Category Archives: Feminism

11 Exhausted SF Tropes You Should Avoid. Really.

Basically…YES. Read this post from Carrie Cuinn. Live by it. Write by it. Beginning of story.

Two more things to keep in mind:

1. If you do decide to incorporate alien languages, but translate them to some human language for your readers, do NOT translate them into broken English/Spanish/etc (à la Avatar). And why not? Because this makes absolutely no sense! The only possible reason for this is to make your foreigners sound more “foreign” and less intelligent. Why would any translator translate something into a broken version of their language? They wouldn’t. And why? Because that makes no sense!

2. Stop using violence against women as a plot device! Does violence happen?–sure. Does violence often happen in books and stories as a logical/tragic/critical part of an overall plot?–sure. But why does it so often have to be that a flat, undeveloped female character is raped/killed/beaten for the sole purpose of giving some male character a blank check to then wreak whatever violence he wants in the name of this tragedy? –This is tired, annoying, and offensive. I am utterly exhausted of seeing violence against women used as an excuse to justify yet more and more violence. Because female characters are so expendable? Because they exist for no other reason but to spur someone else to action? Because violence against women/girls is somehow worse than violence against men/boys? Because there’s no other possible reason for someone to start off on a journey/quest/rampage? C’mon, people. This trope is just lazy and, again, offensive. Let’s move forward already.

Carrie Cuinn

Some ideas have been done to death in science fiction. We all know there are no new ideas anymore, and what matters most is the execution of the idea you stole have, but there are a few things that are not only over-done, they’re either incredibly stupid or offensive, as well. Here’s a partial list of tropes I’d love to never see again:

Stupid/Lazy Writing

  1. Funky Alien Language: your aliens from across the galaxy speak perfect English, except for a few “untranslatable” slang phrases? Or the language is made entirely of clicks and apostrophes? Hey, I know! All of your proper names are made with the 5, 8, or 10 point letters from Scrabble. Worst yet is when all of the men have harsh, hard-sounding names, and all of  the women (or other effeminate species) have soft, vowel- and f/l/sh-heavy names. This is an instant clue that you’re dealing…

View original post 1,450 more words

5 Fabulous Author Interviews

As an author, one of my most favorite things to read are author interviews. Not only is it a terrific way to engage with the larger writing community, but it’s also a chance to learn about new reads to dig into, to discover new writing processes, and, of course, to fantasize about being interviewed myself. Here are five of my favorite, more recent author interviews (in no particular order):

author awesome

  1. Brian Beglin’s interview with Aimee Bender, The Missouri Review

I think that’s where a workshop can truly help—we can show the writer the work, in a way. We can say, “Look this is good, and that other part ain’t so good, even though it’s clear you think it’s brilliant.” I find that usually the parts I think are brilliant end up seeming strained to other people. Which is both humbling and liberating at the same time.

–AB

I’ve loved writing and reading all my life, but Aimee Bender’s is definitely the first voice I ever truly fell in love with — her stories are utterly transportive and I find myself reading them over and over again trying to figure out how she did it.

2. Justin Meckes’ interview with Anna Lea Jancewicz, Writer Blog

Above my desk, I have three framed photos, of Ursula K. Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, and Kelly Link. Those three women make me want to write.

–ALJ

I definitely need a photo of Jancewicz to hang above my desk. If you haven’t checked her out yet…what are you still doing here? Her website: https://annajancewicz.com/

3. NPR’s interview with Kelly Link

…it’s a lot of fun to write a story in which everybody in the story already feels at ease with the strangeness — I think there’s a kind of useful dissonance, reading a world in which the people in that world are used to that place. And that’s because that’s true of real life; you often come into situations where everybody already knows what’s going on, and you have to sort of piece it together.

–KL

The first time I ever read Link’s short story “Stone Animals” (from her collection Magic for Beginners) I threw the book down and wanted to rant and write and cry and hug her all at the same time. It drove me crazy knowing that someone so talented was out there in the world and that I didn’t know them, that I wasn’t them, that they were writing the stories I’d always wanted to write. Jealousy quickly abates; immense admiration endures.

