Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tanith Lee (1947-2015)

Tanith Lee died this week. I'd begun the long drive home from WisCon when I heard the sad news. All the many notices of her death I've been reading characterize her as a "prolific" writer. She was, of course, that--having produced an enormous output of short fiction as well as novels, totaling more than 90 books. A glance at my bookshelves tells me I've read dozens of her books over the last four decades, not including the scores of her stories I encountered in magazines and anthologies. For a fairly comprehensive bibliography, check out the Tanith Lee page at the isfdb (http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?105). That will give you an idea of just how staggering her oeuvre is. I should probably add that she won the World Fantasy Award, British Fantasy Award, and the Nebula Award multiple times.

More important to me, though, than that adjective "prolific" is the fact that her continual production was not repetitive, but a mining of particular thematic veins, which is, of course, what artists do. Her Birthgrave trilogy was among the first books of fantasy I ever read, and, along with C.J. Cherryh's Morgaine series consequently shaped my idea of what fantasy ought to be (which meant that most other fantasy I encountered simply did not measure up). And of course her few science fiction novels formed part of my feminist sf reading foundation along with Russ, Butler, Charnas etc.

You might be able to imagine, then, how I felt when a manuscript arrived in the mail from Tanith, here at Aqueduct a few years ago. I was surprised to learn that she still worked with a typewriter--because electronic screens triggered her migraines. For that reason, her husband mediated email communications for her, and we had to do the editorial process the old-fashioned way, via snail mail to England. Kath and I were happy to do so, for she was a joy to work with and we loved her stories.  

I will be rereading some of her work this summer, I think--as well as reading work that will be new to me. Her status as "prolific" is a great blessing. 

I'll conclude with the words now up on her website:

Though we come and go, and pass into the shadows, where we leave
behind us stories told – on paper, on the wings of butterflies, on the
wind, on the hearts of others – there we are remembered, there we work
magic and great change – passing on the fire like a torch – forever
and forever. Till the sky falls, and all things are flawless and need
no words at all. --Tanith Lee

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Call for Submissions: LETTERS TO TIPTREE

The great James Tiptree Jr was born sometime in 1967, a little over forty-eight years ago. Fifty-two years earlier Tiptree’s alter-ego, the talented, resourceful and fascinating Alice B. Sheldon was born. And somewhere in there, about forty years ago, poet Racoona Sheldon showed up.

In celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Sheldon’s birth, and in recognition of the enormous influence of both Tiptree and Sheldon on the field, Twelfth Planet Press is publishing a selection of letters written by science fiction and fantasy’s writers, editors, critics and fans to celebrate her, to recognise her work, and maybe in some cases to finish conversations set aside nearly thirty years ago.

LETTERS TO TIPTREE will be a collection of letters written to Alice Sheldon, James Tiptree or Racoon Sheldon; a set of thoughtful pieces on the ways her contribution to the genre has affected (or not) its current writers, readers, editors and critics.

Edited by Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein, we are looking for two types of submissions.

Firstly, letters that are between 1000 and 2000 words, exploring personal and/or literary reflections on Tiptree/Sheldon.

Secondly, briefer responses addressing questions such as:
Does it make a difference, reading James Tiptree Jr’s work, knowing that Tiptree was Alice Sheldon?
Who is James Tiptree Jr to you?
Why do you care about James Tiptree Jr?
What impact has reading James Tiptree Jr’s fiction had on you?

We are paying 5cpw up to $USD100 to be paid on publication. We are looking for World First Publication in all languages, and exclusivity for twelve months. LETTERS TO TIPTREE will be published in August 2015.

Submissions are open between May 18 and June 8.

Please send your essay to contact@twelfthplanetpress.com

- See more at: http://www.twelfthplanetpress.com/submissions#sthash.oUnof8el.dpuf


Monday, April 20, 2015

Stories for Chip


An indiegogo campaign to support Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany begins today. Just to give you an idea of how fabulous (perhaps even kick-ass) this anthology is, I'll post the table of contents below. I'll also note that the editors are Nisi Shawl and Bill Campbell, and that several other Aqueductistas either have pieces in the book or are  providing special perks to donors. Go here to get all the details:  https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/stories-for-chip-a-tribute-to-samuel-r-delany




