Tag Archives: joanna russ

Galactic Suburbia: best of

Galactic Suburbia – quick picks from the best of 2011

If you’re just joining us, and want to try out Galactic Suburbia for the first time, here are the top episodes that we think represent the best of 2011.

Episode 32: 11 May 2011In which we bid farewell to Joanna Russ, talk e-publishing (again) and Alisa reads a real live actual book. With bonus raving about Doctor Who and Alistair Reynolds – in other words, another episode of Galactic Suburbia.

Episode 36: Spoilerific Book Club: Joanna Russ Featuring: “How To Suppress Women’s Writing,” by Joanna Russ; “The Female Man,” by Joanna Russ and “When it Changed,” by Joanna Russ


Episode 47: 24 November 2011
In which we bid farewell to the queen of dragons, squee about 48 years of Doctor Who, dissect the negative associations with “girly” fandoms such as Twilight, and find some new favourites in our reading pile.

Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can check out our entire 2011 catalogue of episodes! Thanks to our silent producer for gathering those links.

Galactic Suburbia, #37

In which we discuss the SF Gateway and some great additions to the Women in SF conversation, Alex eats all the Bujold in one bite, and Alisa’s puppy does his very best to oppress us. You can download us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

News
The Locus Awards  
Prometheus Award winners
Sturgeon and Campbell Awards
Shirley Jackson
Recent announcement – Gollancz announces the SF Gateway, huge project to digitise & make available thousands of SF classics as ebooks.
Linda Nagata on ‘What’s in a Name’ and her career trajectory as a female writer of hard SF
Chris Moriarty on label in the women & SF conversation
via Thoraiya Dyer, women and the chilly climate
Liz Williams at the Guardian on the way science fiction reflects human belief
Alastair Reynolds to write Doctor Who novel: Tansy and Alex’s obsessions in one package!

What Culture Have we Consumed?
Alisa: Maureen Johnson on www.whyy.org/podcast; Twin Peaks; Mercy (not genre but interesting feminism);
Alex: sooo much Bujold (3rd, 4th and 5th omnibi, and Memory); lots of books, because of holidays! But particularly Heartless, Gail Carriger; Blackout, Connie Willis; Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, NK Jemisin… also Harry Potter 7 and Transformers 3.
Tansy: The Demon’s Surrender, The Holy Terror & Robophobia (Big Finish), Subterranean’s YA Issue 

Pet Subject: Feedback from our Joanna Russ episode

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!

** Massive kudos to our producer for somehow getting this on air waaay earlier than expected!

Galactic Suburbia’s Joanna Russ Tribute Show

We started talking about doing a Joanna Russ Spoilerific episode just after she died, in April, and here it is! We discuss Russ’ non-fiction polemic How to Suppress Women’s Writing, her novel The Female Man, and the short story “When it Changed.” We also discuss whether the issues confronted are still relevant today, and some of the problems we have with these works. All in a spirit of love and respect, of course, and attempting to overcome our feelings of inadequacy and terror in the face of the mighty Joanna….

You can get the episode from iTunes, or download it from Galactic Suburbia. Do leave us a review on iTunes, or email your comments to galacticsuburbia @ gmail . com !

On suppressing women’s writing

Just the front cover is enough to make me cranky. It’s a list of the ways in which women’s writing (and art) has been suppressed; the book is a brief and eclectic examination of how those different modes have operated, and some suggestion of why, too.

I finally got my hands on this book after I heard of Russ’ death. I’d heard of it in vague terms over many years, and more specifically in the last couple – particularly thanks to Galactic Suburbia, and a growing realisation that I really wanted to understand feminist SF, and that Russ is one entry into that. Plus, she seems like one of those writers everyone talks about… but few (especially of my generation, we post-70s women) have really read.

Russ progresses logically through various modes of suppression, dismissal, and marginalisation. As her evidence, she uses reviews of women’s work over the last century and a half or so; their presence (and absence) in anthologies and university curricula; and in biographies, as well as other sources.

The comparison of the different ways Charlotte Bronte’s work was received when it was believed to be by a man compared with when it was known to be by a woman were distressingly similar in some ways – given the difference in time – to the reception of James Tiptree Jr’s work as male/female. Russ herself notes that while some things have changed – critics are less likely in the late twentieth century to openly denigrate women’s writing simply because of the author’s gender – others have not: said critics have found alternative ways to marginalise the writing.

I’ve been sitting on this review for nearly two months, thinking there must be more to say. There is. I’m going to post this as-is, though, because I’m not sure that I can write down all of my different reactions and thoughts coherently… and we’re going to be doing our Joanna Russ Spoilerific Book Club for Galactic Suburbia soon, and hopefully that will help me clarify some ideas. (It did!)

