Saturday, May 31, 2008

20th Annual Lambda Literary Awards

I'm a little slow to have seen this, so maybe others have been, too. In case you hadn't heard, an Aqueduct author and a couple of Aqueduct's friends were awarded Lammies two nights ago:

Nicola Griffith's And Now We Are Going to Have a Party won in the Women's Memoir/Biography category and Richard Labonte and Lawrence Schimel's First Person Queer won in the LGBT anthology category. (The complete list of winners can be found here.

Congratulations, Nicola! Congratulations Lawrence and Richard!

WisCon 32 Panel 6: "It's Not About Identity"

At four on Friday, 23 May, I attended my first-ever Science Fiction Convention Panel, “It’s Not About Identity,” featuring Sylvia Kelso, L. Timmel Duchamp, Andrea Hairston, Lauren Lacey, and Joan Haran.

UPDATE: Fellow Aqueduct blogger Micole, who is an older hand at this, has posted her own notes and comments on the panel. They are brilliant: the comments at the end are particularly astute --she has the courage to express disagreements that I've only hinted at below.

UPDATE II: Timmi Duchamp reflects.

UPDATE III:
Liz Henry's notes cover aspects of the panel that neither Micole nor I mention.


Moderator Duchamp spoke of the elision of class and race in the “we” of second-wave feminism and the challenge to that elision leveled by the Combahee River Collective. She was very excited at the time to read of interlocking oppressions, as she had seen her own working-class origins elided in the claims that groups styling themselves “Women’s Organizations” made on behalf of “all women.”

HARAN: We need to be particular and located. My engagement with feminism comes from a different local culture. You bore people to tears by assuming people have the same experience and priorities as you. And if you’re not located, you run a greater risk of your knowledge being appropriated and used against you.

HAIRSTON: I agree with everything: I’m in the Amen Corner here. I come in as an artist, a director in a field my race and gender aren’t associated with. And I’ve seen, for example, a nineteen-year-old white man sitting beside me mortified when people came up to him and said, “You directed that, huh? It was great!” And he had to say, “Uh, no, she directed it.” These assumptions, these categories are our social realities and are constantly in our brains.

LACEY: I’m seeing a backlash against postmodernism. My first impulse is “Don’t assign me to anything –I want to be free of those.” But there’s a movement to reclaim those identities, while keeping the knowledge that these are constructed categories.

KELSO: How do we put these insights into practice? As soon as you go outside your circle of shared values, you have to qualify the word “feminist.”

DUCHAMP: It’s like maintaining double-consciousness.

HARAN: Can postmodernists and poststructuralists really claim to be the ones who discovered constructed categories? We need to historically situate feminisms. Within feminism, there’s been a lot of polemical misrepresentation by some feminists of other feminists.

KELSO: In the 1980’s U.S. feminism got so fissured-up that there was no sense of collectivity.

HAIRSTON: How can we work out a common language or a consensus? When I work with visual artists and see what visual artists do in my field –‘cause having a director in charge of design would be a disaster –I have to learn to compromise with other modes of creativity and to open myself up to what I’m at first uncomprehending of. But we don’t want to say, “What don’t I know? And what can that other group offer me that might allow me to see more?”

DUCHAMP: That’s a great figure for coalition politics. It connects to maintaining awareness of who is included in our “we” and who isn’t.

LACEY: “Transnational” is a word that’s become fashionable in the academic jargon of late, but academics can do a lot when they take their students abroad to learn about the Other –starting with getting them to wonder, “Who made that sweater?” and showing them.

HARAN: Haraway tried hard in the “Cyborg Manifesto” to address coalition politics. But she misrepresents people who ought to be part of the coalition. There are people she doesn’t talk about, and she styles Adrienne Rich a poet without acknowledging that Rich is also a great theoretician. But it’s true that people need to give up on believing that things are resolvable.

DUCHAMP: We need, to use a favorite verb, to bracket some things.

HAIRSTON: We need to relinquish the sense that the world is absolutely knowable and that we’re progressing toward that knowledge. You speak of Adrienne Rich and being categorized as a poet –I had a student who wanted to do a play as a senior project, and I lobbied to have that count instead of, rather than in addition to, a lengthy written thesis; and I kept hearing “Do you really think directing is that much work?” and various questions as to whether the collaborations, the planning, the dramaturgical work, the preparatory research, and so forth weren’t just an attempt on the student’s part to “get away with” not doing the thesis. Finally I persuaded them to recognize that the student’s program notes were “real work.” But my friend the Women’s Studies chair –any production of knowledge that those of us in the theater would take seriously, she’s suspicious of –‘cause it’s Just Art!

NANCY JANE MOORE, in the audience, says she’s convinced art is far superior to theory.

HARAN: Judith Butler has written, “I work in the area of feminist theory, which is not distinct from feminism as a social movement. Feminist theory would have no content were there no movement, and the movement, in its various directions and forms, has always been involved in the act of theory. Theory is an activity that does not remain restricted to the academy. It takes place every time a possibility is imagined, a collective self-reflection takes place, or a dispute over values, priorities, and language emerges."

DUCHAMP: The term “sexual harassment” is an Act of Theory –before its existence, it was impossible to articulate that issue as political.

HAIRSTON: Things that we take for granted, even among people that don’t self-identify as feminists, are a product of theorists, of narrative, of analysis, of consciousness-raising.

KELSO spoke of how she responds to “I’m not a feminist.”

DUCHAMP: So we’ve come up with two strategies: bracketing and respect.

KELSO: We’re just gonna have to learn to compromise somewhere.

DUCHAMP: There are different standpoints.

Audience person: What’s something that’s unresolvable?

LACEY: Female Genital Mutilation

HAIRSTON: Or Female Genital Cutting, to use a less judgmental name.

LACEY: This is one of those Really Hairy Moments where people draw the line –it’s a Local Issue.

Audience: What exactly is it and why are there people in favor of it?

HAIRSTON: Take the Mende, for example –and I’ll try to be as neutral as I can on a practice that I in fact oppose. There’s a whole value system around Initiation, a year-long education process in which the young girl learns to be a woman, that’s sanctioned by the narratives of the society and is very performative. For the Mende, being a child is horrible: you have no rights, you can’t speak –and if you don’t do this, then you aren’t agreeing with all the values, the morals, the community, and you’re ugly too; but if you do, you can proudly say, “I am Mende!” There are women in that society who do say it’s mutilation, but some say it’s all we have left of our culture after Western encroachments.

Audience: Could we add Empathy to the list?

DUCHAMP is delighted.

Audience: Could you clarify what you mean by bracketing?

HARAN explains what it does; DUCHAMP explains why we do it.

Audience: You’re dealing with individual differences. In the many years that I worked for the LGBT Speakers’ Bureau, we were told that you can’t claim to be “speaking for” –it’s just you speaking.

DUCHAMP: It’s good to have more stories, a plurality of narratives.

HAIRSTON spoke of having done a performance piece among refugees in Germany from lands and cultures that were at odds with and stigmatized one another. They had to figure out how to respect one another and were helping each other tell their stories, even though one participant’s story might denounce another participant’s people. And the audience too, when it was performed, would empathize completely with a member of a culture when they’d just heard –and empathized with –the experience of one of its enemies. And a German official said, “Thank you for doing this on our soil.” Which Hairston took to mean that it clarifies the audience’s life too.

HARAN: There’s an analogy in my experience of feminist sf. I can’t do theatre, but reading can also have that effect. And it’s better the more work you have to do, the more you have to do to get into the characters’ heads, the range of genres you have to interpret.

DUCHAMP: Reading works best as a collaboration, when the reader does imaginative work constructing the text.

HAIRSTON: Even writing a novel can do that; but in reading, too, you have to give yourself to the story.

BETH, from the audience: How do we get the feminist narrative out there? The women in my small Wisconsin town know what feminism is from the media and “know” it’s not relevant to them.

DUCHAMP: It’s not part of the public narrative.

LACEY: At best, many of my students think it did all its necessary work long ago.

BETH: But they still accept all the inequities of the patriarchal domestic arrangement.

