Friday, October 24, 2008

grist, lit, scifi, women scifi authors, playwrights, wrting: Sarah Schulman

Dark Future Where Everybody

Works In Marketing

novelist and playwright Sarah Schulman is turning to science fiction
because it's the only way to capture how surreal her world has gotten.
Her next novel, Mere Future, takes place in a future New York
where everybody works in marketing. I talked to Schulman about her
novel, which comes out next year, and asked her why satire always seems
to take place five minutes into the future.

Schulman's novels include The Child, Rat Bohemia and People In Trouble, which she accused the musical Rent of
stealing scenes and incidents from. She's the co-founder of the New
York Experimental Film Festival, now known as MIXand and in its
twentyfirst year. She's produced about 15 plays, and written
extensively about the history of the AIDS crisis.

In Mere Future, everybody works for the same giant
corporation, known as the Media Hub, and the only jobs are in
marketing. "It's the only job that's left." Different divisions within
the company compete with each other, creating the illusion of a free
market. "There's an illusion of difference," she explains. "It's like
Banana Republic and the Gap being owned by the same company, but you
think that they're competitors." And a new political messiah comes
along and becomes mayor of New York. People expect massive change from
this new leader, and they get it — but it's not what they were
expecting. There's some kind of massive twist, which Schulman won't
reveal yet, which comments on the fact that change, in our current
system, is often an illusion.

I asked Schulman if her "everyone works in marketing" plot was sort of paying homage to Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, and she said no, it's just a slightly enhanced view of where we are now. She hadn't read Max Barry's Jennifer Government.

Schulman adds that Mere Future isn't satire — it's
"heightened reality. There's so much lying and pretense about who we
really are and how we're living. If you remove that, and just talk
about it truthfully, it sounds like science fiction."

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I found this on Warren Ellis' web site today. I peruse it quite a bit.  He always has something that really sparks my interest.  I should be finishing a review that is late (as always) but I am experiencing a similar situation with my daughters, especially my 18 year old Autumn and my 11 year old Kerr.  Hope, my 4 year old daughter already wants to text and email and has set herself up in my office with a play cell-phone, broken mouse and a 'keyboard' that she says she writes 'reviews, plays and script'.  Autumn tried the 500 text plan with AT&T and that was a joke.  She filled that up in 3 hours.  Instead , I set myself up with a tethering package/family plan that allows unlimited text for the whole fam and close to unlimited tethering for my 8525 and other cool stuff only I have for my PDA.  Warren's post reminds me of the uniqueness of my daughters and how much I love them.
Read and enjoy.

Post #6637 by Warren Ellis on October 23rd, 2008 in brainjuice

My daughter is now 13. You can tell this by the way she presents
herself for dinner at a restaurant wearing red and black striped
fingerless gloves, a black puffball skirt and tights, a t-shirt that’s
the dilute 2008 iteration of an idea Vivienne Westwood scrawled on the
back of a fag packet in 1976, and a pair of boots that appear to have
been fashioned from the hollowed-out legs of a particularly unfortunate
black bear. Also, by the way I’ve gone from being called “daddy” to
being called “shut up, Ellis.” She bitches that she can only hold
something like 500 texts (three days’ worth of use, it would seem) on
her hideous KRZR phone, and bitches that it’s “not fair” that my Nokia
has eight gigs onboard...

I’m loving every minute of it.

Also, due to some fluke in their protection, her school’s web
connection can access this website. (Yeah. I know, right?) So, one day
soon, Lili or her friends will find this post.

Lili, you are an annoying toad with a mutant power for belching loud enough to set off car alarms in the next street.

I love you, little angel.

Her life will be HELL when they find this…

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

tags: Grsit, research, sci-fi, lit, women writers. Women writing Science Fiction

Women Writing Science Fiction: Some Voices from the Trenches

by Susan Elizabeth Lyons

Mine is a reading family. My spouse and I read voraciously, each in
different fields but our walls are lined with bookshelves filled with
novels and works of non-fiction. Every flat surface is a repository for
newspapers, pamphlets and magazines. The first gift I purchased for my
husband when we met was a book. Most of the gifts we buy are works of
fiction or non-fiction or magazine subscriptions.

We read to both our children from birth, and I continued to
read to my son right up until last year, including works by Dickens,
Tolkien and C. S. Lewis as well as the latest Halo
novels. Understandably, our children have picked up on the importance
of reading, and my daughter is an avid reader, having started with the
Harry Potter books like so many others of her generation.

My son has just now started to show a real interest in reading
on his own. One day, he and I were browsing in the YA shelves at the
local big box bookstore and he found a novel that interested him. On
its cover was a picture of a young girl riding on the back of a dragon
with wings of gold.

He read the back and flipped through the first pages. He turned
to me and asked if it was OK for a boy to read a novel about a girl.

How can it be that the son of a feminist, a woman who shares a
rough and ready equality with her husband, who works outside the home
and shares in decision-making, could ask such a question in 2008? How
is it that, in our modern world, which claims to believe in gender
equality, a young boy of eight could feel it might be inappropriate for
a boy to read a novel about a girl?

Keep in mind that my daughter has read dozens of novels, YA and otherwise, including Harry Potter and The Vampire Lestat series, featuring male protagonists, and not once did she question the rightness of a girl reading about male characters.

Many trees have been hewn and pixels created on whether there is
a gender bias at work affecting publishing in the science fiction
field. Some have concluded that no, there is no gender bias in SF
publishing based Sue Linville's two studies published on Strange Horizon's
website, showing that editors publish approximately the same proportion
of stories by women as submit to their magazines, give or take a few
percentage points. Linville's 2002 article does a good job of
summarizing the debates and earlier research, so I won't repeat it, but
direct you to her articles instead:

2002 Article
2007 Article

Others maintain that there is a clear gender bias that affects the SF market. Recent discussions about the TOC of Eclipse 2, and Bechdel's Law have raised the issue of how gender is portrayed in film and writing—-SF or otherwise.

Eclipse 2
Charles Stross on Bechdel's Law

From the looks of the debate in the blogosphere and on SF
forums, there is no consensus on this issue. In any given discussion,
there are those with strong views on either side, pro and con. Indeed,
these discussions seem almost perennial, with a new one cropping up
with each awards ceremony or TOC.

I have always viewed science fiction as a niche market—one that
had fewer women readers and thus, fewer women writers. Growing up, I
personally knew of only one other woman beside myself who read science
fiction. I also only knew a few men who read the genre, but even so,
very few people seemed interested in what I considered "science

So, if someone had asked me if there is a gender bias in
science fiction a few years ago before I started hanging out at
internet SF forums where these issues are debated, I would have had to
answer that I had no idea. I understood first-hand as a science student
in the 1980s that the sciences were largely a male bastion for
historical and socio-cultural reasons. I assumed that male readers and
writers of science fiction predominated, given the history of the
sciences themselves.

As someone with an academic background in gender and science,
and someone who has done a lot of thinking about gender in the
sciences, I had to admit it was possible that gender bias played a role
in what stories and novels were published, and what writers received
notice. I couldn't conclude one way or the other if it were so, but had
to hold out the possibility and like all good scientists, wait to see
what the data said.

There is a body of research that suggests we unconsciously view women and works by women as different to those of men, regardless of the facts of the author's gender.

Who can forget the immortal words of the great Robert Silverberg?

"It has been suggested that Tiptree is female, a theory
that I find absurd, for there is to me something ineluctably masculine
about Tiptree's writing. I don't think the novels of Jane Austen could
have been written by a man nor the stories of Earnest Hemingway by a
woman, and in the same way I believe the author of the James Tiptree
stories is male."

In the sciences, a recent example of gender bias at work is
instructive. Nancy Barres, a Stanford professor of biology, underwent a
sex change and became 'Ben.' After a seminar, a colleague unaware of
the providence of 'Ben' was overheard to say "Ben Barres gave a great
seminar today, but then his work is much better than his sister's."

The possibility of a gender bias in SF publishing is
understandably a cause for concern for some women writers today and in
my personal view, whatever the final answer, it is not illegitimate for
women writers to ask these questions. However, it is not possible to
conclude with any certainty that gender bias is affecting publication
rates without further data and analysis.

This article cannot hope to do the issue justice nor does it
set out to answer the question. That would involve a great deal more
primary research than was possible in the scope of this article.

What it does attempt is to provide the views and experiences of
a number of established and new women writers in the Science Fiction
genre. The writers range in experience from grand masters in the field
and newer writers just breaking in. Their views on gender bias are as
varied as those of the participants in Internet forum discussions.

To obtain those views, I sent questionnaires out to 31 women
writers who write or have written in the science fiction genre, both
new and established.