4. Juliet Escoria‘s interview with xTx, Electric Lit

At this point, yes, it bothers me that I haven’t been able to merge my ‘selves’ to the people that matter in my life. I’ve printed out select stories and given them to my mom to read and she loves them but it’s a small fraction of my work. She knows nothing about my books or the story award I received last year. Nobody does. I just feel like I’ve created work that I can be proud of and nobody in my life really knows about any of it. It’s stupid and I’m working on changing things.

–xTx

I first discovered xTx’s work while reading H.L. Nelson and Joanne Merriam’s anthology, Choose Wisely: 35 Women Up to No Good, and it’s been a complete googly-eyed fan-love affair ever since. She’s creepy, tough, funny, tragic, sincere, delicious.

5. Emily Pohl-Weary’s interview with Helen Oyeyemi, Hazlitt

I do not outline. I find it very difficult to write when I know what’s going to happen. I feel a bit trapped. In one of my other novels, White Is for Witching, the story is basically circular, so it begins with a disappearance and ends with a disappearance. It was very difficult and sad for me to write, knowing exactly what was going to happen to the heroine. It felt like I was trapping her, and I wanted my character to go free.

–HO

Stuart Evers, writing for The Independent, says it best: “[Helen Oyeyemi] cares not a fig for convention or the whims of critics or readers, just for the pleasures of writing something unexpected and astonishing.”

Check out these authors and their works now! Seriously — now!

Happy Writing & Reading!

Good News & Great Writers

Plenty of beautiful spring weather here in Baltimore, as well as plenty of great news!

51Q7MRxaY6L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_First, let me start by saying that I’m not including myself in the “Great Writers” portion of this post’s title. Rather, I’m referring to some amazing artists who I’ve only just discovered thanks to H.L. Nelson and Joanne Merriam’s anthology Choose Wisely: 35 Women Up to No Goodas well as to the terrific new publication Witch Craft Magazine.

In Nelson and Merriam’s anthology, they’ve got some classic, big league writers like Aimee Bender and Joyce Carol Oates as well as some less-well-known but undoubtedly terrific authors like xTx (here’s her website) and Andrea Kneeland (here’s an interview with her). Definitely worth reading and then rereading!

Final_front

 

In Witch Craft Magazine (issue one; I haven’t yet received my copy of issue two), I was thrilled to find story after story and poem after poem that I simply loved. I fancy myself as a rather picky reader, but the entire first issue struck me as a precious gem. Authors I’m now particularly excited about thanks to this issue are: Chelsea Laine Wells, Nicola Maye Goldberg, and Anna Lea Jancewicz.


Now, on to more of the good news (drum roll, please; thank you–alright, that’s enough! End drum roll already!):

I’m thrilled to announce that my story “The Spyglass” will be appearing in an upcoming issue of Cease, Cows and that my flash fiction story “Shelf Space” has just gone live in the latest issue of Literary Orphans!

Here’s a little teaser of “The Spyglass”:

I always felt empty as a kid, and some nights I feared I might wake up on the ceiling, floating like a hollow barrel on a dark sea. My Aunt Theo often tried cheering me up, but it wasn’t until I happened upon one of her secrets that it finally did any good.

And a little teaser of “Shelf Space”:

And though Rose’s moods and body soon recovered and returned to normal, her newfound connection to the fridge only ever intensified. …

 

Happy Reading & Happy Writing, everyone!

Advice from Women Writers

 

Don’t romanticize your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page.

—Zadie Smith


This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.

—Barbara Kingsolver


First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.

—Octavia Butler


Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.

—Margaret Atwood


Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.

—Anne Lamott


It’s a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke you can until the last possible second, and then you have to let it go. You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it…You have to let people see what you wrote.

—Tina Fey


You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.

—Maya Angelou

Tetons & Yellowstone 2014 316

 

Activists Write: Writing for a Reason

Right now, Baltimore is all over the news. Pains and fears that it’s been struggling with for decades are now finally being discussed at the national level. This is in part due to the many protests (peaceful and otherwise) that are currently taking place here, but also because of the many brilliant, activist voices speaking out today.