LACEY: When you start talking about the transnational –Well, what about here? The progressive conclusion, I suppose, is that we all need to think about our lives. But women in Middle America already feel overwhelmed and see it as just another demand on their time and energy.

HAIRSTON: People aren’t happy with what they have but feel it’s inevitable and immutable: consider Kindred. If we believe in change, that you can start out with nothing and figure out strategies –we have to ignite the feeling that change is possible, to get women to figure out what they’d like to do, what they’d like to be . . .

HARAN: Feminism ought to be a social justice project, but Humility is probably another word to add to our list.

KAREN JOY FOWLER, from the audience: Be really strategic about your project and why you need to come together –what you need to bracket, and what you need to want to change.

Audience: Think hard about how to intervene and where to intervene. Working in rural development in Ireland, I’ve had to figure out what’s relevant to the people there and why.

LACEY: Otherwise you’re just perpetuating the problem.

DUCHAMP: Linda Zerilli in Feminism and the Abyss of Freedom says “If there is only the name with which a political collectivity calls itself into existence, then we can never be certain that speaking in that name is correct. Contrary to the claims of feminist standpoint theory, there is no extrapolitical standpoint from which we could determine the correctness of speaking in someone’s name. This means that every such speaking will be inescapably political and open to question. And yet the very fact that a political collectivity such as ‘woman’ must call itself into being from a place where it does not yet exist means that there must be some form of closure. Insofar as second- and third-wave feminist theory has not been wholly blind to this constitutive condition of democratic openness and closure, it has tended to see that condition as installing a crisis at the heart of feminism: posited as a unified category given in advance of politics, ‘women’ generates exclusions; posited as a site of ‘permanent openness and resignifiability,’ ‘women’ precludes the possibility of speaking collectively. Although the tension between openness and closure can be experienced as a crisis for political actors, we have seen that it is also the irreducible condition of feminist and democratic politics.”

HARAN: Sometimes we have to use language “under erasure,” saying things like "women", with a strike-through, to show that we know how problematic and inadequate the term is and are using it provisionally.

HAIRSTON: It’s like the electron: all of our language fails us at the borders of things.

HARAN: There will be times when acting “as women” or speaking “as women” will be what serves . . . there are structures out there that we’re forced to operate in. Just stay conscious of their contingency.

DUCHAMP: self-consciousness, positionality.

HAIRSTON: Here’s why I don’t like academia: Zerilli’s poetry is not up to her ideas. I read things in which the ideas are wonderful, wow, but the language is frustrating. The problem we’re trying to talk about is that of the electron, or of polyrhythm [Hairston begins drumming three-against-two on the table while talking]. My Yoruba percussion teacher showed me that to be a Yoruba drummer is to be able to listen, to talk, and to play different rhythms with each hand: we have to be able to do polyrhythmic thinking. [Audience applauds when she’s done]

LACEY: Zerilli’s point is that our democratic society is based on identity politics –unless we want to make a whole social paradigm shift, we have to think in those terms.

BETH in the audience: We have come in our society to think that it’s a zero-sum game in which there is no we –how do we get around the paradox Butler identifies in Xenogenesis?

LACEY: Maybe it’s like voting Democratic while keeping in mind how much better things could be.

Audience: I don’t know if you noticed it, but the rhythm of Andrea’s speech was affected by her drumming: these things have an impact on one another.

Audience: We live with contradictions all the time and are miseducated from a very early age that they’re not contradictions, which makes us impatient with those contradictions we encounter later on that are not Officially Sanctioned Contradictions.

DUCHAMP: figuring out how to ask the right questions and listen to the answers

KELSO: We think of Foucault’s concept of the Regulatory Ideal as negative, something social structures pressure us toward; but it could be a Good Thing to establish such an ideal and try to get there, so long as you remember that you’re not going to get there.

Audience: What are the possibilities for dealing with irrational actors?

LACEY: The ideal is a social structure that wouldn’t reward such behavior.

HARAN: But be aware that means can become ends.

DUCHAMP: Okay, we have
empathy
respect
humility
self-consciousness
bracketing
compromise (which won't always work)
plurality of narratives/collaborative constructions of narratives
art of conversation
polyrhythmic thinking

I came away from this panel with a pedagogical, a theoretical, and a collegial insight.

PEDAGOGICAL: Just over a dozen years ago, a teacher of mine at Youngstown State defended their Professional Writing and Editing program against its detractors, saying “I’m very proud that it teaches skills that will enable our students to work in strata of society that would otherwise be closed to them.” And that idea became central to my philosophy of teaching freshman comp in grad school; and then, when I came to Temple U, I realized that students tended to want more than that, so I worked on various ways of giving them analytical tools to address the world around them. In particular, I sought to let students know about alternatives to voluntarism: Some students like to argue that “you can achieve anything” and consequently protest against the idea that a fictional protagonist can be constricted by her background and circumstances in her decisions. In such situations, I have had classes confront the question of whether people have complete freedom in defining themselves. Some conclude that one can talk about the limits imposed by social structure without reducing people to passive sufferers or dupes of the machinery of the world; others stick to their original criticisms but are better equipped to argue for their views in a context where they can better articulate what’s at stake.

But it gets tricky: one wants to encourage neither despair nor victim-blaming. Randolph Bourne, whom Lauren Lacey’s remark about the “transnational” reminded me of, demonstrates the problem in his wondrously self-contradictory essay on “The Handicapped”: first he argues that his disability has enabled him always to consider the circumstances of those society would write off as reprobates; then he admonishes his fellow disabled citizens to stop whining and realize what they can do. It’s the old “I won’t attribute an undue level of agency to Others, but I can’t be as flexible with myself and those I identify with –I need for therapeutic reasons to believe in Personal Responsibility as far as my own life is concerned.” How does one address that paradox? It seems to me that a good goal would be to teach students to think about cultural options: who has more, who has fewer, what they do with them. And in the process, to expand students’ knowledge of their own cultural options as well.

THEORETICAL: At MLA (but probably not at the American Studies Association), a panel with a title like “It’s Not About Identity” would advocate the views of Todd Gitlin or of some of Walter Michaels’ epigones, the idea that the Good Sixties when we were all united by universal class-oriented goals were succeeded by the Bad Sixties, when “Identity Politics” destroyed the Left, what with those pesky blacks, gays, women, and people with disabilities demanding that their difference be recognized. Why not, I’ve always wondered, conclude that the strength and resources of the Right are what damaged the Left? Why insist that we were stabbed in the back by our own? Isn’t that a creepy mirroring of a right-wing narrative about how we lost Vietnam, or Red China, or atomic secrets? Does the Left need its own Dolchstosslegende? None of that here, in part because nobody wanted to look down on everyone else and make hortatory judgments.

COLLEGIAL: Look at how disagreement, even strong disagreement, worked on this panel. Nancy’s opinion didn’t elicit expressions of scorn but powerful and sober arguments and historical analysis. And Andrea’s response to Beth –saying that “we have to get women to” do this and that– is framed in the kind of imperialist language that Spivak would not like (remember Spivak asking why Nussbaum was so intent on teaching Indian women what they should want?); but it was contradicted so gently by the four subsequent speakers that one could have learned a lot and still barely noticed that there was a disagreement there. Nothing confrontational.

Friday, May 30, 2008

My WisCon 32 GoH Speech

As promised, "The Matter of Tongues," my WisCon 32 GoH speech, is now available for download from my website.

Aqueduct Authors To Read at A Different Light in Los Angeles

Just a reminder, in case it slipped past you in the welter of stuff here about WisCon: Kelley Eskridge and Nicola Griffith will be reading tonight at 7:30 p.m. at A Different Light Bookstore in West LA. Nicola will be reading from Always and Kelley from Dangerous Space. This is their first reading-- ever-- in the LA area. For more details, go here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Public Service

People of conscience have, on many fronts, been stepping up the pressure urging an end to the disgrace that is the US's gulag in Guantanamo. Last month Amnesty International launched a nationwide campaign that has been taking an exhibit depicting replica Gaunatanamo cells from city to city across the US. Now Witness Against Torture has entered the courtroom in Washington D.C. taking a bold challenge right into the judicial system.