The emails included the following questions:

1) When did you start reading SF and why?

2) What was it like for you breaking in to the SF field?

3) Do you think anything has changed since you started writing SF?

4) Do you have any comments you would like to share on the issue of gender bias in science fiction publishing or writing?

I received responses back from half that number and have included their responses below. I'll let them speak for themselves.

1) When did you start reading SF and why?

Anne McCaffrey:

"[To] go back in my own childhood, I was one of those
lucky children whose parents read to them. And luckier still that they
were selective, too. Mother chose to read us Kipling's Jungle Tales and
Just So stories so I was tipped toward the fantastic to begin with. Dad
liked to render the Ballads and Barrack Room Ballads in his ringing
military tones, ND also the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere so we were
acclimated to the unusual ND fantastic. I still read Kim once a year for the sheer story line ND adventures on the Great Road.

"I segued into Tarzan though I didn't find John Carter of Mars until
later. Edgar Rice Burroughs books I devoured. Then, when I was l4, I
rented Islandia from a local rental library and I was gone."

Kage Baker:

In early childhood, and as a direct result of the fact that my mother
loved science fiction. She would read aloud with a preschool child on
either arm; I learned to read following the text as she read. She
started with kiddie stuff: a comic book titled Cosmo the Merry Martian,
later on the Spaceship Under the Apple Tree series and the Mushroom
Planet books. No Heinlein juveniles; she didn't care for Heinlein.
Anyway, unsurprisingly, I grew up into a voracious reader. Because my
mother read a lot of SF and we had it lying around the house in stacks,
I read all her books: everything Ray Bradbury ever wrote, ditto Ted
Sturgeon, ditto Zenna Henderson, ditto all the old classic grand
masters. Even Heinlein, because although she didn't care for his books,
she bought and read them in case there might be any that didn't annoy
her. I would like to point out that I was not an SF fan, however. My
preferred reading involved historical fiction, adventure fiction and
short fiction in the O. Henry/ Somerset Maugham/ Guy de Maupassant
mode. But if a book was there, I'd read it; I was an addict.

Mary Rosenblum:

I discovered a box of old Galaxy and Astounding
under the bed of the beach house we rented with my cousins. (We had to
take an enforced nap every afternoon). By the end of our two weeks at
the beach house, I had read the entire box of magazines twice and was
deeply in love with SF. I was 12. From then on I scoured the library
for more.

Kris Rusch:
That's impossible to say. I didn't know what genre was
until college. My sister, who is a teacher (and became a college
professor of English) gave me a lot of books, which as I look back on
them now, are fantasy classics, as well as sf classics. The first sf I
remember reading is Andre Norton. The only reason I knew that it was sf
at the time was because our library put little rocket ships on the
spine. Later, I read Orbit & Universe
in the college library while waiting for my father to get done teaching
(he too was a professor), and the librarian pointed me to Asimov since
she said I clearly liked sf. I had no idea that's what I was reading. I
didn't like Asimov, however. So I went back to my pack rat habits and
found Dune, which I did not know was sf.

But I read everything. I read every book my parents had in the house,
and as much of the library as I could. I never ever restricted myself
to one genre and I don't now.

Nancy Kress:
I began by accident. I was fourteen, and had never seen any
SF. The reason for this is almost emblematic of the 1950s—the school
library had a boys' section and a girls' section and all the SF was in
the boys' section. The girls got fantasy. But the year I turned
fourteen, I had my first boyfriend. He was studying to be a concert
pianist and practiced diligently. Every day after school, I went to his
house to listen to him practice. Unfortunately, I am tone deaf. After
ten minutes of hanging adoringly over the piano, I would start to pull
books off his father's bookshelf and peer into them. One was Clarke's Childhood's End. By page 3, I was hooked on SF for good.

Kate Wilhelm:

In the fifties I was a housewife, mother of two children, one not yet
three, the other in first grade. Every week I took home an armload of
books from the public library, and always included a collection or an
anthology of short stories.

Elizabeth Bear:

I'm a third generation SFF fan, and I've been reading it all my life.

Sheila Finch:

I read H. G. Wells, H. Rider Haggard and Rudyard Kipling as a child in England and a very futuristic comic called Eagle.
I didn't know I was reading SF. Marriage, graduate school, family and a
teaching job intervened, and I read no more SF. Then one day a ten
year-old boy whose parents were visiting us gave me a book he'd been
reading on their trip. Being a reading junkie—especially at night—and
having nothing else to read, I read it cover to cover. A trip to the
local bookstore next day revealed a shelf full of that author's
books—the boy had given me Bradbury's The Illustrated Man. I was hooked. And about that time, the original Star Trek had its debut. Wow! Entertainment that made me think! I was now doubly hooked.

Judith Moffett:

I was about eleven or twelve, around 1954, when I started reading
fantasy and SF written for children. I know how old I was because we
moved several times during that period and I remember which library I
borrowed the books from: The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet and Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet, Andre Norton, Heinlein's juveniles, Walter Farley's one venture into SF, The Island Stallion Races.

I was unhappy at home, and a voracious escapist reader. I didn't love SF more than mainstream books for kids, but I loved it every bit as much, especially Heinlein's Martians!

Suzette Haden Elgin:

I didn't start reading SF until I was a graduate student in linguistics
at UCSD in the late ‘60s. I completely missed out on the paradigmatic
experience that most SF writers I know are able to remember, the one
where you read SF under your bedcovers as a child, holding a
flashlight. And I started reading it for the most unromantic of all
possible reasons. I had a bunch of kids at home, and even teaching
adult high school at night I was having a very hard time making ends
meet. There was a man who used to come around at UCSD who would pay
$250 for an erotic novel—a respectable sum of money at the time—and I
wanted in on that, but I discovered almost immediately that I had no
more talent for writing erotica than I did for flying under my own
power. I therefore did some research to try to find out if there was
something else
I could write that might be worth money, and learned that the money was
in the "genre" fiction, especially if you could manage a genre fiction
series. I read a wide assortment—gothics, mysteries, doctor-and-nurses,
westerns, thrillers . . . and science fiction. And it was clear to me
right away that the only one of those I was likely to get anywhere with
was science fiction.

Carolyn Ives Gillman:
I started reading science fiction as a teenager in the
early 1970s, and like many others I first got hooked by Asimov. I
vividly remember having brought the Foundation series along on a trip
to Greece during high school, and as we sailed across to Crete I could
have cared less about the wine-dark sea; I was on Trantor. I also
remember where I was when I read Dune, and Stranger in a Strange Land.
I gave the latter to my mother, and was flabbergasted when she scorned
it for its sexism; I honestly hadn't noticed. I even tried to defend
Heinlein, but quickly gave it up as hopeless. After that, I read more
cautiously. When I discovered Ursula K. Le Guin I read every book of
hers I could get my hands on. I have always read a pretty even balance
of men and women writers, but when I binge on a single author it's
usually a woman. Unless it's Patrick O'Brian.

Michaela Roessner:
I started reading SF when I was very young, though I
couldn't say at exactly what age. My father bought paperback
anthologies and collections like popcorn. So they were always lying
around the house, and I tended to pick up and read anything that was
lying around. He wasn't into novels, however. Therefore I grew up with
a pretty skewed reading background in the field—surprising extensive in
short fiction, and almost nada in the longer forms, including what are
now considered the classics.

When I was an adult, I continued with the habit/addiction of buying anthologies and also got a subscription to Asimov's when it first came on the market.

Justina Robson:
I think around the age of 12, although I watched it before
that on film and TV. I always loved the adventure and escapism of what
I'd seen but it wasn't until I found John Wyndham and similar authors
in the library that I really picked up an interest. I didn't
differentiate about genres in those days, I just chose what looked
interesting, often it was fantasy, or SF or both but it never occurred
to me I was an SF reader until 16 when our O-level text was 1984 and we read that and Animal Farm.
I reacted very strongly to them with absolute loathing and immediately
went off to read Anne McCaffrey. I hated Lit classes, in which we had
to talk about the stories as if they were objects. To me they were
living things, almost on a par with people, and it was a dumb way to
relate to them. I still feel rather like that now. Probably says a lot
about me, though I'm not sure what.

Kathleen Goonan:
I suppose I started reading SF when I was a kid, but not
voraciously, although all I have done in my life is read. In the early
seventies, I read all the biggies—The Dispossessed, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Snow Queen,
and so on, but mostly what I sought was Strangeness, some of which I
found in SF, some of which I found in Lin Carter's Ballantine Adult
Fantasy line (I probably read them all), and some of which I found
elsewhere, in, for instance, Pynchon and Cortazar. I began reading SF
more seriously in the eighties, when I subscribed to OMNI, Asimov's, and F&SF.