THE TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction by Kim Stanley Robinson
Eileen Gunn   Michael Swanwick and Samuel R. Delany at the Joyce Kilmer Service Area, March 2005
Nick Harkaway  Billy Tumult
devorah major   Voice Prints
Isiah Lavender, III   Daily Encounters: Or, Another Reason Why I Study Race and Racism in Science Fiction
Anil Menon   Clarity
Ellen Kushner   When Two Swordsmen Meet
Chesya Burke  For Sale: Fantasy Coffin (Ababuo Need Not Apply)
Haralambi Markov   Holding Hands with Monsters
Carmelo Rafala   Song for the Asking
Kit Reed   Kickenders
Walidah Imarisha   Walking Science Fiction: Samuel Delany and Visionary Fiction
Alex Jennings   Heart of Brass
Claude Lalumière   Empathy Evolving as a Quantum of Eight-Dimensional Perception
Jewelle Gomez   Be Three
Ernest Hogan   Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song
Hal Duncan   An Idyll in Erewhyna
L. Timmel Duchamp   Real Mothers, a Faggot Uncle, and the Name of the Father: Samuel R. Delany's Feminist Revisions of the Story of SF
Junot Díaz   Nilda
Benjamin Rosenbaum   The First Gate of Logic
Thomas M. Disch   The Master of the Milford Altarpiece
Sheree Renée Thomas   River Clap Your Hands
Roz Clarke   Haunt-type Experience
Fábio Fernandes   Eleven Stations
Kai Ashante Wilson   "Legendaire"
Michael Swanwick   On My First Reading of The Einstein Intersection
Kathryn Cramer   Characters in the Margins of a Lost Notebook
Vincent Czyz   Hamlet's Ghost Sighted in Frontenac, KS
Tenea D. Johnson   Each Star a Sun to Invisible Planets
Alex Smith   Clones
Geetanjali Dighe   The Last Dying Man
Geoff Ryman   Capitalism in the 22nd Century
Nalo Hopkinson & Nisi Shawl   Jamaica Ginger
Chris Brown  Festival

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Caren Gussoff, Cat Rambo, and Julie McGilliand Reading in Seattle



On Wednesday evening, April 8, Caren Gussoff will be reading with Cat Rambo and Julie McGilliand at University Bookstore in Seattle. Caren will be reading from her newly released CP volume, Three Songs for Roxy, Cat will be reading from her debut novel Beasts of Tabat and Julie from Waking Up Naked. Books will be available for purchase! Authors will be happy to sign them! And I will be there in the audience, cheering. Do come, if you can.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Lisa Shapter's A Day in Deep Freeze


I'm pleased to announce the release of a new volume in Aqueduct Press's Conversation Pieces series, A Day in Deep Freeze, a novella by Lisa Shapter, in both small trade paperback and e-book editions. The story takes place in an alternate 1963, in which. Emran Greene is a successful corporate accountant, a hopeful soon-to-be-father, and an unremarkable husband--except, that is, for the lingering effects of an experimental wartime truth serum, his ex-boyfriend, the impossibility of his conceiving a child, and all of the other secrets he keeps from his wife and his employer. One of these, the secret of the lonely grave he visits regularly in Riverport's Castleview Cemetery, holds a tragedy that just won't stay gone...

You can purchase the book in print and e-book editions now through Aqueduct's website. It will be available soon through other venues.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

