Sunday, September 14, 2014

"Real Mothers"

Last summer, Cruising the Disciplines: A Symposium on Samuel R. Delany, edited by Kenneth R. James, appeared as an issue of Annals of Scholarship. This volume was meant to be a proceedings of a symposium on Delany's work held in Buffalo about a decade ago now. I gave a paper at the symposium, which I expanded for the volume, titled "Real Mothers, a Faggot Uncle, and the Name of the Father: Samuel R. Delany's Feminist Revisions of the Story of SF." Since this paper hasn't appeared elsewhere, I've posted it on my website for those interested in reading it. At the heart of the paper is Delany's famous allusion to Jeanne Gomoll's "Open Letter to Joanna Russ" during an interview published in SF Eye in the 1990s.

You can find "Real Mothers..." at

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ursula Le Guin to receive the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

I've just received this press release:
In recognition of her transformative impact on American literature, Ursula K. Le Guin is the 2014 recipient of the Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She is the Foundation’s twenty-seventh award recipient.
For more than forty years, Le Guin has defied conventions of narrative, language, character, and genre, as well as transcended the boundaries between fantasy and realism, to forge new paths for literary fiction. Among the nation’s most revered writers of science fiction and fantasy, Le Guin’s fully imagined worlds challenge readers to consider profound philosophical and existential questions about gender, race, the environment, and society. Her boldly experimental and critically acclaimed novels, short stories, and children’s books, written in elegant prose, are popular with millions of readers around the world.
“Ursula Le Guin has had an extraordinary impact on several generations of readers and, particularly, writers in the United States and around the world,” said Harold Augenbraum, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “She has shown how great writing will obliterate the antiquated—and never really valid—line between popular and literary art. Her influence will be felt for decades to come.”
Neal Gaiman will present the award on November 19, 2014, at the National Book Awards ceremony.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Lisa M. Bradley's The Haunted Girl

I'm pleased to announce the release of Lisa M. Bradley's The Haunted Girl, as volume 41 in Aqueduct's Conversation pieces series. The volume includes twenty-one poems and five stories. The supernatural, the animal, and the deadly often find each other in Bradley's landscapes, tame or wild. Vampires, either restless or filled with ennui; shape-shifters and skin-walkers; demigoddesses of evil and lust; haunted girls and dying fairies—the characters in this collection inhabit worlds of danger, decay, and, sometimes, rebirth. Often rooted in issues of family, ritual, and belonging, the poems and short stories in The Haunted Girl display Bradley's loving mastery of language, which grants us myriad moments of impish wit and startling beauty.

The cover of The Haunted Girl features Jenny Andersen's "Texts for a Lost Tribe, #3."

The Haunted Girl is available now through Aqueduct's website in both print and e-book editions. It will be available elsewhere shortly.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Karen Joy Fowler's The Science of Herself

Have you read Karen Joy Fowler's The Science of Herself, a new volume in PM Press's Outspoken Authors series? The publication date is 2013, but I only recently read it. This series, if you don't know of it, includes, among other slim volumes the size of Conversation Pieces, Nalo Hopkinson's Report from Planet Midnight and Ursula K. Le Guin's The Wild Girls. The Science of Herself contains a brand new story, "The Science of Herself," two reprinted stories (the searing "The Pelican Bar" and "The Further Adventures of the Invisible Man"), "More Exuberant Than Is Strictly Tasteful," a characteristically snappy interview conducted by Terry Bisson, and "The Motherhood Statement," an essay combining fire and irony.

By the time I finished reading the second page of "The Science of Herself," which opens the volume, I'd fallen hard for it. The seaside village of Lyme Regis in the first decades of the nineteenth century? How could any voracious reader not think first of Anne Elliot watching Captain Wentworth as he fails to catch Louisa Musgrove when she willfully throws herself off the stairs, in Jane Austen's last novel, Persuasion? Fowler takes Anne Elliot's visit to Lyme Regis as her point of departure, leading to imagining Austen herself walking that beach and not seeing (yes, yes , not seeing) a young girl who was often to be found on that beach. "Strangely deressed, lower class, odd in affect, and desperately poor, she was not really the kind of girl who wanders into an Austen novel." (2) But then Fowler quickly goes on to note that Austen's visit to Lyme Regis had actually been made to see this girl's father, Richard Anning, a cabinetmaker. The connection between the unnoticed young girl and Jane Austen, though virtually invisible to the casual eye, is actual.

