Tag Archives: sci fi

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.

Quick Hit: New Taylor Swift fanvid “Pipeline” calls out tech industry on diversity hypocrisy

As Julie Pagano put it: “So many ‘diversity in tech’ efforts are about getting young women into the pipeline. Ignore the fact that there’s a meat grinder at the end.” So I’ve made a new fanvid (a type of video art piece): “Pipeline”. It’s a little over 3 minutes long and cuts together about 50 different sources over Taylor Swift’s song “Blank Space”. Specifically, this fanvid uses clips from documentaries, glossy Hollywood depictions of hackers, comics, code school ads, and the Geek Feminism wiki’s Timeline of Incidents to critique this dynamic. It just premiered at the WisCon Vid Party a few hours ago.

My launch blog post on Dreamwidth goes into more detail and includes a comprehensive list of video.

Download: on Google Drive (165 MB high-resolution MP4 file, 23 MB low-resolution MP4 file, 98 MB AVI file), or at Critical Commons with login (high- and low-res MP4 and WebM files)
Stream: at Critical Commons (choose View High Quality for best experience)
Lyrics subtitles file: http://www.harihareswara.net/vids/pipeline.srt (you can download this and then ask your video playing app to use it as a subtitles track)

It’s under the license Creative Commons BY-SA; please feel free to redistribute, link, remix, and so on, as long as you attribute me as the vidder, and license your derivative work under the same license. Comments are welcome, though moderated.

1. Linkspam 2. Linkspam 3. ??? 4. Profit (12 November 2013)

  • 13-year-old Amy Mather on how she started coding with the Raspberry Pi | Wired Technology: [Video] “Watch Clive Beale and 13-year-old Amy Mather discuss how they took an established concept and edited it to reflect their own original ideas. Mather is a computer programmer who has become famous in the Raspberry Pi community for being a passionate advocate for coding using the tiny computer.”
  • The Ethics of Mob Justice | In These Times: [Warning for discussion of harassment] “Thanks to the Internet, and its capabilities for raining Hell down on strangers, every one of us is being forced to decide how our morals about refraining from offensive behavior and causing harm extend to cover people who are offensive and even harmful.”
  • From the Linux Australia Debate: The Experience of Women in Information Technology | Lev Lafayette: “In an environment where women, from a young age, face constant denigration for even having the temerity to engage in the profession of information technology, where their presence is mocked, their opinions devalued, etc., it is not surprising that one result among the bold and the few that survive this screening process, that they want to create groups, internships, and so forth to help provide a supportive environment against very difficult odds. Some may complain against such exclusiveness on principle; and it is quickly acknowledged to be a fine principle. If this is the case, then perhaps review such groups having a required experience for application. That is, a certain internship it is not reserved for a woman because they are a woman, but because they have experience as a woman in this social environment.”
  • Why Pinterest Is Seriously Valuable (and What It’s Teaching Men in Power) | Medium: “Pinterest isn’t for everyone. But I think it bears noting that it’s overwhelmingly men who make this comment about Pinterest: “I don’t get the appeal.” Sure, I’ve made that comment about a hundred apps that have gone on to acquire absolutely huge user bases — mostly men in roughly the same demographics as the apps’ creators. But what I don’t do is dismiss the app’s ability to find a market. I simply acknowledge that I’m not their target market.”
  • Introduction: Science Fiction and the Feminist Present | ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media & Technology: “Feminist science fiction, in the collective analysis of the writers gathered here, proves to be a diverse and amorphous category in which real and imagined science and technology bleed into one another. The essays call attention to the ways in which fictions and realities of scientific speculation shape how we experience the nexus of gender, new media, and technology––from the gendered history of physics to the migration of brain-scanning technology out of laboratories and into the world, from imagined visions of reproductive technologies to sentient robots to the social consequences of cataclysmic change in urban landscapes.”
  • Testy | Alison Bechdel: ” […] at one school I visited recently, someone pointed out that the Test is really just a boiled down version of Chapter 5 of A Room of One’s Own, the “Chloe liked Olivia” chapter. I was so relieved to have someone make that connection. I am pretty certain that my friend Liz Wallace, from whom I stole the idea in 1985, stole it herself from Virginia Woolf. Who wrote about it in 1926.”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on 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.

The Velveteen Linkspam (13 Aug 2013)

  • “If I Can’t Have a Hugo Fan Award, Then No One Can!”: “This campaign to dismantle the Hugo Fan Awards lest they fall into enemy fans is not just toxic, selfish and reprehensible, it is an attempt to slam the doors of fandom shut in the face of yet another generation of passionate and devoted fans.”
  • Snarky comebacks for sexists in academia: Captain Awkward takes apart “you’re only here because of affirmative action”.
  • Sexual Harassment Conversations, in Comic Form: Jim C. Hines hits the nail on the head with the responses women receive when reporting (or not reporting) sexual harassment [Warning: the comments contain exactly the apologia the comic is mocking]
  • My experience with game industry hiring: “The final answer was that culture matters most and I didn’t fit into their culture. What would that culture be, if not being a gamer, technically-inclined, and caring about their company’s products or audience. Looking around the room, it seemed that fitting into that Kulture they were talking about would mean being white and male.”
  • Why Are Female Developers Offered Such Low Salaries?: A company which allows bidding on tech employees by potential employers finds that women generally receive lower bids than men.
  • Sorry, Mario Bros!: … but Princess Toadstool can rescue herself. “The game spans three of Super Mario Bros’ original levels, this time from right to left, as the Princess jumps, stomps, floats, and warps her way from the dark castle dungeon up to the bright and wonderful Mushroom Kingdom, proving that female protagonists can be just as awesome as male protagonists.”
  • Debunking the ‘gender brain’ myth: ” ‘In the majority of cases, the differences between the sexes are either non-existent or they are so small so as to be of no practical importance in, for example, an educational setting’ “
  • On The Border: An Interview with Heather Logos: The Border House interviews Heather Logos, who has worked in the games industry as a contractor, an academic and a game designer at Telltale Games.
  • The Banal, Insidious Sexism of Smurfette: “Today, a blockbuster children’s movie can invoke 50-year-old gender stereotypes with little fear of a powerful feminist backlash.”

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on 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.