2014 James Tiptree Jr Award

WINNERS OF THE 2014 JAMES Tiptree, Jr. AWARD ANNOUNCED 
The James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award Council (www.tiptree.org) is pleased to announce that the 2014 Tiptree Award has two winners: Monica Byrne for her novel The Girl in the Road (Crown 2014) and Jo Walton for her novel My Real Children (Tor 2014). The James Tiptree, Jr. Award is presented annually to works of science fiction or fantasy that explore and expand gender roles. The award seeks out work that is thought-provoking, imaginative, and perhaps even infuriating. It is intended to reward those writers who are bold enough to contemplate shifts and changes in gender roles, a fundamental aspect of any society.
Monica Byrne’s The Girl in the Road is a painful, challenging, glorious novel about murder, quests, self-delusion, and a stunning science-fictional big idea: What would it be like to walk the length of a few-meter-wide wave generator stretching across the open sea from India to Africa, with only what you can carry on your back? With profound compassion and insight, the novel tackles relationships between gender and culture and between gender and violence. It provides a nuanced portrait of violence against women, in a variety of forms, and violence perpetrated by women. Through the eyes of two narrators linked by a single act of violence, the reader is brought to confront shifting ideas of gender, class, and human agency and dignity.
Jo Walton’s My Real Children is a richly textured examination of two lives lived by the same woman. This moving, thought-provoking novel deals with how differing global and personal circumstances change our view of sexuality and gender. The person herself changes, along with her society. Those changes influence and are influenced by her opportunities in life and how she is treated by intimate partners, family members, and society at large. The alternate universe trope allows Walton to demonstrate that changes in perceptions regarding gender and sexuality aren’t inevitable or determined by a gradual enlightenment of the species, but must be struggled for. My Real Children is important for the way it demonstrates how things could have been otherwise — and might still be.
Honor List
In addition to selecting the winner, the jury chooses a Tiptree Award Honor List. The Honor List is a strong part of the award’s identity and is used by many readers as a recommended reading list. This year’s Honor List (listed in alphabetical order by the author’s last name) is:
Jennifer Marie Brissett. Elysium (Aqueduct Press 2014) — A masterfully layered tale of star-crossed lovers, ambiguously situated before, during, and after a devastating alien invasion. Adrian/Adrianne and Antoine/Antoinette move through a liminal, re-creative space that tells spooling variations of an original story we might never see, but can reconstruct. Variously lovers, siblings, and parent and child, these relationships change in subtle and overt ways that are tied to the gender of the characters in each looping iteration.
Seth Chambers, “In Her Eyes” (Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2014) — This excellently written and evocative story is about a woman who is a polymorph, capable of drastically altering her body. It’s told from the point of view of the man who loves her. Each week she becomes a different woman for him, until she changes her gender, then her very self.
Kim Curran, “A Woman Out of Time” (Irregularity, edited by Jared Shurin, Jurassic London 2014) — A fictionalized version of Joanna Russ’s classic How to Suppress Women’s Writing, based on a true history (with very mild adjustments). Time travel paradoxes, complexity theory, and alien intervention are beautifully interwoven in this lyrical exploration of the gendering of scientific discovery. The story’s epigraph will tempt readers to explore what is known of the life and work of Emile Du Chatelet, a contemporary of Voltaire and the translator and commentator of Newton’s work, and to undo the disservice she has been done by history.
Emmi Itäranta, Memory of Water (Harper Voyager 2014) (published in Finnish as Teemestarin kirja, Teos 2012) — This beautifully crafted novel, written simultaneously in English and Finnish, uses a delicately-told coming-of-age tale to examine a future replete with water crises, a totalitarian police state, and suffocating gender roles.
Jacqueline Koyanagi, Ascension (Masque Books 2013) — A fun, fast-paced space opera with surprising heft. Its beautifully diverse cast of characters explores intersections of gender and race, class, disability, and polyamory, all while racing to save the universe from certain destruction.
Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios, editors, Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press 2014) — An anthology of young-adult stories about diversity, many featuring queer or trans characters or gender issues. This is a book that should be in every middle and high-school library!
Pat MacEwen, “The Lightness of the Movement” (Fantasy & Science Fiction, April/May 2014) — A solid, well-told alien-contact story about a xeno-anthropologist studying an alien species. The alien’s gender roles are well described and very alien. Though the story never enters the aliens’ minds, MacEwen does a fabulous job of making it clear how the aliens think.
Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon (Hodder & Stoughton, 2014) — This gloriously chaotic look at the day after aliens land in the lagoon off of Lagos, Nigeria’s coast approaches gender with a diversity that intersects with many aspects of modern Nigerian life: age, religion, social class and politics, among others. The character Ayodele, an alien who takes the form of a human woman to make first contact, is particularly noteworthy in how her chosen gender exposes fault lines across the panoply of characters that drive the narrative.
Nghi Vo, “Neither Witch nor Fairy” (Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older, Crossed Genres, 2014) — Two orphaned brothers try to get by in 1895 Belfast. The story focuses on the younger brother, who thinks he’s a changeling. He asks the fairies to tell him what he truly is. (Saying anything more would be telling.)
Aliya Whiteley, The Beauty (Unsung Stories 2014) — A piece of disturbing, thought-provoking horror that explores what happens to a small community of men when sentient mushrooms spring from the graves of women who died years before from a deadly fungus infection. These mushrooms, called “Beauties” by the storytelling narrator, gradually and inexorably shift their roles over the course of the narrative, starting as supposedly mindless providers of comfort and ending with roles more traditionally masculine: inseminating, caring for the male mothers, and engaging in violent battles to protect their progeny. Allegorically explores a variety of aspects of the human experience, including gender and sexuality.
It was a particularly good year for gender-exploration in science fiction and fantasy. In addition to the honor list, this year’s jury also compiled the following long list of other works they found worthy of attention:
The Tiptree Award winners, along with authors and works on the Honor List and the long list will be celebrated during Memorial Day weekend at WisCon (www.wiscon.info) in Madison, Wisconsin. Monica Bryne will attend the ceremony at WisCon, May 23-26, 2015 (www.wiscon.info); Jo Walton is unable to attend WisCon, but will be feted at an alternate celebration in San Francisco in August. (The Tiptree Award Motherboard firmly believes that you cannot have too many celebrations.) Each winner will receive $1000 in prize money, a specially commissioned piece of original artwork, and (as always) chocolate.
Each year, a panel of five jurors selects the Tiptree Award winner. The 2014 jurors were Darrah Chavey (chair), Elizabeth Bear, Joan Haran, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and Amy Thomson.
Reading for 2015 will soon begin. The jury panel consists of Heather Whipple (chair), Jacqueline Gross, Alessa Hinlo, Keffy Kehrli, and N.A. Sulway.
The Tiptree Award invites everyone to recommend works for the award. Please submit recommendations via the Tiptree Award website at www.tiptree.org, where you can also read more about the award, about works it has honored, and about past winners.
.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Back, Belly, and Side: True Lies and False Tales by Celeste Rita Baker


