ve already had a sneak peek at a couple of the essays and I will predict that Doctor Who lovers will enjoy every page.

Some related events surrounding that. First, to get the bad news out of the way: I will not be attending Chicago TARDIS this year. I know, very sad! But family obligations + lack of money = no Tempest at the con. However, there will be a panel and signing and all of that with the fabulous editors, Deborah Stanish and L. M. Myles, plus many of the contributors. So if you can get to the con, go check it out!

Good news is that I will be at two more local reading/signing events!

The first is in Massachusetts near Boston, the second right here in my hometown of NYC. Details:

On Saturday, November 17th, Annie’s Bookstop of Worcester is holding an all-day Chicks Unravel Time event. I’ll be there alongside Jennifer Pelland, another of the book’s contributors, plus Katy Shuttleworth, cover artist extraordinaire. We’ll be reading, signing books, and hosting a roundtable discussion/Q&A. The store has promised us some surprises as well, and there will be tons of Doctor Who merchandise besides the book to peruse. So please do come!

Location: 65 James Street Worcester MA 01603

Time: 11/17 1PM – 6PM (come early for the reading/signings)

Next up: NYC Doctor Who shenanigans!

The Doctor Who NY group is hosting a reading/signing/book launch event at The Churchill, a pub that appears to be very fancy. This event is going to be loads of fun since both Deborah and Liz will be in town. Then Liz goes back to Scotland and we all cry.

There will also be copies and discussion of a couple of other recently published Doctor Who books that night as well. So overall it will be a big one for NYC Doctor Who fans.

Location: 45 East 28th St (near Park Avenue), New York, NY

Time: 11/28 6:30pm

Here’s a Facebook page for the event if you’d like to RSVP there.

Can’t come to either of these events? Sadness! But you know what you can do? You can pre-order your copy of Chicks Unravel Time. Yes, you can!

 

Story Notes: Uncertainty Principle (from Diverse Energies)

Story Notes: Uncertainty Principle (from Diverse Energies)

So I may have jumped the gun a bit early on the release date for Diverse Energies! However, according to the publisher, it is available now. And I’m seeing it in eBook format on Amazon and B&N, so I suspect print copies will be forthcoming very soon. Check your local, indie book sellers first!

I’m looking forward to hearing from people who read the stories to see what everyone thinks. Rachel Manija-Brown wrote a very thoughtful review here which then led into this post about dystopias and genre labels. One thing I find intriguing is that where Rahul Kanakia was told to write an SF action story, I was told to write a dystopia, yet his story is way more classic dystopia and mine has little shades of it but is more actiony.

Given the discussion on that post, I thought I’d give folks who read my story “Uncertainty Principle” a little peek into the background of it and my thinking around the whole dystopia thing.

As you might expect, these story notes are full of spoilers, so they’re going behind a cut. Don’t read unless you’ve read the story or don’t mind knowing some things about it! (also, ‘ware spoilers in the comments.)

[Read more...]

Fiction Favorites By The Numbers #1

Fiction Favorites By The Numbers #1

I’ve been keeping track of all my favorite stories over on Delicious as well as here on the blog. Delicious is still one of the best public bookmarking tools around thanks to the tagging system, which is a little better than it was under Yahoo (finally, spaces!). Due to the way I’ve been tagging stories, I have some good data on them. Peeking in there just now revealed a few things that surprised me.

To start, if you’d asked me what my favorite online magazine is, I would have said Strange Horizons or Clarkesworld. However, a look at the numbers reveals that of the 55 stories published in 2012 that I liked, Lightspeed published most of them (14, to be exact). Clarkesworld is a close second with 11 liked stories. Then after that Strange Horizons and Apex Magazine tie at 6 with Electric Velocipede right behind them with 5. Apparently, my tastes match up with John Joseph Adams’ pretty regularly.

Here are all the magazine numbers in helpful chart format:

Magazine Chart

click to embiggen

Some magazines have lower numbers because they don’t publish as often, but I’m a little sad for Tor.com.

I also track genre data and find that I like SF and Fantasy about evenly (27 and 24 stories, respectively) with a small smattering of horror. Very small. Of the 55 stories, 44 are by women and 14 by authors of color. Obviously there’s some overlap.

I’ll crunch these numbers again at the end of the year to see if anything shifts.I may also go a bit insane and calculate, based on number of stories published total and the number I liked if Lightspeed is still a favorite based on proportion. If a magazine publishes 12 stories a year and I like 5 vs one that pubs 50 stories a year and I like 10, the first one is obviously closer to my tastes.

Any of you out there keeping track of which magazines usually publish stuff that satisfies you in any kind of empirical way?

My Favorite Fiction from September 2012

My Favorite Fiction from September 2012

This month, the list is rather long. This explains my lateness in putting up this post (sort of… I’m also lazy!). I discovered a cache of new magazines this month, thus adding greatly to the number of stories I read and liked.

