Tag Archives: non-fiction

New Review: The Geek Feminist Revolution

Kameron Hurley

Tor Books (2016)

ISBN: 9780765386250

I think I’ve read more non-fiction for pleasure in the past two years than I have in my entire life up to that point. I’m not sure if it’s my reading habits evolving or just whether I finally found things I want to read about, but honestly, The Geek Feminist Revolution could not be more up my alley. After hearing Tansy rave about the book on Galactic Suburbia (that podcast really ought to come with a warning: you will spend money because of listening!), I bought a copy on the spot, and started reading pretty much immediately. I have read some Hurley pieces before (and I do follow the author on Twitter), but was pleasantly surprised to realise that most of the essays in the book were new to me. They were also exactly what I needed to be reading right now, I think – thoughtful, provocative, powerful and highly readable. It probably helped that I had at least a passing knowledge of many of the things she was responding to or writing about (just from being in geek circles over the past several years), which helped with context, but I don’t think my enjoyment of the essays would have been hindered even if I came to the book cold.

Hurley’s non-fiction style is highly accessible – she offers enough depth to draw out the understandings she’s working to impart, without overwhelming the reader in minutiae. If I have one complaint, it’s that a few of the essays felt like they finished too soon – there was actually more I wanted to know about the issue or situation being discussed but they were tied off fairly abruptly. That said, it was only something I noticed in a couple of pieces, and didn’t impact on my understanding of the arguments being presented.

I liked the way the book was sectioned, with like-pieces clustered together under the headings of Level Up, Geek, Let’s Get Personal and Revolution. Personally, I got the most out of Level Up and Revolution, but I enjoyed every single essay, whether I wholeheartedly agreed with Hurley’s arguments or not. I found myself highlighting excerpts as I read, which is both a sign I was engaged with the piece and that it was speaking to me. For example, in “The Complexity of Desires: Expectations of Sex and Sexuality in Science Fiction” I noted: “But normal is a lie. Normal is a story. As a writer, it’s my job to construct new normals for people. It’s my job to show folks what’s possible. It’s my job to rewrite narratives … We’re all only as normal as the stories we tell ourselves.” This resonated because the continuing discussion about diversity in books, film and TV, and the importance of readers/viewers seeing themselves, is something I’ve become very interested in and find myself noticing more and more (both when it’s done badly and when it’s done well). But there were several others that really jumped out and struck a chord, for various reasons, and made me think outside my box, which is always a good thing.

As a bonus to the ebook reading experience, all the notes and references Hurley makes through the book are linked to (where possible) – it was fantastic to get to the end of the book and then be able to hit the links and continue reading more excellent pieces, some by Hurley, others she responds to or bounces off. Love living in the future!

In all, this was an excellent reading experience for the content in hand, which has also made me keen to give Hurley’s novel-length fiction a try, thanks to the way she writes about the thought processes behind her work in some of the essays. This is intelligent, informed and at heart completely geeky feminist writing, informative and entertaining at every turn. Highly recommended.

 

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In Response: 5 (More) Nonfiction Books About Science Fiction

The good chaps at Kirkus published “5 Nonfiction Books About Science Fiction” on Wednesday, and I was a bit surprised to see only one of the five titles was by a woman. (I should stop being surprised by this, right?). I don’t read a huge amount of nonfiction, but what I DO read tends to be by women, so I figured I could offer some balance to this. (For the record, I loved The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurly), which is on the Kirkus list!).

