Thursday, April 25. 2013
So, yesterday I decided to indulge in another round of that intermittent habit, poking the internet with a stick, but starting a hashtag -- #womentoread -- over on Twitter. I asked people to recommend sff by women. The response was astonishing: I'd hoped that some of my friends would pick it up, but... One of the very first to do so was Seanan Mcguire (Thank you, Seanan!) and it just took off. All afternoon (my timezone) and well into the evening, people were naming their favourites, exchanging names and recommendations and ideas. It was huge fun and the enthusiasm and engagement and excitement was just wonderful. I am profoundly grateful to everyone who joined in and help this happen. Towards the end of the day (my time) writer Harry Connolly (gave me the idea of capitalising on all this momentum by linking it to a series of blogposts about specific women writers and post links to these pieces on twitter using the hashtag. (You can read Harry's article here I've written about women writers whose work I love before, of course, but the problem has been that relatively few people saw them -- mainly my existing social circle and readers. And that is a key issue for many women writers: underexposure. But the hashtag, as I said, has some momentum, so this seems like an opportunity to try and raise the profile of writing by women and to address that underexposure to some degree.
But why now, exactly. I've done something like this before (last year with the fantasy by women thing). That's part of it. I am an activist to my bones: it's coded into me to try and do something when I see an injustice. And I know far too many really great women writers who are underrated, under-reviewed, under-recognised. I see male writers praised for doing things in books which women did before them, which women are doing as well as them -- but the women are ignored and sidelined. It is a fact that books by women are reviewed less frequently than books by men, and that prestigious review locales pay less attention to women than men.
This year's review survey came out two days ago. During the day, my twitter feed was full of men -- many of them high-profile and influential -- decrying the under-representation of women writers in reviews (and I am very glad to see them recognising this and commenting on it) but immediately going back to talking about, promoting and praising works by other men. Last week, my friend and fellow writer Juliet E McKenna found ourselves in a major branch of a major UK book-chain in Oxford and noticed a promo table for fantasy. We're both fantasy authors, we took a look. The theme was clearly 'If you like George R R Martin, try this". It was a table about 4 foot x 4 foot square, piled high with fantasy. Great.
Except... all but three of the writers represented were men. And of the remaining 3 -- the women -- two were not epic fantasy writers but established Big Name Bestsellers -- Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins and the books by them on that table were both sf. That's fine. I love sf by women. But those two books -- The Host and The Hunger Games weren't there because they were 'like' A Game of Thrones; they were there because they're already bestsellers in a related field. The other women present was an epic fantasy author and a good one -- Robin Hobb. Who has a gender-neutral name.
I'm not saying the men on that table aren't good: there were some excellent books there, by excellent writers. There were also books by men I've never heard of, which are quite probably also excellent books. But the overall impression was 'This is A Man's World'. Jules and I started making a list of who was not on that table, of women who are epic fantasy writers and published in the UK.
Gail Z Martin
Karen Miller/K E Mills
Juliet E McKenna
That was in about a minute. Now, you can argue, very reasonably, that some of those women are out-of-print here (but you might like to think about how they came to fall out of print in this context, given that contracts depend on sales, sales depend on exposure -- and women do not get the exposure).
A table that censored women from a genre.
A twitter feed that decried a wrong -- and then went back to the male default.
I saw red. At some point on the 22nd April, I asked, rather wistfully, if we could declare the next day -- yesterday -- promote women writers day. I got two responses, both from women, saying, yes, lets, and so...
You can see some of the responses and recommendations here. You can find more by going to twitter and hunting for the hashtag #womentoread.You can share the idea. You can write a review of a book by a woman. You can blog about a woman writer you admire. You can post a list of links to the websites of women writers you love. It doesn't have to be ep;ic fantasy or even sff. It can be any genre. And then, please, go to twitter and tweet that link with the #womentoread hashtag. If you're not on twitter, post the link here in the comments and I will tweet it for you.