I'm pleased to announce the release of Back, Belly, and Side: True Lies and False Tales, a collection of stories by Celeste Rita Baker, as a volume in Aqueduct Press's Conversation Pieces series.

"Celeste Rita Baker brings us smack down into the islands with her vivid and raw rhythms and use of dialect, and reminds that the Caribbean has long had a strong claim to the magic that makes genre so imaginative."--Tobias Buckell, author of Hurricane Fever and Halo: The Cole Protocol


"Back, Belly & Side is full of Celeste Rita Baker's special story magic. With tales of wisdom, wonderment, and new world lore, she creates characters that speak and leap off the page to deliver the best gift of all--deep belly laughter."
 — Sheree Renée Thomas, Shotgun Lullabies: Stories & Poems

"Celeste Rita Baker's stories balance heartache and hilarity with poetic, uncompromising prose. This collection sings ancient songs with a modern beat. It is fully alive."
 —Daniel Jose Older, author of Salsa Nocturna and editor of Long Hidden from History

"...this collection is worth a read. The characters are beautifully drawn and the situations they find themselves in are, simultaneously, real and far-fetched. Wonderful use of language and explorations of parenthood, reality, and love."
 —Kate O'Connor, Abyss & Apex

You can purchase Back, Belly, and Side from Aqueduct's website in both print and e-book editions. It will soon be available elsewhere.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Cascadia Subduction Zone, vol. 5, 2






The new issue of The Cascadia Subduction Zone is out. This issue features a Grandmother Magma column by Delia Sherman, poetry by Anne Carly Abad and Terry A. Garey, an essay the so-called "Genre Apocalypse" by me, and reviews of work by Caren Gussoff, Gwyneth Jones, Daniel Jose Older, and Ernest Hogan. The issue's featured artist is Richard O. Baker.

Vol

 




   Volume 5, number 2--April 2015

Essay
A Few Thoughts about Critics, Legitimacy, and Comfort
   by L. Timmel Duchamp
Poems
This is How You Teach a Bird to Walk
  &
The Weight of Forgiveness
   by Anne Carly Abad

It’s Been Some Time, Now
  &
Women as Hunters and Gatherers
   by Terry A. Garey

Grandmother Magma
The Logic of the Elements
   by Delia Sherman

Reviews
Three Songs for Roxy, Caren Gussoff
   reviewed by Victoria Elisabeth Garcia

Cortez on Jupiter, by Ernest Hogan
   reviewed by Cynthia Ward

The Grasshopper’s Child, by Gwyneth Jones
  reviewed by Joel A. Nichols

Half-Resurrection Blues, by Daniel José Older
  reviewed by Uzuri Amini
 
Featured Artist
Richard O. Baker

Subscriptions and single issues are available here.

Monday, March 30, 2015

2014 SF Count

Niall Harrison has posted his annual SF count for 2014 at Strange Horizons. This is the fifth year he's been compiling a statistical count for gender and race representation in sf reviewing, an issue dear to the Aqueductista heart:
The aim is to draw attention to imbalances in literary coverage.
As the title indicates, the immediate inspiration for this series is "The Count" by VIDA, which started in 2010. Within SF, antecedents include the Broad Universe reviewing statistics calculated for 2000 and 2007, the Lady Business counts of coverage on SF blogs for 2011, 2012, and 2013 and, further back, Joanna Russ' counts as reported in How to Suppress Women's Writing (1983).
This article presents the results of the SF count for 2014. Previous counts are available for 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.
You can check out this year's count here. His summary is neither surprising nor encouraging: "As in previous years, in the majority of the SF review venues surveyed, review coverage disproportionately focused on men and books by white writers. A majority of reviews were written by men in two-thirds of venues, and by white people in all venues. Analysis of 2010-2014 gender data shows that despite year-to-year variation within individual venues, there is no evidence for an overall increase in coverage of books authored or edited by women. However, there is some evidence for a small increase in the proportion of reviews written by women."


