Sunday, May 2, 2010

"New connections and avenues of discussion"

Over at A Room of One's Own, Gretchen reviews Helen Merrick's The Secret Feminist Cabal. Here's the opening of her review--
This book is a refreshingly community-centric look at sites of feminist struggle in SF fandom, as opposed to a feminist literary criticism approach which has been more popular, and which has been the focus of most of the work I've read on feminist science fiction. Merrick's cultural approach opens up new connections and avenues of discussion of the place and contributions of women to science fiction over several decades. This book is resonating for me a great deal, and if you are at all interested in feminist SF fandom, you really should read it. It gives so much provocative history, analysis, and recovering of feminist voice.

Merrick strikes a balance between giving an account of the history of women and different feminisms in SF fandom and offering an analysis of that history. She centers a great deal of her attention on fanzines and the letter columns of SF magazines and conventions reports, which is a brilliant move, as these are sites that have not gotten enough critical attention.
and here's the conclusion--
I'm grateful for this book. It gives me a connection to communities I identify myself as being part of, a history that I knew existed before, but had less opportunity to really explore. I love her exploration of the inception of the Tiptree Award in Chapter 8, and how its meanings have evolved as fandom's feminisms have changed. I am proud to be in fandom now, today, at a time when we're seeing some much-needed shifts in discussions of inclusion, particularly for people of color and, I believe, people with disabilities in fandom, both as fans and within SF texts. It's exciting! I want to be a part of it. And I'm glad I get to see, through this book, some of where fandom has been and how far it's come before now.
Gretchen also notes "[Merrick] charts different and contested meanings for what "feminist science fiction" meant in particular historical moments and spaces. She emphasizes that this is not a monolithic history of "Feminist Science Fiction", but instead discusses the many variations and justifications on particular, historically situated definitions of that and related terms." And I'd have to say, for me, that may be what excites me most about Helen's book.

Go read the whole review here.

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