This isn't about me. I know how it can look, I'm a fantasy writer. But really, it isn't. This is about all those fantastic women writers whose books I've treasured for years, about Tanith Lee and Evangeline Walton, Judith Tarr and Kate Elliott, Anne Gay, Storm Constantine, Sherwood Smith, Rumer Godden, Juliet McKenna, Barabar Michaels, Elizabeth Goudge, Liz WIlliams, Dion Fortune, Sheila Gilluly, R A McAvoy, Barbara Hambly, Leah Bobet, Sarah Monette, Justina Robson, Amanda Downum, Claudia J Edwards, Sharan Newman, Freda Warrington, Stephanie Saulter, Lisanne Norman, Jaine Fenn... I could go on and one and on. Some of those writers are long-established, some are out of print and out of contract, some are new, some are dead. But they are all great.
And me? Later today I'll be blogging here and on my livejournal blog about a woman whose books were a lightning bolt to my writing world, Nancy Springer.
Tuesday, March 26. 2013
Eastercon (EightSquared Con http://www.eightsquaredcon.org/web/Welcome.html) is almost upon us, and this year I'm on the organising committee. So I am expecting a very busy weekend. I will be around for all of it -- I'll be the blur of speed in black and white -- but hopefully there will also be time for catching up with people and even sleeping.
And to see our wonderful guests of honour, Walter Jon Williams, Freda Warrington, Anne Sudworth and Professor Edward James.
I hope to see some of you there.
Tuesday, October 30. 2012
Thursday, August 23. 2012
Only one more week until worldcon! I am really looking forward to it. I don't get to worldcons very often and I always have a blast at them. And this year it's in Chicago, which is one of my favourite US cities.
Here's my schedule:
Fri Aug 31 9:00 --10:30am, Anarchism in Fantasy and Science Fiction
Wednesday, August 8. 2012
Wednesday, July 4. 2012
Only two weeks to go, more or less, until publication day for The Grass King's Concubine. It's already available for pre-order with all the usual places. I'm running a competition in the run up to it to win two advance copies. The details are here: the competition is open until 25th July. http://users.livejournal.com/la_marquise_de_/342113.html
Meanwhile, here's the beautiful cover, by the very talented Paul Young, and the blurb:
"When a wealthy young woman, obsessed with a childhood vision of a magical Shining Palace, sets out with her true love to search for a legendary land, she discovers the devastated WorldBelow - the realm of the Grass King - and the terrifying Cadre, who take her prisoner, and demand she either restore the king's concubine... or replace her."
Thursday, April 5. 2012
It's Eastercon time again! I shall be off tomorrow: we're back at the Radisson Edwardian Hotel, Heathrow this year. I'm quite busy on programme this time --
I shall hope to see some of you there.
Tuesday, November 22. 2011
I have a publication date for The Grass King's Concubine -- 7th August 2012, just in time for Worldcon. It's available for pre-order from various places. I am so excited: I've lived with this book for almost as long as Living With Ghosts: I began the earliest version of it back in 1995, although it's changed a lot since then. I love the characters and the setting. It's in the same world as LWG, but in a different place and set about 150 years later. And while LWG focuses on a city, GKC is set mostly in the world of ghosts and spirits -- the variundarii that Gracielis talks about. It has a stubborn heroine, a patient hero, a set of other-worldly warrior-guards and shape-shifting ferret twins. I'll keep you posted about promotional events, cover details and so on.
Friday, October 21. 2011
In two days, I shall be heading off to the USA to visit friends in Portland, and then on to San Diego for World Fantasy 2011. I shall be at the con from Thursday later afternoon till Sunday around noon. WFC is always huge fun: a chance to catch up with friends and colleagues as well as to hear some interesting programming.
I will be on the programme myself, at 8 pm on Thursday 27th October in Pacific 2/3:The Role of Class in Fantasy
Friday, September 16. 2011
My wonderful publisher, DAW books, have bought my second book, The Grass King's Concubine,along with an as-yet untitled sequel. It should be out next year. I am so excited about this: I had a lot of fun (and a lot of you-what moments) writing it, and I am delighted that DAW liked it. It's set in the same world as Living With Ghosts, but in a different place and with new characters. And it's a lot weirder: no ghosts this time, but shape-shifting ferret women, immortal elemental warriors, strange dead creatures, and a mystery that has changed the shape of the underworld.