Inspired by this, I’d like to share here a few of my favorite pieces of modern activist writing:

Nonviolence as Compliance,” Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city’s publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city’s police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officers charged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview. …


In Defense of Looting,” Willie Osterwell, The New Inquiry

For most of America’s history, one of the most righteous anti-white supremacist tactics available was looting.

As protests in Ferguson continued unabated one week after the police killing of Michael Brown, Jr., zones of Twitter and the left media predominantly sympathetic to the protesters began angrily criticizing looters. Some claimed that white protesters were the ones doing all of the looting and property destruction, while others worried about the stereotypical and damaging media representation that would emerge. …


$pread: The Best of the Magazine that Illuminated the Sex Industry and Started a Media Revolution

Edited by Audacia Ray, Eliyanna Kaiser, and Rachel Aimee

9781558618725

Like any movement for social change, the sex worker rights movement has gone through many phases and been challenged both internally and externally by people, ideas, and events beyond its control. It has experienced wins and losses, and it has reimagined its goals and values with each successive generation of leaders and activists who have taken up its banner. …


“Defending Darwin,” James Krupa (painting by Alexis Rockman), Orion Magazine

I’m often asked what I do for a living. My answer, that I am a professor at the University of Kentucky, inevitably prompts a second question: “What do you teach?” Responding to such a question should be easy and invite polite conversation, but I usually brace for a negative reaction. At least half the time the person flinches with disapproval when I answer “evolution,” and often the conversation simply terminates once the “e-word” has been spoken. Occasionally, someone will retort: “But there is no evidence for evolution.” Or insist: “It’s just a theory, so why teach it?” …


“On Climate Change: To Save the Future, Live in the Present,” Wendell Berry, Yes! Magazine

So far as I am concerned, the future has no narrative. The future does not exist until it has become the past. To a very limited extent, prediction has worked. The sun, so far, has set and risen as we have expected it to do. And the world, I suppose, will predictably end, but all of its predicted deadlines, so far, have been wrong. …


“The Case for Reparations,” Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

I. “So That’s Just One Of My Losses”

Clyde Ross was born in 1923, the seventh of 13 children, near Clarksdale, Mississippi, the home of the blues. Ross’s parents owned and farmed a 40-acre tract of land, flush with cows, hogs, and mules. Ross’s mother would drive to Clarksdale to do her shopping in a horse and buggy, in which she invested all the pride one might place in a Cadillac. The family owned another horse, with a red coat, which they gave to Clyde. The Ross family wanted for little, save that which all black families in the Deep South then desperately desired—the protection of the law. …


“Rewriting the Future: Using Science Fiction to Re-envision Justice,” Walidah Imarisha, bitch

When I tell people I am a prison abolitionist and that I believe in ending all prisons, they often look at me like I rode in on a unicorn sliding down a rainbow. Even people engaged in social movements, people who concede that the current prison system is flawed, voice their critiques but always seem to add, “But it’s all we have.”

For all of our ability to analyze and critique, the left has become rooted in what is. We often forget to envision what could be. We forget to mine the past for solutions that show us how we can exist in other forms in the future.  …


“Nobody Passes: Attached to Machines,” Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, make/shift

Jessica says the worst part is the preparation. The drugs they give you. Diarrhea all day long, and then you get the chills so you’re lying in bed but you never know when you’re going to need to rush to the bathroom–eventually there’s nothing but clear liquid coming out, and that’s when they say you’re ready for the colonoscopy. So you wake up super early the next day, totally wrecked because …

(This is one of my favorite, favorites!)


Rewriting the Future: Using Science Fiction to Re-envision Justice

thenerdsofcolor

Originally posted at Bitch Media1

When I tell people I am a prison abolitionist and that I believe in ending all prisons, they often look at me like I rode in on a unicorn sliding down a rainbow. Even people engaged in social movements, people who concede that the current prison system is flawed, voice their critiques but always seem to add, “But it’s all we have.”

For all of our ability to analyze and critique, the left has become rooted in what is. We often forget to envision what could be. We forget to mine the past for solutions that show us how we can exist in other forms in the future.