Thirty-five activists charged with minor crimes following their protest at the US Supreme Court on January 11 have dressed in orange jumpsuits to express solidarity with the Guantanamo prisoners who have no access to a courtroom. They are all pro se defendants [i.e., without legal counsel or representation] who have taken the names of prisoners at Guantanamo and refused to give their own names. Father Bill Pickard, for instance, a 61-year old Catholic priest from Scranton, PA, is being tried as Faruq Ali Ahmed. In "Activists Appear in Court as Guantanamo Prisoners" in One World.net, Haider Rizvi quotes Father Pickard:

“I went to the Supreme Court to make a simple plea that the inhumane treatment and actual torture of inmates at Guantanamo Bay stop,” Pickard said. He said he went to bring the name and the humanity of Ahmed, who claimed that he traveled to Afghanistan in 2001 simply to teach the Koran to children and that he had no affiliation with the Taliban or al Qaeda.

“He cannot do it himself,” said Pickard, “so I am called by my faith, my respect for the rule of law, and my conscience to do it for him.”

In his statement, Daloisio told the judge: “As we stand before you today, we are aware that in the five months since our arrest, we have made it further in the criminal justice system than these men have in over six years,” referring to the plight of Guantanamo prisoners.

According to witnesses, the judge began to interrupt Daloisio once, but then let him complete his statement.

“We understand that you, Judge Gardner, are not the reason Guantanamo is still open,” Daloisio said. “It may be beyond your power to summon the men whose names appear on this court’s docket from their Guantanamo cells to face their charges and their accuser…to have their day in court.

“We mean no disrespect in our position towards this trial,” he added. “But we will not participate.”

After reading the statement, Daloisio and 12 other defendants remained silent for the duration of the trial.

Daloisio said he and the others on trial were “pro se defendants,” and thus refused to be represented by an attorney. “We will not exercise our rights when our country continues to deny the rights of others.”

Daloisio and the 34 other activists are facing charges related to “speeches, objectionable language…and assemblages” on Supreme Court grounds. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail, as well as fines and court fees.

The trial is due to continue through the rest of the week.

Witness Against Torture, a group that organized the Jan. 11 protests, said its campaign has drawn substantial support from a number of faith groups and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International.

This is my idea of public service. I am more grateful than I can say that many, many people are doing this work.

Read Rizvi's article here. And read "Reflection on Sami al- Haz" by Susan Crane, another activist in Witness Against Torture, here.

Wiscon

I missed the GoH speeches. Patrick and I had tickets for the dessert event, but the line seemed too long for us. So we went upstairs, intending to come back down for the speeches; and then I dozed off.

Anyway, I really hope Timmi posts her speech somewhere. It sounds like something I should have heard.

I wish Wiscon could be broken up and spread throughout the year: one day every three or four months. There is always more than I can do or see or hear; and then it's over, and I have to wait 12 months for the next Wiscon.

I wish there was a way to continue the discussions...

Of course, there are ways...Blogs like this one, Aqueducts publications...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More Stuff--Both WisCon- and Non-WisCon-Related

First, the non-WisCon stuff:

Terri Windling reviews Theodora Goss's Voices from Fairyland.

Cheryl Morgan confronts the loaded question "What Should Have Won the Tiptree?" that David Moles put to her.


Many WisCon reports, panel notes/comments and transcripts, and even short videos are emerging. Here are some that have caught my eye:

A brief video snippet of a discussion that continued after the official end of the panel on the Marq'ssan Cycle (which unfortunately appears sideways on my computer screen).

Badgerbag has posted her transcript of the Marq'ssan Cycle panel. (I have a tape of it, but I haven't yet listened to it to check its audio quality. If it's decent, I'll make it available.)

And badgerbag has a couple of posts on troll Rachel M. that made me flash back 25 years to Mary Daly's writings.

Badgerbag also has a transcript of the "Elves and Dwarves" panel and some video'd reactions in the hall afterward.

And again-- badgerbag has a post/partial transcript of the "It's Not About Identity Panel." (Seems likely, doesn't it, that she'll be putting other goodies up soon, too...)

Coffeeandink has posted panel notes for "Can Internet Drama Change the World?"

Coffeeandink has posted a few thoughts that occurred to her while reading Volume 2 of The WisCon Chronicles.

Oracne has a post about the "Politics of Narrative" panel.

Susan Palwick has also posted on the "Politics of Narrative" panel plus other stuff on WisCon.

Scusteister has a post about the "Women in Hard SF" panel.

Megan McCarron reflects on community at WisCon.

Maddie Greene has a couple of posts on WisCon on the Madison collaborative blog, Dane 101: WisCon 2008, Day One and WisCon 2008, Day Two.

There's actually much, much more. I'll see what I can do about posting more links to WisCon reports soon. And if I can just manage to begin processing the weekend, I'll try to write up a few things myself. And that photo below? It's from WisCon-- just one of those moments (of which there were many this year).

What Aqueductians Party Like


Yes, yes, we party like it's 2199. From the Opening Ceremony, above are the Carl Brandon Society singers honoring Timmi, as recounted here. Aqueductians represented include Eileen Gunn, Nisi Shawl, and Liz Henry (question for readers: are Liz Henry's superpowers innate or technologically-based? That is to say, has anyone ever seen her typing at superhuman speed without those fingerless gloves?).

Sunday evening's Aqueduct party included the conversations among Eleanor, Nisi, and others that I've shown pictures of below. I also got a photo of Jeanne Gomoll for my Feminist Icons collection. Again, note Liz's gloves and wonder.

Nancy and Andrea win the Colorful Clothing Award for the South Central and New England divisions, respectively. When questions are raised about whether Andrea's Pittsburgh origins disqualify her for the New England category, the judges award her the Rust Belt division as well.

Tom Duchamp, uncertain of his photographic competence, took three pictures of the same scene: two of them came out nicely. Behind me is Anne Sheldon; to her left is Andrea's friend Pan. On the lower right in the second is Therese P.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Readings at WisCon 32


WisCon offers a wide variety of programming across eighteen (gasp!) tracks. Although there are two single-author readers by the year's Guests of Honor, all the rest of the readings are group presentations by four or five authors (or, in the case of the unique Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading, by numerous authors offering brief tantalizing bursts of their work). Most of these readings take place in a conference room equipped with several armchairs rather than straight chairs and a table with microphones facing the audience, which gives the room a slightly more comfortable and informal feel. This year, though, a few of the readings were held in other venues-- viz., Madison coffee shops. I wish I'd been able to get out to those, 'cause I love cafe readings. (Maybe next year?) I typically attend several readings in the course of the con, but this year I was able to attend only one, the second of the two groups of Aqueduct authors reading.

Kath and Tom attended the first one (which was held at the same time as one of my panels), though, and got some photos of Aqueduct's authors.

Here is Carolyn Ives Gilman, reading from Aliens of the Heart.















Nisi Shawl read from Filter House.





Anne Sheldon read from Adventures of the Faithful Counselor.



















Wendy Walker also read.


















And Sue Lange read, too.



I was able to attend the second group of Aqueduct authors reading, though. Eleanor Arnason has a few things to say about it in her posts on WisCon, which you can find on her blog. As she notes, she read a very short piece-- and she also announced that she was working on a rewrite of her sequel to A Woman of the Iron People, "Hearth World," for Aqueduct, which evoked a great, roaring cheer from the audience.

















Vandana Singh read the opening of her novella, Of Love and Other Monsters (which resulted in Aqueduct's selling out all the copies of it that we brought to the con by late Sunday afternoon). I know that text well; it was a pleasure hearing the author's own voice speaking it.










Nancy Jane Moore read the dramatic conclusion, rather than the opening, of one of her stories in her new collection from PS Publishing, Conscientious Inconsistencies.






Eileen Gunn read a tantalizing fragment of a story set on Christmas Day, involving elves, that was bizarre, frightening, and heartbreaking and literally had me sitting forward on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen next. And later, after everyone had finished reading, she read her short, stunning poem "To the Moon Alice," which can be found in LCRW #22.