Anning, besides being a cabinetmaker, was also a fossil hunter; more interestingly, his daughter Mary proved to be not only a more redoubtable fossil hunter than he, the person who recovered the first complete ichthysaurus ever to be found, but also a sharp paleontologist whose contributions to the field were only belatedly awarded public acknowledgment when the British Royal Society named her on their list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science. "The Science of Herself" tells a story about Mary Anning's life that "wouldn't have made sense [in Austen's novel] with her bits of gothic history, her lightning, her science, her creatures. She wouldn't make sense in any story until the story changed." (25)

 I've long been interested in the problem-- one that Fowler has been mining for some time-- of stories that don't fit "the story" that is the template for how stories are told. It's a problem faced by writers wishing to write stories that don't fit the limits or language or assumptions of the current conventions, and a problem for readers longing for such stories and virtually unable to find them anywhere (and so often resort to ingenious methods for reading what is there slant). That template is, fortunately, always shifting. "The Science of Herself" is as much an exploration of how the stories that could be told about Mary during her lifetime were constrained and limited--how her life overflowed those constraints. The form Fowler uses to tell the story is what? It's prose, certainly. But is it fiction or nonfiction?

I'm particularly interested in the question of the form Fowler uses to tell Mary Anning's story because I've been sporadically working on a story about Emilie, the Marquise du Chatelet, for years now, struggling against the form it seems determined to take. The only form in which I seem able to cast the story of Emilie bears no resemblance to the forms in which stories about historical women are usually told. And I've been fighting that form because it resembles the form taken by "The Science of Herself," aware as I am that many readers would reject it as not really fiction (much less science fiction). I don't want to write an essay about Emilie. I want to imagine and explore aspects of her life as a woman of science in the same way in which I imagine and explore aspects of the lives of the characters I invent. In this sense, "The Science of Herself" is not an essay. Or is it? I'm thrilled that Fowler put this story out there, defying the demands that the writer choose one or the other. I think it will embolden me to finish the story. And I will say, for myself, that I'm increasingly uncertain about whether any clear distinctions can be drawn in every case between fiction and nonfiction. Obviously, some fictions are clearly, unequivocally fictional. But as someone trained in history, I've long been aware that because history is composed of narratives, it must always partake of the uncertainties (and distortions) of representation and won't ever be certain. Though based on "facts," imagination is the glue that makes those facts meaningful. In the end, we come down to story, and what stories can be told under this or that set of circumstances.

"The Science of Herself" plus "The Pelican Bar" alone would make this a bold book for a volume so slim, but "The Motherhood Statement" pushes it into the red zone. The book's second entry, "The Motherhood Statement," takes as its point of departure "The Motherhood Statement" in the Turkey City Lexicon (which Fowler describes as "a primer for science fiction workshops." "Motherhood" in this statement, like "apple pie," exemplifies "conventional social and humanistic pieties." Fowler, as anyone familiar with her work knows, is all about challenging comfortable conventions and "pieties."In principle, she's in agreement with the statement. But.
It's the specifics that give me pause. Apple pie, okay, fine, whatever. But motherhood? Nothing, absolutely nothing, appears to me more contested in our political and social and private lives than motherhood. Any woman who has ever had children can tell you it is no picnic of affirmation. Any woman who has not had children can tell you that that, too, is a controversial place to be. Neither is much admired. (28)

Fowler reminds us of something most science fiction (particularly that written by men) has not, until very recently, taken note of: "Motherhood is a concept that changes from culture to culture and over time. Sometimes it's set in opposition to mothering--motherhood, in this schematic, is the sacred duty of women, an artificial construct which underlies the whole system of patriarchy."(28)

