Tag Archives: fantasy

Book Club: What should we read next?

Attention constant readers! It’s time to choose our next book!

Here are three candidates, two fiction novels and one research paper:

Cover of Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Ann Leckie, Ancillary Mercy

will be published 6 October 2015; 368 pages

I’ve pre-ordered this final book in the Ancillaryverse trilogy and will be eager to talk about it with other geek feminists starting, probably, on October 7th. Protagonist Breq used to be a starship, connected instantly to multiple bodies, and hasn’t quite gotten used to being singly embodied. I think the first book in the trilogy, Ancillary Justice, integrated fist-punching-related adventure with flashbacks and thinky conversations and interstellar intrigue and music really well. It’s about power and institutions, about the lived difference between true mutual aid and imperialism, and about how to be loyal to imperfect institutions and imperfect people. And explosions.

Ancillary Sword, the middle book, shifted settings to concentrate on one spaceship near one station orbiting one planet, helping us compare societies that are functional, dysfunctional, and broken. Leckie compares othering, oppression, and possibilities for resistance across urban and plantation settings. And I utterly bawled at one character’s soliloquy on the way to her doom, and at tiny hopeful steps of mutual understanding and community empowerment. Also, again, explosions.

Here’s the first chapter of book three, and in case that’s not enough, here’s some fanfic based on books one and two.

The Ancillaryverse is scifi that argues with other scifi; you can see the Radchaai as Borg (ancillaries), or as Federation (per the “root beer” and Eddington/Maquis critiques from Deep Space Nine), and you can see Justice of Toren as literally the ship who sang (see the comments in Leckie’s post here, around the novels’ feminist lineage). I’m looking forward to seeing more of Leckie’s conversation with other speculative fiction, to more critiques, and more explosions.

Photo of Sherry Turkle

Sherry Turkle. Photo by jeanbaptisteparis, CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Sherry Turkle and Seymour Papert, “Epistemological Pluralism and the Revaluation of the Concrete”

published 1991; about 31 pages

Sociologist, psychologist, and technology researcher Turkle authored this paper with constructionist education researcher Papert, and reading it gave me new language for thinking about me as a programmer:

Here we address sources of exclusion determined not by rules that keep women out, but by ways of thinking that make them reluctant to join in. Our central thesis is that equal access to even the most basic elements of computation requires an epistemological pluralism, accepting the validity of multiple ways of knowing and thinking….

“Hard thinking” has been used to define logical thinking. And logical thinking has been given a privileged status that can be challenged only by developing a respectful understanding of other styles where logic is seen as a powerful instrument of thought but not as the “law of thought.” In this view, “logic is on tap, not on top.”….

The negotiational and contextual element, which we call bricolage….

Our culture tends to equate soft with feminine and feminine with unscientific and undisciplined. Why use a term, soft, that may begin the discussion of difference with a devaluation? Because to refuse the word would be to accept the devaluation. Soft is a good word for a flexible and nonhierarchical style, open to the experience of a close connection with the object of study. Using it goes along with insisting on negotiation, relationship, and attachment as cognitive virtues….

I appreciated the case studies of programmers and their approaches and frustrations, the frameworks analyzed and suggested (e.g., relational and environmental), and the connections to other feminist researchers such as Carol Gilligan. If you feel like your approach to engineering makes you countercultural, you might like this piece too. Here’s a plain HTML version of the paper, and here’s a PDF of the paper as originally typeset and footnoted.

Cover of Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Zen Cho, Sorcerer to the Crown

published 1 September 2015; 384 pages

Author Zen Cho’s speculative and historical fiction foregrounds the perspective of women of color, specifically the Malaysian diaspora; she has non-US-centric views on diversity which I find both disorienting and refreshing to read! You can read the first chapter of her first novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, for free online. It’s a fast-moving period fantasy with a bunch of women and people of color. The blurb:

Zacharias Wythe, England’s first African Sorcerer Royal, is contending with attempts to depose him, rumours that he murdered his predecessor, and an alarming decline in England’s magical stocks. But his troubles are multiplied when he encounters runaway orphan Prunella Gentleman, who has just stumbled upon English magic’s greatest discovery in centuries.

I’d love to discuss themes in this feminist Malaysian-British author’s work with other geek feminists. In her postcolonial historical romance novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo, her short story collection Spirits Abroad, and in Sorcerer to the Crown, Cho depicts adventurous, mercenary, or blasé women who use, disregard, or otherwise play with expectations of femininity. She illustrates how both mundane and magical institutions use gatekeeping to prop up their own status hierarchies, and how that affects people trying to make their way in. Intersectionality, diaspora and immigration, the culture of British education, and queer relationships also appear in Cho’s stories over and over.

if you read The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo then you might be forewarned of the kind of genre switchup Cho is doing — I definitely see Prunella Gentleman prefigured in Jade Yeo. I particularly like that, in Sorcerer to the Crown, Cho writes in a genre that often has kind of a slow tempo, and moves the speed up so there are more exciting plot developments per page, and adds more Wodehouse-y shenanigans and off-the-rails conversations, without ever sliding into unbelievable-silly-farce-romp or territory. And there’s a spoiler I badly want to talk about with other people of color!