Pamela Sargent:

I started reading sf later than most, and wasn't an avid reader until
college, but had read an occasional sf story or novel before then. The
first science fiction novel I can recall reading was Man of Many Minds
by E. Everett Evans. Why that particular book? The school I went to had
a program where students could order paperback books at a discount, and
that book arrived by mistake with some other paperbacks. It was a
revelation to me; every idea in the book, including travel to alien
planets and telepathy, struck me as terribly original; I thought Evans
had dreamed it all up by himself. Watched "Twilight Zone" almost every
week, and the innovative anthology program "The Outer Limits," but also
picked up the occasional sf book and wrote my required senior paper (I
was a scholarship student at a private girls' school where such papers
were required) on "The Science Fiction of H. G. Wells," and my teacher
not only let me get away with it, she even gave me an A.
2) What was it like for you breaking in to the SF field?

Anne McCaffrey:

My first early attempts sat getting published were in
romantic literature and as I was barely l5, didn't know doodly. Then I
started on fantasy short stories and finally hit the jackpot with "The
Lady in the Tower" which Judy Merril spotted and liked. Also, "Freedom
of Race"—about women being used as surrogate mothers by aliens who had
landed on earth. Bit grisly but it was bought for $100—0 say, like WOW!

It was when my children were all safely in school during the day
when I began to write in earnest and achieved first "Ship Who Sang"
(still, I think, my best story) and "Weir Search" which was definitely
tansy & world-building, which has sort of become my forte. Don't
like the world you're living in? Create one in which you could be
comfortable with all the bits and pieces.

Kage Baker:
My first novel kicked around various publishing houses for
ten years before it sold, and a novella that later became my second
novel made the round of SF magazine offices and got nothing but form
rejections during the same time. I really don't feel any kind of gender
bias was involved; the novel was difficult to categorize, and the
novella was too long for a magazine and really needed to be a novel
instead, which in the event it became. Besides, my name isn't obviously
gender-specific. Once I got myself an agent, though, the doors opened
like magic with nary a word about what gender I was. Gardner Dozois
bought my first story with a simple "I like it. I'll take it." Michael
Kandel bought In the Garden of Iden
and the next three books in the series, and would have bought them all
had Harcourt not back-pedalled on its SF line. And even so, they took
on Ursula Le Guin afterward. More mainstream appeal.

Mary Rosenblum:
Breaking in is simply hard. I don't think it was harder for
me as a woman, to be honest. I wrote a LOT and sent out a LOT and got
rejected a LOT. But I also started selling and Gardner Dozois at Asimov's liked my stuff, so it started showing up in the magazine pretty quickly.

Kris Rusch:

It was tough. It's always tough for new writers. I think some of this
debate is about how difficult it is—and frankly, I think people are
assuming they're not getting accepted because they're a particular
gender or race or personality type, when actually, their stories aren't
up to par yet.

I spent more than a decade pounding my head against the door. I
went to Clarion to learn why I was getting great rejections and
couldn't sell. Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm told me I was doing
everything right and to keep going. Boy, was I angry. I paid 2K for

Turns out they were right. :-)

Nancy Kress:
The same as for everybody else breaking in—frustrating,
slow, painful. I was raising two small children, and I wrote when (and
if) I could get their nap times to overlap. After a year of many
rejections, I sold a story. A year later, another story. After that, it
started to pick up a bit. I didn't even start writing until I was
nearly 30.

Kage Baker:
The week I became a writer, I happened to have picked up an
anthology of science fiction stories. I didn't know it was a genre onto
itself, and I had never seen one of the magazines. Later I learned that
they were sold in one store in Louisville, where I lived, but the store
was a front for a bookie, and there was a sign posted in the window:
"No Women Allowed." I never entered that store.

I read the stories of course, and came across one that I thought
was pretty bad. I thought I could do that, closed the book, got out a
loose leaf notebook and wrote a story. I rented a typewriter to copy it
and put it in the mail, guided by the acknowledgements in the anthology
that said where the stories had been published. While I still had the
typewriter I wrote a second story, and got it in the mail. When the
first one sold I became a writer, bought the typewriter, and have
continued writing stories to this day.

Elizabeth Bear:
Hard, frustrating work, of course. It took about twenty
years, and I'm not sure I'm done breaking in yet—there's always new
levels to reach.

Sheila Finch:
Apart from the fact that at first I didn't know what I was
writing and sent my manuscripts to all the wrong places (where I was
quickly advised "We don't publish SF!"), I don't think I experienced
gender bias in the early days. Later, I suspected some editors—judging
by their comments on rejection slips—of not trusting a female to get
the science right when they wouldn't have queried a man. I found
established writers in the field, both male and female, were very
gracious and willing to share knowledge and give advice; without them,
I would have advanced much more slowly from the first published short
story to the first novel.

Judith Moffett:
I was a professional poet and academic before I wrote a
word of SF, which I didn't start doing till 1983, when I was 40. It
took a couple of years for my first story, "Surviving," to sell. Shawna
McCarthy asked me to expurgate it, then got cold feet and decided not
to publish it after all, though she paid me. Terry Carr rejected it on
the grounds that it wasn't really SF (I get that a lot). Finally Ed
Ferman bought it for F&SF.
Then beginner's luck seemed to take over: "Surviving" was the jury
nominee for the 1986 Nebula (Novelette), won the first Theodore
Sturgeon Award, was reprinted in Gardner Dozois's The Year's Best Science Fiction, Fourth Annual Collection, in Terry Carr's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year #16 (he must have decided it was SF after all), in Nebula Awards 23, edited by George Zebrowski, and in The Best from Fantasy & Science Fiction: A 40th Anniversary Anthology. I'd completed my first novel, Pennterra, by the time "Surviving" came out in F&SF,
and my agent, Virginia Kidd, got two offers for it on the same day. I
was given the 1988 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. During
the late ‘80s I was selling short fiction regularly to Asimov's and occasionally to F&SF.
Two more novellas were Nebula finalists and one was a Hugo finalist.
Story after story was reprinted in one or several anthologies. You
could certainly say I had no important difficulties or complaints.

Suzette Haden Elgin:
I was very ignorant, and very lucky. I didn't know that I
should be worried about the fact that I was a female writer; I didn't
know about agents; I didn't know anything about the odds against me. I
wrote an SF novel, and sent it off to Ace, and they bought it. Just
like that. And DAW kept on buying the SF novels I sent them, which made
it possible for me to pay my tuition all the way through grad school.

Carolyn Ives Gillman:
After graduating from college with an English degree I
thought I would become a literary writer, but by that time I was
reading almost entirely fantasy and science fiction, so after my first
novel didn't sell I decided to switch genres. Breaking into the field
was slow and frustrating, but I did not put it down to being a woman; I
put it down to the fact that I was learning to write. Now, I think
something more subtle was going on. I was learning not necessarily to
write well, but to write according to a consensus formula dictated by a male-dominated genre.

There were plenty of places you could go to learn how to write like a
boy, and I visited most of them. I attended How-To-Write panels at
cons. I joined a writer's group. I read advice books by SF writers, the
SFWA Bulletin, and the reviews in Locus.
I took to heart the advice I got in rejection letters from kindly
editors. After winning the Writers of the Future contest, I attended a
particularly egregious workshop team-taught by Orson Scott Card, Tim
Powers, and Algis Budrys, where they indoctrinated us not only on how
to write like boys, but like L. Ron Hubbard. Eeek. Afterwards we went
to a star-studded reception at the top of the World Trade Center in New
York, where I had the thrill of being condescended to by Robert
Silverberg, just like James Tiptree.

Finally, I went to Clarion West. But by then I'd already made my first pro sale, to Ed Ferman at Fantasy and Science Fiction.
So I was already pretty good at writing like a boy. I knew which topics
to choose, what research to do, which buttons to push, and even more
important, what not to say for fear of losing my audience. I
learned to copyedit myself to produce a leaner, more action-oriented
style. I mastered the "invisible" style of narration, learned the
third-person limited POV, structured my stories to start with a kicker
paragraph, and piled on the plot twists. When a male member of my
writer's group ridiculed me for too much internal monologue, I
earnestly tried to cut it out.

Michaela Roessner:
Idiosyncratic, to say the least. My education and career
choices were all targeted towards the Fine Arts. Then around 1979 I got
an idea for a combined visual arts and writing project. I did know
enough about writing and publishing (both my father and grandfather
were journalists, and my grandfather also wrote and published a good
deal short fiction.) So I knew that to pull it all off, the writing
would have to be as "up to snuff" as the art.

