Tag Archives: women in SF

Why It’s Important (And Why We’re Still Talking About the SFWA Bulletin)

bulletinI’m coming in late to discuss this particular issue on the blog, for one fairly specific reason – as a member of the SFWA and an incoming Board member (I don’t officially step up to my position as overseas regional director until July but it’s hovering there on the horizon), I’ve been spending a lot of time on the private member forums, discussing the issue, reading member comments and joining in the plan for ‘where to go from here’ as far as making constructive change to the SFWA publications. I’m also trying to figure out in my own head the delicate balance of ‘conflict of interest’ as far as me personally making any kind of public contribution to the discussion. Which is, I imagine, something I’m going to have to get used to.

For those of you just joining us on this one, you can probably catch up on the SFWA Bulletin topic by looking at this link post from Jim Hines (and whoa, he’s been updating that one, so many links, a very useful page to direct anyone to who thinks that the anger about this issue belongs to a ‘minority’), the column under discussion scanned here, and especially Foz Meadows on “Old Men Yelling at Clouds” – a breakdown explaining exactly what was wrong with the Resnick/Malzberg column, point by point, so no one else has to.

The SFWA’s official response (so far) includes an announcement of a task force to address problems with the Bulletin, and the President, John Scalzi, taking responsibility for (but not in any way defending or excusing) the recent issue.

If anyone is wondering, by the way, why a whole task force might be necessary, I would direct you to Mari Ness’ excellent breakdown on the many ways in which The Bulletin hasn’t been meeting its own stated mission, let alone the needs of the SFWA membership. There’s a lot of work to be done here, and it’s far too much to put on the shoulders of a single person.

So, that’s the background.

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Why Amy Pond Must Live

Doctor Who, especially the classic show, has a reputation for being a bit sexist. Which is hardly surprising, considering that it is a product of its time across so many different decades. We lucked out in the late sixties when a classic battle of the sexes episode (including a scene where Jamie spanks Zoe, Taming of the Shrew style) failed to be made. But with such a paternal structure, whereby the Doctor is male and also the character who knows most about everything most of the time, and the employment of such strategic companion costumes as the mini-skirt and, in the 80’s, the mini-skirt AND boob tube combination (not to mention poor Peri in her leotard and shorts) it certainly doesn’t escape that taint. Even the female characters allowed to be close to the Doctor’s intellectual equal, such as Liz and Romana, are regularly taken down a peg or two because the entire premise of the show is that the Doctor is more capable at what he does (even when being comedically bad at what he does) than anyone else.

There’s a reason that more action figures have been made of Leela in her leathers and Peri in her leotard-with-shorts than any other Doctor Who companions. And let’s not get into the recent revelations that Jon Pertwee insisted on a recast of the role of Sarah Jane Smith, because the actress cast before Elisabeth Sladen was too tall, and he liked to perform against a physically small woman, one he could be seen to physically protect. Ahem.

But there’s one sexist trope that, narratively, Doctor Who almost never used, and looking back over some of the rather dodgy decisions made by the show and its almost all-male writing tradition, it’s quite impressive that they didn’t. They almost never killed the girl.

[Spoilers follow for a bunch of Classic & New Who]
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Friday Links are Too Perfect To Be Believable

One of the key points of Joanna Russ’ How to Suppress Women’s Writing which really struck a chord with us at Galactic Suburbia was the way that female authors are so often assumed to have written a single book, with the rest of her backlist quietly ignored. (yes, this sometimes happens to male authors too, but not to the same massive degree) Vintage Classics are duly releasing 14 of the novels written by Stella Gibbons, who is famous for writing Cold Comfort Farm. I’d never heard of these, and Westwood has already leaped on to my to read list.