And finally, Andrea Hairston, who is hands-down the best reader I've ever had the pleasure to hear read, offered us the vivid, harrowing first chapter of her new, as yet unpublished novel, which opens in the late-19th-century American South.

I could fairly feel the audience around me shivering (and not just from the room's freezing air, which necessitated Andrea's wearing the jacket that an audience member kindly loaned her).


I loved the reading, I loved the thought that these authors and their fine work are what Aqueduct is all about. What a joy to be in such company!



The format and setting of WisCon's GoH readings are quite different from that of the group readings, for they feature a single author in a 75-minute time slot. I wanted to attend Maureen's, but alas, it was not to be. I can, though, tell you about my own. First, I should probably mention that it was held in one of the larger rooms, where a long table with microphones is placed on a dais in front of many rows of chairs with an aisle between them. This is not a good setup for a reading. For one thing, I prefer to stand when I read. For another, I had no wish to be elevated and distant from the audience. My solution was to detach a microphone from one of its holders and stand on the floor, holding the mike in one hand an the book I was reading from in the other. This was a bit awkward, but it worked as long as I was holding a conversations pieces volume in my hand. (See the photo, which Kath took.) It couldn't work, though, for one of the books of the Marq'ssan Cycle (even the smallest of which are too heavy to hold open in one hand). So then I tried just projecting my voice, without a mike, and found that it worked.



I began by reading "Dear Alice Sheldon" from Talking Back: Epistolary Fantasies. (I have Lena de Tar to thank for having suggested that I read both nonfiction and fiction.) I then read a couple of nonspoilery scenes from Stretto, the last book of the Marq'ssan Cycle. I had prepared other things to read, but I thought, given the excellent composition of the audience attending, that a Q&A might be better. In fact, the Q&A turned into a lively, interesting conversation to which numerous audience members contributed. I'm still thinking about some of it.

Stuff to Check Out

Now that I'm no longer living WisCon 24/7, I can begin to catch up with stuff going on elsewhere. Here are a few links:

Kelley Eskridge is interviewed by LeeAnnKriegh on AfterEllen.com.

David Rovics eulogizes Utah Phillips, who died this weekend.

Lesley A. Hall reviews Blood in the Fruit, the fourth volume of the Marq'ssan Cycle, for Strange Horizons.

Kaolin at GUD (Greatest Uncommon Denominaor) Magazine reviews Sue Lange's We, Robots.

Kelley Eskridge and Nicola Griffith will be reading on Friday at A Different Light Bookstore in West Hollywood. You can catch the details here.

Nisi Shawl Reads Tonight in Kalamazoo


Here's a quick announcement that I meant to get up earlier:

Nisi Shawl will be reading from Filter House tonight at 7.p., at the Kalamazoo Public Library (315 S. Rose Street). The event has no admission charge. If you're in the vicinity, do attend. It'll be well worth your while.

The Day After


Tom and I got back from Madison last night, after a blissfully uneventful half-day of travel. Though he had to get up early to prepare a lecture and then teach, I got to sleep in, which I desperately needed to do. The short version of being GoH this year at WisCon: it was fabulous. The personal downside was that I didn't have time to sit and chat (much less share meals with) many of the people I usually spend time with at WisCon. But I loved the experience of chatting with so many different people, not only doing the usual fan talk that like most writers I love hearing, but also engaging in the conversation that I so ardently wish to foster. I got enormous gratification hearing the ideas and stories so many people brought to me over the weekend. Thank you all!

For those of you sending me emails, please be patient. I promise I will reply-- it may just take me a little while to do that.

For those of you wanting a transcript of the speech: that is definitely forthcoming. When it's been posted, I'll link to it here. (Its possible a podcast may be available, too. This will depend on the quality of the recordings we have access to.)

I'm sorry to say there were (at least) two skeletons at our feast. A violent upper-GI virus felled dozens of attendees, including some Aqueductians. Dora Goss and Vandana Singh succumbed early in the outbreak, and then Kath came down with it late Sunday night (leaving Tom and me scrambling to pack up in the Dealers Room and still make our plane on time, which we did with the wonderfully calm assistance of Kim Nash). I just spoke to Kath on the phone, and she reports that she's recovering, though her stomach is still not too thrilled to be openly confronted with food.

The second skeleton at the feast was Ms. Vapid, a misogynist, racist troll who attended WisCon in order to photograph attendees and ridicule them with deep malice aforethought. Some of the people she attacked are friends of mine. They are handling it.

And finally, an uplifting update: I've heard from someone who knows the department I was talking about in my speech on Sunday night. Apparently that department is now, forty years later, half women. When I was asked the name of my teacher back then, my informant said oh yes, I can easily believe it of him. (And he is no longer, I'm told, in that department.)

More will be forthcoming on WisCon 32. Stay tuned to this space!

What Aqueductians Listen Like


. . . cause looking isn't all we do. Here is scientist and novella-writer Vandana Singh engrossed in conversation with Andrea. I managed to buy and read Vandana's Love and Other Monsters and Younguncle Comes to Town while in Madison (Timmi got a little tongue-tied when introducing Vandana's reading and, being a Midwesterner, accidentally rendered the latter title "Uncle Comes to Youngstown." Which would have been a much grittier tale, I'm sure); both are delightful, with the former striking me as positively Sturgeonesque.

You can read a great description of Timmi Duchamp's GoH speech over here. I sat in the "overflow" area and took a picture to illustrate the hugeimmensity of the audience.

I first heard the
fearless, impassioned, and astute Eleanor Arnason on the Working Class panel and last heard her on the Old Writers' panel. She is capable of talking and listening at great length: here she does the latter in a conversation with me, Timmi Duchamp, and Karen Joy Fowler. Soon Timmi was diverted by other interlocutors and Nisi joined our talk, finding herself a comfortable position.

The positive side of the long reservation line for next year was its capacity to facilitate long conversations: I got to talk with Karen Joy Fowler and Cliff Winnig, among others. Below is the inimitable Eileen Gunn, listening to Candra Gill talk about the U.S. presidential election. I only encountered Gill briefly, but she seems smart and radical with a great feel for cultural politics.

What Aqueductians Look Like





I've just downloaded the photos I took at my first ever science fiction convention, WisCon 32; and, fortuitously,
32 of them came out looking good. I wunna share a few with our readers. Below is a photo of Aqueduct staffer Kath Wilham, displaying a copy of Maureen and Timmi's Plugged In. I first "met" Kath in a phone conversation sixteen years ago --she was seeing a college friend of mine-- but had never seen her in person until this weekend. It is only thanks to Kath that I know about Timmi Duchamp, and it is largely thanks to the political acumen Kath displayed in our phone conversations that I remained a feminist sympathizer throughout the stresses of my college years. Below Kath is Aqueduct staffer Tom Duchamp, a great professor and assiduous laborer who's a tad absent-minded at distinguishing between things and knowing what they are called: I teased him with "I bet you don't even know the name of Dhalgren's protagonist!"

Aqueduct had me rooming with the great editor, administrator, fan, and author Nisi Shawl, a fellow midwesterner who seemed to like my sense of humor; we are together above. Further above, Nisi bonds with the great proletarian novelist, teacher, and Ohioan Maureen F. McHugh, whose Guest of Honor status was richly deserved.

On the Milwaukee-to-Madison leg of my flight out I sat beside the indefatigable Andrea Hairston, a drama professor, critic, and novelist whose performances at panels and readings left everyone awestruck. She is speaking on the left at the "It's Not About Identity" panel. Below, Timmi looks uneasily at Texan martial-arts expert and Aqueduct writer Nancy Jane Moore.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

More WisCon


I'd hoped to be posting more than this, but I've been a little busy, and before breakfast this morning I couldn't get a connection in my room.

Remember my mentioning participating in a Wisconsin Public Radio program on feminist science fiction on Thursday? WisCon's blog, A Momentary Taste of WisCon, has posted a link to the audio file.

The photo to the left, by the way, is from the Opening Ceremonies. (You can check out coverage of that event at the Feminist SF Blog.)