Of course tarring "motherhood" with the brush of conventional social pieties has been a longstanding woman-bashing tradition for fiction written by US men in the twentieth century. It was a part of a concerted (highly successful) program for ejecting fiction by women from the upper echelons of literature in the US.* Fowler doesn't go into that, though, but focuses more closely on attitudes toward women vis-a-vis childraising, before paying tribute to the explorations made by feminist sf in the 1970s and then concluding with attending to the ferocious, on-going twenty-first-century attack on women's reproductive rights and how the free exercise of such rights has become a story many people and venues approach (if at all) with timidity at best and repulsion and censorship at worst. "I can remember no other time in which the attacks on women's freedom have been so widespread, so sustained, and so successful," Fowler writes. "Or half so scary... An argument that begins by positing women valuable only as mothers will end by suggesting that, even as mothers, women are not valuable at all." (32-33)  

Fowler ends the essay by returning to "The Motherhood Statement": "The easy assumption that motherhood constitutes some easy assumption is neither accurate nor serving us well. " (34)

She has a lot of good lines in her interview, but I'll offer you one here: "I believe that the learning in workshops happens to the critiquer not the critiqued." (72) Now go read this sharp little book yourself, if you haven't already.
*See, for instance, Paul Lauter, "Race and Gender in the Shaping of the American Literary Canon: A Case Study from the Twenties" (Feminist Studies 9,3 Fall 1983).

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Year's Illustrious Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy

Aqueduct Press is proud to announce The Year's Illustrious Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy, our new anthology series dedicated to presenting readers with collections of remarkable feminist speculative fiction.  The first volume of the series will reprint stories published in 2014.  Editor Nisi Shawl will be assisted in selecting its content by four volunteer readers, each covering one of the year's quarters: Nancy Jane Moore, Keffy Kehrli, K. Tempest Bradford, and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz.  Author, editor, publisher, and critic L. Timmel Duchamp will provide a summary of the year's activity in the feminist SF arena.  YIFFSFF: 2014 is scheduled to appear in late May 2015.

We intend to assemble anthologies representing the qualities that make feminist SF so amazing, thought-provoking, challenging, and deeply satisfying.  At this time we're limiting ourselves to works published in English.  If you'd like to suggest a piece of short fiction to be considered for inclusion in the 2014 volume,, please use the form we've linked to on the Aqueduct Press home page.

Contact Nisi Shawl (reviews[AT]thecsz[DOT]com) with other questions or concerns about this anthology. Please put YIFFSFF 2014 in the subject line.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

CFS for a Diverse Weird Western anthology

I've just received this from Cynthia Ward:

Open Call for Submissions (OPENS 12/1/2014)

Here are the guidelines for a Diverse Weird Western anthology (title to be announced), to be published by WolfSinger Publications ( and edited by Cynthia Ward ( Ah, the "Western frontier"! I learned all about it as a child. I learned it was full of brave white American pioneer men killing the native inhabitants, who didn't realize the land they'd occupied for millennia belonged to the newcomers. I learned it was full of heroic white American gunmen shooting each other in high noon standoffs or over cattle. Those few characters who didn't fit the above templates were generally helpless Mexican peasants; treacherous Mexican bandits; or the occasional rancher's wife, school marm, or prostitute. Omitted from the history lessons and the movies and TV shows were--the whole wide world. For this anthology, we’re looking for stories about everyone else. We're looking for stories which reflect the complex historical realities and diversities of the North American "Western frontier."

We're looking for stories about marginalized and under-represented groups.

The Nitty Gritty:

-- Payment is $5/story plus a share of royalties.
--We are opening for submissions on December 1, 2014, with a deadline of December 31, 2014. --Submissions sent outside this window will be returned unread. DO NOT SUBMIT AT THIS TIME.
--We're looking for Diverse Weird Western fiction of between 500 words and 10,000 words (we're somewhat flexible, but the anthology will be 85,000 words max, so don't go significantly longer than 10,000 words).
--Original fiction and reprints are both acceptable. Let us know if your submission is a reprint and from where. Be SURE you have the rights to reprint – we won’t chase down permissions.