Because of my reading habits (see answer above), I'd read the Clarion
anthology that had come out by then. I thought I'd jumpstart my writing
by applying to Clarion—because that would get me writing—and then I'd
be rejected but I would at least be writing, and then I'd apply the
next year and go onward from there whether I ever got in or not (this
is my typical modus operandi). You could have knocked me over with a
feather when I got accepted right off the bat (that was in 1980). I'm
100% sure that if I applied today with what I wrote back then that I
wouldn't get in. The level of writing is soooo much better now. I'm a
great role model for if you're willing to work your ass off, open to
learning and improving, and as stubborn as a pit bull, you will
eventually get published, no matter what your initial level of writing
skills. Because I was really, really terrible.

Anyhoo—once I started writing seriously, I fell in love with it (became addicted to it?) for its own fascinations and merits.

Kathleen Goonan:
I think that it was probably much harder than breaking into
any other field would have been. I begin selling non-sf stories right
off the bat when I became a full-time writer, but for some reason
persisted in trying to write and sell sf. Just stubborn, I guess.

Justina Robson:
I never considered myself out of it. Being published was
nerve wracking and exhilarating. I felt I was ‘real' at last, in a way
that I hadn't been before. But I was always ‘in' SF, I always felt like
it belonged to me, was part of me, and reacted with fury whenever
people were negative about it even though I came across a lot of it
that I didn't understand and didn't like.

Pamela Sargent:
What was it like breaking in as a writer? Both ridiculously
easy and extremely difficult. Ridiculously easy, in that I sold my
first two serious submissions right away (to David Gerrold for his 1970
anthology of new writers, Protostars and to Ed Ferman at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)
right away while still in college. Extremely difficult, because after
that, it took me many submissions and many failed efforts—stories begun
and never finished, finished and submitted and bounced, some with very
encouraging comments, others with caustic remarks) to sell another
story. My first published novel, Cloned Lives (1976) also
wasn't the first one I wrote. The first novel I actually completed was
so wretched that I never submitted it to anybody and finally threw it

I should probably say something about what it was like breaking in as a
woman. I was lucky enough to start writing when there were editors in
the field open to innovative stories and a number of writers were
trying to break the perceived "rules." I have mentioned many times that
trying to sell my first Women of Wonder
anthology seemed an exercise in futility until Vintage decided to take
a chance and bought the book. Were prejudice and sexism reasons for
rejecting the book? Yes, in the sense that one of the reasons given by
some editors for turning down the project was that there couldn't
possibly be enough good stories by women to make up such a volume—then
again, some of this was clearly ignorance on the part of well-meaning
people about the amount of good work that had already been done.
Another reason for rejection was worry that there was no audience for
such an anthology as the belief was that most sf readers were male;
this might have been sexism at work, or just ignorance combined with
worries about how to market the book. One good reason for rejecting my
anthology at the time, from an editor's point of view anyway, was that
I was a new, inexperienced writer who had never edited an anthology. In
retrospect, it surprises me that more people didn't cite that as a
reason for turning the book down.

As for outright sexism involving my own writing, the only cases I can
recall personally, and they were back in the beginning, were a couple
of editors who found it unseemly that I, a woman, would use what they
considered too much profanity in my stories——I'm pretty sure they
wouldn't have criticized a man for that—but they were exceptions, and
not typical of most editors. Also, as somebody who, because of extreme
shyness, tends to avoid a lot of social events involving other writers
and editors (undoubtedly to the detriment of my career), my experience
isn't typical. In any event, I've written in my intros to the WoW
anthologies and elsewhere about how sexism has "evolved" in sf, the
most pertinent comment perhaps being: "Once, women were discouraged
from entering the boys' clubhouse, and now we are influential enough to
be responsible for the decline of the field."

3) Do you think anything has changed since you started writing SF?

Anne McCaffrey:

I didn't experience any male antagonism in the field.
A. J. Budrys bought one of my first stories, John Campbell took a risk
on "Weyr Search" and then I ran into the Ballantines, Betty and Ian,
who were very keen to start a burgeoning S-f line for their new
imprint, Ballantine Books. If there is a gender bias in S-f, it's long
been laid to rest as some of the really fine women writers got in—like
Ursula K. Le Guin, Kate Wilhelm. Pamela Sargent. Andre was already
there and then more and more voices were added. Elizabeth Moon, Sharon
Lee, Lois Bujold, and then a new genre emerged, paranormal romances.
The first female paranormal material was not very original but has
since become almost too fantastic but interesting, and certainly
otherworldly. I do like a well told tale and don't care if it is
announcing a "new truth" or not, or something worthwhile.

Kage Baker:
Of course. The old writers, and the common culture they
shared, are dying off; the Internet and all its implications for
publishing has been an even greater force in changing the rules of the
game. But if you mean as regards the question of equal representation
of gender in SF, I don't really think so . . . I think the big changes
came with all the social revolutions in the '60s. Prior to that you had
the sort of Rod Serling SF, you know, where the adventure happens to
the hero and he has a martini bar in his flat and a gorgeous
girlfriend, in that order, and he's a space captain or an inventor or
whatever. After that point, you had much more diversity, in every kind
of literature really but also in SF. More women getting published under
their own names. More women editing magazines. What hasn't changed is
the mindset of a lot of SF readers, who have their own prejudices about
what a story written by a woman must be like. But they, too, are
getting older and dying off . . .

Mary Rosenblum:
Sure. There's more of a presence of women and writers of
color than there was when I started reading (when you could count
female SF writers on one hand and it was a monochrome pool of authors).
Part of the reason I started writing SF was that I found so few strong
women characters in SF. I had to create my own. That's much less true
now. And of course, the publishing industry is going through a paradigm
shift as we change from the monolithic form of the NY publishing model
to a small press/internet driven publishing industry that will
hopefully encourage a wide diversity of fiction across the genre.

Kris Rusch:
Yes. There are more markets, more women in the field, and
more open-mindedness. It's a great time to break in. There are so many
opportunities. And sf is beginning to accept adventure fiction again,
which is great, since that's what I always loved about it.

Nancy Kress:
The big change, from my perspective, is the shift from SF
to fantasy. Nearly twice as many new fantasy novels were published last
year as SF novels. It's fantasy that gets most of the big publicity,
high sales, movie deals (except for Philip K. Dick, who isn't even
around to enjoy it).

I can't, however, say that I was part of the ground-breaking swell
of women into SF. That happened ten years earlier, and my
contemporaries and I were swept along on the tide they made rise.

Kate Wilhelm:
In a writing career that's spanned fifty years now, I've
seen changes certainly. Literary values have gone up considerably and
while it's still a fiction of ideas, now the ideas are intertwined with
real characters. That often seemed not to be a concern in the fifties.
But the biggest change, I think, is how science fiction has permeated
other fiction, without any backlash, or even awareness. It just is
there, like other story elements.

Elizabeth Bear:

Well, sure, all sorts of things. Cell phones, the world wide web. Or do you mean about the status of women in the field?

Essentially, I don't think it's harder for women to get published
these days. I do think it's harder for them to obtain critical

Sheila Finch:
The SF market has shrunk; fantasy and media tie-ins have
swamped the shelves at the local bookstore; magazines—even apparently
successful ones—have a tendency to fold suddenly; it's harder for a
mid-list writer to get a big house to commit to her career, so stuff
goes out of print far too quickly for readers to hear of it. On the
bright side, we're seeing the rise of the small, literary ,or specialty
presses who tend to treat their writers—midlist or otherwise—very well.

Judith Moffett:
Given that it was 25 years ago, yes, obviously a lot has
changed. What follows will be a statement about what changed for me,
what it was like to try to break BACK in:

My second novel, The Ragged World, was what they call a
fix up—a group of related stories plus some bridge material. My editor
at St. Martin's was Gordon Van Gelder, a boy wonder in those days, and
he spun this problematic confabulation as "a stunning mosaic" of
stories. The reviews were terrific. The novel was a New York Times Notable Book for 1991.

I got a better (low five-figure) advance for the sequel I'd started to
write, which sold readily on the basis of three chapters and an outline
(and the success of The Ragged World).

At that point my phenomenal run of luck broke down big time.