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Armadillicon 37

It's my pleasure to announce that I'll be the Editor GoH at this year's Armadillocon, which will take place in Austin, TX, July 24-26, 2015. Stina Leicht will be the Toastmaster, and John DeNardo the Fan GoH. Nancy Jane Moore tells me she plans to attend, and I suspect at least a few other Aqueductistas will, also. I'd love to see a lot of Aqueduct's friends there. If there's any chance you might be able to attend, here's your heads-up!

Update: I'll be one of the instructors for the writing workshop. 

Second Update: Ken Liu will be the Author GoH.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Louise Cavalier Levesque's The Prince of the Aquamarines



I'm pleased to announce the release, in both trade paperback and e-book editions, of The Prince of the Aquamarines as the forty-fourth volume in the Conversation Pieces series. It collects a pair of fairy tales by eighteenth-century author Louise Cavalier Levesque, translated by Ruth Berman, and an essay by the translator on the tradition of early modern French fairy tales and Levesque’s contribution to that tradition.

Louise Cavelier Levesque was born in Rouen, November 23, 1703, and died in Paris, May 18, 1745. She was one of the eighteenth-century writers who continued the tradition that had begun in the decade before her birth of creating new versions of fairy tales. Her two fairy tales were reprinted in 1744 and again as part of the Cabinet des fées. A much-abridged translation of "The Invisible Prince" was included in Andrew Lang's The Yellow Fairy Book (1894), but "Le Prince des Aigues Marines" has not appeared before in English.

In "The Prince of the Aquamarines," the Prince is cursed by a Bad Fairy with the gift of the death-dealing glance. The heroine, the Princess of the Island of Night, is likewise condemned by a Fairy to live alone in the Dark Tower, until freed by a monster whose sight brings death. In "The Invisible Prince," the curse is a prophecy delivered by the priest of Plutus, the god of wealth, who announces that the young prince will undergo assorted dangers that will, however, lead in the end to good fortune. The Prince's guardian fairy gives him the stone of invisibility in the hope that it will help get him safely through the intervening dangers. Both tales are all-out adventure stories featuring princes, princesses, bad fairies, shipwrecks, magical gifts, and dark towers.

The Prince of the Aquamarines is available now from Aqueduct's site, and will soon be available elsewhere.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Three early novels by Eleanor Arnason

I'm pleased to announce that Aqueduct Press has just issued e-book editions of three, out-of-print novels by Eleanor Arnason: The Sword Smith, To the Resurrection Station, and Daughter of the Bear King. Each includes a new afterword by Eleanor.


The Sword Smith tells the tale of Limper, a master sword smith running from an oppressive boss-king who forced him to make expensive junk, and Nargri, his young dragon companion. Written in the early 1970s, and published in 1978 by Condor, The Sword Smith is an anti-epic fantasy. In a new Afterword written for this edition, Arnason describes the characters as "mostly fairly ordinary people, rather than heroes, wizards, and kings. Their problems are ordinary problems, rather than a gigantic struggle between good and evil. There is no magic. The dragons are intelligent therapod dinosaurs, and the trolls are some kind of hominid, maybe Neanderthals. In many ways, it is a science fiction story disguised as a fantasy."

 To the Resurrection Station, Arnason's second novel (written in the 1970s), was first published in 1986. On a planet far from our Earth, it begins a Gothic tale: a moldering mansion full of secrets, a disturbing master of the house, a young and innocent heroine, and the mansion's robot servant, who drives the story. A motley crew escapes to Earth (now overrun by interesting intelligent machines, except for a clearly crazy spaceport) where they land and begin exploring the ruins of New York City.

In a new Afterword written for this edition, Arnason describes Resurrection Station as about people who can't fit into social roles. "Claud can't be a traditional Native. Belinda can't be a straight young woman or a traditional heroine. Shortpaw is not an acceptable giant mutant rat. Without being especially heroic, they all refuse to give in or give up."


 Not your everyday fantasy, Daughter of the Bear King clearly arises from Second Wave Feminism. A middle-aged woman discovers that she has a role in an epic struggle between shoddiness and integrity. And her battle flows across time and universes.

On a Monday morning, Esperance Olson is suddenly transported to another world where dragons fly and wizards divulge her heritage: daughter of the ancient Bear King, she is a shape-changer with magical powers. This strange world runs on magic, and the wizards have summoned Esperance to fight a creeping and shadowy menace. Her epic journey transports her back and forth between her birth world and Minneapolis, where the magic and monsters follow, wreaking havoc.

Samples of each book are available for free download at Aqueduct's site, where the books are available in both epub and mobi formats for $7.95.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Clarion West One-Day Workshop

The deadline for a writing workshop I'll be giving in Seattle is looming. Here is the condensed version of the description:


Join the founder and publisher of Aqueduct Press, L. Timmel Duchamp, for a Clarion West One-Day Workshop: "How to Read as a Writer."  This workshop is an opportunity to learn techniques for critiquing the work of other writers, and to learn how to apply those techniques to your own work.