Something else altogether

You tell me! Let’s try to wrap up voting by Wednesday October 7th.

Wednesday Geek Woman: Mikki Kendall, activist and author

Mikki Kendall, activist and author. Photo courtesy Mikki Kendall.

Mikki Kendall, activist and author. Photo courtesy Mikki Kendall.

Mikki Kendall is a writer, pop culture critic, editor and author.

In 2009, she started Verb Noire, a small press for genre fiction featuring characters that are people of color and/or LGBT. In 2011, her first story, “Copper For A Trickster,” appeared in Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories. She’s been a panelist at WisCon, Arisia, and Readercon,  and been a guest on the Nerdgasm Noire podcast.

As of last month, she has a new story out! Content warning for violence and sexual violence, but if you’re able to do so you should really check out If God Is Watching. It’s a gorgeously-written period fantasy about a young woman with an unusual power, and anything else I tell you about it would spoil its awesomeness so seriously just go read it.

Though she’s a talented fiction writer, she’s better known for her incisive cultural criticism on issues relating to race and gender. in August 2013, she started the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen hashtag–a home for honest criticism of the ways white feminism has failed at intersectionality and repeatedly thrown women of color under the bus. The tag picked up steam until it was globally trending.

Together with Jamie Nesbitt Golden, she started Hood Feminism, an intersectional blog about race, gender, and misogynoir (the toxic brand of explicitly anti-black misogyny). They’ve leveraged Twitter to keep that conversation going with hashtags like and .

Her non-fiction has appeared in The Guardian, Salon, NPR’s Code Switch, and XOJane, among other places. You can find her at Hood Feminism and on Twitter as @Karnythia.

Quick Rec: LaShawn M. Wanak’s 21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One)

Do you like beautifully-written short fantasy? Of course you do.

Head on over to Strange Horizons to read LaShawn M. Wanak’s 21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One) for a little bit of wisdom, a little bit of Chicago, and a little bit of magic.

And if you like it (you probably will; it’s pretty awesome), consider supporting Strange Horizons.

ETA: Wanak has some background info about the story on her blog.

A fisherman of the inland linkspam (14 May 2013)

  • Sometimes I Feel Like I am a Fake Geek Girl: “I know that I’m not really faking anything as I’m pretty up front with the holes in my experience, but sometimes I feel that I shouldn’t even call myself a geek because I’m missing so much ‘critical geekdom’. It feels like geek culture is a competitive and not-inclusive space with invisible hierarchies.”
  • How to draw sexy without being sexist: “‘Sex appeal ONLY comes into play when the characters PERSONALITY dictates that as a factor,’ says Anka. ‘The CHARACTER must be first and foremost the inspiration and guideline for all the decisions made when trying to design the clothing.'”
  • The Great Debate: Comic about the misguided idea that disabling youtube comments to forestall harassment is censorship.
  • ‘Brave’ creator blasts Disney for ‘blatant sexism’ in princess makeover – Marin Independent Journal: “Disney crowned Merida its 11th princess on Saturday, but ignited a firestorm of protest with a corporate makeover of Chapman’s original rendering of the character, giving her a Barbie doll waist, sultry eyes and transforming her wild red locks into glamorous flowing tresses. The new image takes away Merida’s trusty bow and arrow, a symbol of her strength and independence, and turns her from a girl to a young woman dressed in an off-the-shoulder version of the provocative, glitzy gown she hated in the movie.”
  • The Latest on the Women in SFF Debate: Roundup of links about the recent debate on recognition for female authors of sci-fi/fantasy.
  • Using Python to see how the NY Times writes about men and women: “If your knowledge of men’s and women’s roles in society came just from reading last week’s New York Times, you would think that men play sports and run the government. Women do feminine and domestic things. To be honest, I was a little shocked at how stereotypical the words used in the women subject sentences were.”
  • Queer in STEM: “A national survey of sexual diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”
  • This 17-Year-Old Coder Is Saving Twitter From TV Spoilers: “Jennie Lamere, a 17-year-old girl, invented the software last month—and won the grand prize at a national coding competition where Lamere was the only female who presented a project, and the only developer to work alone.”
  • A Woman’s Place: “Now, almost 50 years after the birth of an all-female technology company with radically modern working practices, it seems remarkable that the same industry is still fumbling with the issue of gender equality.”