Gordon was very disappointed with the new book when I turned it in. His
assistant thought it "unpublishable." We worked together to come up
with revisions (which did in fact improve it considerably), and the
novel, Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream,
came out; but the reviewers, though generally respectful, were also
less thrilled by Vol. II than they'd been by Vol. I. Gerald Jonas liked
it and provided another New York Times Notable Book medallion
for the paperback, and it was shortlisted for the Tiptree in 1992. So
the book was by no means a total stinker. But it didn't sell well
enough, and that fact, almost all by itself, pretty much killed my

I didn't begin Vol. III immediately, having another project in
the works: a non-fiction book about suburban homesteading. Maybe not
pressing forward at once was a tactical error. But in 1996, when my
agent (now Martha Millard) sent around the three chapters and outline
for the third book, nobody was interested. More precisely, Amy Stout at
Bantam wanted to buy it, but was not allowed to. The sales figures for Time were there for all to see, and the much better figures for Ragged
seemed not to matter. I was advised in all seriousness to change my
name, so the presses' computers couldn't find me. (I pointed out that
this was the third book of a trilogy. My husband suggested "Moodith Joffett." It was during these years that Megan Lindholm actually did change her name, to Robin Hobb, a moniker suggested, I'm told, by the title of my story "The Hob.")

When Martha could think of nothing else to try, she advised me to write
the whole book, on the grounds that a completed ms. was not the pig in
a poke that a proposal could be—good advice, but advice I couldn't then
afford to take. So at that point I removed my SF-writer hat and put on
my Swedish-translator one, and started to draw down a grant I'd been
given by the Swedish Academy to do a translation project.

A little more than a year later my husband died, and my
financial situation changed. Now I could afford to finish the book. But
years would have to pass before I had recovered enough from his loss to
do any creative work at all; so now we fast-forward to 2003, when I
finally, slowly, went back to work on it.

I finished the novel, called The Bird Shaman, in
October 2004 and Amy Stout—by this time a literary agent—began to send
it around in the spring of 2005, after first making me put the ms.
through an extensive revision. She thought the revised book "brilliant"
and was confident of being able to sell it. Much later, when she sent
it back to me, she said she had misjudged what it was possible to do in
the present publishing climate. The book was long; while I'd
been out of the loop, length had become an issue. The book had
"midlist" written all over it. The book—and I found this difficult to
credit—was still haunted by the poor sales numbers of my 1992 novel Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream. And of course I and my work had long since dropped off the radar screen, a fact not much affected by the appearance in F&SF of versions of parts of the novel, in 1998, 2003, and 2007.

After Amy gave up, I spent a year exploring publication possibilities
with the various small presses. At the end I was forced to conclude
that this book, unlike the revised Time,
was in fact genuinely "unpublishable." But it was not
un-self-publishable, and in the end, rather than allow what I consider
the best of the three books to just moulder in a filing cabinet drawer, I overcame my extreme reluctance and brought The Bird Shaman out as a POD.

Suzette Haden Elgin:

I think everything has changed since I started
writing SF. When I started, about 60,000 words was the standard size of
an SF paperback. SF publishers were, so far as I could tell, interested
in quality writing and in developing their writers and promoting their
work. What writers were expected to do was to write, not to spend at
least half their time doing marketing and promotion. All of SF
publishing did not revolve around sales figures. There was no Internet
SF, and there were few small presses. However, in the context of
biological gender, which is probably the intended focus of your
question, I wasn't aware of any bias against women writers in the ‘60s
and I'm not aware of any bias against them now. I think that overtly feminist SF is an endangered species, but I don't think that that situation is the result of a bias against women writers.

Carolyn Ives Gillman:

Of course, the world has changed in many ways since I learned to write,
but the changes that most interest me are the fragmentation of
publishing and the rise of a feminist SF subculture, two intertwined

I started going to Wiscon in the 1990s not because I was a
committed feminist, but because I had friends there and I enjoyed the
intellectual challenge of the discussions. From meeting people there I
got onto some feminist SF internet lists, and over the internet I
followed discussions about the Tiptree award and other gender and
transgender issues. As the feminist SF community started to take root,
it put out sprouts: feminist-friendly publishing houses, feminist SF
critics and scholars, and cons and awards for gays and lesbians.

Today, there is a full-fledged feminist SF
ghetto-within-a-ghetto, and it has all the advantages and disadvantages
that segregation normally has. The advantages are a sense of community
and acceptance. There is a dialogue continually going on among feminist
SF writers through lists, blogs, cons, and the fiction itself. Because
it takes place in a protected space where all more or less agree on the
terms and rules of the conversation, it can be experimental,
challenging, and unconventional. The disadvantage is, of course,
isolation and exclusion. In order to have any impact, the conversation
among feminist SF writers needs to venture out into unsafe places,
where it risks being ridiculed, rejected, co-opted, and ignored. But it
cannot grow and flourish in those places.

Thanks to the newly diverse small press, the internet, and some
extraordinarily skilled writers who sell to major markets, a lot of the
fiction produced within the feminist ghetto sees it to print. But it
often meets incomprehension or disinterest in the wider world. This is
partly because it is an expression of an exclusionary community,
self-isolated, but also because it reflects genuinely different
sensibilities than the ones I learned to write to back in the 1980s.

Like a number of writers, I stand with one foot inside and one
outside the feminist ghetto, and I feel ambivalent about it. I am more
accepted by the feminist SF community than any other, but I resist the
pressure to write in ways that would make me a full member. Primarily,
this means writing and thinking about women and gender in order to push
the envelope of the feminist conversation. That is what the Tiptree
Award was established for, not to promote female writers. A
Tiptree-worthy work foregrounds gender in unconventional ways, but it
must also match certain stylistic expectations. This is why Lois
McMaster Bujold is never seriously considered, despite some truly
provocative comments on gender—she writes like a boy.

This is what it has come to: those techniques we learned in
order to adapt to one publishing ecosystem make us unfit for a
different one now that climate change has set in. I could make myself a
more saleable commodity today if I "branded" myself as a feminist SF
writer. It would give me a marketing niche that reviewers, editors, and
fans would recognize. But while I am interested in gender, I am also
interested in hard science, exploration, epistemology, social
speculation, military history, and a hundred other topics. And it is
hard to change writing habits learned so laboriously earlier in life.
For better or worse, I write like a boy.

Michaela Roessner:
Sure. Like everything else in life, it's changing all the
time. In relationship to gender concerns—same answer. Like always,
things continuously go up and down. On the one hand you have individual
editors falling back into "Old Boys" mode off and on. On the other hand
you have people banding together to address gender issues and
succeeding fabulously, à Wiscon (one of the most influential and
popular cons), and Pat Murphy and Karen Joy Fowler founding the Tiptree
Award. In general, I think most spec. fic. markets actively welcome
women writers.

Justina Robson:
I don't know whether you mean in me, in SF or in the world.
I've changed in the superficial manner of becoming increasingly aware
of the limits and frustrations and complexity and charm of being human.
SF hasn't really altered, although the trends of certain kinds of story
have come and gone—space opera is still resurging right now and
literature is having another try at being SF from outside in that
wearying way certain authors have which makes me start fantasising
about assassins and Clint Eastwood. The world has moved, in my
perception, from being a place in which borders were quite rigid into a
place that sees borders as scarily fluid and reacts accordingly, old
mindsets struggling to cope with features they can't control. That's an
SF scenario. It could be my awareness changing though, and not the
world of course.

Pamela Sargent:
What has changed since I started writing sf? Everything.
There used to be fairly standard advice that could be given to most
aspiring writers about markets, editors, manuscript presentation, and
the like, basics that would apply to pretty much anyone. You could also
assume that any aspiring writer was familiar with the accepted canon of
the field (and more besides), whether or not he or she actually felt
that all or most of those "classic" works were the best sf had to

Now much of the canon is out of print, the field has fragmented
into any number of subgenres, new technologies are changing
everything—one former editor told me recently that he expects
publishing to be unrecognizable in ten years or sooner. I wouldn't even
know what kind of advice to give an aspiring writer now, apart from the
usual sound advice of "keep writing and finish what you write."

Maybe more to the point, I don't know what kind of advice to
give myself, other than to keep writing and finish what I write. Having
had the experience, several times, of being almost certain that my
writing career was over only to have it somehow (at least temporarily)
resurrected by a sympathetic editor or a sale I didn't expect, that
seems to be the only constant. That writing seems to require even more
self-promotion these days than ever, with ever more ways of doing so,
fills me with dismay. I have always wished that the writing could speak
for itself while the writer remained in the background; whether this is
part of my women-shouldn't-be-too-assertive background that I remain
unable to shed, I can't say.

Kathleen Goonan:
Many things having to do with the business side of sf have
changed. Distribution, the demise of independent bookstores, the cost
of paper, the fusing of many small publishing houses into mega-houses
have impacted publishing as a whole, and decision-making at sf in
particular. Sales and marketing concepts have changed dramatically.

4) Do you have any comments you would like to share on the issue of gender bias in science fiction publishing or writing?