Students who enroll in this workshop will be asked to submit a piece of writing in advance, which will be distributed for critique by a subgroup of the class. All students’ works will be critiqued by both the instructor and several other students. Duchamp will also cover techniques for reading critically and for communicating effectively.

This six-hour intensive workshop will take place on Sunday, March 15, in Seattle's University District. It is open to anyone aged 18 or over. Tuition is $150, and class size is limited to 12 students. For more details and to register, please see the workshop page on the Clarion West site.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Notes on "What Dreams Need Come: A Task List for Visionaries" Potlatch 24 panel



What Dreams need Come: A Task List for Visionaries

Glenn Glazer (mod), Janna Silverstein, Jeanne Gomoll, Dan Trefethen

Panel description (from the program guide): At the National Book Awards, Ursula K. Le Guin issued a call to auctorial arms. She warns of hard times to come, charges us to dream alternatives to the ways we live now. But is she right? Science fiction is rarely predictive, so what is it good for? I speculative fiction a tool for change, a gate to better futures, or just another obsessive technology of popular distraction? Other than amusing ourselves, what good do we really expect from dreaming new worlds?

The program guide provides URLs to a video clip of the speech and to a transcript:

As with my notes on the Women Destroy panel, these are partial and scattered notations of statements that interested me.



Janna: Editors now have to be advocates for books as different from other commodities. Publishers have a responsibility to be a standard-bearer for that.

Dan: I'm not an editor or publisher—I think she [Ursula Le Guin] was speaking for art for art's sake. In that speech, she is storming the castle. She has the credentials to do that. [Later, this is characterized as “speaking truth to power.”]

Jeanne: She was identifying science fiction to the people in the room as being a key part of any movement that seeks to change the world. She is posing the question: what kind of world are we ideally moving toward? So many people outside of the sf world do not think of science fiction in connection with revolution or change. Le Guin is pointing out its social value.

Glenn: These publishers [reference to the Big Five, and generally to the publishing people sitting in the audience Le Guin was speaking to] are driven by changes in the technology that we did not see coming. What do authors need to do to survive?

Janna: Ursula may be 6 months ahead of what's going on, but the publishers are years behind—when they should have seen it coming and prepared for it. Publishing is having a real hard time with this transition. 

Aud (Huw Evans): Le Guin talked a lot about freedom in her speech. Science fiction should be the first to embrace technological change. Readers are the gatekeepers.

Aud: Booksellers and librarians are mediators between books and readers and the books' authors.

[In the course of the discussion that followed, panelists and audience members displayed a diverse and contradictory range of notions about who or what are “gatekeepers” and how rating systems and algorithims work. Vonda mentions one of the earliest recommendation programs designed by Dave Howell and how well it worked, one with different aims to, say, Amazon’s recommendation algorithims.]

Janna: Signal to noise ratio is off-kilter with self-publishing. There's a higher proportion of noise now. But bloggers can be discriminatory filters.

Glenn: [Expresses worry about the vanishing of indie bookstore, which has been an important discriminatory filter. The sad closing of Borderlands came up during the ensuing discussion.]

Aud: There’s a difference between gatekeepers and arbiters. It's not always a good thing that gatekeepers have a diminished role.

Janna: We need something that provides a faithful reflection of readers' ratings and preferences.

Jeanne: Women Destroy SF is evidence about the myopia in the field.

Dan: WDSF was crowd-sourced, not produced by big publishing.

Janna insists that the reason it couldn't have been published by the Big Five only because it was an anthology, not because its contributors were all women. [Because anthologies don’t sell enough to be published with the print-runs all books published by them have recently come to need.]

Aud (Nisi) We need not more gatekeepers, but gate-openers.

(Aud) Readers ratings can be (and are) gamed. They can't solve the signal-to-noise ratio problem.

Aud: Le Guin is addressing two audiences-- writers (that they live with integrity and write with integrity) and publishers. I think she was trying to shove writers into greater integrity in their writing.

Aud: It's important to remember that writers are reflecting back the values of mainstream society.

Dan: I think if she were here today, she would say, “I'm talking about you people. Don't sell your soul for a mess of pottage, so to speak.”

Janna: These days, decisions have to be made more consciously than in the past (precisely because these conversations are happening). Everyone in publishing has become more conscious of how their decisions will be read.

Aud (Vicki R.) Often books are rejected because of the marketing dept. Editors might love a book and reject it because they think it won't sell.

Janna: That's the reason I left publishing.