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

It’s a Linkspam! (11 December 2012)

  • Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy: “History is not a long series of centuries in which men did all the interesting/important things and women stayed home and twiddled their thumbs in between pushing out babies, making soup and dying in childbirth. History is actually a long series of centuries of men writing down what they thought was important and interesting, and FORGETTING TO WRITE ABOUT WOMEN. It’s also a long series of centuries of women’s work and women’s writing being actively denigrated by men. Writings were destroyed, contributions were downplayed, and women were actively oppressed against, absolutely.”
  • PSA: Your Default Narrative Settings Are Not Apolitical: “Which leads me back to the issue of prejudice: specifically, to the claim that including such characters in SFF stories, by dint of contradicting the model of straight, white, male homogeneity laid down by Tolkien and taken as gospel ever since, is an inherently political – and therefore suspect – act. To which I say: what on Earth makes you think that the classic SWM default is apolitical?”
  • Why Talking About Character Gender Still Matters (Even Though It Shouldn’t): “As much as I want gender to not matter, the stories I consume typically tell me otherwise, and I think that’s worth talking about. Not because women view female characters as superior to male characters, or because we want to do away with male-led stories entirely… All I want is a game culture (or really, a storytelling culture) in which things like Omega don’t strike me as unusual.”
  • The Python Software Foundation Code Of Conduct: “What we are seeing is a fundamental shift in the awareness that we need to be more welcoming, more open to those who do not make the majority of our community. We need to have workshops, we need to be more inviting. We need to lower the barrier of entry of contribution. We need to make safe havens for those who want to contribute but who are scared and intimidated by the status quo. This includes men, women – everyone.”
  • Got your new debit card!!!: Automatic-educating for digital security over Twitter: “I’ve been responding to as many tweets as I can, like chucking beached starfish back into the sea. But it’s occurred to me that if it was so easy to find and retweet the original card posts in a chaotic-neutral way, that could lead either to posters getting warned or to their card details being stolen, it would also be trivial to code a bot to respond to @NeedADebitCard and warn the posters to cancel their cards.”
  • SciGirls: the right way to do it: “The creators have obviously paid careful attention to research about girls’ interest and participation in science. Science is portrayed as a social activity – the girls work together as a team, have fun together, and comment on their social processes. They use science to support a concrete practical goal. And because role models have been found to be highly important for girls, in each episode, they seek out a female scientist to mentor them.”
  • The Truth About ‘Pink’ and ‘Blue’ Brains: “Janet Hyde, a pioneer in this area, did a meta-analysis of meta-analyses that combined the results of 7,084 separate studies. She found evidence for a large or very large difference on 8% of characteristics and evidence for medium-sized differences on 15%. She found evidence for small differences on another 48%… For the final 30% of characteristics, she found no evidence gender difference. So, on 78% of characteristics, she found teensy differences or none at all. Wow, “opposite sexes” indeed.”

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Pillar covered by colourful advertising bills

Maiden, mother and linkspam (6th December, 2011)

  • The Ada Initiative is holding an AdaCamp in Melbourne, Australia on January 14 for everyone interested in supporting women in open tech and culture, from wikis to open government to digital liberties to open source. Applications to attend close December 14.
  • GNOME Outreach Program for Women Participants Continue to Impress: The accomplishments of the women who participated in Google Summer of Code this year are impressive. For example, Nohemi Fernandez implemented a full-featured on-screen keyboard for GNOME Shell, which makes it possible to use GNOME 3.2 on tablets.
  • How not to market science to girls: This is an apparently successful Australian company that sells science kits for kids. That’s great, and some of the kits look pretty good. The problem is, they split some of the kits into ones for boys, and ones for girls. And that split is exactly what you think.
  • It’s 1980 and women’s writing is being dismissed: Quote from Ben Bova: Neither as writers nor as readers have you raised the level of science fiction a notch. Women have written a lot of books about dragons and unicorns, but damned few about future worlds in which adult problems are addressed.
  • Repost: What I Thought About Twilight: And the verdict is… surprisingly not terrible… My conclusion is that one of the things that I think makes it popular with teenagers also negates some of the moral panic argument: Bella’s agency.
  • Women in Open Source Survey: We all know about the challenges that open source software faces when it comes to women, and the number of women in the open source world actually has been a frequent argument of discussion and research… [Sourceforge] just launched a survey based on the original FLOSSPOLS 10 questions.
  • Scientific American Defends Marie Curie—and Women Scientists—in 1911: As the first woman editor in chief of Scientific American, I’m keenly aware of the sense of standing on the shoulders of giants—some of them clearly frequented our editorial offices in 1911. I thought you’d enjoy in its entirety an editorial that ran in the January 21, 1911 issue.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Pillar covered by colourful advertising bills