That is why I believe our justice movements desperately need science fiction. Stay with me on this one. I am the co-editor, along with visionary movement strategist adrienne maree brown, of the anthology Octavia’s Brood:…

View original post 1,895 more words

$PREAD: Triumphs & Trials of an Indie Magazine

spread logo

Recently, my husband and I went to an event at Red Emma’s (our local radical bookstore), featuring two of the founders of $pread magazine — the first ever magazine written by and for sex workers.

We went for a number of reasons: A) Duh; this sounds fascinating, and B) because I’ve always been eager to learn more about the processes and trials faced by indie magazines. And while the presentation wasn’t as well put-together as I would’ve hoped (it seemed as though a lot of improvisation was happening on stage), I now recognize that this was the same style and attitude with which the magazine itself got started: People need to know about these issues – There are voices here that need and deserve to be heard – Let’s just run with it. 

I’m beginning to realize that too much (don’t ask me when too much is “too much”) preparatory work may also at some point become its own pretext for never actually trying anything new. After all, the more I learn about the difficulties of starting up a radical project like $pread, the warier and more uncertain I become. What’s more, it isn’t as though these women didn’t have useful background information/experience and networking connections already in place when they decided to try their hand at running their own indie mag (the original founders/idea-women “met while organizing a benefit for PONY (Prostitutes of New York)” and some staffers were still or had been sex workers themselves) (Aimee et al., 17).

By diving in head-first, the women of $pread got a good five years worth of issues out to a community greatly in need of venues willing to provide an honest platform for their stories and voices. The lesson, at least to me, was clear: When it comes to matters of social justice, there’s no time to waste. Once you have what you need to get your feet off the ground (even if for only a little while) in regards to research, understanding, respect, and empathy — then get your damn feet off that ground!

As $pread editors Rachel Aimee, Eliyanna Kaiser, and Audacia Ray explain in their new anthology $PREADThe Best of the Magazine that Illuminated the Sex Industry and Started a Media Revolution: “Probably the most important reason we succeeded was that we didn’t know what we were getting into” (32).

Though $pread is no longer in circulation, they had a strong and deeply appreciated five years of quarterly mag issues, and have left “a legacy of making space for the voices of people who have been silenced” (Aimee et al., 32-33).

Here are a few of the more interesting points (in my opinion) from their presentation:

  • A primary concern for the editors of $pread was that women’s voices be heard regardless of their perspective or political opinions. This, unsurprisingly, wasn’t always a popular stance (especially within the larger feminist community), as it led to many pieces getting published with extremely controversial perspectives. –But this also gets to the real heartwood of editorial work: When your publication has a set mission (like being an honest platform for voices from a regularly silenced community), you can’t let your own political opinions and unique perspective get in the way. This causes many editors to tread a fine line with their authors (and with deciding who gets to become one of their authors), but it’s a vital line. For all you fellow editors out there, don’t forget to always be on your guard against that insidious prick Prejudice.
  • While $pread had its reasons for choosing to go for a print magazine rather than a digital one, many of its editors now regret this decision given how cumbersome and expensive the print version became.

“We entered the arena of publishing at a moment of epic transition from hardcopy to digital. We had been inspired by lovingly handcrafted, desktop-published, and photocopied sex worker zines like DanzineWhorezine, and PONY XXXpress. We were fans and hoped to be the peers of small independent magazines that had real print runs and distribution, like Bitch, LiP, and Clamor. If we had known from the beginning just how hard everything would be, we almost certainly would have been too intimidated to undertake such a lofty project. But we didn’t. So we did.” (Aimee et al., 19)

(Dig it!)

  • Even though $pread eventually became an Utne award-winning magazine, it never managed to make enough money for any of its staffers to be paid.
  • They raised most of their initial funding through benefit parties.
  • Through reader surveys, the editors of $pread learned that their initial audience was composed mostly of white, college-educated women. To address this, they began distributing copies of each issue directly to outreach organizations that focused on women in the sex industry.
  • Many anti-human trafficking bills are used (at least in some part) as smokescreens to get more anti-prostitution legislation passed.

All in all, it ended up being just as I expected: a fascinating presentation that challenged many of my own preconceived notions and opinions, and that gave me a better look at the work involved in bringing a terrific, radical idea to life. Thank you, $pread! And thank you, Red Emma’s!

Further Reading:

Final Disclaimer