Aud (Tom Becker) Amazon's algorithims are measuring biases & decisions people have already made; they don’t suggest departures [from what people are in the habit of reading]. Algorithims are not going to suggest paths of bold reading.

Dan: UKL says we need to know the difference between art and commerce.

Dan: Small presses are the one bright light in all this.

Janna: We as a community need to heed Ursula's clarion call.

Jeanne: One of the things Ursula does, more than telling us, is that she shows us by her own work. [Cites Tehanu, as an example of revisioning one’s own past work and ideas.]

This panel could have gone in one of several clear directions; instead, it took a scattershot approach. Because it began with an emphasis on technological change and the mainstream publishing industry's apparent cluelessness about it and its inability to do more than attempt to play catch-up, I began with the impression that the discussion would be centering on that. But when the audience entered the discussion (which, being Potlatch, was fairly early), the discussion got bogged down in generalities about the quantity of work being published and the lack of filters (authoritative or otherwise) for helping readers find what they want to read. Although both panelists and audience members made a lot of references to things Ursula said in her speech, I noticed a general avoidance of pursuing the ramifications of what the difference between art and commerce is and whether that difference will vanish (which is clearly one of the concerns UKL expresses in her speech). For all its excellent intentions, we were not collectively bold in our discussion. (I say "we" because I was present, even though I did not speak. As an indie publisher, I always feel I risk appearing self-serving in voicing my opinions on such matters.)

It occurs to me that it might be interesting to see someone unpack the sentences of that very brief speech. That wasn't, of course, the point of the panel, but such an exercise might be fruitful.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Notes on "Women Destroy Science Fiction: Not Again panel at Potlatch 24



Here are a few notes I jotted while attending the Women Destroy Science Fiction: Not Again! panel at Potlatch on Saturday afternoon:

Panelists: Kate Schaefer (mod), Eileen Gunn, Debbie Notkin

Kate notes that the iconography of the cover is pretty much the same as that of the second Women of Wonder books of 20 years ago: featuring a kick-ass babe.

Debbie loves the scope of the book but wishes that the nonfiction hadn't all been reprints of the fundraising pieces. She raises the question: What is the value of assembling all-women issues together?

I can’t help but note that this question is one that people have been raising for decades now. Are the answers different now than they were in the past. (Which may be to say: I feel as if this is yet another iteration of the constant reinvention of the wheel so familiar to experienced feminists.)

Eileen: How long will we have to keep destroying science fiction? She notes a string of authors who have destroyed science fiction (and of course the ease with which she could go on adding names to the list): Karen Joy Fowler destroyed science fiction. Pat Muprhy destroyed science fiction. Samuel R. Delany destroyed science fiction. Kelly Link destroyed science fiction. . .

Debbie: A big fear about this book-- is that no one who isn't already onboard will read these stories.

Eileen: We are the choir. And we're no longer a little isolated corner of the field.

Aud: What is it that needs to be done?

Nisi: Pardon me for pointing this out, but my essay in the book sets out some of the things that need to be done.

Kate: One of the things that needs to be done is that fiction needs to continue to be published. Print markets are limited, each market controlled by an editor, each with their own limitations. Gordon Van Gelder, to take one prominent example, has particular limitations. (I like Gordon, but I don't much care for his taste in fiction.) (And yes, I’m pleased to hear that Charles Finlay is taking over the editorship of F&SF. And as long as the stories by women have to be ten times better than those by men, we're not there yet.

Eileen: For myself, I'm wishing for liberation from all the little subgenres. Being a woman is being in one of those little boxes.

Debbie: How has the pressure against women in sf changed?  The people we are angriest at have very little power, unlike in the past. I think it's important to think about where the power is.

Aud: Would this book have had the same impact if it hadn't been packaged as "women destroy science fiction"?

Kate: No. There would have been a different impact.

Eileen: I thought on first hearing about the project that this was a marketing decision. Now that I see it, I think the book could have done well without the marketing tag. But with the marketing tag, it's political and angry—and produces a larger voice.

Debbie: “The Cold Equations” is consider a famous example of “hard science fiction.” In fact, it indulges in preposterously bad science; if it had been a woman's story, it would be characterized as "soft science fiction." Men get a pass for writing "soft science fiction."

Kate: Old science fiction isn't about the science-- the "science" was always a pretext. Old science fiction was about social and human relations.

Eileen: That’s true even of Hal Clement's work, long-considered the hardest of hard sf writers. How many people here have read Mission of Gravity? [only a few hands went up, one of them mine.] If a woman writes it, it's not really sf. If a man writes it, it is. For years and years I thought I was writing science fiction. Now people are telling me that what I write isn’t science fiction. It’s an unconscious thing they do. If I were a man, they’d accept that whatever I wrote was science fiction.