Holly Black has added to the ‘Mary Sue does not mean what you think it means’ discussion with a great post: Ladies, Ladies, Ladies. Her driving point is that a Mary Sue was a character inserted into someone else’s canon, and every time you stick that label on a female protagonist, you’re basically saying that she doesn’t belong in her own story. It’s also horrible how often wish fulfilment is ascribed to female authors (she wants to be her oh so perfect heroine, she wants to shag/marry her amazing hero) because that takes so much away from the perception of her as a writer.

She wrote it, but look what (who) she wrote about.

Ah, Joanna Russ. If only there was a week where quoting you was inappropriate.

Helen Razer at the Age interviews Karen Healey and others about this weekend’s female superhero conference at Monash. Jealous!!

Great post at Feministe about the invisible women at tech conferences, and arguments people make against bothering to include female speakers.

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This is what Feminist SF looks like: Big Finish, and Gallifrey

I know, I know. You’re sick of me raving about how good Big Finish is. But this isn’t a review, as such. There are some comments that regularly get thrown at feminist critics: you’re so negative, it’s all about tearing people down, why don’t you ever give cookies when we get it right? (It was particularly tragi-amusing to hear these comments in reaction to Nicola Griffiths proposing the Russ pledge, which is entirely positive)

So this is me talking about a bunch of blokes who get it so, so right.

There’s a thing I’ve been noticing, and I was reminded of it again recently while listening my way through season two of Gallifrey, an audio series produced by Big Finish. This series, now into its fourth season, has been produced on and off over the last decade, and was intended by its creators to be an SF version of The West Wing – political drama set on the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey.

Our protagonists are Romana, the Lord President, and her alien bodyguard Leela, who comes from a primitive warrior culture. Both characters are played by the same actresses, Lalla Ward and Louise Jamieson, who portrayed them in 1970’s Doctor Who as companions to the Fourth Doctor. I always thought this series was an awesome idea, taking two really interesting characters and giving them a further life than Doctor Who itself allowed them. But then I listened to a story which involved a plot point where the two characters had their brain patterns crossed over – so that Leela suddenly had the President’s cool, ruthless and logical way of thinking, while Romana was overwhelmed with the instincts and uncontrollable emotions of the Sevateem warrior.

And it suddenly occurred to me – how often in science fiction do we get a story in which the two main characters are women, and in which the main conflict between them is how very different they are in personality? Never mind science fiction, actually, how often do we get that in STORIES? YA is probably the only genre where this might be a regular occurence. What Gallifrey does is demonstrate that you can tell interesting, crunchy science fiction stories in which the most important characters happen to be women (most importantly, more than one woman), without it necessarily having to be a story about traditionally female concerns.

A regular character gets killed off in season two, in a very underplayed sort of way at first, which seemed to cut off a plotline in mid-stream. I was shocked and confused by this, waiting for the reveal that it was a fake out. Instead, the reveal was something important about that death, something which rocked the most important relationship in the show: the friendship and alliance between Romana and Leela. Only then did I realise what had happened. The character had been women-in-refrigeratored, his own burgeoning plotline sacrificed to further the story of the women.

Hell, yes!

This is not an isolated incident. As you all know, I’ve been inhaling Big Finish audio plays at a rate of knots all year, and it has interested me how much I am adoring them considering that the majority are written and directed by men. I have a solid history of finding it easier to love works written by women, and I’m not convinced that it’s just my love of Doctor Who that’s making me love Big Finish so hard.

The fact is, they’re all a great big bunch of lefty feminists.

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Galactic Suburbia 38

New episode up! Grab it from iTunes, by direct download or stream it on the site.


In which none of your fearless podcasters are impregnated by mysterious aliens for the duration of a single episode, nor do any of us experience a rapidly accelerated pregnancy or give birth to an otherworldly demon/alien/vampire. Also: Batgirl, Bujold and a cranky feminist rant or two.


Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award – given to a living writer for the first time, Katherine MacLean.

Mythopoeic Awards

World Fantasy, of course!

World SF Travel Fund raising money to send Charles A Tan to WFC

The Mystical Pregnancy trope
– torture porn? Reproductive terrorism, exploiting women for being female.
Violent degradation of women’s bodies for plot.

