Personal Essay: "Writing Among the Beginning of Women" by Amy Sterling Casil
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 Amy Sterling Casil.
"Writing Among the Beginning of Women"
Science is one of the primary ways in which people seek to understand the world and themselves.
The only people who read my short fiction when I started out, other than my writing friends Ron Collins, Brian Plante and Lisa Silverthorne, was my aunt Donna Hodgson, who was a nurse, and who was among the best human beings who ever lived.
I received eighty-two rejections before I made my first professional science fiction sale, "Jonny Punkinhead," which appeared in the July 1996 "New Writers" issue of THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION. Prior to my selling "Jonny Punkinhead" to Kris Rusch at F&SF, Donna rubbed this story for good luck and pronounced it excellent.
Though trained in the medical field and of an analytical mind, my aunt Donna read primarily literature, including such authors as Toni Morrison and Alice Walker. When she read my writing, including "Jonny Punkinhead," she said, "This is good and beautifully written—it's not science fiction."
I heard from my "friends" that my work was not science fiction. Far too "literary." This was because it dealt not only with speculation, but with concerns of the human heart and mind.
Concerns much like those that were mentioned by William Faulkner in his 1950 Nobel Prize acceptance speech: "The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past."
How pitiful that it would be a value of those who sought to take control of fiction about at least half of people's endeavor of the past two hundred years that they would not think it important to write about pride, compassion, pity, sacrifice—and my primary topic—honor.
Now, this many years later, I have the courage and honor to write about women and men who have honor, and who believe in Faulkner's values. I am a Southern California science fiction writer. I owe to those who came before me: Jim Blaylock and Tim Powers, and before them, Philip K. Dick.
I have been slapped, groped, insulted and intimidated in my pursuit of being a female science fiction writer.
I have some news for those who'd seek to put me or my work down. I am Female Science Fiction Writer. I will write about that which I wish and choose to write about.
Am I, as a permanent slush pile denizen who reviews for a major publication stated, a "decent sentence to sentence writer?" Oh, I suppose so. But what I am, truly, is someone who understands Faulkner's charge. I refuse to write as though I "stood among and watched the end of man," a term that Faulkner used in its full sense—to refer to all people.
We are not writing among the end of men. We are writing among the beginning of women. Of people. Of our, human, race.
Inspired by a lifelong love of nature, endless curiosity, and a belief in wonderful things, Amy Sterling Casil is a 2002 Nebula Award nominee and recipient of other awards and recognition for her short science fiction and fantasy, which has appeared in publications ranging from THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION to ZOETROPE. She is the author of twenty-six nonfiction books; more than a hundred short stories, primarily science fiction and fantasy; two fiction and poetry collections; and two novels. She lives in Aliso Viejo, California with her daughter Meredith and a Jack Russell Terrier named Gambit. Amy is a business consultant and teaches writing and composition at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, after receiving her MFA from Chapman University in 1999.