Galactic Suburbia 35!

In which “best” becomes “superior,” Pottermore is Pottermeh, one of us wins all the awards, and we visit/revisit classic non-hard works of SF and Fantasy by Bujold, Willis and Pratchett (with bonus Russian fairytales by Valente). We can be got from iTunes or streamed from Galactic Suburbia.

News

Pottermore announcement to be made during our podcast…

Theodore Sturgeon finalists.

David Gemmell Awards

NatCon professional guests for next year are Kelly Link and Alison Goodman.

Chronos Awards  :D

Sidewise Awards finalists.

Translation Awards winners.

Stoker Awards.

Coode Street Horror Special with Stoker winners Datlow & Straub.

Gender Spotting Tool. Alisa’s verdict: Naff.

What Culture Have we Consumed?
Alisa: Connie Willis’ Passage in progress, the next 3 Twelve Planets.
Alex: so much Bujold (Cordelia’s Honorand Young Miles omnibuses… omnibi… whatever), Fly by Night, Frances Hardinge, Red Glove, Holly Black. Series 2 of V (reboot)
Tansy: Deathless, Catherynne Valente; I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett; Wyrd Sisters audiobook, Terry Pratchett/Celia Imrie.

Next Fortnight: Galactic Suburbia’s Spoilerific Book Club Presents: Joanna Russ.  Reading How to Suppress Women’s Writing, The Female Man, “When It Changed.”

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!

The Secret Feminist Cabal – now with extra awards

Since I wrote this review last year, The Secret Feminist Cabal has placed on the Honour List of the James Tiptree Jr Award, and I received a Chronos Award (voted on by the Victorian SF community) for the review itself. Allow me this gratuitous moment of reposting! The other exciting thing that has happened since is that I got to spend time with Helen Merrick herself – an utter delight.

The Secret Feminist Cabal: A Cultural History of Science Fiction Feminisms
Helen Merrick
Aqueduct Press, 2009

… what kind of self-respecting cabal would openly advertise its ‘secret’ existence through websites and conventions, identify its members through the wearing of garish temporary tattoos, and fund itself by the sale of home-baked chocolate chip cookies?” (p1)

I did not grow up considering myself a feminist; I have no idea whether my mother would identify as a feminist or not. That said, I grew up in the ’80s with a younger brother and there was never a time at which I felt that I could not do exactly the same things as my brother, if I wanted to, so I know (now) that I benefited from second-wave feminism – and from liberal, caring parents. I was regarded as a feminist by at least some people by the time I was in my late teens (looking at you, high school teachers), probably because I was loud and everyone loves a stereotype. It’s only been over the last decade (my twenties) that I have consciously thought of myself as a feminist. And it’s only been in the last couple of years that I have consciously sought out feminist books, feminist perspectives on historical issues, and really come to grips with the idea that feminism is not a singularity.

All of this is by way of contextualising my reading of The Secret Feminist Cabal, a marvellous book that has challenged the way I think about science fiction, fandom, and feminism. Merrick had me from her Preface, where she describes her journey towards writing the book in ways that resonated deeply with me, from the nerdy adolescent to the discovery of feminism and the dismay that many female acquaintances not only do not share our love of science fiction, they are completely mystified by it. Having only recently discovered the niche community that is sf fandom, the fact that so much of this book is concerned with expressions of feminism within that community – and how they impacted on sf broadly – was the icing on the cake.

Merrick begins by examining the very idea ‘feminist sf’, defining which – much like attempting to define sf by itself – is like the proverbial attempt by blind women at describing an elephant. She approaches it by discussing the multiplicities that are the reality of the genre, which is indicative of the approach she takes in the book overall and an incredible relief for those of us who are sick of being told THIS IS THIS and if you don’t fit, get lost. She also gives some space to justifying the use of literary criticism on science fiction, tackling that persistent and derogatory argument that science fiction doesn’t count as literature. While accepting that sf and popular fiction generally have an ambivalent position, as far as literary critics – including feminists – are concerned, Merrick makes no apology for using their tools. The rest of the introduction lays the groundwork for the book: what feminist fiction is or can be, the potentially problematic nature of feminist genre writing, and the ongoing divide that exists between mainstream criticism and feminist sf criticism. I particularly enjoyed that while Merrick engaged with these issues, at no point does her discussion become a polemic against those who have disagreed. Rather, she situates her investigation within the ‘grand conversation’ of feminist sf, and demonstrates constructive ways in which that can be extended to mainstream criticism – to the advantage of both.