Several weeks ago I lamented about the fact that there weren’t many markets for long stories such as novellas and novelettes. As a result, people kept suggesting markets to me. I was reminded that Electric Velocipede takes longer stuff, and introduced to GigaNotoSaurus and The Red Penny Papers, which both take novelettes. I’ll put up a post later this week with a longer list.

As always, I welcome any discussion of these stories in the comments. let me know if you liked them or not and why an feel free to tell me I’m wrong and have bad taste! Also, consider dropping a comment where the option is available on the original stories.

Visit my Favorite Fiction tag to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.

I Still Have That Dream

I Still Have That Dream

Been wondering why I’m in such a funk lately, then my calendar reminded me again this morning that today is my mother’s birthday. Her name is Marjorie Bradford and she died 13 years ago now, but the pain feels pretty fresh whenever I stop to think about her (which is often).

For many years after her death I tried to write a story that encapsulated how I felt about what happened and how much I loved her, but nothing ever came out quite right.

After she died, I had tons of dreams about her, but most of them had a common theme. In them, I was often aware that I only had a little bit of time to spend with her because I understood that she was sick and still dying. In some dreams she was very sick, in others almost completely healthy. A few times in my dreams I even asked her “How much time do we have?” and she’d say “Only a little while” or “A few days” or something.

It was as if, in my dreamscape, I was able to roll back the clock a little and revive her, but not completely and for good.

In mulling over why she almost always manifested in this way in my dreams led me to finally being able to write a story about her that did all of my memories and feelings and her impact on me justice. The story is “Elan Vital” and you can read or listen to it over at Escape Pod.

I’ve never read that story in public and probably never will because any attempt to do so will end up with me curling up in a ball sobbing. I don’t even read it to myself for that same reason.

However, when the story first appeared on the podcast I saw so many people praising the reading of it, I decided to listen to just a few minutes. I ended up listening to the whole thing. Mur Lafferty, as you may know, is an extremely talented reader. She did such justice to that story I can’t praise her enough.

Happy birthday, mom. I miss you and love you and I still have that dream.

I’m A Chick Who Likes To Unravel Time

Chicks Unravel Time cover

click me for a bigger version

I’ve dropped hints about this for a while, but now it’s official and on the record! I have an essay in the forthcoming Chicks Unravel Time, a follow up to the Hugo Award-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords. Woot! This is my last essay for books from Mad Norwegian Press, so I’m really glad it will be in such an awesome book.

This one is different to the first in that editors Deborah Stanish and L M Myles asked each contributor to consider a specific series of Doctor Who and to explore it in any way we liked. So, not every essay could be classed as “a celebration”, but they’re all written by women who clearly love Doctor Who and who have intelligent and deep thoughts on the show.

Also, the cover art is awesome! Katy Shuttleworth once again being all badass.

Here’s the full table of contents so you can get a taste of what everyone is talking about:

  • Regeneration – Shaping the Road Ahead by Barbara Hambly
  • The Doctor’s Balls by Diana Gabaldon
  • A Dance With Drashigs by Emma Nichols
  • No Competition by Una McCormack
  • Identity Crisis by L.M. Myles
  • The Still Point by Anna Bratton
  • For the Love of Tom by Sarah Lotz
  • Donna Noble Saves the Universe by Martha Wells
  • I’m From the TARDIS, and I’m Here to Help You: Barbara Wright and the Limits of Intervention by Joan Frances Turner
  • I Robot, You Sarah Jane: Sexual Politics in Robot by Kaite Welsh
  • Between Now and Now by Juliet E. McKenna
  • What Would Romana Do? by Lara J. Scott
  • The Women We Don’t See by K. Tempest Bradford
  • The Ultimate Sixth by Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • Maids and Masters: The Distribution of Power in Doctor Who Series Three by Courtney Stoker
  • Robots, Orientalism and Yellowface: Minorities in the Fourteenth Season of Doctor Who by Aliette de Bodard
  • David Tennant’s Bum by Laura Mead
  • Superficial Depth?: Spirituality in Season Eleven by Caroline Symcox
  • The Problem With Peri by Jennifer Pelland
  • All of Gallifrey’s a Stage: The Doctor in Adolescence by Teresa Jusino
  • All the Way Out to the Stars by Iona Sharma
  • Build High for Happiness! by Lynne M. Thomas
  • Nimons are Forever by Liz Barr
  • Ace Through the Looking Glass by Elisabeth Bolton-Gabrielsen
  • Hey, You Got Science in My Fiction! by Laura McCullough
  • Seven to Doomsday: The Non-Domestication  of Earthbound Doctor Who in Season Seven by Mags Halliday
  • Harking Back and Moving On by Jenni Hughes
  • Anything Goes by Deborah Stanish
  • How the Cold War Killed the Fifth Doctor by Erica McGillivray
  • Waiting for the Doctor: The Women of Series Five by Seanan McGuire
  • Timing Malfunction: Television Movie + the BBC Eighth Doctor Novels = A Respectable Series by Kelly Hale
  • Guten Tag, Hitler by Rachel Swirsky
  • Reversing Polarities: The Doctor, the Master and False Binaries in Season Eight by Amal El-Mohtar

There’s one essay for each series of the show, classic and current, plus the TV movie.