I'd write more, but I have three conversations going here at once, and I'm not so hot at multi-tasking. But I hope to report in later, with more photos.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

WisCon Reception at Room of One's Own












Tom took a few photos at a Room of One's own: I'm posting a few here. Maureen read her story "Kingdom of the Blind," which is in Plugged In. A big crowd of people materialized, with lots of hugs all around, since many of us hadn't seen one another since the last WisCon. A Room provided wine and cheese and fruit before the reading began. The audience was positively electric. Maureen said she's never before had such a responsive audience. & I was chuffed because the audience knew exactly what was going on in the scene I read, in which activists of various persuasions met to trade info, something I'd never expect the usual audience at a reading to get.






In short, WisCon is off to a roaring start.

Aqueduct begins to arrive at WisCon




In the photo to the left, I'm meeting Joan Haran in the lobby of the Concourse today at noon. Last night at midnight, Tom & I flew in to the airport at Madison, where we were met by Kafryn L., driven to the Concourse, and were regaled with chocolate. Despite the comfortable bed, sleep was elusive (as you can probably tell from the photo). Too much excitement, I guess, besides crossing two time zones. This afternoon, Eileen Gunn & Lettie Prell appeared on a Wisconsin Public Radio show, Hear on This Earth, to talk about WisCon; I joined the show for the last few minutes and talked briefly about Gwyneth Jones's Life and Vandana Singh's Of Love and Other Monsters.

But of course everything's moving right along, regardless of my feeling like a zombie. The reception at Room of One's Own will begin at six-- and then I'll get to see more of the people I come to WisCon to see. I'm planning, by the way, to read a section from Alanya to Alanya (naturally something I haven't read in public before: I am still holding to my vow not to read the same piece ot text in a public reading more than once).

More later, I hope...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Aqueduct Goes to WisCon: the 2008 preview

So. Aqueduct will be at WisCon. Big surprise, huh? Besides me, twelve other Aqueduct authors will be attending: Eleanor Arnason, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Theodora Goss, Eileen Gunn, Lesley Hall, Andrea Hairston, Sue Lange, Maureen McHugh, Nancy Jane Moore, Nisi Shawl, Anne Sheldon, Vandana Singh, and Wendy Walker. In addition, some of the members of our blog who aren't authors will be attending, as well. Although Aqueduct wasn't able to snag a parlor for a party this year, we will be in the Dealers Room beginning early Friday afternoon. Come and see us! Kath Wilham, our managing editor, will be there all weekend, and our cover designer, Lynne Lampe, will be there on Friday and Saturday.

For those who've been wondering why Plugged In isn't posted on Aqueduct's orders page, here's the deal: we're bringing 150 signed and numbered copies of Plugged In to WisCon, where we'll be selling them for $8 apiece in the Dealers Room. Those that we don't sell will retail, after the con, for $12. (Still pretty cheap for a signed and numbered edition, no?) That's because this little volume is intended to complement WisCon. If we sell out, we'll think about reprinting an unsigned, unnumbered edition, depending on demand. But I suspect this little book will be a one-off.

As I did last year, I'm posting here a list of the programming Aqueduct's writers and blog members will be doing:

Thursday

6:00 Reception and reading at Room of One's Own-- Maureen & I will be giving short readings & everyone present will be celebrating the beginning of another WisCon

Friday

It's Not About Identity
Friday, 4:00-5:15 P.M. Assembly
M: L. Timmel Duchamp, Sylvia Kelso, Lauren Lacey, Joan Haran, Andrea Hairston

Opening Ceremonies
Nisi Shawl
7:30-8:30 P.M. Wisconsin

Aqueduct Press Writers II
Friday, 8:45-10:00 P.M. Conference 2
Sue Lange, Nisi Shawl, Wendy Walker, Carolyn Gilman, Anne Sheldon

Thinking Ahead: Feminists Thinking about possible near and middle futures and feminist responses to them
Friday, 8:45-10:00 P.M. Conference 4
M: Rebecca Holden, L. Timmel Duchamp, Sylvia Kelso

Not Just Japan: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy
Friday, 8:45-10:00 P.M. Caucus
M. Rachel Kronick, Vandana Singh, K.Joyce Tsai

Academics & Fans: Bringing them Together #2
Friday, 10:15-11:30 P.M. Conference 3
M: Joan Haran

Saturday
Balancing Creativity And The Day Job
Saturday, 8:30-9:45 A.M. Senate B
M: Jennifer Pelland, Catherine Lundoff, Caroline Stevermer, Jordan Castillo Price, Vandana Singh

Technology and the Environment
Saturday, 8:30-9:45 A.M. Capitol A
M: Alexander Lamb, Matthew Austern, Sue Lange, Adrian Simmons

Defining God
Saturday, 10:00-11:15 A.M. Wisconsin
M: Bradford Lyau, Alexander Lamb, Mary Kay Kare, Carolyn Gilman, Gayle Kaplan

Guest of Honor Reading: L. Timmel Duchamp
Saturday, 10:00-11:15 A.M. Capitol B

Strong Or Stroppy?: Annoyingly Feisty Female Protagonists
Saturday, 10:00-11:15 A.M. ♦ Conference 4
M: Vito Excalibur, Lesley Hall, Alma Alexander, Paula Fleming, Jennifer Stevenson

Carl Brandon Society Update
Saturday, 10:00-11:15 A.M. Conference 5
M: Candra Gill, Claire Light, Nisi Shawl

Two Heads With But a Single Brain - Collaborators talk about writing together
Saturday, 10:00-11:15 A.M. 629
M: Richard Bowes, Mark Rich, Sarah Monette, Eileen Gunn

Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading
Saturday, 1:00-2:15 P.M. Assembly
M: Nancy Jane Moore, Lori Devoti, Theresa Crater, Katherine Villyard, Gwynne Garfinkle, Morven Westfield

Historical Research for Fiction Writers
Saturday, 1:00-2:15 P.M. ♦ Caucus
M: Bradford Lyau, Ellen Klages, Wendy Walker, M.K. Hobson

Magical Realism: Threat or Menace?
Saturday, 1:00-2:15 P.M. Capitol A
M: Delia Sherman, Catherynne M. Valente, Theodora Goss, Jeremy Lassen

How I Did It All Wrong And Got Published Anyway
Saturday, 1:00-2:15 P.M. ♦ Capitol B
M: Eileen Gunn, Kathy Steffen, Jim Munroe, Jeannie Bergmann

The Rights of Simulacra
Saturday, 2:30-3:45 P.M. Senate A
M: Amy Thomson, Carolyn Gilman, Eric M. Heideman, Deborah Stone

Here's Where The Story Ends
Saturday, 2:30-3:45 P.M. ♦ Wisconsin
M: Jim Munroe, Ellen Kushner, Rachel Swirsky, Maureen McHugh, Paul Stevens, Lyda Morehouse

Women and Hard SF
Saturday, 2:30-3:45 P.M. Conference 5
M: Margaret McBride, Victoria Gaydosik, Sue Lange, Janice Bogstad

Aqueduct Press Writers I
Saturday, 2:30-3:45 P.M. Conference 2
Eleanor Arnason, Eileen Gunn, Vandana Singh, Nancy Jane Moore, Andrea Hairston

Books You Haven't Heard Of, The People of Color Edition!
Saturday, 2:30-3:45 P.M. Conference 4
M: Nisi Shawl, David Anthony Durham, Debbie Notkin

The Bearded Man, The African, the Witch and the Whore
Saturday, 2:30-3:45 P.M. Fair Trade
Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, Catherynne M. Valente, Theodora Goss, Patrick Rothfuss

Retrospective Tiptrees
Saturday, 4:00-5:15 P.M. Caucus
M: L. Timmel Duchamp, Lesley Hall, Janice Bogstad

LGBTQ Fiction: Are we ready for the Mainstream? Are they ready for us?
Saturday, 9:00-10:15 P.M. ♦ Senate B
M: Cat Rambo, Moondancer Drake, R.R. Angell, Connie Wilkins, Xakara

What is Fabulist Fiction?
Saturday, 10:30-11:45 P.M. Conference 5
M: Theodora Goss, Leah Bobet, Darja Malcolm-Clarke

