Tag Archives: SF fandom

quick hits: enterprising women (see what i did there?)

One of my formative geek experiences was watching Star Trek with my Dad, so when the reboot came out this summer I watched it with a huge mob of friends and a childlike glee. That moment where a young James Tiberius Kirk looks out over the Iowa cornfields to what will become the USS Enterprise? The hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

Zoë Saldaña’s kickass reinvention of Uhura was another big part of that delight. I was a bit surprised to find that not everyone shared my neo-Uhura love, and greatly relieved when Rebellious Jezebel and Rawles laid out strong arguments in favour.

Much more problematic (=bullshit) were the characterizations of Kirk’s and Spock’s mothers, both swiftly consigned to refrigerators to give Our Heroes matter on which to brood. You may imagine how much I appreciated Latropita’s open letter to Winona Kirk: “Who wouldn’t want to hear your stories?” That plaint inspired a whole LJ community, Where No Woman, dedicated to those untold stories.

In her provocative and memorable meta-fic, Bravecows reminds us that however shiny our future may be, our stories will not all be the same.

“Don’t think I don’t believe in Starfleet,” said Sharanjeet. “I think our kind of job is very important also. But a lot of you young people just come in thinking about all the holo-movie you see. You think you’re going to have adventure like all the starship captain you hear about. You don’t really know what to expect. But you know, when you come onboard a Starfleet ship and the computer cannot understand your accent, you really have to start to wonder.”

Revenge of the Link Roundup (August 17th, 2009)

Geek & feminist thoughts on “In The Loop”

I saw the political satire In The Loop a few days back.  It passes the Bechdel test — how novel — and it struck me as a fairly geek-oriented film.

We geeks like our entertainment as plot/banter firehose with subtle, unspoken worldbuilding. That’s what In The Loop (and its predecessor TV show, The Thick of It) deliver — that and social engineering.  You get to watch people scheme, performing ad hoc systems analysis to solve the puzzle of their immediate predicament.  It’s like Leverage without the wish-fulfillment or Hardison, Elliot or Parker.  (In the geeky-banter category, In The Loop has characters mock Toby (Chris Addison) by calling him “Frodo,” “Ron Weasley,” and “baby from Eraserhead.”)

One of my geekeries is politics, specifically organizational behavior and the power of institutions. In The Loop argues that the media/governing apparatus functions as one homeostatic institution, where any demonstration of the pettier human weaknesses (e.g., status-seeking, frustration, lust, loathing) leads to an instant barrage of bad press and gives your enemies leverage. It’s a marvelous system, really, and ultra-efficient: if you think you’ve found some room to maneuver, some opportunity for arbitrage, you’re wrong and your audacity will be punished. It’s a power structure that guards itself against change, and will only ever pay lip service to feminism and anti-racism. A dark vision, but the film left me laughing.

Warning: Sexist and homophobic insults pervade the dialogue from start to finish.This would have bothered me more if I’d thought the insults were more substance than form; the viciousness was so over-the-top that I couldn’t take it seriously. But some people will find it distasteful or triggering.

Software geekery: Late in the film, two users across the Atlantic from each other open their laptops and work on the same document simultaneously, one telling the other via phone what to delete or rearrange. I immediately thought, If only they were using AbiWord’s document-sharing plugin, they could collaborate in realtime using Telepathy integration!

If The West Wing and Star Trek are idealistic, meritocratic wish fulfillment, and In The Loop is a cynical response to West Wing-style idealism, then what’s the bitter-laugh counterpart to Star Trek? Potential candidates:

Link roundup, 13 August 2009

Fairly recent items from around the web:

Green, by Jay Lake

Green, by Jay Lake

  • The Hathor Legacy reviews and recommends “Green” by Jay Lake, a new fantasy novel about a young, bisexual woman of colour.
  • K. Tempest Bradford on Creating Better Magazines (and Anthologies): “The present and the future of the genre and the community is not just heterosexual, able-bodied, upper or middle-class American or British white males. The future of SF is made up of women and people of color, and people of various cultures and classes, and LGBT folks, and non-Americans and non-Western nationalities (China, India, the Philippines, to name just three).”
  • Editorial work is hard, asshole. “This response to Tempest’s post (above) reads like a list of things I wish had thought to put on the tips for finding women speakers.” – Skud
  • Trigger warning Harriet Jacobs of Fugitivus recounts in Two More Things how a fellow D&D roleplayer of allegedly liberal beliefs made constant misogynist jokes in character.
  • Socialogical Images: a collection of items related to gender and science/tech topics.
  • OTW: two early fan-written Star Trek novels by Jane Land are now available online through the Open Doors project. “Kista (1986), a novel about Christine Chapel, was described by the author as, ‘an attempt to rescue one of Star Trek’s female characters from an artificially-imposed case of foolishness.'”
  • The nonprofit scifi/fantasy magazine Strange Horizons needs to raise about $5500 more in its annual fund drive.  One of the most women-friendly pro markets in our genre: the editors publish more fiction by female than male authors, and have been considering gender issues in SF publishing for a while.
  • Girls have less free time to play video games than boys do.  ”Our findings suggest that one reason women play fewer games than men is because they are required to fulfill more obligatory activities, leaving them less available leisure time.”  Comments from Amanda Marcotte and Hugo Schwyzer.  How many girls get as much free, unstructured time to game and hack as their male counterparts?
  • Blogger rawles suggests that it’s more empowering to see Nyota Uhura get the guy in the new Trek movie than it was for her to be single in the original series.  In mainstream media, “[t]his near total invisibility [of black women] is perhaps the very first thing that I think needs to be understood in any feminist discourse about Uhura, but it seems to be the last thing most people talk about.”