Full guidelines and submission instructions can be found at:

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sarah Tolmie's NoFood

I'm pleased to announce Aqueduct Press's release of NoFood, a suite of original short fictions by Sarah Tolmie, who you may recall is the author of The Stone Boatmen, which Aqueduct released earlier this year. In NoFood's vision of the messy near future, food is the language of love. For top chef Hardy Arar, his whole life is food. What is he to do when technology eliminates the need for it? TGB (total gastric bypass) is a giant leap forward for humans longing to transcend their flesh. It has fulfilled the desire of the rich to escape illness, boring sustenance routines, and disgusting bodily processes. But like all technological change, TGB unleashes a cascade of effects, social, political, and economic, effects drastically changing the lives of the characters in NoFood. For what is lost with the elimination of the drive to eat?

 “He was gracious to the end, Harwicke Arar. He was satisfied. He was still in possession of his nose; he was still in possession of his principles; he was still in possession of his own digestive tract. He had cooked the best food in the world, real and imaginary, and found someone to eat it.”—from “Cakes and Ale”

NoFood is available in print and e-book editions from Aqueduct's website now, and will soon be available elsewhere. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

WisCon Chronicles 9: Intersections and Alliances

Call for Materials

Aqueduct Press is seeking submissions that engage with WisCon 38 (2014) and its programming.  (You need not have attended WisCon in order to submit a piece for this anthology.)  We are especially interested in material on the themes of intersections and alliances (although we will consider other responses to the convention). 

We find ourselves considering what it means to live at the intersections of various identities, some of them more privileged than others.  We ask how we can function as good allies to each other in often challenging situations.  We’re living through an intense time of social change, and a variety of questions arise as we have these often difficult conversations about feminism, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and more.  Among them are questions about what leads to positive social change and how best to effect such change in our communities. 

We may be in conflict with one another about optimal tactics, yet we share the same goals for positive social progress and a healthy, safe, and welcoming community.  In conversation with each other, we hope this volume will help elucidate some of these difficult but necessary questions.  Passion is welcome, and nuance, even more so.

This will be a mixed-genre volume:  essays, short fiction, poetry, art, comics, are all welcome.  Preferred word length is variable, but ideally 1000 – 5000 words for prose.  We offer contributor’s copies and a nominal payment.  We are also looking for cover artwork, for which we can offer $100.

Submission deadline is October 15, 2014.  E-mail submissions to, with the subject line WISCON SUB:  [title].  You may submit up to 3 items.  You may submit in multiple genres if desired.

Mary Anne Mohanraj, Editor

Monday, July 14, 2014


Readercon this year, for me, anyway, had a bit of the feel of WisCon (except, of course, for the Dealers Room, which had no Aqueduct press table and essentially no Aqueduct Press titles anywhere, unless one counts the satchel of her books Guest of Honor Andrea Hairston schlepped around to sell to attendees who were interested in buying her books). Several of the panels would have fit comfortably into WisCon programming, and of course many of the people who are often to be found at WisCon were present at Readercon. Also? More than once I found myself torn between two panels--an experience I've hitherto suffered only at WisCon. I had an enjoyable--and mighty stimulating--weekend. My only complaint was that the hotel absolutely insisted that the music in the bar be loud enough to be heard all over the first floor (and too loud to permit conversation with drinks after about 8 o'clock in the evening).

I thought I'd mention a few of the panels that particularly interested me. At the top of my list was a panel on Saturday morning titled "When the Other Is You," featuring Samuel R. Delany, Chesya Burke, Sabrina Vourvoulias (M), Peter Dubé, Mikki Kendall, and Vandana Singh. (ETA: a video of this can be found here: The panel pretty much took its lead from the panel description: "Being part of an underrepresented group and trying to write our experience into our work can be tricky. We might have internalized some prejudice about ourselves, we might not have the craft to get our meaning across perfectly, and even if we depict our own experience totally accurately (as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie observed in her TED Talk "The Danger of a Single Story"), we do so while struggling against the expectation that our experience is or isn't "representative" or "authentic." How do we navigate the pitfalls and responsibilities of being perceived as spokespeople? What potentially pernicious dynamics allow us that dubious privilege in the first place? Which works make us cringe with their representations of us, and which make us sigh with relief and recognition?"

