“Okay, so should I do an anthology of NEVERTHELESS, SHE PERSISTED, what female authors would be interested in contributing? What awesome female authors (especially POC and LGBTQ, ESPECIALLY immigrant and trans authors) should I be reaching out to?
“And why only female authors?
“Because this is a project about the struggles that women face from the moment their gender is announced, and the courage and tenacity that helps them rise above that deep and unending opposition.
“It is a book about the experience of women, told in their voices. It is not a book about how others imagine it to be, but one deeply and personally influenced by their own fights and victories.
“And sure, I’ll do an anthology as a stretch goal, titled I’M WITH HER. Men are welcome to submit to that one. But men are over-represented in the SF and political world as it is, and I want more women to be heard.
“Yes, it’s fucking political. This project will be incredibly political. Intentionally. It will have middle fingers everywhere, between the lines and sometimes in them. I’m not going to be shy about this being a female-oriented project. I am also going to ensure that it is not cis-centered, that anyone who identifies as female is welcome. At least 2/3 of the authors will need to be women of color, immigrants, or queer. That’s going to be really tricky.
“But nevertheless, we persist in making more women’s voices heard.”
While there were solid choices on the list, what struck me was that out of 15 named creators only 2 were women. That’s 13%. Since women make up half of the world’s population, an eighth is an unacceptably low proportion in my eyes, so I made a list of my own.
Notes on my list: 1) it’s novels only (no anthologies), 2) in a random order, 3) with no double entries (otherwise I’d include also Jemisin’s The Inheritance Trilogy), 4) and I include not only a variety of flavors within the fantasy genre but also historical fiction. Moreover, 5) I’ve included old and newer favorites as well as new-to-me authors whose works sound intriguing. Finally, 6) the common denominator is (like in the Game of Thrones) the presence of power struggles of various sorts, negotiation of identities, and survival.
1. Ursula K. Le Guin. The Earthsea cycle (A Wizard of Earthsea; The Tombs of Atuan; The Farthest Shore; Tehanu; Tales from Earthsea; The Other Wind)
Aspects of identity examined in an island-based early medievalesque world with magic and lots of sailing.
2. Kai Ashante Wilson. Sorcerer of the Wildeeps
Sword and sorcery, gods and mortals, with a band of mercenaries working as caravan guard in focus. (Linguist’s note: Fascinating mix of vernacular and more formal language.)
3. N.K. Jemisin: The Dreamblood duology (The Killing Moon; The Shadowed Sun)
Ancient-Egyptian-flavored fantasy on a moon orbiting a Jupiter-like gas giant.
4. Samuel R. Delany. Nevèrÿon series (Tales of Nevèrÿon; Neveryóna; Flight from Nevèrÿon;The Return to Nevèrÿon)
Sword and sorcery in a world before the dawn of history, with strong elements of power, economic development and breaking barriers.
A blend of a coming-of-age story with high-stakes intrigue and danger on an island with water-based tech.
Enjoy! I know I will get back to this list after finishing my current reading project.
Image: Monteleone chariot with Thetis and Achilles, detail of image by Peter Roan on Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0 (Etruscan, currently Greek and Roman galleries, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 2nd quarter of the 6th century BCE; bronze inlaid with ivory)
“Because it’s those things we celebrate as ‘other’ that make us truly human. It’s what we label ‘soft’ or ‘feminine’ that makes civilization possible. It’s our empathy, our ability to care and nurture and connect. It’s our ability to come together. To build. To remake. Asking men to cut away their ‘feminine’ traits asks them to cut away half their humanity, just as asking women to suppress their ‘masculine’ traits asks them to deny their full autonomy.
“What makes us human is not one or the other–the fist or the open palm–it’s our ability to embrace both, and choose the appropriate action for the suitable situation we’re in. Because to deny one half […] is to deny our humanity and become something less than human.”
– Kameron Hurley: The Geek Feminist Revolution
Because people are not stereotypes. Stereotypes aren’t just lazy, they’re outright dangerous if carelessly applied.
Hurley, Kameron. The Geek Feminist Revolution. New York, NY: Tor, 2016. Chapter “Women and Gentlemen: On Unmasking the Sobering Reality of Hyper-Masculine Characters.”
Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.
There are just five days to go in the Kickstarter for Hidden Youth, the anthology of speculative fiction about marginalized young people in history. As I posted before, my story, “How I Saved Athens from the Stone Monsters,” is one of the stories in this awesome collection. I wanted to post again to thank everyone who has contributed to making Hidden Youth happen and also to say something about why this collection is so important to me, and would be even if I didn’t have a story in it.
I teach ancient Mediterranean history at a state university. Ancient Mediterranean history is the dead-white-guy-est of all dead-white-guy history. It’s filled with the sorts of dead white guys that people make white marble statues of and that living white guys like to point to as the pinnacles of western literary, artistic, and philosophical achievement. We’ve basically had two thousand years of white guys burnishing their white-guy cred by laying exclusive claim to the legacy of the great dead white guys of the ancient Mediterranean. So successfully have they done this that a lot of people have a hard time imagining an ancient Mediterranean world that isn’t all white guys.
Now, I’m a white guy. I’ve always had the comfort of seeing myself in history. Even as a professional historian, doing my best to be objective and fully conscious of how complicated, contingent, and constructed such identities are, I can never really know what it is like to look at history and not see people who look like me. That’s a barrier I can’t cross, but I have a lot of friends who live on the other side, especially my students.
Half my students are women and a lot of them are black, Hispanic, and southeast Asian kids from working-class towns. They’ve lived their lives in the shadow of other people’s histories. They have been shown the dead-white-guy-marble-statue version of history and told—sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly—“This is ours. You don’t belong here.” I consider it my job to say: “Yes, you do. You were always part of this history.”
The ancient Mediterranean world was multicultural, multi-ethnic, multilingual, and full of connections both within itself and to the larger world beyond. Like in my story, there were Egyptians in late classical Athens with their own Isis temple. A Sri Lankan king sent ambassadors to open diplomatic relations with Rome. And it wasn’t all a bunch of men, either. The queen of Halicarnassus was a military adviser to the Persian king. A wealthy woman of African ancestry was buried in style in late Roman York. The evidence is everywhere once you start to look for it.
The power of dead-white-guy-marble-statue history is strong and it needs to be challenged. I confront it in the classroom and my scholarly work, but we also need books like Hidden Youth out there to send the message: history is for everyone, not just people who look like me.
If you’ve already supported Hidden Youth, thank you so much. If you haven’t, please consider it. You can give as little as a dollar, and if you can’t do that, please spread the word.
On a less serious note, let me offer an added incentive to give: if Hidden Youth meets its funding goal, in honor of the collection’s theme I promise to translate and post my picks for The Top Five Greek and Latin Poems that Read Like Teenage Facebook Updates.
I’m really the wrong person to say anything about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, since I am not a fan of zombie stories to begin with, but having a fondness for Jane Austen I went to the movie hoping for something entertaining. I was not entirely disappointed, but something about the movie bothers me.
It’s not just that it feels like a joke that has gone on too long without getting to a punchline. It is Pride and Prejudice with zombies added, exactly as advertised. The confined and unvarying quality of the movie is a feature, not a bug, and I can live with that. What bothers me about it is what it does to Austen’s characters and in particular the female characters.
We saw The Abominable Bride on the big screen yesterday, a few days after Europe. (It aired in UK on January 01, 2016.) Unfortunately, I got barely any sleep last night, so these preliminary thoughts are probably very ramble-y and incoherent, but here we go.
And note: SPOILER ALERT. I will also assume that you’ve seen all the preceding seasons and TAB itself.
I’ve been vaguely aware of the Swedish-Finnish movie production The Girl King (Finnish title Tyttökuningas), which is remarkable for having been largely (according to some sources, almost entirely) filmed in Turku, Finland, including the local castle. It’s one week from opening night now, and reviews and interviews are starting to roll out. Yay!
