Science Fiction Feed

Breaking the Glass Slipper on "Writing Characters of the Opposite Gender"

Assassin's QuestAs humans living in the twenty-first century, I’d like to think we’ve come a long way towards achieving equality between the sexes and rejecting established notions of gender. But is it far enough? After all, we’re still having these debates, highlighting prejudice, challenging ourselves to ‘think outside the box’. If gender equality truly existed, there’d be no need to stage this conversation.

In fiction, men write women and women write men on a regular basis, some more or less successfully. Both genders ought to be able to relate to each other at the very least on an intuitive level without resorting to dangerous and unhealthy stereotypes. But, as Emma Newman recently discussed, there are still male readers who are hesitant to pick up a book authored by a woman, or featuring a female protagonist.

Why is that? Personally, I’ve never had a problem reading a book written from a male perspective; in fact the majority of epic fantasy I read growing up featured male protagonists. Why then are some readers unable or unwilling to relate to women?

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Breaking the Glass Slipper on "15 of the Amazing Women Writing Genre Fiction"

Copper PromiseWhen Breaking the Glass Slipper was asked to identify some of the issues facing female writers in genre, the very first thing that each of us replied was ‘discoverability’.

Why is it that, with the exception of long-established authors, books by women do not seem to be as widely publicised as those authored by men? Our first episode considers ‘best of’ lists, which certainly play a part in discoverability. They also remain the clearest example of inequality. Why, we wondered, do these lists not feature more than the token woman? What material are the makers of such lists drawing from? Where exactly is the problem?

Well, admitting that there is a problem for starters.

Ignorance is as bad as outright sexism when it comes to the struggle facing female writers. Discoverability is a huge issue. Our sales and therefore careers depend on our ability to reach as many readers as possible. When a great swathe of the population is closed off to us, it isn’t only our finances that suffer; it’s genre fiction too. Female voices are desperately needed if SFF is both to flourish and to retain its longstanding distinction as the genre that challenges the status quo.

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Review Round-up: Narabedla, Cold Silver and A Colder Sun

Three fantasy titles of all shapes and sizes - Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Falcons of Narabedla, Greg James' Under A Colder Sun and Alex Marshall's A Crown for Cold Silver

200px-Falcons_of_narabedlaMarion Zimmer Bradley's The Falcons of Narabedla (1957)

Mike does radio things in a Government Lab. Electricity happens, and, ker-wham, he's mind-ported to Narabedla, Last of the Rainbow Cities. Mike's consciousness rests in the body of Adric, one of Naradebla's arrogant ruling class. Adric's mind isn't totally gone, but sort of repressed, helping Mike/Adric get dressed and occasionally resurfacing in a plot-pushing kind of way.

M'Adric is thrown in at the deep end. Fortunately, there are a lot of people around who are happy to elaborate on Narabedla's history, culture and current events. M'Adric learns that the rulers of Narabedla all have a captive Dreamer under their thrall - a powerful, wish-granting psychic - more djinn than mortal. Adric, in his pre-Mike days, seems to have done something naughty and loosed one of the Dreamers. Now the entire system is under threat. Will there be a revolution? Should there be a revolution? Plots within plots, betrayals within betrayals - including Mike and Adric scheming against one another. From within the same body!

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Matthew Blakstad on "Je suis Tay"

Je suis Tay

For the past few days the internet has revelled in the precipitous downfall of Microsoft’s chatbot, Tay. This software-generated teen was hyped by its creators for the intelligent algorithms that would make it progressively smarter, the more it chatted to human beings. Well, Tay certainly became more something – but it wasn’t smart. Within a few days, prompted by persistent needling from Twitter users, the bot began to produce anti-semitic and sexist rants. Then, for good measure, it started extolling the virtues of one Donald J Trump. Familiar stuff from human users of social media, but it was rather striking to see these views expressed by a robot.

SockpuppetA few days later, Tay returned, repatched and instructed to play nicely this time; but in a matter of hours, it had to be taken down yet again, having descended this time into a drug-fuelled meltdown.

 

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The Wake: Shades of Horror and Adventure

WAKE-part oneI started writing this article several times, and came to realize two things.