Toward the beginning of the discussion Vourvoulias raised the question of whether the conversation was inflected by generational differences. Delany offered a dramatic example of cultural amnesia-- how the issues of contraception and abortion tragically impacted the lives of women he knew pre-Roe v. Wade, resulting in many, many deaths that young people today never imagine could be the result of destraoying access to abortion. 

The issue that received the most attention was that of "authenticity." One aspect of this is that the authenticity of the voices of those positioned outside mainstream culture is often judged by the expectations of mainstream readers (and editors). At the same time, the mainstream reader is often oblivious to emphasis, nuance, and multiple meanings. Kendall noted that we seldom hear the stories of the people who resist oppression in small ways: "The stories that get heard are the low and the high." I found myself thinking that this is partly because the ordinary person of color is largely invisible in mainstream culture (except when they're depicted in relation to white people), and partly because small everyday acts of resistance are considered too boring and undramatic to be depicted in fiction, unless the consequences are dramatic. 

Most of my notes for this panel are paraphrases or quotations from panelists, sans elaboration:

Vourvoulias: Does diversity just mean "be nice to everyone?" The bottom line is that respect for the other is essential for the health of the genre.

Kendall: We don't have a single language: the question becomes, "whose language?" (This was said in the context of discussing Black English and diverse forms of colloquial English, regional and ethnic, and their representations in fiction.)

 Dubé: Language is the single most important lens; translation is the creation of new meaning. More meanings is good, fewer meanings is bad. (Someone else on the panel, I can't remember whom, observed that when a member of a marginalized group speaks to the mainstream, they are always translating.)

Vourvoulias: There's a political weight to Spanglish, or other languages. There are levels and levels of nuance.

Singh: When I'm writing or reading about non-mainstream (in the US) cultures, emphasis matters.

Vourvoulias: Language itself is hierarchical; certain voices aren't heard.

Vourvoulias: Who listens to the victims of the genocide of Guatemala? We re-victimize epople by giving them less agency than the government that repressed them when there stoy is told by others who are heard, not by themselves, as though they can't be trusted to tell their own stories.

Delany: only one review of his most recent novel, Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, got that the novel doesn't engage in exceptionalism for his poor, black, gay characters: the world of his novel makes black gay men unexceptionable and offers them an environment in which they can thrive-- as themselves, and not transformed into characters who aren't poor, black, and gay.

Dubé: Alterity gives you an outsider's view--which is valuable. As a gay man, he's distressed by the marriage/assimilation emphasis.

To tell the truth, I wanted this panel to go on for another hour at least. Or to have been about one or two of the various issues that the panelists discussed, to allow greater depth. But all in all, it offered me a lot to think about.

Another panel of interest sometimes overlapped "When You Are the Other" in the issues it addressed, viz., "East, West and Everything Between: A Roundtable on Latin@ Speculative Fiction," featuring Sabrina Vourvoulias (M), Daniel Jose Older, Matthew Goodwin, Carlos Hernandez, and Julia Rios. Vourvoulias asked the panel to begin by addressing the challenges facing Latin Speculative fiction. (ETA: Scott Edelman has posted a YouTube video of this one, too:

 Vourvoulias: Why is it so invisible? Is it because Latinos don't read?

Hernandez: The pressures of assimilation are enormous. Assimilating leads to camouflage.

 Older: Gatekeepers-- i.e., booksellers, editors: Latino writers have to get through bottlenecks controlled by Anglos; our stories can be threatening to Anglos.

Rios: Dialect & Spanglish can be threatening.

Older: Nalo Hopkinson's use of Caribbean vernacular was a revelation to me. We translate ourselves-- trying to water down our voice and narratives to please white gatekeepers.