A merry linkspamming band (1st September, 2011)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Wall of Spam, by freezelight on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Linkspamming saves lives (3rd August, 2011)

  • A timely reminder: are you running a blog? Make automated backups and store them on a different server to your blog in case of disaster. For WordPress, two plugins that will email you backups on a schedule are Online Backup for WordPress (both database and WordPress installation) and WordPress Database Backup (database only).
  • Pseudonyms:
    • My Name Is Me: Be Yourself Online. Statements in support of pseudonymity. Share the link, and if you are well-known or respected and support the use of nicknames or pseudonyms online, consider making a statement.
    • Electronic Frontier Foundation: A Case for Pseudonyms: It is not incumbent upon strict real-name policy advocates to show that policies insisting on the use of real names have an upside. It is incumbent upon them to demonstrate that these benefits outweigh some very serious drawbacks.
  • Women, Let’s Claim Wikipedia! : Ms Magazine Blog: I believe that more women would be involved in editing Wikipedia if it were a social activity, rather than an insular one, so I hosted a WikiWomen party at my house to make the experience collaborative. In attendance were five female chemists: myself, Anna Goldstein, Rebecca Murphy, Chelsea Gordon and Helen Yu. We started the night with a dinner, over which we discussed the experience of being a graduate student and how writing for Wikipedia compares to teaching undergraduates.
  • In praise of Joanne Rowling’s Hermione Granger series, praising the series that wasn’t, and The Further Adventures of Hermione Granger
  • Factors Influencing Participant Satisfaction with Free/Libre and Open Source Software Projects:

    The purpose of this research was to identify factors that affect participants’ satisfaction with their experience of a free/libre open source software (FLOSS) project. […] The central research question it answered was, What factors influence participant satisfaction with a free/libre and open source application software project? […] These suggest that being able to be an active participant in a FLOSS project is one factor that should be examined, and therefore the first sub-question this project answers is, What types of contributions do participants make to free/libre and open source software projects? […] Do the factors that influence satisfaction vary for different types of participation? If so, in what way?

  • New Toronto Initiative Supports First-Time Female Game Developers – Torontoist: A new program, the Difference Engine Initiative, to support women wanting to make their first video game will be starting up in Toronto next month.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Wall of Spam, by freezelight on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Flying by the seat of my linkspam (29th July, 2011)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Playing the linkspam card (4th June, 2011)

  • Why White Men Should Refuse to Be on Panels of All White Men: If white, male elites started saying, I will not participate in your panel, event, or article if it is all about white men, chances are these panels and articles would quickly dry up—or become more diverse.
  • Not Exactly Avatar Secrets: A Critique of Ramona Pringle’s Research: Ramona Pringle does “research” into people finding love in online games. Flavor Text is not impressed: I think the main issue I take with this – and you addressed it earlier on Twitter – is that the whole thing just smacks of “gamers are human beings, too!” as if this is somehow news. The sky is blue! Fire still hot! Gamers capable of social interaction and forming meaningful relationships!
  • While we’re talking about Flickr groups (This is what a computer scientist looks like is now at 55 photos and counting), photogs here might like to contribute to the New Feminine group, for a diverse range of images of women that show femininity as other than submissive and sexualised.
  • Deconstructing Pointy-Eared White Supremacists: What do we know about elves? They are, generally, portrayed as the ideal: more magical, more beautiful, more in tune with nature. They are older than you but almost immortal… Elves are also very, very white.
  • A Bright Idea – Hack a Day: Our submitter writes: Woman comes up with nifty idea. Site reports about her. Comments filled with the usual She’s hot; and all important Why doesn’t she have a degree?
  • RIP Rosalyn S. Yalow, 89, Nobel winning medical physicist: Dr. Yalow, a product of New York City schools and the daughter of parents who never finished high school, graduated magna cum laude from Hunter College in New York at the age of 19 and was the college’s first physics major. Yet she struggled to be accepted for graduate studies. In one instance, a skeptical Midwestern university wrote: She is from New York. She is Jewish. She is a woman.
  • From 2008 (hey, it’s recent in academic terms…) Budden et al Double-blind review favours increased representation of female authors, Trends in Ecology & Evolution: in 2001, double-blind review was introduced by the journal Behavioral Ecology. Following this policy change, there was a significant increase in female first-authored papers, a pattern not observed in a very similar journal that provides reviewers with author information
  • Tropebusting: Matriarchies in Gaming and Sci-Fi/Fantasy: The most prevalent of these tropes is that Matriarchies are Evil, like really, really super-duper EVIL. (Also, hey, bonus elves…)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.