I was forced to stare into space for some minutes when I read the opening to chapter 2. Merrick quotes from a letter written in 1938 wherein an sf reader opines that: “[a] woman’s place is not in anything scientific. Of course the odd female now and then invents something useful in the way that every now and then amongst the millions of black crows a white one is found” (p34). If nothing else, this book has made me grateful for the changes that have occurred over the last century, such that I have never been personally confronted with such a statement. This chapter provides an overview of the ‘invasion’ of women, sex, and feminism into sf, with a fascinating if horrifying look at the arguments of the 1920s and 30s for and against women being allowed into the genre. (She makes the point that of course women were already there, both as authors and readers, and that it’s hugely problematic when those foremothers are written out of history, as happens too often.) The 1960s and 70s saw some changes to the field, and the disputes that attended this period of ‘sexual revolution’ make for fascinating – if, again, horrifying – reading. My favourite section is that on Joanna Russ writing letters and criticism and the way such respected names as Philip K. Dick and Poul Anderson responded to her and her comments. I love the fact that what now generally appears on blogs as a long and convoluted comment-thread then featured in magazines, albeit at the mercy of the editor. This chapter alone is worth its weight in cookies for outlining the milieu in which both male and female sf writers and fans existed for so much of the twentieth century – an invaluable resource for a newbie like myself.

The third chapter takes up one strand mentioned in the second and runs with it: the idea of ‘femmefans’. The fact that female fans were distinguished by a separate moniker goes some way to revealing how they were regarded, at least by some males of the community. It’s almost heartbreaking to read of the letters written to pulps such as Amazing Stories by women who imagine themselves as the only female readers of such stories – another reason I love the future that is blogdom. What I particularly love about this chapter is its uncovering of specific women involved with sf fandom, in many and varied ways. Instead of making generalisations about readers and contributors to zines, Merrick goes out of her way to trace named individuals and outline their experience within the scene. Appropriately, there is a section on Australian women, who seem to be even more hidden from view than their American or British sisters.

The development of specifically feminist criticism of sf is discussed in chapter 4, with a fair amount of space given to Joanna Russ, as one of the progenitrices of formal feminist criticism and the name to which many others felt themselves to be responding. Merrick chronicles the rise of feminist fanzines in the 1970s, and the impact these had on writers and fans, as well as the increasing numbers of feminist anthologies being produced. The chapter moves through to the 1980s and ’90s, noting trends and struggles as feminists of those times attempted to define themselves as well as understand their histories. As with the previous chapter, Merrick provides copious accounts of individuals here, and an extensive reading list of both criticism and fiction.

Bouncing back to fandom, chapter 5 examines the development of feminist fandom concurrent with the development of feminist criticism of chapter 4. Again going for the intensely personal stories to illustrate a broad, diverse narrative, Merrick weaves a story of female fans and their involvement in the fannish community from the 1960s to the 2000s. The feminist fanzines sound like an amazing community to have been involved in. Her discussion of the place of Marion Zimmer Bradley in this community – beginning as a fan, becoming a well-known writer, and causing all sorts of controversy over her (at least early) non-identification as a feminist – is enthralling, and beautifully illustrates the axiom that the personal is always already political. The chapter ends with a discussion of how WisCon (a feminist sf convention) and the Tiptree Awards were established.

The last two chapters of Cabal “examine how recognition of the cultural work of sf feminisms filters out into other critical communities,” and as a consequence have a heavier, more literary-critical, feel, which may make them more opaque to some readers than the first five chapters. Chapter 6 deals with sf feminim’s response to cyberpunk, a 1980s sf movement that some saw as eclipsing or superseding the feminist sf fiction of the 1970s. Merrick connects this with theorist Donna Haraway’s call for feminists to consider the cyborg as a way of considering the fundamental issue of what it means to be human. The movement also connects with a growing sub-genre of cultural studies, that examining techno-science and cyberculture. A feminist take on these issues is an intriguing one, especially in its observation that much cyberpunk is opposed to the material, the body – and how problematic that can be.

Interestingly, Merrick takes her discussion in what feels like quite a different, although still relevant, direction for her last chapter: the connection of feminist sf with science itself, and how feminism is and can be in dialogue with that discipline. She suggests very strongly that sf feminisms can and should play a vital role in dialogues negotiating the interplay of science, nature, and culture, and gives examples of a number of ways in which this has already occurred productively.

Finally, Merrick has a provocative conclusion. She addresses new challenges such as those posed by queer theory and postcolonialism, and where or how feminism might still fit in. Along with a consideration, appropriately enough, of what the Tiptree Award has taught us since its inception, Merrick considers the question of whether the science fiction field is ‘beyond’ questions of gender. She argues that feminism – as long as it remains the challenging and diverse field it has been until now – still has a great deal to offer science fiction writers and readers.

