Personal Essay: "Read SF and You've Got a Posse" by Gail Marsella
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.This essay is by Gail Marsella.
"Read SF and You've Got a Posse" by Gail Marsella
As a consumer, reading science fiction resembles an auction—the tables hold an impossibly enticing variety of unique things, the sellers make multiple bid calls for your attention, and you're never the oddest person there. You can be tongue-tied, brainy, hit upside the head with an ugly stick, or as socially awkward as a chimp at a bris, but read SF and you've got a posse: people (some admittedly fictional) who would actively admire you for having a chemistry set and scuba gear to go with your sewing machine and fine china. Too much guy stuff? Well, yes. No argument about misogyny in the field, and the disturbingly wide POV range can be daunting, but—maybe because of a supportive father—I found it exciting, a sanctuary where I could use big words, think big thoughts, and not endure very many swelled heads. The two best work groups in my corporate career had a routine SF book swap, and even academia, where I teach now, is starting to come around.
As a creator, writing science fiction is probably no more difficult than any other kind, which means next to impossible if you've only ever written essays, proposals, or software manuals. Steep. Learning. Curve. It's harder than humor. It's harder than convincing the dean to fund a purely practical study of how to make money. Despite several decades of reading and writing experience, and a favorite definition of “story” that fits particularly well with SF (it's survival information), I'm struggling to get started. Thank God for Nancy Kress, Ben Bova, Kate Wilhelm and all the others who give back to the field by writing how-to books and teaching. At some point I'll be ready for Clarion, and despite my age (sixty), I'm going to wow them. Be ready.
Gail Marsella lives in Allentown, PA with her husband, dog, SF book collection and assorted hobbies. Retired from corporate America after launching three kids, she now teaches chemistry at Muhlenberg College. Gail is also a first reader for Lightspeed Magazine.