Personal Essay: "Toward a Better Future" by Nancy Jane Moore
"Toward a Better Future"
No one has ever pinched my butt at a con. I don’t recall anyone ever telling me I didn’t have the “balls” to write science fiction.
And convention panels addressing gender issues have evolved into thoughtful and rational discussions—at least when I’m moderating them. I’ve even seen some change in the panels on women soldiers in SF. When I first started doing them (I get asked to do these often, since I’m a martial artist and write some military SF), the discussion quickly degenerated into whether women could fight. But these days it’s more common to have a conversation about how the military has changed with respect to women and to speculate on what that will mean in the future.
So I don’t have any entertaining or obnoxious stories about the time so-and-so did such-and-such to me. But other women do. And I’ve heard those stories enough to know that misogyny has not disappeared in the science fiction world.
It makes me wonder if it would be easier to sell my fiction if my name was Nathan rather than Nancy, or if I didn’t write so many stories with female protagonists. A positive review of my PS Publishing collection, CONSCIENTIOUS INCONSISTENCIES, questioned whether the word “feminist” should have been used in the description of the book, since even non-feminists would like it. I know the reviewer meant it as a compliment, but it was still frustrating.
Here’s the thing about oppression: It’s rarely the result of one person’s actions and often it’s not even intentional. As philosopher Carol Hay puts it, “Most oppressive harms tend not to be the result of the intentional actions of an individual person, but are more often the unintentional result of an interrelated system of social norms and institutions.” [Hay, Carol, KANTIANISM, LIBERALISM, AND FEMINISM, Palgrave McMillan, 2013, p. 8.]
Editors who say that women submit fewer stories than men and that they buy stories from men and women in about the proportion of their submissions are probably telling the truth. But while they have no intention to harm women writers, the fact remains that every time I pick up an issue of the magazine, I see more stories by men.
I also see more stories by men in most anthologies, including the various year’s best ones. And I see more reviews of books by men, something documented every year. This is, of course, also true in literary and mainstream fiction – especially the reviews.
Do women submit in smaller numbers because they notice these discrepancies? Of course they do. Even women who have spent their lives battering down the doors that say “No Girls Allowed” get tired of fighting all the time.
How do we fix this? By doing things like this LIGHTSPEED special issue. And by recognizing—and embracing— the fact that women are going to tell stories that differ from the ones of the so-called Golden Age.
Science fiction is supposed to be a genre of ideas, and ideas grow and change. It’s time for the SF community to stop defining science fiction by the ideas of U.S. and U.K. white male writers. The future will be the better for it.
The last rule in Nancy Jane Moore’s story “Thirty-One Rules for Fulfilling Your Destiny” is “Break all rules, including these.” It’s advice she has taken to heart. Her books, all available as ebooks at Book View Café, include the novellas “Changeling" (first published by Aqueduct Press) and “Ardent Forest,” and the collections CONSCIENTIOUS INCONSISTENCIES (first published by PS Publishing) and FLASHES OF ILLUMINATION. Moore’s short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines ranging from LADY CHURCHILL’S ROSEBUD WRISTLET to THE NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL. She holds a fourth degree black belt in Aikido and divides her time between Austin, Texas, and Oakland, California.