A critical work based in a deep-seated love of the genre, Cabal is a testament to the enduring impact of women, feminism, and fandom on the fractured behemoth that is science fiction. 2010 saw it shortlisted on the Hugo ballot for Best Related Work, and win the fan-voted William Atheling award for best critical work. These are well-deserved honours. I hope coming generations of both writers and fans will make use of the cornucopia of references Merrick has gathered, both to understand the history of the field and because most of them make for wonderful reading.

Galactic Suburbia 34

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… You can download us from iTunes, or download/stream from Galactic Suburbia.

News
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 the radio about the perception of women in British SFTranscript.

MK Hobson on the term ‘bustlepunk’ and why there is a place for a domestic sub-genre of steampunk; 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 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!

Galactic Sububria 33!

In which we wax lyrical about awards, short stories and the love of reading. Because it’s that time of year! You can download us from iTunes, or get us at Galactic Suburbia.

News
Aurealis Awards  and Ceremony!

Nebula Awards

Translation Awards

Aqueduct links to 25 commemorations of Joanna Russ

New podcast –  How I got my Boyfriend to Read Comics

Last Short Story is on Twitter @lastshortstory

New Galactic Chat: Kirstyn McDermott

What Culture Have we Consumed?
Tansy: The Shattering, Karen Healey
Alex: The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss; How to Suppress Women’s Writing, Joanna Russ; Welcome to Bordertown, Ellen Kushner and Terri Windling; finished Stargate SG1 for the second time.
Alisa: Ken Liu’s Paper Menagerie (F&SF March/April), Joanna Russ’s We Who Are About To

Pet Subject: Last Short Story 2011
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!

Galactic Suburbia 32

(It’s now older than me!) (just)

In which we bid farewell to Joanna Russ, talk e-publishing (again) and Alisa reads a real live actual book.  With bonus raving about Doctor Who and Alistair Reynolds – in other words, another episode of Galactic Suburbia. We can be downloaded from iTunes or streamed from Galactic Suburbia.News
On Joanna Russ: some reminiscences (and here), and Samuel Delaney’s interview with her (transcript only).

Barb & Jenny on e-publishing: Part 1Part 2.
Book Country launched by Penguin USA; Jim Hines discusses it and Ellen Datlow talks on it, about the role of the short story editor.
Brimstone Press closing.
Shaun Tan to judge Illustrators of the Future.
What Culture Have we Consumed?
Alisa: Madigan Mine, Kirstyn McDermott, Fringe Season 3
Alex: Deep State, Walter Jon Williams; Shattered City, and Love and Romanpunk, Tansy Rayner Roberts; Pushing Ice, Alastair Reynolds; Troubletwisters, Garth Nix and Sean Williams.
Tansy: Doctor Who & Big Finish audio plays (The Eighth Doctor Adventures).============

Announcing upcoming Spoilerific Book Club on Joanna Russ with particular focus on The Female Man, How To Suppress Women’s Writing and short story “When it Changed.”  Read along with us!

Galactic Chat interviews Glenda Larke

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!

Episode 21 of Galactic Suburbia

You can get us from iTunes, or download from Galactic Suburbia.

In which we work, play, shake up our format a little (gasp!) and cover the life & death of magazines, the changing face of the industry, respect for non fiction, sexual harassment, rants, reboots and as usual, books, books and more books.  Also a few sneaky clues about what Twelfth Planet Press is publishing next year!

News

Realms of Fantasy is back, again…

Escape Pod expands: “We have been pushing to expand what Escape Pod does, adding an SF blog and distributing our stories via magazine format. We’re also becoming a pro market, and hope to keep paying our authors pro rates well into 2011 if the donations make it possible.”

Cheryl Morgan talks about paying for reviews as semipro.

On the Cooks Source scandal and seeing stuff on the internet as ‘public domain’.

Jim C Hines on reporting sexual harassment in SF/F.

Old men complaining?  When you get old, do you by consequence lose your sense of wonder? Just simply because you’ve read everything? And is/should all SF be aimed/written for the 60 year old man? And Jason Sanford responds

New Buffy Reboot

New Friend of the Podcast: The Writer & the Critic (Mondy & Kirstyn).

Rambly Discussion
Books that aren’t marketed as being a part of a series…
Publishing, deadlines, and attitudes thereto…
Chat, rants and backpedalling…

What Culture have we Consumed?
Alex: Blameless, Gail Carriger; “The Devil in Mr Pussy,” Paul Haines; Women of Other Worlds, ed. Helen Merrick and Tess Williams; Bold as Love, Gwyneth Jones; Day of the Triffids (2009 BBC production)
Alisa: works too hard, and also Fringe.
Tansy: To Write Like a Woman, Joanna Russ; Marianne, the Magus & the Manticore by Sheri S Tepper; Sourdough & Other Stories, Angela Slatter; China Mountain Zhang, Maureen McHugh, Mists of Avalon movie


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