Anne McCaffrey:

My ex-husband once informed me that I would never be
able to pay my phone bills with what I earned as a writer. But I gave
my three children as much extra education as they wanted, bought a 48
acre farm in Ireland and built a splendid house which is, naturally,
called Dragonhold. I admit that my timing into the market was most
fortunate BUT the truth of the matter is simple. You put your butt in
the chair, your fingers on the keyboard of your choice and you write
24/7 until you have completed the story. Then you submit it. Writing
takes discipline, a certain dogged persistence, good grammar, and good
characterization. Most writers are also people watchers and doing cross
word puzzles is excellent for vocabulary building. I adore finding a
new word or phrase.

Kage Baker:
It happens. It's there. Not really so much in publishing,
in my own experience—and I can only speak from my own experience—but
it's there in the fan base, certainly, and at some of the root of the
good-old-fashioned-sense-of-wonder SF. "I'm a 14-year-old male at
heart, and I like rocketships, and girls and relationships are icky!"
The sort who remain that way emotionally until they turn fifty, when
they abruptly transition to bitter old right-wing gun-huggers. Still
living in the parents' basement. They never got out there and lived,
and it shows . . . there was a novella published in one of the
magazines a while back, and people wept and hosannaed about what a
classic piece of sensawunda it was, but it utterly repelled me. The
plot involved a nerdy adolescent boy with a trampy mom, and the nerd
gets carried off by a flying saucer to a remote planet where he's alone
in the ruins of an alien civilization, save for a robot who can
replicate anything he needs. In time the robot is able to morph itself
into a woman, so the hero can have sex, and in the end the hero gets
godlike powers and returns to earth, where he punishes us for being
tardy in colonizing space by forcibly scattering all humanity out
through the cosmos. It was brilliantly written, but so fucking morally
vacant I gagged. The Evil Neglectful Mother—how dare she have
boyfriends! The Robot Girlfriend—of course you love her, she hasn't got
any mind and her greatest wish is to serve you! And her transformation
into a woman is written with telling adjectives like "greasy." Finally,
the hero's Vengeance on Humanity—never mind that millions of you are
gonna die, never mind that families will be torn apart or that some of
you might have your own ideas about how you'd like to live—we shoulda
conquered space!!! The story was quite well received by SF in general,
which told me a lot about where people's heads were at, as we used to
say. Adolescent masturbatory fantasies . . . on the other hand, shrill
and resentful feminist posters on SF forums annoy the shit out of me
too. You want to change things? Start writing. And getting published.
Don't give me that crap about how it can't be done. I did it, Ursula
did it, Nalo did it, Octavia did it, Connie did it, Zenna did it,
Barbara did it, Lois did it, Tanith did it . . . and so on and so on
and so on. Don't whine that nobody's opening the doors for you; kick
the damn things in yourself.

Mary Rosenblum:

Well, alas, there is a gender bias in the SF
universe and in mystery and suspense, thriller, you name it. Let's face
it, there's a reason so many female authors use initials. A lot of male
readers simply don't read woman authors as readily and many genres are
dominated by male readers. That's life. I considered using my initials,
but you know what? I'm female. So there. Yes, it's easier to publish as
a woman author, yes it still costs you sales in most genres. That may
well be changing now and we'll see the proof of it in another
generation of readers. I hope so!

Kris Rusch:
I think the debate is stupid. I think the people who are
whining have no leg to stand on at all. And, I note, they completely
ignore the romance genre—which is publishing a lot of sf and fantasy,
almost all of it by women, most of it very, very, very good.

I also think the debate is insulting to the hardworking editors who
try to put out the best work they possibly can. These complainers don't
seem to realize that we have reached Dr. Martin Luther King's dream: We
are now being judged for the content of our character rather than for
our appearance. In other words, if the story's not good, it's not going
to get published.

Are some editors publishing more men than women? Sure. Are some
publishing more women than men? Clearly. So what? There are plenty of
opportunities. We've come a long way, baby. We're equals now in
publishing. Stop looking at the world through blinders—and ignoring the
largest genre out there (romance) written (mostly) by women for
(mostly) women.

Am I being too tough here? I don't think so. As I said in the
Mind Meld column ( on this
very issue, I'm old enough to have suffered severe discrimination in my
work and in my life. Has gender bias disappeared in America? Clearly
not, if you paid attention to all the unchecked misogyny that permeated
the airwaves during the primary campaign.

Does that misogyny exist in sf/f? I haven't ever experienced it
as a writer. I did as an editor, but it wasn't that strong and it
didn't have an impact on my life or work. And that was 17 years ago.
The world is different now. It's time we recognize that and move on.

Nancy Kress:
I know that recently there has been an outcry in the
blogosphere over the discrepancy between male and female authors on the
Hugo ballots, in some magazine issues, and in some anthologies. Again,
I refer you to the numbers on my blog. From a personal standpoint, the
only time I have felt gender discrimination in SF has been in sometimes
not being taken seriously as a "hard SF writer," partly because I write
about biology rather than astronomy or physics, but also perhaps
because I'm female. However, I think even that prejudice has lessened
over the years.

I want to make clear that I have women friends whose history I
respect, who would differ with this assessment. This is merely my own
experience, as I perceive it.

Sheila Finch:
Writers trying to break in shouldn't overlook online sites
as outlets for their work. But use caution; as Ted Sturgeon taught us,
90% of everything is trash. And network, network, network. Join SFWA as
soon as you're eligible.

Judith Moffett:

Honestly, I don't think any of my difficulties have been gender-based. I could be wrong, but if the problems with Time
had anything at all to do with my being a woman, I never suspected it
for a minute and still don't see how to pin the blame on that.

Carolyn Ives Gillman:
Several SF editors have told me how difficult it is for
them to maintain a gender balance in their publications because they
receive so many more submissions from men than women. My first reaction
when I heard this was that it was easy to explain, but I have no hard
evidence, just personal observation. I know quite a number of full-time
male writers, both genre and non-genre. All of them either have a wife
currently supporting them, or did before they became successful. I know
not a single woman writer who has a husband supporting her. When men
decide to pursue writing, it is considered a career or a calling. When
women do, it is considered a hobby. Men are less likely to support
wives or girlfriends in such a frivolous pursuit than women are likely
to support their husbands.

The result is that women write far less, because they are busy
earning a living and taking care of children. This is a problem with
the culture at large, not with the genre. But it would be possible to
rectify it by making more grants available to women writers. If every
successful woman writer left some money in her will to a granting
agency for supporting new women writers, we could change this.

Michaela Roessner:
Sure. Like everything else in life, it's changing all the
time. In relationship to gender concerns—same answer. Like always,
things continuously go up and down. On the one hand you have individual
editors falling back into "Old Boys" mode off and on. On the other hand
you have people banding together to address gender issues and
succeeding fabulously, a la' Wiscon (one of the most influential and
popular cons), and Pat Murphy and Karen Joy Fowler founding the Tiptree
Award. In general, I think most spec. fic. markets actively welcome
women writers.

At this point in my life, gender-issue-wise, I'm a heck of a lot
more worried about what's happening in the world outside of the spec.
fic. community rather than inside of it. The spec. fic. community tends
to be contentious and rambunctious and often various members are at
odds, but in ways that indicate healthy, independent, and in a sense
respectful discourse.

What really concerns me are the sorts of occurrences like the
Taliban systematically burning down schools for women and girls in
Pakistan—I find that absolutely terrifying. And the incident in Saudi
Arabia where the girls were forced back into their burning school to
die (and hmm . . . how did that fire start?) simply because they
weren't sufficiently burqua'd as they tried to escape. And how about
right here in our own "back yard," where polygamists are "marrying"
girls as young as 12 (but then, though claiming them as "wives," saying
that they're not married so that they can rake in millions in welfare
cash by claiming all those women are single and unwed mothers?) I feel
that if we have enough energy to debate gender issues among ourselves,
why aren't we taking these concerns more out into the world beyond our
community in meaningful ways above and beyond just our writing?

Kathleen Goonan:

That's a weird and tricky subject. In 1969, recall, Playboy
attributed the story "Nine Lives" to one U.K. Le Guin, rather than to
Ursula. Let's have no women in this Male Bastion! And then, famously,
there was Alice Sheldon, whose disguise as James Tiptree gave her a
long, striding start in the science fiction field. Would she have done
as well as Alice, no matter what her reasons for her name change? She
definitely didn't choose a female pseudonym. But this literary
tradition goes way back.

Readers choose to read a particular novel for a lot of different
reasons, most of which, I am convinced, are unconscious. The physical
package is important. One book is picked from a table—why? And then,
what is examined by the potential buyer? Blurbs? A random page? The
first two pages? Review quotes? What is weighed, what causes a book to
be set back on the table rather than bought? If publishers really knew,
the field would definitely be different.