The movie is about Queen Kristina of Sweden (1626-1689), of the Vasa lineage, directed by Finland’s famous Mika Kaurismäki. In the main roles we’ll see Malin Buska, Sarah Gadon (whom I liked in Belle), and Michael Nyqvist (familiar from the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series). A description from Kaurismäki’s website says:
“Mika Kaurismäki is currently developing a feature film project about the Swedish Queen Kristina, starring Swedish actress Malin Buska. Set in the 17th century, the film paints a portrait of an extravagant and atypical queen, who was the ruler of her country from the age of seven until her startling abdication at 28.
“The film is scripted by Canadian award-winning screenwriter Michel Marc Bouchard and the cinematography will be by renowned Christopher Doyle (In the Mood for Love, Hero).”
At the time of Kristina’s life, Finland was a part of Sweden, and Turku (Åbo in Swedish) was the oldest and largest city in Finland. The Turku Castle dates from late 13th century, but it was still inhabited and garrisoned at the time; in the modern period, it’s been restored to its Renaissance state, so it’s an appropriate location even though Kristina didn’t actually live there. (Tidbit gleaned from a news article in Yle uutiset: Kristina’s parents visited Turku early in 1626, and it’s said that she was conceived at the Turku Castle.) Also, kuningatar Kristiina has a special place in the Finnish memory because of her efforts to end the 30 years’ war which was hard on Finland, and because she at the suggestion of one of her statesmen (and twice Governor General of Finland), Per Brahe, founded the first Finnish university in 1640.
The official trailer (with Finnish subtitles) is out, and looking gorgeous:
Frock Flicks has a interview with the costume designer, Marjatta Nissinen, and a review that includes insights into the costuming. There’s also a documentary on the costuming, with background information from Kaurismäki and closeups of some of the outfits in the latter half (Finnish with English subtitles):
As an early history geek who lived in Turku for a number of years, I’m very curious to see The Girl King – for freaking once I get the native advantage in location spotting! 😀
But seriously, what I can see of the sets and locations, especially the Renaissance floor of the castle, looks fantastic. Here’s hoping that The Girl King will have a reasonably wide release in the U.S.!
“When we say men, man, manly, manhood, and all the other masculine derivatives, we have in the background of our minds a huge vague crowded picture of the world and all its activities. […] That vast background is full of marching columns of men, of changing lines of men, of long processions of men; of men steering their ships into new seas, exploring unknown mountains, breaking horses, herding cattle, ploughing and sowing and reaping, toiling at the forge and furnace, digging in the mine, building roads and bridges and high cathedrals, managing great businesses, teaching in all the colleges, preaching in all the churches; of men everywhere, doing everything – ‘the world.’
“And when we say women, we think female – the sex.”
– Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland
View from a 100 years ago.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. Herland. Edited by Kathy Casey. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1998 [originally published 1915], p. 116.
Lots of women play video games, and lots of gamers are women. This is not news, yet for some reason we have to keep saying it.
The august Pew Research Center was the most recent group to say it. Here’s their Teens, Technology, and Friendships report from earlier this month about how teens use games, among other online services, to connect with one another. Among many other findings, 84% of teenage boys reported playing video games, as did 59% of teenage girls. All teens reported playing a wide variety of different types of games (which is to say: no, all those teenage girl gamers are not just poking at Barbie Sparkle Kardashian Krush on their phones; they’re doing everything from hacking up orcs in World of Warcraft to building imperial star destroyers in Minecraft).
The Kasumovic and Kuznekoff study offers another interesting detail, however. The abuse directed at the female-voiced player came primarily from male players who were performing poorly, while men who were doing well at the game tended to be positive or neutral in their comments.
I see three important takeaways from these two studies:
There are women in your games. In fact, if you play a multiplayer game, they are all around you. Just because you don’t know they are there doesn’t mean they aren’t. If you don’t hear women’s voices, it only means that the environment is toxic enough that many women choose to stay silent rather than have to deal with it.
The men who harass women in games are not doing it mindlessly or randomly. They are not equal-opportunity dirt-spewers but target women specifically because they are trying to reassert their position in a hierarchy. The people most invested in any hierarchy are not the ones at the top but the ones who are afraid of falling to the bottom.
If you are a male gamer and you want to look like you’re at the top of your game: don’t spew crap at the women around you. Good gamers are decent to their fellow players. The only ones who feel the need to put others down are the scrubs who can’t cut it.
Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.