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Women Destroy Science Fiction! is a special issue of the Hugo Award-nominated magazine LIGHTSPEED entirely written—and edited—by women.
Women Destroy Science Fiction! is a special issue of the Hugo Award-nominated magazine LIGHTSPEED entirely written—and edited—by women.
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Personal Essay: "Not a Spaceship, Robot, or Zombie in Sight" by Anne Charnock

Posted by Lightspeed Magazine (Creator)

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. Today's essay is by Anne Charnock.

"Not a Spaceship, Robot, or Zombie in Sight"

As a writer of science fiction I had a slow and, initially, rocky start. I spent the best part of a decade writing my first novel, A Calculated Life. It seemed that every other year I was too busy to look at the manuscript—busy with my art practice, raising two sons, getting involved with community carbon-reduction projects. 

When I did eventually complete the novel, I was unaware that, in the UK, women SF writers were struggling to secure publishing contracts. I’d like to think this partly explains why I failed to find a literary agent, although it didn’t help that my book was short by SFF standards. 

I cast around for any SF Publishers that might accept author submissions but my novel seemed a bad fit with their existing lists. After all, I’d written a near-future dystopia with a female protagonist who works in an office in central Manchester, a northern English city with an industrial heritage! Not a spaceship, robot, or zombie in sight. And no element of fantasy or the paranormal. I felt out of step. 

So, I invested months of effort towards self-publishing my novel as a Kindle eBook and paperback. What a steep learning curve! Out of the blue, five months after I published the paperback, I was approached by David Pomerico, acquisitions editor at 47North. He offered me a contract, which I readily accepted. It feels odd that as a English woman SF writer I have a publisher in Seattle, nearly 5000 miles from UK shores, and an editor based in New York. 

A Calculated Life, I learned this month, is one of seven nominated works for the Philip K. Dick Award 2013 and one of five shortlisted works for The Kitschies Golden Tentacle Award for debut novel. 


Anne Charnock's writing career began in journalism. Her articles appeared in the Guardian, New Scientist, International Herald Tribune, and Geographical. She was educated at the University of East Anglia, where she studied environmental sciences, and at the Manchester School of Art. She travelled widely as a foreign correspondent and spent a year trekking through Egypt, Sudan and Kenya. In her fine art practice, Anne tried to answer the questions: What is it to be human? What is it to be a machine? Ultimately she decided to write fiction as another route to finding answers. Her website is, and you can find her on Twitter @annecharnock.

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