Vote For Top-100 Science Fiction, Fantasy Titles
Swedish Writing Fairy crunches the numbers

Andromeda’s Offering Offspring Issue 1 – new fanzine to “open up new female voices in SF, raise the awareness of female SF writers and share ideas.”
(you can find them on Facebook apparently)

Where are the women in the new DC Comics?
newsy report
proper interview with Batgirl crusader

SF Signal Episode 70 – 6 men talk about their favourite podcasts and illustrate what we mean by gender disparity in SF gatekeeping
Alisa makes reference to recent Mind Meld

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alisa – Passage by Connie Willis; Red Glove by Holly Black; The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang;
Alex – Diplomatic Immunity and Cryoburn, Bujold; Chicks Dig Time Lords, ed. Lynne Thomas; The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell; Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal (http://wp.me/p11HLi-Nf); Songs of the Earth, Elspeth Cooper (abandoned). SF Squeecast.
Tansy – Glenda Larke-Stormlord Rising; Malinda Lo-Huntress; Penni Russon-Only, Ever, Always

lovely review at Hoyden About Town

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Friday Links Were Sorted Ravenclaw

Not sure I’ve linked to Kathleen Jennings’ The Dalek Game before, but I love her illustrative blog and this series which mashes up pencilled Daleks with famous book/movie titles are just adorable.

Linda Nagata gives an unvarnished account of her career trajectory as a female hard SF writer.

A discussion at the Mary Sue of genderbending in geek culture & cosplay – the impression I’ve got is that men dressing as women is a lot more acceptable in the cosplay community than this article suggests, though. I was delighted to hear there was a male Sarah Jane at the last Gallifrey, dressed in the Andy Pandy overalls!

Grant Watson reviews Summer Wars, a new anime movie which we watched recently with friends and I agree with Grant about how exceptional it is. A screwball family comedy and science fiction thriller combined! I love stories of big crazy families, and this handles that so well (though I was delighted today to find the wikipedia page that tells me who they all are and how they’re related to each other). I was amazed how much story and character was packed into the running length of a normal movie – and the combination of science fiction, contemporary issues (information hijacking, vulnerability of overstretched resources in the face of terrorist action) and deeply-felt emotions was fabulous. I particularly love the introverted hacker teen character Kazuma, and the sword-wielding matriarch grandmother, whose backstory is conveyed through mastery of the telling detail.

Chris Moriarty on the Women in SF conversation, and the danger of labels.

Thoraiya passed on a link to this fascinating article about the “chilly climate” for women in professional areas (such as the sciences) dominated by men, and one amazing woman who defined that term decades ago, as part of her work in the creation of policies to prevent gender discrimination. Most important quote: “This is changeable behaviour.”

Marie Brennan talks about prodding your own defaults when it comes to including religious culture in your fiction.

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books reports a new book trend in Spain – landscape paperbacks!

unexpected tuesday links!

I skipped my Friday links post last week, because… well, you know. It was one of those days. I have so many links building up, though, I thought I’d better get one in now or I’ll end up having to produce a whole magazine by the time Friday comes around again! Also, some of my links are in danger of looking severely dated…

In other news, it is raining. Grim, vengeful rain. How else would you expect rain that holds off all day and then starts while I am EN ROUTE to pick up my daughter for school, with the baby in the back seat, so I don’t even get a head’s up that maybe today was not the day to put the baby in soft slippers? In other news, Jem has grown so much now that her feet entirely stick out of the stroller, and the plastic rain cover for said stroller. All of these facts are related.

Deb Biancotti is interviewed by Alisa at Galactic Chat!

Fabulous roundtable about (global) Women in World SF
– every comment is packed with intelligent, thoughtful ideas. I am delighted such a thing exists in the world. Some important questions are asked, like – why is it so easy for urban fantasy to be excluded from any discussion on spec fic? And why is it that crime readers are so much more open to female authors than SF readers?