Again, if you see something geek-feminist that we should link to in the next roundup, drop us a comment.

fail again, fail better

This week’s science fiction Fail came to us courtesy of a husband-and-wife team: L. Jagi Lamplighter and John C. Wright. Yesterday Skud linked to Jagi’s post-Writercon rant in favour of colourblindness – that is, the practice of not even acknowledging race. The trouble with this position is that it assumes a white default. Today, interestingly, Jagi has apologized to Karnythia and has retracted some of her more egregious positions. That’s a relief, especially as she also mentions she and her husband are in the process of adopting from China.

Unfortunately Jagi’s epiphany coincides with her husband having a highly public and somewhat disturbed meltdown over gay sex. To me, the most perplexing part was this:

Odd as it sounds, I was fully loyal to the sexual revolution as an idea. Then someone tried to convince me that two lesbians licking each other in the crotch was the same in all ways, just as sacred, just as romantic, just as normal, just as beautiful as Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Iseult, Micky and Minnie, Adam and Eve, Jove and Juno, Father Sky and Mother Earth, me and my wife.

Romeo and Juliet: normal? Micky (sic) and Minnie: sacred? (For that matter, oral sex: gross?) But leaving all that aside, what this makes clear to me is how difficult it can be to separate the strands of sexism, homophobia and racism, especially within a given social milieu. Jagi mentions John’s views on race to support her own; John holds up his marriage to Jagi as the ideal to which all of us sexual perverts out here ought to aspire. The comments threads are polarized between their supporters and their angry opponents, with supporters frequently attacking opponents for failing to be sufficiently polite. With the possible exception of Jagi on colourblindness, few minds are changed.

It’s all fairly depressing for your average liberal progressive SF fan (1), but it serves as a salutary reminder of what can happen when people carve out little enclaves for themselves where they can take positions they believe are brave and iconoclastic, and everyone around them provides positive reinforcement. That is, they can fall prey to all kinds of cruel ideas.

Let’s (2) not do that. Let’s not be those people. Let’s think hard about intersectionality, and remind ourselves that while we struggle in one context, as women or feminists or mothers, we’re often hugely privileged in other contexts, as technically adept or educated or white or heterosexual or able-bodied or young or some world-historical jackpot combination of the above. Oppression’s not good for much, but if it doesn’t teach us compassion for people who are differently or multiply oppressed, we’re just not paying attention. The effort is going to suck. It’s going to drain our energy and, for some of us, use up scarce spoons. We’re going to make mistakes and show our asses, but we’re geeks, right? I have faith in us. I just know we can fail better than this.

Edited to add:

(1) That subset of SF fans who happen to be liberal and progressive; clearly, not all SF fans are either.

(2) By “us” here I mean the aforementioned liberal progressive SF fans.

Link roundup

Links? We got ’em. If you see something out there that we should link to in the next go-round, drop us a comment.

Lilac PSP ad - photo by alist on Flickr

Lilac PSP ad - photo by alist on Flickr

Worst con experiences

Wordweaverlynn, over on LiveJournal, has a post asking people about their nightmare con experiences (especially at science fiction conventions, but others too.) It’s not really surprising to read how many of the bad experiences are gender-related:

Sitting squashed together on a bed with a bunch of people watching a show in someone’s room, and being groped on the breast and ass by a friend (who suddenly entered the “former friend” category thereby) who, in his own later words, “didn’t think I’d mind.”


I expect my least favorite might have been getting cornered at a con in Chicago by a fanboy who wanted to rant at me about how women just aren’t as creative as men, he didn’t mean to be offensive but it’s a fact, as you can see by the fact that there has never been a great female writer.


I fell asleep in my room once and woke up to a man I hardly knew groping me and obviously planning to rape me in my sleep. I don’t go to that Con anymore. Someone, somewhere, gave him my room number and told him my last name so he could get a key.


You may have heard of Sailor Moon? The girls in that show wear leotards with skirts similar to what figure skaters often don for competition. Well, apparently I was dressed as someones most lusted after character, because in browsing post-con reports I found out some man with a camera had followed me around for a good 20 minutes or more taking upskirt photos of me and zoom in shots off my butt while I was waiting for my friends. I was mortified. I’m still mortified. These are my fellow fen?!?!

Thank god for Girl Wonder’s Con Anti-Harrassment Project, is all I can say. You can take a look at their database of cons that have anti-harrassment policies, and join their letter-writing campaign to encourage more cons to have a policy.