08 February 2014

Women Destroy Science Fiction

No wait: they destroy all genres. Perhaps you've heard it before: women can't write insert spec fic genre of choice. We make it all unmanly like. Or something. I believe it is a minority of old guard weirdos and embittered geriatrics who still think this way, but the fact is that this attitude has had a lasting impact on science fiction, fantasy, horror, bizarro fiction, and other sundry spec fic genres. The fact that we are still having to talk about this at all is...well, it is what it is, and what are we going to do about it?

Here is something you can do.

Contribute to this fabulous Kickstarter campaign:

Donate $5 or more to get some goodies and help this along if you're so inclined, and help Lightspeed publish an all-woman-authored special issue chock full of science fiction. Now that the campaign has reached $28k, funding will also go toward the release of an all-woman-authored issue of Nightmare Magazine, Lightspeed's horrible sister (and my favourite). One more major stretch goal remains: if they reach $35k before the campaign closes on February 16, they'll release an all-fantasy issue. I would love to see that.

Read more about it in this essay by Christine Yant, guest editor of the Lightspeed special issue. If you can't donate, you can always signal boost. Bless your little heart if you do.

ETA February 13, 2014: The reason why this Kickstarter is so important might not be evident to some of you. In the comments I've pointed to some of the more recent events that might have inspired this campaign, but the best place to go to learn more is the Women Destroy Science Fiction update list, which contains many amazing essays by women about their experience writing and reading science fiction. (You don't have to contribute to the campaign to read the updates.) Like horror, science fiction is considered by many to be a man's domain. The attitudes of many who create, publish, and consume these genres is often hostile to women.

If you ain't got time for that, please just take a look at Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff's essay in which she discusses the reception of some of the fiction she published in Analog. Here's an especially salient bit if you don't want to click through:
ANALOG’s longtime editor, Stan Schmidt, has told me he’s lost subscriptions over my work. I knew this before I attended my first Worldcon in 1992 and was still gob-smacked when a couple of fellows cornered me at a party and explained, at length, why I had never written a word of real, hard science fiction in my life and, therefore, did not belong in the pages of ANALOG. This was after only half-a-dozen stories. I’m at two dozen and counting.
I don't want to be in the business of accumulating proof that this Kickstarter is a wonderful reaction to a sad, longstanding problem, but I get it if you've never encountered this issue and you don't know how to research it, I do want to help. As I writer, I'm all too familiar with how just the act of writing alone is hard enough, without worrying about how your stuff will be received or if it will be perceived as less valid because you fall into a certain category of personhood. As a reader, I am very invested in reading genre fiction that expresses a diversity of opinions. I already know what I think, and we all know what sort of story a male-dominated industry thinks is good (hello, Hollywood filmmakers). I want to know what you think. Yes, you. If your stuff is being blocked for being "too different," that's a tragedy as far as I'm concerned. I'd like to see that changed.


Botanist said...

I admit to being rather perplexed by the whole premise here. I honestly had never heard this statement before and didn't realize anyone was talking about it because it's patently nonsense.

Ursula K Le Guin, anybody? Anne McCaffrey? Julian May? Just off the top of my head. And right now I'm reading a fabulous series by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett.

To me, this claim feels like a bizarre non-issue, so I'm really curious who & in what forums people are claiming that women destroy any kind of fiction.

Elizabeth Twist said...

Earlier I wrote and posted a very long response to you, Botanist.

Apologies to anyone who wanted to re-read my earlier comment. This is still probably going to be long but it will also be more on target.

I believe this campaign is a partial response to some highly negative stuff that went on last year, spearheaded by a certain individual to whom I don't want to link. However, you can easily find one of his more offensive blog posts by searching for the following:

Women ruin everything SFWA edition

This man was, according to Jim C. Hines, supported for SFWA presidency by ten percent of voting members, which is ten percent too many if you ask me.

The Women Destroy Science Fiction Kickstarter is, as far as I can tell, a cheeky response to this type of thinking.

SFWA took it in the shins last year after the organization allowed several very old-fashioned ideas about women to be expressed in their Bulletin, thus alienating many members, both women and allies.

If you search for "SFWA sexism 2013" you'll find a few articles that will summarize the problem. Sadly, there are fewer responses to the rampant racism, also partially perpetrated by the same individual, which took place around the same time.

The science fiction writing community has some healing to do. This Kickstarter is trying to help.

Botanist said...

Thanks for the references. I followed up a couple of searches and that explains a lot.

Since I am not a member of SFWA (and never will be, given their membership requirements) this shameful display of dinosaur thinking passed me by.

Elizabeth Twist said...

I really appreciate that you checked the situation out, Botanist. Thank you, and thanks for returning here to let me know that you did.

nutschell said...

This Kickstarter sounds like a great project, though I must admit I did a double take on the title before I realized what they were trying to accomplish. I think the more appropriate title would've been Women ROCK all genres!