The roundtable was in response to this original post by Joyce Chng about women outside the English speaking world are doubly marginalised in the science fiction field.

Maureen Johnson takes on the writer of that Wall Street Journal article (podcast), on the topic of whether YA fiction is getting too dark for teenagers to be allowed to read – fabulous radio and it’s cool to see how articulate Maureen is in person. It’s irritating that the final word goes to a caller who is obviously just out to plug his own book and hasn’t actually been listening to much that has been said in the conversation, and I was disappointed Maureen didn’t get to comment on what he said, but for the most part I think her point of view came across clearly and the conversation was absolutely one worth having.

This post by Tricia Sullivan is getting a little long in the tooth now, but I think it’s absolutely worth checking out if you haven’t already. To put it and the conversation it responds to into context, it’s also worth reading these two posts by Cheryl Morgan: Here We Go, and Further Thoughts. There is some intelligent, interesting conversation in the comments of all three of these posts.

I’m still chewing over my thoughts on the upcoming DC reboot, and this is one of the best posts I’ve seen exploring some of the problematic aspects of regressing storylines, particularly when it comes to female and minority characters.

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Friday Cup of Linkage

For those looking for a World Cup update from me, all I can say is it is no shame at all for the Matildas to have lost to Brazil, because come on, it’s freaking Brazil, they were up against Cristiane and Marta, so I’m really not being an Australian apologist to say that it’s impressive the gap between scores wasn’t much wider. (here’s a summary of the match from the Boston Globe)

Meanwhile, thanks to a combination of the ‘women’s football’ RSS feed from the Guardian and the presence of at least 4 Arsenal players, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to the England team, which is amusing to me because when the England men’s team plays anything I normally spend most of my time muttering at them with very narrowed eyes. I kind of love the video diaries the team have been releasing, if only to listen to their cute accents, though sadly they didn’t win their match either. (1-1)

Moving aside from sport now, here’s an extra plug for Marianne de Pierres’ new project, cowpunk webcomic Peacemaker. Check out the first issue now for a measly 99¢ – much though I disapprove of people pricing whole novels at 99¢, I think it’s exciting for shorter pieces, and as an Australian it’s rather nice to actually get the 99¢ price for once (yes, iTunes with your $1.19, I’m looking at you, you know what the Australian dollar is actually worth, right?). I believe later issues will be priced higher, so now’s your chance to find out if you like Peacemaker!

Speaking of awesome Australian women (and fictional heroes) here’s a great interview with Anna Torv from Fringe.

I have been so impressed with Torv’s performance throughout the third season of Fringe, playing two versions of the same character, and managing to make both utterly compelling rather than falling into the Spock’s beard style of parallel world characterisation. Speaking of Spock’s beard, the episode which required Torv to channel Leonard Nimoy for a whole episode was amazing. Kudos to the show for the subtle and powerful writing, too. Having loved Fringe in spite of itself in season one, and gone through such excitement when season two was so very good from beginning to end, I’m somewhat beside myself that Fringe is now some of the most exciting and interesting SF TV in years, and mark it as a coup that my honey now watches it with me. It’s gone from a show I considered a guilty pleasure to one that so many of my friends respect, like and get excited by. So hooray for the excellent cast, whoa for the spectacular final episode, and woohoo for season 4 on the horizon. I’m glad to hear that Torv’s performance is being heralded (finally!) but I really really hope John Noble gets the Emmy or the GG – his Walter Bishop has always been exceptional to watch, and it feels like every time the rest of the cast rise to his challenge, he just gets better.

Some shorter links now, I promise!

Forbidden Planet asks, Are you a misogynist?

Kate Beaton makes a very good (and hilarious) point about ‘strong female characters‘ through comic art.

Ben Peek writes about the small world view of speculative fiction in the 21st century.

From Meanland, the death of the book and other utopian fantasies (via @vodkanlime)

The Women of Solaris.