Hernandez: Cites Junot Diaz's observation that sf/f readers will negotiate 200 pages in elvish without complaint, but will freak out at the presence of two Spanish words in a novel. He suggests there's a double standard about real-world difference, which makes its presence political. (Spanish can't be neutral in the way that English or Elvish can.)

Vourvoulias: Accent becomes a signifier in fiction.

Goodwin: When we start thinking about the category [Latin sf/f], it makes us think about past work as well. The screenplay of Blade Runner was written by a Mexican-American. The Chicano character he placed in the film [who wasn't in the Dick original] enriched it. We need to uncover the long presence of Latinos in spec fic.

Older: Latin presence in "urban fantasy"usually involves a white person having sex with a Chicano werewolf etc. But what about the urban fantasy stories Latinos have always created? The ghost stories and zombies-- that were long found in our oral tales. The crude mechanisms of publishing-- of power, money, and race, excludes those stories.

Vourvoulias: There are regional differences. There are agrarian latinos-- there's a long history of them in California. The urban latino is the story that has become a trope. We don't often see agrarian latinos in sf/f.

Rios: A lot of white America is listening to Fox News and are terrified of the "flood" across the border.

Vourvoulias: As Americans, we're invested in the exception. Junot Diaz is our exception. It's the Latino quotient for the century.

Older: We have to beware of the one-and-only model of success, in which breaking out means breaking away from your community-- and getting out. How do we conceive of diversity? We need to have an analysis of power, and leadership from those who are successful.

Vourvoulias:  We need to be mentoring young writers-- or someone who's more emergent than you are.

The panel concluded with remarks on packaging, teaching, and reaching young Latinos some exposure to Latino spec fic.

I stayed, after this panel, for the next one: Readercon Classic Fiction Bookclub: Memoirs of a Space Woman with Amal El-Mohtar, Lila Garrott (M), Sonya Taaffe. I didn't take many notes for this one, at least partly because of my familiarity with the book. I thought the panel did an excellent job of giving the audience (most of whom hadn't read the book) an idea of its richness and interest. Certainly as I was listening I had the thought that this was one of those books that came out before its time, which was heavily in the throes of essentialism of every sort (though particularly, of course, gender essentialism, Simone de Beauvoir notwithstanding). Here's the program description: "Naomi Mitchison's 1962 exploration of a life lived nearly entirely in space has deep humanist themes. Mary's specialty in alien communication leads to a life and profession of embracing the Other, literally realized in her accidental pregnancy via a Martian. We'll discuss criticisms of the book's heteronormativity and biological determinism as well as the themes of Mary's immersion in alien

El-Mohtar: She initiated this panel because she got angry that Mitchison was not a name on the lists of authors considered canonical.

 Taaffe: The protagonist, Mary, doesn't gender her career roles (contrary to what you might expect from the title's "Space Woman"). The narrative uses casual-sounding words to convey huge amounts of information about the society and culture Mary comes from. 

El-Mohtar: The society that produces these characters is incredibly flexible and elastic in its attitudes, giving us a fascinating window on a society that somehow, over the course of centuries, developed into such a livable place.

 Garrott: This is an egalitarian, non-homophobic utopia-- written in 1962.

Taaffe: It has almost no sexual social stigmas-- except for the taboo against intergenerational sex, which they are especially conscious of as the result of the time dilaltion of space travel.

El-Mohtar: This book is about space travel and exploration without colonization-- something we almost never see in sf.

Garrott: The book is episodic, without a plot; the protagonist is passive.

El-Mohtar: But how much of that is due to the book's being in the form of her memoirs?

Garrott: But memoirs are usually artfully crafted.

Taafffe: The book just stops. At the end, you turn the page, expecting the text to continue, and there's an ad for Despatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind.

El-Mohtar: But the episodes gain in complexity as the book goes on. The trajectory is almost fractal.

Garrott: You get the feeling that the utopia is a result of people just finally growing up.

Taaffe: You can't tell how far into the future this is.