Gender bias? Once a book gets onto the store shelf, that comes
down to the individual reader. I wouldn't be surprised if some readers
pass over books by women; on the other hand, as an early reader, I was
tremendously excited to see a SF book written by a woman and would
investigate it first: gender bias. Of course, the book has to get into
the store first, and editors buy books that they think will sell well.
I definitely wonder about the pool of writers submitting to sf editors;
what is the percentage of male and female there? Editors cannot buy
what they do not see. Gender imbalance—and do NOT use this sentence out
of context, anyone!—does exist, and whether it is a vicious circle or
just a circular argument is unclear. My guess is that it has to do with
the quality of submissions. You have to learn a lot of invisible codes
when writing SF, but those codes are relaxing and are always in flux
anyway. The field of SF literature is faster-moving than most, simply
because it reflects a swiftly growing field of knowledge, and rapidly
changing paradigms concerning information and technology. Writing good
SF is a lot more work than writing good literature simply because one
has to know more, and I'd say that a lot less people try to do so in
the first place. The SF writer is a weird person anyway—might I say, a
geek?—and geekiness tends to survive the bruising experience of
adolescence more stoutly in males than in females. So perhaps there is
a relatively smaller pool of women standing at the edge of this
marketing maelstrom pondering the pros and cons of hurling oneself,
compared to men.

I can only state that in my own experience I had the usual
barrage of magazine rejections, gradual acceptances, and finally the
experience of selling every story I have time to write, and a demand
for stories I have not had time to write. I've certainly not felt
discriminated against by any editors, male or female. As for writing
and selling novels, that's a giant crap shoot. I've sold all the novels
I've proposed or written, save the obligatory trunk novel (and I still
have hopes for that; it is weird and doesn't fit well into categories),
and simply have no time to write any more than I do. I'm invited to
submit stories to anthologies and if I have time, I say yes.

I can't run this experiment again as a male. I don't know if I
would be doing "better" if I was a male, or if I would have chosen
different subjects about which to write, or used different characters
in different ways. I am a female and always have been. I've run up
against a lot of gender bias, from the bald, oft-repeated remark (to
the entire class) of my high school mechanical drawing and
architectural drawing classes that "Girls don't belong in
mechanical/architectural drawing" to biases more subtle, and it is
indeed one of my powerful interests, societally, historically, and
technologically speaking. And it is one of my sworn enemies.

But as a writer of SF? Much, much less than a charter subscriber to Ms Magazine expected when she first set out on this journey.

Justina Robson:
I have never encountered any gender bias personally in
either the world of publishing or in my social writing moments. I have
read about it and seen blogs and articles and posts about various
incidents elsewhere, past and present. I've had a miserable and futile
argument about gender differences in writing (subject matter and etc)
with a male editor who never had the slightest clue what I was talking
about but it didn't amount to bias, more like blindness on his part in
my opinion. I'm not really interested in taking part in a gender fight
re quality, quantity, and cash for two reasons—one, I think it's more
than time the matter was an irrelevance, which it is, and we all
accepted that different genders do have different interests and
perspectives of equal value that are worthy of remark (there are marked
differences in gender approaches to fiction but these don't necessarily
reflect the physical gender of the author although they tend to follow
the sexuality of the author). Two, negative criticism or discrepancies
in pay wholly based on a creator's gender are so stupid that the
advocates deserve to be starved of the oxygen of attention entirely,
and preferably all other forms of oxygen as well. That said, if I felt
some major injustice was being perpetrated I'm naturally aggressive and
would be only too glad to wade in and smite or state my piece for the
record. I suppose the old stories about James Tiptree, Jr. pretty much
illustrate the foolery of the whole thing.

The pay thing is difficult because market forces apply and they are
a part of the whole Voodoo Numbers game that publishers constantly
play. If there are gender based differences systematically at work it
would be hard to prove.

In the end I'd say SF is viewed as traditionally a man thing
made by men for boys/men but that was a self fulfilling definition from
a past age. Nothing has prevented me joining in and I was always sorry
to fail to be interested in a lot of SF because I just couldn't get
into the stories for gender type reasons. I don't blame the stories, I
just didn't find what I wanted, which is why I started writing my own.


Just a quick note, I'm not exactly sure why, but my poetry muse has bitten me hard and I feel the urge to purge. Poems are coming quick and furious, I'll try to get them down. Word are leaking from all my pores.

(tags: Lit, Poetry, Book Reviews) Reviewing the Review October 12

Reviewing the Review: October 12 2008

by Levi Asher  October 12, 2008 9:04 pm


Every once in a while East Village poet Richard Hell gets invited to write for the New York Times Book Review, and when he does he usually shows the other critics how it's done. His unenthusiastic review of Edmund White's biography Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel is witty, lush and elegant, especially when he ignores White's book and spins his own appreciations:

He learned very much from Baudelaire, and in many ways Baudelaire
remains his master, but Baudelaire was a poet of ennui (and dreams),
while Rimbaud reels with the most robust -- if often contemptuous --
vitality (and dreams).

Edmund White's book is part of James Atlas's series of short
biographies, and Hell clearly seems to think that Atlas ought to have
invited Hell to write the biography of Arthur Rimbaud so that Edmund
White could review it in the NYTBR. Interestingly, Germaine Greer seems
to have a similar feeling about an ambitious history book, The Enemy Within: 2,000 Years of Witch-Hunting in the Western World
by John Demos. Greer takes John Demos apart like an expert lawyer with
a crouching witness. She seems to have the knowledge to back her
criticism up:

Moreover, Demos is ill equipped to explain why it is that the most
frightful witch hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries occurred in
Protestant Europe, where the authority of the papacy had been rejected
and minority sects and millennial cults were springing up everywhere.
He disposes of the most diligent witch hunters in Europe in a few brief
synoptic paragraphs that add little to our understanding of why 9
million -- or was it 50,000? -- people were tried as witches between
1550 and 1700.

"Ill equipped"! Ouch. I expect to read a letter of protest from John
Demos two Sundays from now. But it better be a good letter, because
Germaine Greer makes a very strong case.

These two takedowns were the pieces I enjoyed the most in today's Book
Review. I was a bit puzzled at first by Anthony Gottlieb's survey of
parrots in literature but by the time Gottlieb pointed out that
somebody puts a parrot into a stew pot in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude and a parrot comes out of a stew pot in Love in the Time of Cholera I was sold. Good parrot piece.

I'm interested in Susan Morgan's Bombay Anna: The Real Story and Remarkable Adventures of the "King and I" Governess, based on Leah Price's review, which focuses on a surprising racial angle to the familiar true story.

It's probably not Alan Furst's fault that I don't care about John LeCarre's A Most Wanted Man. I just have better things to read. I'm not sure which of Julia Glass's I See You Everywhere, Nadeem Aslam's The Wasted Vigil or Per Paterson's To Siberia
will make it onto my list either, but Liesl Schillinger, Lorraine Adams
and Jonathan Miles all provided useful summaries so I can at least
pretend at cocktail parties if needed.

We are sorry to learn of NYTBR trusted editor Dwight Garner's impending transfer from the Sunday publication to the daily Times book section. At one point we at LitKicks picked Garner to succeed (we hoped) Sam Tanenhaus as the Book Review's chief, based on his prescient creation of the successful blog Paper Cuts. Well, I guess that's not going to happen. I sure hope the Book Review doesn't let Paper Cuts languish in Garner's absence.

On the positive side, this probably means we'll read fewer book reviews
by the consistently disappointing Michiko Kakutani in the daily New
York Times. We can only hope.

(tags: grist, research, science, medicine) Mind power moves paralysed limbs

Mind power moves paralysed limbs

By Michelle Roberts

Health reporter, BBC News

How the treatment works

Scientists have shown it is possible to harness brain signals and redirect them to make paralysed limbs move.

The technology bypasses injuries that stop nerve signals travelling
from the brain to the muscles, offering hope for people with spinal

So far the US team from the University of Washington have only tested their "brain-machine interfaces" in monkeys.

The hope is to develop implantable circuits for humans without the need for robotic limbs, Nature reports.

Wired up

Spinal cord injuries impair the nerve pathways between the brain and
the limbs but spare both the limb muscles and the part of the brain
that controls movement - the motor cortex.

Similar techniques could be applied to stimulate the lower limb muscles during walking

Lead researcher Dr Chet Moritz

Recent studies have shown that quadriplegic patients - people who
have paralysis in all four limbs - can consciously control the activity
of nerve cells or neurons in the motor cortex that command hand
movements, even after several years of paralysis.