Sunday

Cliche or Trope?
Sunday, 8:30-9:45 A.M. ♦ Senate A
M: Sean M. Murphy, M.K. Hobson, Gregory Frost, Theodora Goss

Timmi Duchamp's Marq'ssan Cycle
Sunday, 8:30-9:45 A.M. ♦ Capitol B
M: Sue Lange, Nancy Jane Moore, Joan Haran, Liz Henry

Old Age, Illness and Death in SF/F
Sunday, 10:00-11:15 A.M. ♦ Senate A
M: Carrie Ferguson, Jodi Piwoni, Eleanor Arnason, Margaret McBride, Richard Chwedyk

Narrative and Politics
Sunday, 10:00-11:15 A.M. ♦ Wisconsin
M: L. Timmel Duchamp, Susan Palwick, Carolyn Gilman, Pat Murphy, Eileen Gunn

Power, Ethics, & Possibility in Fantastic Ecofeminist Fiction
Sunday, 10:00-11:15 A.M. Conference 3
(1) Fantastic Ecofeminist Fiction, Lauren Lacey
(2) Feminist SF and the future of Feminist Nature Cultures, Joan Haran

Can Internet Drama Change The World?
Sunday, 10:00-11:15 A.M. Conference 5
M: Alexis Lothian, Julia Starkey, K. Tempest Bradford, Woodrow Hill, K. Joyce Tsai

The Fictional Is Political — Political SF/F Of Both Sorts
Sunday, 1:00-2:15 P.M. Senate A
M: Nancy Jane Moore, Richard F. Dutcher, Gavin Grant, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Liz Gorinsky

Writing Working-Class Characters
Sunday, 1:00-2:15 P.M. Wisconsin
M: Paula Fleming, Eleanor Arnason, Joyce Frohn, Christopher Barzak, Elissa Malcohn

Guest of Honor Reading: Maureen McHugh
Sunday, 1:00-2:15 P.M. Capitol B

Taboo
Sunday, 1:00-2:15 P.M. Conference 2
M: M.K. Hobson, Jennifer Pelland, Rachel Swirsky, Vylar Kaftan

Get Out Your Secret Decoder Ring
Sunday, 1:00-2:15 P.M. 629
M: David Levine, Catherynne M. Valente, Lesley Hall, Janine Young, Tisha Turk

Publishing, Profit, Agendas, and Ideals: The Eclipse One Cover Debate
Sunday, 2:30-3:45 P.M. ♦ Wisconsin
M: K. Tempest Bradford, Micole Sudberg, Eileen Gunn, Jeremy Lassen

Workshops and Critique Groups
Sunday, 2:30-3:45 P.M. Capitol A
M: Naomi Kritzer, Shweta Narayan, Nisi Shawl, Ada Milenkovic Brown, Richard Chwedyk

Octavia Butler, SF, and the Political Imagination
Academic ♦ Sunday, 2:30-3:45 P.M. ♦ Conference 3

(1) "Sun Woman" or "Wild Seed"? Lessons in Negotiating Narrative Drawn from the Early Novels of Octavia Butler, L. Timmel Duchamp
(2) Abduction and Amnesia, Pardon and Power in Octavia Butler's "Amnesty", Frann Michel

On The Lifespan Of Genres
Sunday, 4:00-5:15 P.M. ♦ Assembly
M: Benjamin Rosenbaum, Eleanor Arnason, Helen Keeble, Gregory Rihn, Darja Malcolm-Clarke

Publishing: Meritocracy or Social Construct?
Sunday, 4:00-5:15 P.M. ♦ Wisconsin
M: Jed Hartman, Sharyn November, Gavin Grant, Paula Guran, Andrea Hairston

Writing and parenting, and Writing About Parenting
Sunday, 4:00-5:15 P.M. Capitol A
M: Amy Thomson, Naomi Kritzer, Vandana Singh, Doug Hulick, Sara Amis

Some of Us Are Brave: Identity Intersections in an Election Year
Sunday, 4:00-5:15 P.M. Conference 5
M: Candra Gill, Bradford Lyau, Nisi Shawl, Jacqueline Gross

GoH Speeches
Special ♦ Sunday, 8:30-10:00 P.M. ♦ Wisconsin
Maureen McHugh, L. Timmel Duchamp

OUFISCIPO: Writing SF/F with Arbitrary Constraints
Sunday, 10:00-11:15 P.M. Caucus
M: Tom LaFarge, Wendy Walker

The Brave New World of Twenty-First Century Publishing
Sunday, 10:00-11:15 P.M. Conference 4
M: Jeremy Lassen, Fred Schepartz, Stephen Eley, Paula Guran, Rachel Swirsky

Imagination as Resistance
Sunday, 11:30-12:45 A.M. Senate B
M: Andrea Hairston, Pamela Freeman, Darja Malcolm-Clarke, Ben Phillips

Monday

On Being an Aging SF Writer
Monday, 10:00-11:15 A.M. ♦ Conference 4
M: Carol Emshwiller, Richard Chwedyk, Eleanor Arnason

The SignOut-- most of us

Add to that, K. Joyce Tsai will be organizing spontaneous programming on Shoujo Bodies in Shoujo Manga. For anyone interested in seeing the complete topic listing for each item above, see to the WisCon programmng page.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

"Backward" Evolution

Here's a fascinating science story: since the clean-up of the once foully polluted Lake Washington here in Seattle, the threespine stickleback of Lake Washington has been forced to "evolve backwards" in order to cope with their changed environment. Lynda V. Mapes, reporting on a paper to be published in the May 20 issue of Current Biology, writes:

Just five decades ago, Lake Washington was notoriously polluted, full of murky water festering with blue-green algae that thrived on the millions of gallons of raw sewage the cities pumped into it.

Pollution cut visibility in the water to only about 30 inches. And that was great for the stickleback, a rugged looking customer with three sharp spines along its back, because it easily could hide in the murk from its primary predator, cutthroat trout.

Enter a $140 million cleanup of the lake, launched in the 1960s, at the time one of the biggest pollution-control efforts in the nation. Today, Lake Washington is swimmable again, and visibility reaches 25 feet.

Lovely for people — treacherous for the stickleback.

But to their surprise, researchers have discovered that in the space of four decades, the stickleback evolved backward, to an earlier version of the species that had full-body plating.

The change in visibility allows cut-throat trout to see and prey on the threespine stickleback. You can read more here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Voices From Fairyland: The Fantastical Poems of Mary Coleridge, Charlotte Mew, and Sylvia Townsend Warner



I'm pleased to announce the publication of Voices From Fairyland: The Fantastical Poems of Mary Coleridge, Charlotte Mew, and Sylvia Townsend Warner, edited and with poems by Theodora Goss. This is Number 20 in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces Series.

The volume, which is 148 pages, includes four original essays--
Introduction," "Through the Gates of Ivory and Horn: The Fantastical Poems of Mary Coleridge"; "Into the Wet, Wild Wood: The Fantastical Poems of Charlotte Mew"; "A Birdsong Wilderness: The Fantastical Poems of Sylvia Townsend Warner"-- 12 poems each by Coleridge and Warner; 8 poems by Mew; and 18 poems by Goss, 10 of them original to the volume.

In the Introduction, Goss writes:

In this book I chose to focus on poems by Mary Coleridge, Charlotte Mew, and Sylvia Townsend Warner because of all the poets I could have included, they were the ones whom I thought had been the most unjustly neglected--the most talented among those whose talent had gone largely unrecognized. They were also the ones whom I most loved, but I think that unjust neglect was a part of my love for them. I felt protective toward them, and also fierce in promoting their work. I did not have to worry about arguing for Christina Rossetti's relevance; she is, as I have mentioned, taught everywhere. But I felt that I had to argue for Warner because, although attention has been paid to her prose, almost nothing has been written about her poetry. While I was working on this anthology, a friend asked me why I was working on it rather than on a story, or even a novel. I said, "If I don't do it, who will?" It felt like an obligation toward three women writers who had influenced me deeply.

