Women Destroy Science Fiction! This Kickstarter Will Wreck Everything!

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Courtesy of Lightspeed Magazine.

On January 15, Lightspeed Magazine launched a daring plan: an all-women double issue, to appear online and in e-subscription. To fund the project, guest editor Christie Yant and her team set a Kickstarter goal of $5,000. They came up with great rewards and described their goals:

It could be said that women invented science fiction; after all, Mary Shelley wrote what is considered by many to be the first science fiction novel (Frankenstein). Yet some readers seem to have this funny idea that women don’t–or can’t–write science fiction. Some have even gone so far as to accuse women of destroying science fiction with their girl cooties. So to help prove how silly that notion is, LIGHTSPEED MAGAZINE‘s June 2014 issue–our fourth anniversary issue–will be a Women Destroy Science Fiction! special issue.

Then, they pushed the Kickstarter button and waited to hear what the public had to say.

Kickstarter Alert: SwapBots Augmented Reality

They didn’t have to wait long. Their project, “Women Destroy Science Fiction!,” funded its first level in less than 24 hours. It was faster than I could post the project to GeekMom’s Fund This section.

Now they’ve decided to expand their horizons. Now women will destroy all genres: science fiction, fantasy, horror… the sky’s the limit.  GeekMom asked Christie to talk about the amazing project. Read on, my fellow genre-fiction fans, but be sure to head over and support the Kickstarter—and drive that number into the stratosphere. (Because women not only destroy science fiction, we like to read it too. A lot.)

GeekMom: Hi Christie! Thanks for talking with us. Tell me about the future.

Christie Yant: Well, it’s so bright, I gotta wear sha… no, wait, that’s probably not what you’re asking.

The future of science fiction really is bright, though, because it’s expanding, and with it, its readership—and I think that’s in large part due to the participation and recognition of under-represented groups and genre-blending books and stories that aren’t easily categorized. The internet allows us to find creators and books we might not have heard of before, because they were previously buried under the more-of-the-same that marketing departments are convinced we want.

GM: You said in your editorial declaration for the “Women Destroy Science Fiction!” issue: “They do not get to make me quit.” Can you talk about that a little more? What does that mean for everyone writing today? What does that mean for lovers of science fiction?

CY: Sometimes the amount of “you can’t” and “you shouldn’t” that gets thrown at us just gets overwhelming, and I start to think, “Why bother?” It doesn’t last very long. I’m not very good being told I can’t do something.

And it’s not just writing SF, of course. As women, we’re told constantly that we can’t and we shouldn’t, whether it’s about our choice to marry or not, to have children or not, to have careers or not, to pursue our dreams or not. We’re told in a hundred ways that our priorities are wrong, that we should subsume our own goals in the support of others’, that the inequities we face are just the way it is, and we should be grateful because it used to be much worse.

I am grateful. I think many of us are, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to make it better.

Your readers may already be aware of what’s known as the Russ Challenge, after Joanna Russ, who wrote How to Suppress Women’s Writing. The premise of the Russ Challenge is that we all—all, including women—have been socially conditioned to accept “male” as “default” and “better,” and that this deep bias carries over into our reading choices. So the challenge is to seek out and read only books by women for a year. I had heard of this before, but the need for it didn’t really sink in until I had this unnerving moment while trying to decide which of two collections I was going to read next: Ted Chiang’s or Karen Joy Fowler’s. I had no information about either of them, other than people generally recommending them both. I reached for Chiang, and stopped, and asked myself “Why?” And I realized that the bias existed in me, too.

It’s about changing the “default” by making the work of women visible. So I will not quit. I won’t quit writing science fiction, because every story I write is one more added to the aggregate of SF written by women. And I won’t quit trying to make the work of other women visible. I hope that this special issue will be a good start.

GM: “Women Destroy Science Fiction!” seems like a good step forward in how to *unsuppress* women’s writing. When the project proves popular (and I think it already has), are there plans for the project to clone itself and *devour* science fiction?

CY: We like SF way too much to totally devour it. And there are so many other things to destroy! The legendary Ellen Datlow is anxiously waiting to destroy horror and Cat Rambo, the former editor of Fantasy Magazine, is eager to destroy fantasy as well. We’re close to meeting our first stretch goal, which would put Ellen at the helm of “Women Destroy Horror” (which, as our publisher noted in the announcement, totally has it coming), and we still have plenty of time to reach the next stretch goal and bring Cat back for “Women Destroy Fantasy.” They’re both amazing editors and fantastic human beings. I would love to see what they do with the projects.

GM: What do you see as your editorial philosophy for this project?