Using a gadget called a brain-machine interface, Dr Chet Moritz and
colleagues re-routed motor cortex control signals from the brains of
temporarily paralysed monkeys directly to their arm muscles.

The gadget, which is the size of a mobile phone, interprets the brain
signals and converts them into electrical impulses that can then
stimulate muscle to contract.

By wiring up artificial pathways for the signals to pass down,
muscles that lacked natural stimulation after paralysis with a local
anaesthetic regained a flow of electrical signals from the brain.


The monkeys were then able to tense the muscles in the paralysed arm, a
first step towards producing more complicated goal-directed movements,
such as grasping a cup or pushing buttons, say the researchers.

Lead researcher Dr Chet Moritz said: "This could be scaled to
include more muscles or stimulate sites in the spinal cord that could
activate muscles in a coordinated action.

"Similar techniques could be applied to stimulate the lower limb muscles during walking."

The scientists found the monkeys could learn to use virtually any motor
cortex nerve cell to control muscle stimulation - it did not have to be
one that would normally controlled arm movement. And their control over
the muscles improved with practice.

The researchers say they need to do trials in humans, meaning a treatment could be decades away.

Dr Mark Bacon, head of research at the UK charity Spinal
Research, said: "This is clearly a step in the right direction and
proves the principle that artificially transducing the will to move
generated in the brain with relevant motor activity can be achieved.

"However, these results have been produced in experimental models where there is no injury per se."

He said injury-induced changes to the nerve circuits might hinder the technology's application in real life.

Also, brain-machine interfaces communicate in only one direction - in this case from the brain to the muscle.

"Sensory feedback, so important for fine control of movements and dexterity, is still some way away," he said.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

On drama therapists

On drama therapists.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

"Shamans seem to be aware of the fact that that which is performed
in the imaginal world has a healing potential, while actors generally
do not make much of the potential. In this regard, drama therapists may
be more like shamans than actors. "
Drama therapy as a form of modern shamanism. Susana Pendzik (1988) Journal of Transpersonal Psychology

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

one of my biggest inspirations

The Many Loves of Ray Bradbury

Wed, October 1st, 2008 at 7:58AM PST

Updated: Wed, October 1st, 2008 at 8:45AM PST

Text Size

Ray Brabury

Well before author Ray Bradbury appeared on stage, the audience at Sunday’s West Hollywood Book Fair
eclipsed the number of available seats. When he arrived, Bradbury was
greeted by applause. Needing no introduction, the writer began to tell
the audience about love. “Over a period of years, [I’ve discovered] the
answer to everything is love,” he told the crowd. Bradbury loves films,
plays, and people. His passion for these things has afforded him an
extraordinary life. With a new production of “Fahrenheit 451” opening
soon, many of Bradbury’s thoughts focused around the novel and play.
His story began with actor Charles Laughton.

“Charles Laughton was my teacher and my good friend. He asked
me to write a [stage] version of ‘Fahrenheit 451,’” Bradbury recalled.
“He took me to Disneyland and I flew over [Peter Pan’s London] with
Charles Laughton. You can’t beat that, can you?”

It was on this trip that Laughton asked Bradbury to write a
long-form play. The result was “Fahrenheit 451.” “One night, he called
me and took to dinner with Paul Gregory, his producer,” Bradbury said.
“Over dinner, they gave me two double martinis before they gave me the
bad news. My play didn’t work.”

Bradbury famously wrote the novel version of “Fahrenheit 451”
in the basement of the Powell Library at UCLA. “When I first got
married, and we had two children, it was hard to write around the
house. I needed an office, but I had no money,” he remembered. “I was
wandering around UCLA one day at the Powell Library and I heard typing
downstairs. I went down to see what was going on.” It turned out there
was a typing room in the basement with a pool of twelve typewriters.
“You could rent one for ten cents an hour,” Bradbury recalled. “I said,
‘Oh my god! This is going to be my office! I don’t need money!’ I went
to the bank; got ten dollars worth of dimes. I went to UCLA, moved into
the typing room and in nine days, I spent nine dollars and eighty cents
and wrote the first version of ‘Fahrenheit 451.’”

This drew applause from the crowd. “So it was a dime novel, wasn’t it?” he joked.

Written during the McCarthy era of suspicion and paranoia,
Bradbury had a hard time placing his novel for publication. He recalled
the person that eventually did publish it. “A young man came along. He
was starting a new magazine. He was roughly the same age as I was.”
Bradbury was twenty-six at the time. “He said, ‘I don’t have much
money, can you sell me a story of some sort?’ I said, ‘Look, I’ve got
this new novel in three parts, ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ can you buy that from
me?’ He said, ‘Yes, I’ll give you three hundred dollars.’ So, in late
winter of 1953, ‘Fahrenheit 451’ appeared in the first issues of
Playboy Magazine. Hugh Hefner has been a good friend for fifty years.”

Ray Brabury discussed his novel 'Fahrenheit 451" at the West Hollywood Book Fair

Around this time, twenty-seven of Bradbury's stories were
adapted by EC Comics. “They stole the stories! I caught them at it!” he
recalled with a smile. “I trapped them and they started to pay me and
the adaptations came out very well. The illustrations were beautiful. I
am very proud of my association with that comic magazine.”

Despite the way that situation began, Bradbury feels his
stories appearing in comics form made sense. “I started my life with
comic strips. When I was nine years old, Buck Rodgers came into my
life. I looked at Buck Rodgers. He pulled me into the future and I
never came back. Buck Rodgers is one of my fathers. It’s natural I
would want to be in comic strips.”

Shifting from the stage and magazines to the screen, Bradbury
talked about his early cinematic experiences. “I started going to films
when I was three-years-old. I saw ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ with
Lon Cheney. I saw ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ I saw the dinosaur film, [The
Lost World], when I was seven and dinosaurs changed me for life. I met
Ray Harryhausen when I was eighteen and we promised each other to
someday do a film together.” In 1952, Harryhausen created the creature
for “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,” based on Bradbury’s short story,
“The Foghorn.”

“The Foghorn” grew from Bradbury’s boyhood love of dinosaurs.
Like “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,” that love would lead to another
film, John Huston’s 1956 version of “Moby Dick.” “[‘The Foghorn’] was
the first story in [the short story collection] ‘The Golden Apples of
the Sun,’” Bradbury explained. “I gave a copy of that book to John
Huston. He read that first story and later told me he gave me the job
because he read my story about dinosaurs.” Working on the film was not
the happiest of experiences and would later form the basis for the
novel, “Green Shadows, White Whale.”

It was during this time that the stage entered the circle of
Bradbury’s loves. “I went to work in Ireland for a whole year writing
screenplay of ‘Moby Dick,’” he remembered. “While I was in Dublin, I
saw the work of Sean O’Casey on the stage there. I saw George Bernard
Shaw’s production of ‘Saint Joan’ and these productions began to teach
me to write for the stage.” All the while, he would receive letters
from friends sure that Bradbury would come home and write something
about Ireland. He would write back with, ‘No, I don’t think I will.’
Eventually, that position changed. “When I’d been home about a year, a
voice cried out inside my head, ‘Rick, darlin’!’

Many of EC Comics' adaptations of Ray Bradbury stories were collected in "Tomorrow Midnight"

“I said, ‘Who is it?’

“He said, ‘It’s your cab driver that drove you every night
from Gillcock to Dublin and from Dublin to Gillcock to meet with John
Huston. Do you remember all that, Ray?’

“I said, ‘Yes.’

He said, ‘Would you mind putting it down?’ So I began to
write one act plays about Ireland and I didn’t know if they were any
good or not.”

Eventually a friend of Bradbury’s asked about the plays. “He
said, ‘Come to my house next Thursday night. I’ll have some actors
there and they’ll stand up and read your plays to you and you’ll be
able to tell if they’re any good.’ So, the next Thursday night, I went
to his house and he had actors there and they read my plays and we fell
on the floor. The goddamned things work! So at long last, I was
thirty-seven-years-old, [and] I was beginning to write plays that
worked.” This would eventually lead to his long form play about
Ireland, “Falling Upward.”

Working out of Desilu Studios (now part of the Paramount
lot), Bradbury put on productions of plays such as “The Pedestrian” and
“The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit.” Performed with amateurs and minimal
lighting and direction, Bradbury discovered despite the technical
difficulties, his plays really did work. He opened “The World of Ray
Bradbury” in New York in 1964. “You feel your way, don’t you,” Bradbury
said. “You love something and you do it. Then it works, or it doesn’t.
Then you do something else that you love.”

Eventually, Bradbury even made that stage version of “Fahrenheit 451” work.