 A member of the audience brings up the point that in the book, humans can no longer eat animals because they can and do communicate with them.

Taaffe: In this future world, space travel solved the problems of vegetarianism-- introducing new fruits and vegetables to humans.

Garrott: This is mostly a comfort read, even though she has a lot of stuff that most people would find horrific and terrifying; but Mary isn't bothered by any of it.

Taaffe: There are mostly heterosexual relationships in the novel. But all the children Mary has are by choice. Mary worries lest she might be becoming monogamous.

The panelists discussed some of the details of Mitchison's remarkable life. (For more, I urge those interested to check out Lesley Hall's Naomi Mitchison: A Profile of Her Life and Work, which is the fifteenth volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series, and is available in both print & digital editions.)

I want to mention just two other panels. One is the last panel I popped into-- I managed to catch only the last 20 minutes, alas (because I was delayed by a conversation I didn't care to abandon), a panel on unreliable narrators. Eileen Gunn commented that all narrators are unreliable, and that in her experience, all people are unreliable narrators. "As you get older," she said, "you realize you need to have your smart hat on when people tell you their stories." Dora Goss, reflecting on the prevalence on unreliability of narrators, said: "It's a magical trick we pull, making any narrators reliable."

The other panel I wanted to mention was one of my own-- simply because it's on YouTube and has some interesting discussion (which I moderated): Empathy, Identity, and Stories:
Matthew Kressel, L. Timmel Duchamp (moderator), Julia Rios, Andrea Hairston, and Walt Williams appeared on the panel "Empathy, Identification, and Stories." Here's the description from the program book: "At a panel at Arisia 2013, Andrea Hairston said, 'I can only tell you a story if you're a human who can hear a story and imagine what it's like to be someone who isn't you.' Tannanarive Due added that access to stories matters: some children, for instance, can easily find books about characters like themselves, while others have to read books from outside a position of identification. Culture creates structures of identification and empathy; or, to put it another way, ways of feeling from within and ways of feeling from without. How do stories create structures of feeling, and how can writers and readers both benefit from awareness of these structures?" The link to the video is: 

This round-up only scratches the surface, of course. I don't have enough time to go into greater detail, alas. But certainly it made me, as Eileen would have, "put on my smart hat."

ETA: A video of Mikki Kendall's excellent interview of Andrea Hairston is now available, here:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


I'll be attending Readercon this weekend in Burlington, Mass., along with numerous other Aqueductistas, including one of this year's Guests of Honor, Andrea Hairston. It's a safe bet that with so many Aqueductistas present, there'll be a plenitude of stimulation and challenge on tap. My own programming is:

Friday July 11 11:00 AM    F    Empathy, Identification, and Stories . L. Timmel Duchamp (moderator), Andrea Hairston, Matthew Kressel, Julia Rios, Walt Williams. At a panel at Arisia 2013, Andrea Hairston said, "I can only tell you a story if you're a human who can hear a story and imagine what it's like to be someone who isn't you." Tannanarive Due added that access to stories matters: some children, for instance, can easily find books about characters like themselves, while others have to read books from outside a position of identification. Culture creates structures of identification and empathy; or, to put it another way, ways of feeling from within and ways of feeling from without. How do stories create structures of feeling, and how can writers and readers both benefit from awareness of these structures?

Friday July 11 12:30 PM    ENV    L. Timmel Duchamp reads from a novel in progress

Saturday, July 12 1:00 PM    G    Audience-centric Narratives . Judith Berman, L. Timmel Duchamp (leader), Chris Gerwel, Ken Houghton, James Patrick Kelly. Several subgenres of speculative fiction, such as horror, satire, and slipstream, focus on creating a particular feeling or experience within the reader, rather than on the more typical plot-driver of a protagonist's inner or outer conflicts. The failure mode of this sort of writing is manipulation and didacticism. What makes an audience-centric story successful, from the author's point of view and the reader's?

Aqueduct won't be in the Dealers Room, and I haven't scheduled an autograph session, but I'll be available for conversation and book-signing throughout. See you there!