My essay is about Series 13. When Deb first asked me to be in the book and told me the premise, I loved the idea right away. I let her pick a series for me since I’m not very familiar with classic Who and she hoped to get some fresh perspectives on the older stuff.

At the time, the series I would have chosen for myself is #3 of the modern era. Deb rightly pointed out that my CDTL essay was pretty much an exploration of Series 3 through the lens of my love for Martha. The only other series I have many FEELS about is #4. After that my ability to deal with Doctor Who flies out the window.

The choice of Season 13 ended up being a good one. Tom Baker’s Doctor is the only one of the classics I’m familiar with. I’ve seen some of Series 12 and a few of his adventures with Romana. But I came into #13 fresh.

I won’t spoil the essay for you, but I will say that I was a little surprised at some of the things I found there, despite knowing in advance that I would see some problematic stuff. What I found very interesting, and only touched on a bit in the essay, was how much of new Doctor Who I saw in those old episodes. I can tell that some writers have been influenced by those episodes for good and for bad.

I now also have a full appreciation for how eye-roll worthy it is that the Doctor’s race is called the Time Lords, as if there are only men running around on Gallifrey. This plays out in interesting way during this series.

Chicks Unravel Time is out on November 13th, and you’d better believe that I’m going to remind you several times before the actual day. I should also note here that it’s almost a 100% done deal that I’m attending Chicago TARDIS over Thanksgiving weekend so I can take part in the panel about the book! I’m just waiting to see if I can get a press pass.

Until then, pre-order and spread the news!

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…[]

Diverse Energies Launches Today!

Diverse EnergiesThe Diverse Energies anthology is now officially available in fine bookstores near you. Find it at a local, independent bookstore through IndieBound or grab it from Barnes & Noble or Amazon. I haven’t yet seen any eBook versions, but I think you’ll be able to find them through GoodReads.

Diverse Energies has 11 stories on a dystopian them for YA readers. Editors Tobias S Buckell and Joe Monti wanted to create an anthology full of characters that reflected the diversity they see in their own lives, so all of the protagonists are of color. Many of the authors are of color as well, and the stories well up from our perspective and experiences.

My story, “Uncertainty Principle”, features a girl of mixed Latina and Middle Eastern background who finds that the world changes around her — big changes that no one else but her notices.

Here’s the full TOC:

“The Last Day” by Ellen Oh
“Freshee’s Frogurt” by Daniel H. Wilson
“Uncertainty Principle” by K. Tempest Bradford
“Pattern Recognition” by Ken Liu
“Gods of Dimming Light” by Greg van Eekhout
“Next Door” by Rahul Kanakia
“Good Girl” by Malinda Lo
“A Pocket Full of Dharma” by Paolo Bacigalupi
“Blue Skies” by Cindy Pon
“What Arms to Hold” by Rajan Khanna
“Solitude” by Ursula K. Le Guin

Thus far I’ve seen many positive reviews of the book from advance readers. The Kirkus review even mentions my story:

Readers will find poor children working in mines and factories, a have-not yao boy kidnapping a rich you girl and a girl reeling as the world inexplicably changes around her, and no one else notices. Although many stories imagine bleak futures, their tones are refreshingly varied. Daniel Wilson’s tale of a robot attack at a frozen-yogurt shop takes the form of an almost-comical police-interview transcript. Ursula K. LeGuin’s “Solitude” is a sweeping, nostalgic epic. K. Tempest Bradford’s “Uncertainty Principle” is a character-driven time-travel tale. Understanding many of the stories takes patience: Readers are plunged quickly into complex worlds, and exposition often comes slowly.

There are a couple of other reviews that mention it as well, but everything is full of spoilers!

If you read the book and like it, please let folks know and leave reviews where possible. Also, buy it for the young persons in your life who like SF or like to read anything and everything.

My Favorite Fiction from August 2012

My Favorite Fiction from August 2012

As I predicted, this is way late thanks to WorldCon. All things can be blamed on WorldCon. The good thing about going was being at the Hugo ceremony to see many deserving writers and artists get their shiny rockets. It’s sort of a coincidence (but not exactly) that many of the Hugo Award winners also have fiction on my list below. A coincidence because I didn’t plan it that way, but not because it’s no surprise that I’d love their stories given their track record.

Last month I also did some novel reading. I finally finished Liar by Justine Larbalestier. If you haven’t read it yet, go now! It’s so good. I also read the last of the Midnighters books by Scott Westerfeld. I put it off a long time because I love the first two so much I didn’t want to be done with those characters.

September is already shaping up to be a great month, especially since there’s a new issue of Electric Velocipede out. Also, did you know they have a Kickstarter? They so do.

Visit my Favorite Fiction tag to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.