This essay debuted last year like a bomb going off in my corner of fandom. It’s an incisive commentary on the habit of creators to make women invisible in service to a tired meme about history that’s been so often repeated that it’s become a “fact” easily swallowed and believed by those too uncritical to examine the claim that, “women didn’t do X”.
Kameron says, "Let’s just put it this way: if you think there’s a thing — anything — women didn’t do in the past, you’re wrong.". She tells you why. It’s an important essay, a challenge, a critique, a demand for better creation, and the revival of the human imagination about the past, so we can build a richer future. It’s one of the most powerful pieces of nonfiction I read in 2013.
“You cannot with one breath say that you wish more women were recognized for their work, and then say in the next that you think less of people who make others aware of their work.”—Amal El-Mohtar [x] (via geardrops)
Did you know that I have read Sex and the City the book? Well I can’t remember exactly why I read it, but I did! The book is not fiction but is a collection of Candace Bushnell’s original Sex and the City columns, which ran in the New York Observer and which served as a very loose basis for the more famous (and superior) TV show, not to mention the subsequent pathetic movies.
Bushnell is a pricklier a narrator than Carrie Bradshaw, and the book much darker and nastier—and consequently more incisive– than the TV show. It’s also actually about sex and also the city, whereas the series is more about a group of friends who talk sex while relating to each other brunch. (Which, that’s okay too!)
This has not very much to do with Andrew Holleran’s Ground Zero, except that Ground Zero is also a collection of essays written and published over several years, and most of them are about the idiosyncratic sexual mores and mating rituals of New Yorkers. Holleran is obviously a stylist in a class of his own, and the prose in his essays is mostly insanely gorgeous, but he can also be as funny and breezy and silly as Carrie/Candace, and once I noticed the overlap in their voices and concerns– about halfway through the book—it started to seem a little uncanny.
Of course, no one really dies in Sex and the City (well, there was that time Kristen Johnson fell out the window), whereas Ground Zero plops some Carrie Bradshaw-relation right down in the apocalypse: the essays in Holleran’s book were written over the first decade of the AIDS crisis, and almost no one gets out alive. It is shocking, tragic, beautiful and hilarious and fucking horrifying– a glimpse into an almost entirely lost world that is familiar-ish but as strange as science fiction.
Kelly Barnhill talks about being a feminist, and being told to keep her politics to herself. People have a tendency to tell Kelly to stop expressing her opinions (I suppose it’s unladylike). This never goes well for them.
To begin the year, I set myself a challenge: read a perfect split balance of male:female authors in 2013. It was a personal challenge, and I asked no one else to follow along with me. This challenge had two purposes. The first was to provide more exposure for female fantasy and science fiction writers. The second was to expand my own tastes, to discover new authors. As 2013 winds down, I consider this challenge a roaring success, but it wasn’t without some controversy.
In particular, the comments thread generated some salty discussion about my challenge and the idea of ‘quotas’ playing against the natural interests of a reader/critic. I read a lot of the same arguments, mostly about being ‘genderblind’, that I had once made. These arguments are so easy to fall back on, a safety net to avoid falling into blame. At first, I was quick to respond the same way, “I just read what I want to read, and ignore the gender of the author completely.” Well and true, maybe, but I started to recognize that, despite these excuses, there was a large bias (about one to three, female to male) in my reading habits. I began to ask myself why. I still don’t have an answer, but I did recognize that a concious course correction was something I could be proactive about without needing an answer right away.
In addition, I realized a couple of years ago that the audience I had attained for my blog allowed me a position where I could make a positive impact on the genre (if only in a small way) by making positive impacts to my own habits. My Gender Balance in 2013 post has led to a very enriching experience as I have consciously attempted to correct my internal biases. I plan to continue to work towards parity every year.
”—A Dribble of Ink’s Aidan Moher talking about the personal challenge he set for 2013. More on the challenge and the results here.
“So what we have here in Ms. Savage’s post is an expression of concern about the rise of “gratuitous” diversity… framed by a call for more straight white men. And what we have in Mr. Davidson’s call for “minority”** characters who genuinely represent their own background is… the very gratuitous superficiality that he claims he doesn’t espouse. Because, well, he only demands that “minority” characters justify their existence in a given narrative. Only women and people of color (etc.) risk being less-than-genuine for appearing alongside dragons and spaceships without reason. There has to be a point, see, whenever people like me pop up in fiction. We’re there only to “expand our experience and knowledge”, to educate; we can’t just be kicking around for the same reasons white men would be. I mean, really: if we’re not doing something black (or gay or Jewish or whatever), why are we even there? Because, amirite, God knows we’re not marketable. - See more at: http://nkjemisin.com/2013/12/concern-trolling-and-gratuitous-diversity/#sthash.aFx1j1qx.dpuf”—
One of the great, great things about being a writer is hearing from readers. My notes are generally of two kinds. I hear from very young readers, who mostly tell me they like cats, and from grown-ups, who mostly tell me I made them cry. So far, I have made people cry:
On airplanes: “I read it on an international flight. Then I had to hide under a blanket for half an hour. #worthit.”
On intercity buses: “The driver keeps asking me if I’m okay.”
And most deliciously, in the carpool line at a junior high. “My children were HUMILIATED. THANK YOU.”
I never quite know what to say to these people. “I’m sorry”? “You’re welcome”? Sarah Rees Brennan, who is an expert at making people cry, says I should laugh maniacally until people back away.
But I get that it is a compliment, to tell authors that you cry. And I get that we want books that make us cry. I do, anyway. Just not necessarily in front of dozens of strangers.
This is why I am proposing a new literary award. It is to be called the SNOT award. Given to STORIES NOT to be read ON TRANSIT, the SNOT shall honor and mark books that will make you ugly-cry while on a crowded cross-town bus.
The SNOT sticker will be gold and embossed, and will stand as both a ringing endorsement and a useful warning.
“They were mothers and fathers and children. A dressmaker, a secretary, an inventor, a doctor, a judge. And, oh yes, one was a bookie, one was a burglar, one was a bomber, and one was a mistake. Barney Northrup had rented one of the apartments to the wrong person.”—We are discussing The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin today.