  1. James Tiptree Jr: the Double Life of Alice B Sheldon by Julie Phillips – Oh my goodness, this was an amazing book. Sheldon’s life was so heartbreaking and exciting and interesting that it could be mistaken for fiction, but that comes across partly due to the incredible depth of research and highly accessible writing of biographer Phillips. Cannot recommend this highly enough as both the story of a life, but also in many ways as a history of science fiction. 
  2. Letters to Tiptree edited by Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein – Multi-award nominated (and winning) collection of new letters to Tiptree (or her other personas) by modern creators, as well as a wonderful reprints of letters from Tiptree’s contemporaries and introductions to short story collections, and further excerpts about the author from books like The Secret Feminist Cabal and The Battle of the Sexes. Important, intelligent, powerful stuff.
  3. The Rebirth of Rapunzel: A Mythic Biography of the Maiden in the Tower by Kate Forsyth – Yes, I published this one but it is an astonishingly well-written and well-researched exploration of the Rapunzel story, folklore and storytelling in general.
  4. Chicks Dig Timelords edited by Lynne M Thomas and Tara O’Shea (and other Mad Norwegian Press titles such as Chicks Unravel Time and Companion Piece) – Award-winning, entertaining and informative, with the added bonus of making you understand (in case you didn’t know) that you ARE NOT ALONE in your Time Lord love. 
  5. Pratchett’s Women by Tansy Rayner Roberts – Collecting a series of blog posts into one book, these are well-written, thoughtful reflections considering the evolution of Terry Pratchett’s writing over the course of the years, and the changing ways both the reader and the author interacted with the women of the Discworld series.

I’m sure there are lots more recommendations out there, from people more widely read in the non-fiction field than I – would love to hear yours!

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Retro Review: Chicks Unravel Time (2012)

Women journey through every season of Doctor Who

Edited by Deborah Stanish and LM Myles

Mad Norwegian Press (2012)

ISBN: 978-193523412-8

I’m a fairly recent Doctor Who convert. Early last year I became hooked thanks to wanting to watch the Neil Gaiman authored episode “The Doctor’s Wife”, so started with the Eleventh Doctor, and was so enamoured I went immediately back to the beginning of New Who and devoured the lot. Of course I have memories of watching Classic Who when I was a kid, with the Fourth Doctor, K9 and the Daleks being the only real things that I remember. And despite the best efforts of good friends trying to encourage me to embrace a bit of Classic Who now, I’ve struggled. Well, after reading Chicks Unravel Time, I just want to go back in time myself and be able to watch the whole of Doctor Who from the very beginning! Continue reading

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A publishing sort of year

Most people who read this would know I publish books via my boutique press FableCroft Publishing. In 2015, we’ve brought out two original anthologies, Cranky Ladies of History and Insert Title Here, Dirk Flinthart’s debut collection Striking Fire and the reprint ebook anthology Focus 2014: highlights of Australian short fiction (the third of an annual series) (and there may be a couple more things yet to come…).

What you might NOT know, is that this year I’ve also had several publications of my own! They are all non-fiction, and I’m rather chuffed about them, particularly when they have mostly been for paying markets!

Companion Piece cover

The first was an essay in the latest Mad Norwegian Press Doctor Who book, Companion PieceEdited by Liz Barr and LM Myles, Companion Piece focusses exclusively on the companions of Doctor Who – my essay is about Tegan, the Australian companion!

LetterstoTiptreeFollowing that, I have a letter in the Twelfth Planet Press tribute to James Tiptree Jr / Alice Sheldon / Raccoona Sheldon, Letters to TiptreeThis book is amazing and a powerful collection of work showcasing writers inspired by Sheldon’s story and her work.

Adding to these essays, I recently had an article published in the magazine Magpies, aimed at school libraries and librarians. I pitched the idea to the editors and was delighted to have it accepted, even though I only had about a week to then interview the authors and write the 1600 piece! The article is titled “Collaboration is the human superpower”, and is a feature focusing on the recent YA novel Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti within the broader context of the superhero popularity of today. It’s not online anywhere but I will probably blog the article when the exclusivity period ends.

And I was really pleased to do my first review for Books+Publishing this month! I think it’s the first time I’ve been paid to write a book review, and I’m hoping to be able to do some more. I reviewed Alison Goodman’s forthcoming novel Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club which is out early 2016, but the review is behind a paywall, sorry!

Oh, and just last week I was part of the latest SF Signal Mind Meld, on the topic “The books that made us love science fiction and fantasy” – this one WASN’T a paid piece, but I had a lot of fun writing it and check out the fantastic company I’m in!

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