When Kate asked for last thoughts with which to end the panel, Eileen said: It's an sf writer's job to destroy science fiction, fantasy, and horror.



I'd be interested to hear what this blog's readers might have to say on the subject. My impression was that the audience contained a range of attitudes, many of them expressed in comments or questions from the audience. One older man apparently didn't see the relevance of the issue; some fired-up younger women apparently didn't realize that we'd been working on this problem for a long time already; some grumpy older women expressed pleasure in seeing young women energized and angry (because as Eileen put it, she's been angry for forty years, and it's good to be joined by younger women in that anger) and happy to see so much quality fiction by women getting recognition; and a lot of people wondered how it could be  that, as "the choir" (as Eileen put it) continues to expand so tremendously it is still being perceived as different and requiring qualification marking it as different.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Suzette Haden Elgin (1936-2015)

Feminist science fiction author and linguist Suzette Haden Elgin died on Tuesday, January 27. She was the author of numerous science fiction novels, a poet, and a prolific fan writer. In 1978, she founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association; the Elgin Award is named in her honor. She had a PhD from UCSD in linguistics, and in fact began writing science fiction to pay for graduate school. Her science fiction, especially the Native Tongue trilogy (for which she invented a new, feminist language, Láadan) exercised a powerful influence on feminist science fiction. Her 1969 story (and first sale) "For the Sake of Grace" was the inspiration for Joanna Russ's The Two of Them. She also wrote a series of books on "The Gentle Art of Verbal Defense" and other works of popular linguistics.

You'll find a bibliography of her science fiction here: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?204;
John Clute's somewhat critical discussion of her work here:  http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/elgin_suzette_haden;
and her wikipedia entry (which includes a list of some of her nonfiction writings) here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzette_Haden_Elgin

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sonya Taaffe's Ghost Signs


I'm pleased to announce the release of Ghosts Signs by Sonya Taaffe, in both print and e-book editions, as the forty-third volume in the Conversation Pieces series. Ghost Signs collects thirty-six poems and one story. “The Boatman’s Cure,” a novelette, is original to the volume.

"… A lantern hangs for the ghosts, both desolate and numinous. The white road and the black river run down into the dark and return again." In this collection of thirty-six poems and one story, Rhysling Award-winning poet Sonya Taaffe traces the complex paths between the dead, memory, and living.

A two-part cycle written over the course of seven years, "Ghost Signs" leads the reader through the underworld of myth to the hauntings of the present, where the shades of Sappho, Alan Turing, and Ludwig Wittgenstein exist alongside Charon, Dido, and The War of the Worlds. “The Boatman’s Cure” follows a haunted woman and a dead man as they embark on a road trip through coastal New England, an exorcism at its end. Sharply imagined, deeply personal, Taaffe’s work in Ghost Signs is at once an act of remembrance and release.

“Sonya Taaffe writes hauntingly of edgelands. Her poetic world lies on both banks of the Acheron, which may be crossed both ways. In Ghost Signs, she writes of uncompleted lives, of the lingering and commingling of the dead with us, the living. Where we meet are borderlands, uncertain spaces: in a saltmarsh, in the mud of trenches, in the realm of numbers, on the edge of sleep. There is darkness; but the journey is upward, into light. A transcendent book.”—Greer Gilman, author of Cloud & Ashes

Amal El-Motar has reviewed "The Boatman's Cure" in Ghost Signs for Tor.com. Here's an excerpt from her review:" In a collection—indeed, a congress—of ghosts, echoes, memories, and homages to ancient Greek literature, “The Boatman’s Cure” is a breath-taking culmination of its approaches and themes, a magnificent finale the intensity of which is derived from its quiet tension. Delia can see and interact physically with ghosts, and has discovered, through a great deal of trial and error, reliable ways of exorcising them; a personal quest requires her to obtain an oar with a strange history from an even stranger source. Nothing goes smoothly—except the beautiful structure of the story, which mimics the movement of an oar through water.

"It makes a beautiful arc: the story opens with Delia and a dead man named Evelyn Burney—the oar’s custodian—in a car, on their way to an unspecified “home.” The oar dips, and we see how they met; it dips further, and we see how Delia came to her understanding of ghosts and how to send them on; the oar rises and we return to Delia’s conflict with the dead man, before rising further to complete the circle of them back in the car. The narrative oar then inscribes a second arc of a different character: one that moves through Delia’s own past, her very being, and does genuinely brilliant things with the folk themes of boatmen’s curses in folk tales, where the acceptance of an oar is the acceptance of a burden that will only pass by giving it to another person."

You can purchase Ghost Signs now through Aqueduct's website.