First, that The Wake is simply too stuffed full of interesting things to talk about that I couldn’t possibly cover them all in the few hundred words I have, and second, that all I really wanted to talk about was the colouring.

Colourists get so little attention in the comic book world, yet their contribution is staggering and undeniable. What Matt Hollingsworth brings to The Wake (written and pencilled by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy respectively) draws out many of the themes of the book and lays them right on the page, hidden in plain sight. What’s more, The Wake is a book that illustrates the different effects colour can have excellently by neatly dividing itself into two parts - the first horror-inflected and the second full of high-stakes adventure.

At this point I’d like to say that The Wake is a book that really benefits from being read cold and with little knowledge of the twists and surprises that are waiting.

Unfortunately that makes it pretty hard to talk about without giving it all away. So I urge you, if you don’t want the surprises ruined for you, stop reading now and go read the book - you have been warned.

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Susan Jane Bigelow on "Laying Down the Cape"

BrokenCan a superhero ever really stop being a superhero? Can they quit, or retire, or even escape the heavy burden of expectation and difference for a while? That question is maybe the most important one in the entire Extrahuman Union series.

The question of whether a superhero can quit is a complicated one. The reason is that there’s a piece of being a superhero that’s all about what you do, and another piece that’s about what you are.

Those two pieces seem very different at first, but maybe they’re more similar than we think.

When we first meet the character of Broken in the book that bears her name, she’s alone on the street. She’s no longer in the Extrahuman Union, which is less a voluntary organization of superheroes like the Avengers or the Justice League, and more a convenient prison to stash superpowered humans in so they won’t cause any trouble. And she didn’t just leave: she escaped.

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One Comic travels to Bitch Planet

Unnamed

We each came to this issue of Bitch Planet with a different level of familiarity with the series - so how this one-off story worked for all our perspectives made for an interesting starting point.

Fun-fact: Bitch Planet was almost one of the first titles we ever reviewed, so it's good finally to get under its skin.

Are we ready to get the Non-Complaint tattoo too? Listen and find out.


Atwood, Thompson, Chambers, Ness and More!

The-heart-goes-last

Last night saw two literary awards recognise speculative fiction.

The Kitschies, now finishing their seventh year, handed out the following prizes:

  • Margaret Atwood's The Heart Goes Last (Red Tentacle - Novel)
  • Tade Thompson's Making Wolf (Golden Tentacle - Debut)
  • Jet Purdie's cover for Sally Gardner's The Door that Led to Where (Inky Tentacle - Cover)
  • Square Enix's Life is Strange (Invisible Tentacle - Digitally Native Fiction)
  • Patrick Ness for his fundraising efforts for Save the Children (Black Tentacle - Judges' Discretion)

Plus, Margaret Atwood wore an octopus on her head all evening

Meanwhile, over at the Baileys Prize, the judges released this year's longlist, and we're delighted to see Becky Chambers' The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet hobnobbing alongside Kate Atkinson and Hanya Yanagihara. 

The Long Way is a gorgeous, beautiful book, and it is wonderful to see it tearing up (and tearing up, homonyms!) the literary establishment. Becky's also a regular contributor here - way to class up the joint, Chambers! The shortlist for this terrific prize will be announced on 11 April.


Friday Five: 5 Stories by Jeff Lemire

Descender

Jamie's back with more recommendations! 

Canadian writer/artist Jeff Lemire is a comics creator whose work is bound together by a strong thematic consistency. Lemire really proves – as if there was still doubt – that comics are a serious literary medium, but he doesn’t forget the power this medium has to engage with our emotions.

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Pierce Brown - Morning Star UK Tour

Red Rising

The puppy-curling, ice-bucketing, Goodreads winning (and winning) book-writin' sensation that is Pierce Brown is coming to the UK for the first time.

The author of Red Rising, Golden Son and Morning Star will be at:

If you've not read the (recently-concluded) series, they're like rolling The Hunger Games and Starship Troopers into a big ball, dousing the whole thing in cocaine and then setting it on fire while launching it from a cannon. That is to say, "good clean fun".