But Coleridge, Mew, and Warner are only three examples of what I consider a broader phenomenon, the rest of the ice that must be present, underwater, when we see icebergs floating on a northern sea. That underwater ice is the tradition of women writing fantastical poetry.

Voices from Fairyland is available now through Aqueduct's website and will be available at WisCon; it will likely be available through other venues in a few weeks or so.

Feminism and Art


I posted a couple of weeks ago about an article in the Signs special issue on Feminist Art and Social Change (33,2: Winter 2008), but I've been meaning to post other pieces in the issue. In one, Indian film-maker and writer Paramita Vohra discusses the relationship between feminism and art. Here's some of what she says:

It is not the work of the artist to place strategy above ideas, truisms above honesty. Most of all, art is a place of honesty--where the nature of art, which is affective as much as explicit or intellectual, something that allows us to feel or sense as much as see or understand--allows for a certain arrangement of contradictions and dilemmas. The honesty and form can then perhaps lead to a slow resolving or acceptance of these contradictions. The creative endeavor is a constant reconsideration ad refining of politics. It is a spontaneous form of politics but also vulnerable because of its openness. Does that change people? I have had the odd reassuring, definite response, "I always thought I am not a feminist although I believe in equal rights, but after seeing the film I am proud to call myself one." But more often there are the long exploratory discussions about the self, the world, feminism, feminists, men, women, parents, love, anger, violence, and change-- interesting and involved but inconclusive. Who can say for sure if individuals are changed, but the film does change the tone, shift the paradigm.

At the end of her piece, she concludes "It is not the place of the alternative to become the mainstream... Art becomes a meaningful political space only if it is emotionally viable to people-- and it is so only if it is a place where they can make meanings of their own instead of merely consuming those that they are given."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Women of Color Publishing


The new issue of The American Book Review (May/June 2008, Volume 29, Number 4) is especially interesting this month. Besides the usual stuff (which I almost always find worth reading), the issue's focus section is "Women of Color Publishing." In the introduction to the focus section, Alexis Pauline Gumbs quickly sketches the long history of publishing initiatives by women of color and then discusses the work of six WoC presses currently operation-- RedBone Press, Moore Black Press, Incite!, GirlChild Press, Hermana, Resist, and BrokenBeautiful Press. Here's a taste of her observations about the current situation:

Despite its rich history, the existence of the body of work that constitutes this Focus section is not an inevitable outcome of the tradition I describe. In fact, due to the vexed relationship of autonomous women of color publishing practices to academic and literary marketability, the stories I mention here are part of a suppressed history of women of color publishing in the US. The reviewers and publishers featured below are producing and theorizing a phenomenon with precedents that have been ignored, and enacting futures that may be forgotten. Historicizing women of color publishing challenges the ways we think about literary history and relationships to time in general. The presence of women of color publishing cannot be taken for granted. In the act of print, these women of color publishers stain the present with a rival archive of references while at the same time stamping the white space of this moment with the future they demand.

I so love that metaphor. I hope you can see why you should run right out and get hold of the issue. It's definitely worth taking the trouble to find.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Aqueduct Gazette, Issue 3

The latest issue of The Aqueduct Gazette is now available from download at Aqueduct's site, here. Contents of the issue include:

* "Seeing Voices: A Conversation with Nisi Shawl" by Jesse Vernon
* "The Fantastical Poems of Mary Coleridge" by Theodora Goss
* "Feminist Science Fiction and WisCon: A Poly-Political Conversation with Eileen Gunn" by Jesse Vernon
* "Hanging Out Along the Aqueduct..." (a guest editorial) by Ray Vanck

Plus, of course, peeks at Aqueduct books to come!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The last volume of the Marq'ssan Cycle

It's done. The last volume of the Marq'ssan Cycle, Stretto, has arrived here from the printer. I feel as though I ought to be celebrating, ought to have finally, after more than twenty years, a sense of closure. And yet, instead I'm experiencing the same flatness I always feel a day or two after I've finished writing a novel. The feeling is too complicated to articulate easily. Why is it, I wonder, that (for me, anyway) elation lies in the writing process itself-- especially as I'm beginning a novel? I suppose that elation lies in the magic of possibility, the magic of stepping into a new world, never before explored. Finishing means closing the door on that world, so that all future exploration will be strictly private, inside one's own head...

But I'm supposing to be announcing that Stretto is back from the printer, not talking about my feelings. Here's the deal: Stretto its available now through Aqueduct's site for a special pre-release price of $15. The official release date is July 1, by which time it should be available at all the usual venues. Here's a brief description:

Stretto, the grand finale of the Marq'ssan Cycle, weaves together the major threads of the Marq'ssan story and encourages readers, as Joan Haran says, "to write beyond the ending." The novel, like the series as a whole, inquires Whose world is it? and shows several possible ways of answering the question through the respective perceptions and perspectives of the novel's five viewpoint characters: Alexandra Sedgewick, heir to the Sedgewick estate; Anne Hawthorne, Security operative; Hazel Bell, subversive activist; Celia Espin, human rights lawyer; and Emily Madden, star pupil of the maverick Marq'ssan, Astrea l Betut san Imu. As always, never predictable, never finished, the consequences of all that has gone before continues to play out.

Joan Haran wrote this blurb:
The final volume in the Marq'ssan series will encourage its readers to write beyond the ending. There are no gift-wrapped resolutions or easy redemptions on offer, rather there is a clear-sighted focus on the always-unfolding consequences-intended and unintended-of personal and political action taken. This is a series that is deeply invested in social transformation while resisting any temptation to consolation. As a resolute utopian, I see this as a hopeful strategy.

And here is a chunk of Donald D'Ammassa's review:
Like its predecessors, this is very much a novel of ideas and personal relations rather than of action or adventure. The author is more interested in the clash of ideas than in describing pitched battles in the streets of Washington. If you enjoy books designed to stimulate thought as well as entertain you, Duchamp's speculations about the forms of government and the ways in which people in power interact should prove very rewarding.

About the series, Jeff Vandermeer said a few weeks ago that it "is the most important political SF published in the last decade. Praised by the likes of Cory Doctorow and Samuel Delany, Duchamp's accomplishment here is deadly, sharp, emotional, and intelligent."



The first forty-seven pages, by the way, can be read here.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Eagles Not Included



Remember WisCon 31?
Wit flashed. Sparks flew.
Eagles carried off the guests of honor.

Subtitled "Provocative essays on feminism, race, revolution, and the future," Volume 2 of the WisCon Chronicles is edited by L. Timmel Duchamp and Eileen Gunn. The volume includes:

*Kelly Link and Laurie J. Marks on books they love
*Mark Rich's reflections on WisCon 31
*Nisi Shawl's "Because we are all so royal: the Carl Brandon Society party at WisCon 31"
*Tom LaFarge's "Multimindedness"
*Susan Simensky Bietila's "An artist at WisCon," which includes two pieces of her art
*Naamen Gobert Tilahun's "Thoughts on 'Colonialism...in...Space!' and on the ground"
*L. Timmel Duchamp's "Creating the 'second self': performance, gender, and authorship"
*K. Joyce Tsai's "On the 'Romance of the Revolution' panel at WisCon 31"
*Laura Quilter's transcript of the "Romance of the Revolution" panel
*Chris Nakashima-Brown's "Science fiction in the Year Zero"
*L. Timmel Duchamp's "Whose Romance? Whose Revolution? The operations of race and gender in panel discourse at WisCon"
*Wendy Walker's "Sexual Stealing"
*Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu's "Defeating the Default"
*Catherynne M. Valente's "Follow the Yellow Brick Road: katabasis and the female hero in Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and the Nutcracker
*Kelly Link and Laurie J. Marks's "Asbestos pants: an epistolary performance"
*M.J. Hardman, Nicola Griffith, Nora Jemison, Kate Schaefer, Elizabeth Bear, Lawrence Schimel, and Joan Haran on WisCon 2018
*Rosalyn Berne and Jacqueline Gross on their first WisCons

PLUS a thoughtful, intense forum instigated and edited by Rachel Swirsky: "How to deal with racist and sexist material in workshop," with contributions by Nora Khan, Ericka Crouse, Anna Schwind, Maria Deira, Jenny Zhang, Steaphie Denise Brown, Nisi Shawl, K. Tempest Bradford, Richard Jeffrey Newman, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Eugie Foster, Alyx Dellamonica, Ross Wagner, and Katherine Sparrow

Although The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2 won't be released until August, it's available now through Aqueduct's website (and will be available from Aqueduct at WisCon). You can purchase it here.

