Personal Essay: "Stray Outside the Lines" by E. Catherine Tobler
When we set out to destroy science fiction with this Kickstarter, we didn't want it to be your ordinary, run-of-the-mill campaign. We wanted it to be full of smashing, crashing women's voices, telling what it really means to be a woman reading and writing science fiction. One of the ways we hope to do that is by sharing a series of personal essays by women about their experiences as a woman in science fiction.
"Stray Outside the Lines"
You speak your mind and they ask you what's wrong with you.
You question the words they've published and they say you want to censor their work.
You suggest a new path forward and they call you a fascist.
You see a problem and they wonder what the hell you're talking about.
They trip over themselves to tell you you're ugly, but to also not let the door hit your perky ass on the way out.
Every day, women are told and taught not to speak up. By the response our words garner, we are told our opinions are not wanted or valued. We are shown that our voices have no place alongside the words of male colleagues. Whether our words are fictional or not, we are told in subtle and blatant ways that we are still not entirely welcome to play with the boys.
You can speak, but know your place. Look to Barbie for a role model. Be quiet, be perfect, be pink, and if you stray outside the lines—
Stray outside the lines.
Be cheeky. Be bold.
They will say all manner of nasty things to you. About you. These aren't truths. Your friends will support you, and you will make new friends who share your sentiments. It's possible some will believing your criticism means their own years of hard work are worthless. This is another thing we are taught: that if X is true, so must Y be. This is not a truth. Your work is not without worth.
This is the future. This is the place we dreamed of. This is the place where everyone is supposed to be equal, no matter color, gender, age. This is the place our fictional words created—it is not by mistake, or random.
Science fiction tells us we can be equal, that we are equal—so don't you dare stay inside the lines. Stray, because sitting where you are told gets you nowhere. Science fiction taught you about the stars, science fiction told you there are better places. You aren't going to reach them without being cheeky.
E. Catherine Tobler lives and writes in Colorado--strange how that works out. Her Rings of Anubis series is available from Masque Books. Among others, her short fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Fantasy Magazine, Realms of Fantasy, Clarkesworld, and Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. She is a Sturgeon Award finalist and the senior editor at Shimmer Magazine.