A. M. Dellamonica, 2014, photo by Kelly Robson
Joanna Russ was one of those people you had to read, as a young feminist geek. Not just How to Suppress Women’s Writing, (though obviously How to Suppress Women’s Writing). The Female Man, We Who Are About To…, and The Adventures of Alyx were all so intrinsic to my experience of growing up, coming out, and realizing who I was going to be as I moved through the world that I cannot imagine doing without them. One need only look at the way I tweaked the spelling of my first name to see how deep the influence went.
So it will come to as no surprise to anyone that I am thrilled beyond words to announce that my first ever foray into the world of editing will be as the guest editor of the 2016 Heiresses of Russ: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction series. I will be doing this for Lethe Press with the inimitable Steve Berman.
In case you haven’t heard of it before, this is a reprint anthology. I have already begun reading, albeit slowly, because I am under a mountain of grading so high it requires supplemental oxygen. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and so far it has been a delight.
Projects like this are labors of love. I have fond memories of shipping off manuscripts to Nicola Griffith and Steve Pagel for Bending the Landscape, as a dykey baby SF writer. It was a really different world, or so it seemed. Books like BtL were the Queers Destroy Science Fiction (and Fantasy and Horror) of their time, and it seems apparent to me that if people like Nicola and Steve hadn’t been bending things then, we might not be in a position to destroy anything now. Anyway, whenever I find myself despairing about the state of the world (as I think we all do) I count up our wins. For me the jewel in the queer rights crown is marriage equality, long a development I thought I would not live to see. And now my government is apparently tabling transgendered rights legislation. I suddenly have to wonder if I’m living in a magical world of Oz.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of broke in the world, so much still in need of fixing. And even wins don’t remain wins if you don’t keep an eye on them. Progress is like a newly shingled roof; time passes, the elements attack and something that seemed so very secure starts springing leaks and throwing shingles. We see this with every political gain… there’s always someone keen to try to roll it back.
And so, in this remarkable year when women swept the Nebula Awards, I want to just open up a can of nostalgia and smell a few of those chapter headings Joanna Russ used to splatter my worldview across a student newspaper office one day in 1985:
She wrote it, but look what she wrote about.
She wrote it, but she shouldn’t have.
She wrote it, but she isn’t really an artist, and it isn’t really art.
Remember that? Screw that. Write what you shouldn’t, people! Projects like Heiresses of Russ: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction are just one way to nail down the shingles, to keep the the rain off as we figure out how to build out the house, to widen the circle to an ever more wonderful and diverse group of writers.
photo by Kelly Robson
The Ad Astra science fiction convention is happening this weekend, and there’s going to be a ton of great programming. Guests of Honor Include Tom Doherty, Jack Whyte, Sandra Kasturi, Brett Savory, and Catherine Asaro.
As for me, here’s when you can find me:
Saturday April 30
- 1:00 p.m. Modern Anxieties and Post-Apocalyptic Landscapes.
- 6:00 p.m. SF Reading with Derwin Mak, Madeline Ashby, and Kelly Robson.
- 7:00 p.m. Loving the Villain .
Sunday May 1st
- 1:00 p.m. Non-Fiction for the SF or Fantasy Writer .
I love meeting readers, writers, students and fans so do come on over, if you’re inclined, and say hello.
Writing the Fantastic, my July course offering at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, is now open for registration. You can find the full course description and syllabus here, but here are the highlights:
This course expands the study of science fiction and fantasy writing to include both short and novel-length fiction. Infusing a narrative with originality and fantastic literature’s much-discussed “Sense of Wonder”–while at the same time preserving its clarity and heart–is a juggling act that can test a writer’s skills to the utmost. Writing the Fantastic places emphasis on meeting this challenge by merging the otherworldly content of speculative fiction with humane, emotionally powerful storytelling. Through exercises and readings, students deepen their understanding of the speculative subgenres: alternate history, time-travel, horror, dark fantasy, sword and sorcery, urban fantasy, sociological science fiction, and hard science fiction.
UCLA has tons of great classes and instructors if you’ve already taken this one. The popular stuff fills up fast, so browse now, browse often. My classes, especially my summer offerings, are intended to work as alternatives to something like Clarion or Clarion West, in case this isn’t the year when you can take six weeks off work, or preparation for same. WTF, as I like to call it, is one of the classes that qualifies you to take the Advanced SF Workshop that I also run, periodically, through the program.
Cover image for “The Nature of a Pirate,” by Cynthia Sheppard
As I dictate these words, I am sitting on the Go train, headed to UTSC to pick up some things I left in the sessional office. Even though I am teaching in summer, too, they clean out everything between quarters… which makes sense, if they don’t want the shared office to become a cluttered den of crap. It’s a good task for what I hope will be my last day of reduced activity due to the cold. An almost recreational commute, a quick errand, and then back home to see what else I can make of the day.
Next term I will be on campus Thursday afternoons and evenings for the next level of the same speculative fiction class. I am excited about being there, both for the sake of the teaching, which is delightful, but also to see what it is like there in the summer. Fewer icicle photos, more flowers, is my guess.
In other pleasing news, I am currently up for two awards: A Daughter of No Nation is nominated in the Best English Novel category for an Aurora Award, and I am in the running for something called the K.M. Hunter Artist Award. Kelly’s novella “Waters of Versailles,” meanwhile, is in the running for an Aurora too, in the Best English Short Fiction category. If the cool around our house runs any deeper, we will have to issue hip waders at the door.
I am pleased and excited to say that Caitlin Blasdell of the Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency has taken me on as a client.
My previous agent has been in the process of retiring for some time, and while I knew a change would be good for me both personally and professionally, I was looking forward to seeking out a new agent/author relationship with all the joy one brings to the prospect of a triple root canal, sans anesthetic. I hate transition rather passionately.
In the end–and as such things generally are–the search was nothing like I imagined. And, incidentally, nothing like dental work. In fact, it was a process that yielded up some really good writing, and promises, I think, to inspire still more. That’s an outcome that leaves me very happy indeed.