Two from Tor.com re-reading Joanna Russ (in order) starting with The Adventures of Alyx and Greg van Eekhout & Carrie Vaughn talk about YA, middle grade fiction and how The Kids Are All Right.

And in closing, Pixar finally have a female protagonist. The film looks awesome and I love the title so very much.

Return of the Friday Links

image by perpetualpanda on Deviant Art

I’ve had a request (hi Thoraiya!) to start up my occasional series of Friday links posts again. Since I have been slacking off from blogging for quite a few weeks now, I am making up for it today!

Timmi Duchamp at Aqueduct Press looks at the Women’s Hour SF discussion with particular concern for what Gwyneth Jones said about feminist SF vs. SF written by women.
EDIT: Gwyneth Jones’ right of reply, also on Aqueduct Press.

My Mum passed me this link to a cheering and inspirational article about the new generation of activist feminists in the UK (though as Kirstyn McDermott pointed out to me, obviously whoever composed the photograph of the group was not thinking with the feminist half of their brain)

Niall at Strange Horizons links to some Wiscon panel summaries. Sniff. One day my Wiscon will come.

A powerful post by Colleen at Chasing Ray about the ‘are books too dark for our teenagers because everyone knows bad things don’t happen unless you read about them’ stupidity.

Diana Peterfreund on why her latest book was so hard to write, how having babies makes books even HARDER to write, and why it’s important to own the hard work as well as the magical moments of the writing life.

Nicola Griffith (she has been on fire lately!) comparing two LAMBDA acceptance speeches and considering the gendered differences between them.

And oh, the piece of news that most excited me this week: the new Chameleon Circuit album has finally finished production and is available for pre-order, shipping in July. Eeeeee!

Galactic Suburbia Episode 34 Show Notes

New episode up! Grab it from iTunes, by direct download or stream it on the site.


In which we surf the wave of feminist SF news that has deluged the internet this fortnight, plus Margaret Brundage, why YA books are allowed to be as dark as they want to be, the Tiptree Award, Connie Willis, were-thylacines, Ted Chiang and Alex finally discovers Bujold…


Nicola Griffith on the m/f imbalance in an informal SF favourites poll in the Guardian
The Guardian: Damien Walter, author of the poll & followup articles revises his comments in response to Griffith
Niall Harrison follows up on Strange Horizons
Cheryl Morgan on invisibility of women (some really interesting discussion in the comments, too)
The Guardian again, asking with wide innocent eyes if SF is inherently sexist
Ian Sales announces the SF Mistressworks blog project
Nicola Griffith asks you to take the Joanna Russ pledge

Gwyneth Jones, Karen Traviss & Farah Mendlesohn talk on radio about the perception of women in British SF http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b011c220
Transcript here: http://vectoreditors.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/womans-hour-women-and-sf/

MK Hobson on the term ‘bustlepunk’ and why there is a place for a domestic sub-genre of steampunk
MK Hobson’s follow up post on the assumptions made about works coded ‘female’

2011 Chesley Award Finalists
Cheryl Morgan on female & trans artists

Nine Reasons Women Don’t Edit Wikipedia
(interesting, I think, in light of the recent spout of incidents we’ve watched, notably the one with Nick Mamatas where winning World Fantasy Award was considered too regional to be significant)

Wall Street Journal on YA fiction

Change to the Norma eligibility guidelines

Why Galactic Suburbia T-shirts are no longer available through RedBubble.

Con Quilt

What Culture Have we Consumed?
Tansy: Thyla, Kate Gordon; Will Supervillains Be on the Final? Naomi Novik
Alisa: Coode St Podcast with Ellen Klages, Eileen Gunn and Geoff Ryman; Connie Willis – Even the Queen; Octavia Butler – Bloodchild
Alex: Chill, and Grail, Elizabeth Bear; The Lifecycle of Software Objects, Ted Chiang ; Welcome to the Greenhouse, Gordon van Gelder; Steampunk! Kelly Link and Gavin Grant.

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!