Tuesday, June 7. 2011
Next week, I'm heading off to Stockholm for Eurocon 2011 (http://eurocon2011.se/) and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm giving a reading at 12.30 on Saturday, and shall be on two panels -- Myths in sf and fantasy (Sunday at noon) and Men, women and neuters in sf and fantasy (Sunday at 16.00). I'm looking forward to it.
I love Stockholm. I first visited it 13 or 14 years ago, back when I was still teaching early mediaeval history. I went to see the viking trading post of Birka and the burial mounds and runestones at Uppsala, all of which I loved. But I discovered something else, too. Old Stockholm looks like Merafi. I had had no idea. I first created Merafi around 1989: an amalgam of several lost mediaeval and early modern cities -- Paris (which lost its 16th century layer to Napoleon), Coventry (destroyed during WW2), Leicester (a victim of city planners), Lyons, York, Rouen, Chester, with their ancient hearts besieged by modern life. I hadn't seen Stockholm back then, I hadn't even seen pictures. And yet there I stood, in 1997 or so, in the heart of a city I felt I already knew, a city that made me feel welcome and happy, a city loved by those who live there (as far as I can tell). I am so excited to be going back. Thank you, Sweden, for having such a perfect city at your core. I'm so looking forward to seeing it again. And after the con, I'm travelling on to Oslo, a city I have not yet visited and which I really want to see.
I'll be writing about my trip on my main blog here http://users.livejournal.com/la_marquise_de_/
Or you can find me on Facebook (KariSperring) and Twitter (@karisperring)
Monday, April 18. 2011
Over the Easter weekend I shall be at Illustrious, this year's Eastercon, which is taking place in Birmingham (at the NEC Hilton). My programme commitments llok like this:Friday 4.30 'Great Women in SF' -- who are the most memorial female characters in sf?
4.30 'Did Star Wars change science fiction to speculative fiction?' --
For many years our genre was Science Fiction, something that Real People
looked down upon. Nowadays the term Speculative Fiction is often used
to make the genre appear less geeky. When did this happen? Was it
because a lot of people who would never admit to enjoying SF rather
enjoyed Star Wars?
Sunday 10.30 'Women in SF (vs fantasy' --
There is arguably a perception that fantasy is a more feminine genre, as
opposed to SF. Yet look at the lists of best-selling writers, it's
manifestly not so. Why is this?
Sunday Noon 'Diana Wynne Jones
Memorial' -- The recent passing of Diana Wynne Jones has left a large
hole in the landscape of current British science fiction and fantasy.
Several of Diana's friends and admirers read some of her works in
tribute to an exceptional creative talent.(moderator)
I'm really looking forward to it.
Saturday, March 26. 2011
I learnt this morning of the death of British writer Diana Wynne Jones. She's a big part of the heart of British fantasy, a great influence on many, many other writers, a creator of worlds and characters to whom I return again and again. Every time I reread Fire and Hemlock, say, or Archer's Goon I notice something new. I had the very great privilege of meeting her two or three times. She was charming, interesting, witty and delightful. After two days of sunshine here, it's overcast today and I can't help feeling that that is appropriate. The world is a slightly dimmer place without her. Thank you, Ms Wynne Jones, for everything.
Continue reading "Diana Wynne Jones 1934-2011"
Monday, March 21. 2011
The judges of the James Tiptree Jnr Award have listed Living with Ghosts on their honours' list for 2010. This is a huge honour, as the Tiptree is one of the most important awards in the sf and fantasy field, and I am stunned and delighted and shocked and grateful. The details can be found here: http://tiptree.org/
Many many congratulations to the winner, Dubravka Ugresic, whose novel Baba Yaga Laid An Egg I am off to buy right now. And many congratulations to all the other authors on the honours lists. It's a real privilege to be listed alongside them.
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Photo credit: Phil Nanson
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