CY: Science fiction is vast, and it doesn’t fit in a tidy box. The stories I’m looking for are what I consider strong examples of some of the most far-flung reaches of SF: SF that verges on horror, SF of an alternate past (steampunk), folkloric SF…as well as great examples of more traditional tropes. One of the complaints we’ve heard is that we’re not writing science fiction, we’re writing romance disguised as SF, or fantasy disguised as SF, or…whatever. To that I say no your definition of SF is simply too narrow. I believe that it’s the hugeness of the genre that makes it great. There is something for everybody under the umbrella of SF.

GM: Can you tell me a bit about those folks already involved in “Women Destroy Science Fiction?”

CY: When I was asked to take on the editorial role, I knew immediately who I wanted working on it with me. I emailed them and then refreshed my email obsessively until I got the replies, and then there was a lot of triumphant shouting involved.

Robyn Lupo has been with Lightspeed since 2011 and has been hands-on with the editorial team for all that time. We’ve been counterparts as assistant editors for years and have a great rapport. When we talked about making room for more women by opening to flash fiction for the first time, she jumped at the chance to act as flash fiction editor for the issue. She’s hoping to find stories that are elegant, surprising, and that use the shortest form to make the biggest impact.

I asked Rachel Swirsky—award-winning author and previously an editor herself—to join us as reprint editor because she’s one of the most well-read people I know. She has an educated understanding of the history of the field, and specifically of women in the field. She’s teased me a bit with a few of the stories she’s considering, and they would all be fantastic additions. She’s looking at both the established canon and reprint submissions from newer authors. There is no one I would trust more to find them.

Gabrielle de Cuir is an astonishingly talented, Grammy-nominated voice actor and producer, and I am thrilled to have her producing the podcast for this issue. She keeps coming back with more ideas: Bigger! Better! More stories! More women! Her enthusiasm is boundless and she is going to make this podcast one to remember.

And our podcast will be hosted by Mur Lafferty, who was a pioneer in the field of podcast novels. She’s been podcasting longer than most people have known what a podcast even was. I confess I may have geeked out a tiny bit when she accepted. I listened to her show I Should Be Writing pretty religiously, and was always so impressed by her! I never would have guessed back then that I’d get to work with her on a project like this some day. [Read GeekMom’s profile of Mur.]

And of course, you want to know who our contributors are. We actually haven’t announced any of them yet! Hm…do I tell?

GM: Heck Yes! 

CY: Okay, just one, for now: I have a story in hand from Seanan McGuire (and she seemed only slightly disappointed that I was merely asking her to write a story, and not actually acquire demolition materials).

Maybe one more? Maria Dahvana Headley will have a seriously destructive story in the issue as well.

There are more to come! One of the fun things about this issue, for me anyway, is the combination of getting stories from the women I solicited for the project, as well as finding great things in our open submissions from authors I don’t know.

But there are so many more people involved! Lightspeed‘s new managing editor, Wendy Wagner, for instance. She worked for Fantasy Magazine before it was merged with Lightspeed, and we’re so happy she’s back! She’s behind the blog posts that are going up daily at the Kickstarter. We heard from so many women who just wanted to do something to support the project and many of them offered to blog, so Wendy rounded them up and organized this part of the project. Every day she posts a new essay by a woman in SF. Some of them are heartening and optimistic, some of them make me cry—but it’s so wonderful to hear the voices and experiences of so many, and know that we are not alone.

GM: Please issue a call to arms for GeekMom readers…

CY: I think that this, which with I concluded our formal announcement, says it all:

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Photo: Christie Yant.

Women of Science Fiction, don your space suits; set up your lab equipment; fire up your boiler; perform your pre-flight inspection. Spread your girl cooties all over that rocket ship, Mars colony, or deadly bacterial slime. Your sisters are beside you.

Now let’s go wreck some shit.

Christie Yant is a science fiction and fantasy writer and assistant editor for Lightspeed Magazine. Her fiction has appeared in anthologies and magazines including Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2011 (Horton), Armored, Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, io9, Wired.com, and China’s Science Fiction World. Her work has received honorable mentions in Year’s Best Science Fiction (Dozois) and Best Horror of the Year (Datlow), and has been long-listed for StorySouth’s Million Writers Award. She lives on the central coast of California with two writers, an editor, and assorted four-legged nuisances. Follow her on Twitter @christieyant.

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Fran Wilde writes science fiction and fantasy. Her first novel, Updraft (Tor, 2015) is called 'Soaring' by Publishers' Weekly and Barnes & Noble SFF blog, while NPR Books says it was "one of the most original fantasy novels I've read this year." Her next novel, Cloudbound releases in September. Fran's short stories appear at Asimov's, Nature, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Tor.com. She writes for publications including The Washington Post, SFSignal, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, iO9.com, and GeekMom.com/GeekDad.com. She can also program digital minions, tie most of the sailor's knot board, and re-load a fountain pen without spattering herself with ink (usually). She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and their tween-minecraft fanatic / book addict / budding Scratch programmer.