Enter the Filter House


Whether drawing upon the protective power of watermelon vines, the healing power of funk, or the pragmatic power of intelligent women, Nisi Shawl's collection of short fiction sparks the imagination. The tales in Filter House leap forward and backward through time and space, deftly weaving all-too-real topics like resource depletion, colonization, and racism within fantastical worlds of persuadable dragons, fickle gods, and interstellar travel.

Filter House is now available through Aqueduct's site for a special pre-release price of $15. Nisi's stories are preceded by an introduction by Eileen Gunn, who describes it as a collection of "remarkably involving stories that pull you along a path of wonder, word by word, in words where everything is a bit different." It's a beautiful book and has garnered these plaudits so far:

"Sometimes enigmatic, often surprising, always marvelous. This lovely collection will take you, like a magic carpet, to some strange and wonderful places." — Karen Joy Fowler, author of Wit's End and The Jane Austen Book Club

"From the exotic, baroque complexities of 'At the Huts of Ajala' to the stark, folktale purity of 'The Beads of Ku,' these fourteen superbly written stories will weave around you a ring of dark, dark magic." — Ursula K. Le Guin, author of Lavinia and Changing Planes

"A traveling story-bazaar, offering treasures and curios from diverse lands of wonder." — Matt Ruff, author of Set This House In Order and Bad Monkeys

"Nisi Shawl uses the tools of future and fable, usually used to explore the other, the future, and the mysterious, to magically reveal what and who we all are here and today." — Tobias Buckell, author of Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin

You can order it now here.

In the run-Up to WisCon, a cheat sheet

Ooh-la-la! Liz Henry has posted a Cheat sheet to L. Timmel Duchamp’s work, for WisCon at the Feministsf Blog. The "two-foot high stack" of Marq'ssan Cycle books is a bit of an exaggeration. But characterizing my writing as "mind-blowing coolness"-- well, how would I know? Authors simply can't. Which means, conveniently, that I'm not obliged to comment...

Unthinkable Thoughts

I'm just emerged from that strange, muffled space known as a migraine. Books, catalogs, and newsletters are flowing in here from Aqueduct's printers, about more of which soon, when we've got our ducks better organized. But in the meantime, a note about a book Jeff VanderMeer recently recommended, Charles Baxter's The Art of Subtext, published by the always excellent Graywolf Press of St. Paul, Minnesota. I enjoyed reading this book, though I think his previous book of criticism, Burning Down the House, gave me more to think about. It's prose style is pleasing-- seemingly effortless, and wonderfully lucid. The categorization "writing" provided on the back by the publisher for the use of booksellers, though, is inapt. It is actually a book about reading. This sort of analysis of reading can, I believe, help writers indirectly, for I am utterly convinced that perceptive, skillful reading is of immeasurable help to writers in learning their craft (which ambitious writers never stop doing). But this is really a book for readers interested in heightening their consciousness of what makes fiction effective. It should, really, be classified as "literary criticism."


To give you a taste, I'll quote one of my favorite passages:

Although we live in a post-Freudian, post-humanist, postmodern, post-everything age, there are still plenty of unthinkable thoughts around, and in the Chekhov tradition they serve as the hard core of narratives. An unthinkable thought is not one that hasn't occurred to somebody, nor is it a thought that someone considers to be wrong. An unthinkable thought threatens a person's entire existence and is therefore subversive and consequently can be thought of and has been thought of, but has been pushed out of the mind's currency and subsumed into its margins where it festers. Dark nights of the soul are lit by inconceivable ideas. Any story may draw its source of power from an unthinkable thought.

This passage is by way of discussing the powerful subtext (of that unthinkable thought) driving a scene in a story by J.F. Powers. All in all, an enjoyable read. I heartily add my recommendation to Jeff's.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Todd Haynes Interview in The Believer

Having enjoyed and appreciated I'm Not There (which I posted about here), I read with considerable interest an interview with its director, Todd Haynes, in the March/April issue of The Believer by Robert Polito. Here are a couple of excerpts:

TH: [At Brown University] the first class I took was on sound theory, and it was taught by Phil Rosen, who was Mary Ann Doane's husband. I remember sitting in a class with him talking about the classic Hollywood text, and he said, "Of course, it comes to the obligatory heterosexual closure. And just hearing the words heterosexual closure was so radical to me, it was so meaningful, because it named something that our society basically suggests is natural and inevitable, and doesn't need a name, and doesn't doesn't need to be distinguished as a choice. And there are so many more examples of how through poststructural film theory I found a parallel language to things that i was already feeling and thinking. And ways that I might already have applied them in my work, but found an academic tradition and theoretical tradition to articulate it. So I just think it helped me mature, and be able to clarify things. But really, if it doesn't come to you from your gut, through your own life and experience-- it's meaningless. It's a trend, it's fashionable. It may have been that for some of my peers at Brown. But when it connects to your own experience and way of seeing the world, then you're set free.

RP: Is that questioning of traditional aesthetic paradigms one of the ways in which you would see your films to this day as political?

TH: Yes. Definitely.

RP: I'm glad you say that. Because as sharp as I'm Not There is about Bob Dylan, it seems to me this isn't just or even mainly a film about Dylan, or even the 1960s, for all the specific references to civil rights, Johnson, Nixon, or Vietnam. Of course I'm Not There is about Bob Dylan, but watching it the other day for the second time I started thinking, This is a film about now, about a country during a terrible war, and how you-- someone, anyone-- keep your art alive amid that war, and all this incessant media saturation, and how you sustain your politics.

TH: It's a desperate attempt to remember other ways of keeping your politics alive, and your creative voice alive, against a war, against political policies that one begins to find abominable, deeply flawed, and helplessly persistent. But I also felt I was trying to conjure up a lost consciousness or distant planet of existence in looking at and studying the 1960s during the height of the Bush-Cheney years. So it was and wasn't-- it was sort of an antidote to where we were on so many levels as well, but I think obviously I was fueled by a lot of contemporary rage and helplessness from our era.

A few paragraphs later, he notes his sense of "worlds being foreclosed and not fully accessible to us today."

And here, he talks about genre:

RP: I'm also wondering how you think about genre, because it seems to me that all your films play with, and play against, genres. Obviously there's a sense that I'm Not There is a biopic, the way that Far from Heaven was a woman's film, or Safe a disease film. How do you think genres operate inside your films?

TH: I think they are both utilized and hen pried open. But they have to maintain enough of their original shape and form to be able to excite and activate the reactions in a viewer, and that's what I am most interested in. What the genres do to the viewer, and the kind of expectations that they set i motion. So you have to excite them and get them going, and then hopefully broaden them and redirect them in ways that draw a different kind of consciousness to those expectations. Safe is maybe the cleanest example. The resolution in a disease film is one that is sort of antagonistic, or has an antagonistic component that I think most disease movies masks over, because disease movies basically ask their subjects to identify with their illness, and come to some kind of acceptance and acquiescence to their state. That often puts them in a very rigid box, one that reifies our whole cultural way of thinking of illness as at some level something that the subject is responsible for.

And so, in this film, you're supposed to accept your illness, and become a cancer survivor, or become an advocate for this or that. And when Julianne Moore does that at Wrenwood, it's basically asking her to say, "I really hated myself when I first came here, and I'm going through this process of accepting culpability for my illness." And you both want that because that's what the narrative expectations and the generic expectations require. But then you watch that basically crush this fragile person into acquiescence and self-hatred. So what you want a narrative level, you have to question on the human level.

TH: Do conventional biopics operate along those same lines here?

TH: Yes, I think so. They kind of crush and belittle the great artist, who we're supposed to comprehend in a line, or a brief summation. They reduce the person while also aggrandizing them.