Personal Essay: "An ABC of Kickass, or A Partial Exorcism of My TBR/TBRA* Pile" by Jude Griffin
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 LIGHTSPEED staffer Jude Griffin.
"An ABC of Kickass, or A Partial Exorcism of My TBR/TBRA* Pile"
A is for Athena Andreadis’s To Seek Out New Life: The Biology of Star Trek: an entertaining and erudite look at the strength of the science in the science fiction classic. (A is also for Annoying my husband by bringing up her points like why the differing blood color of Vulcans and humans means no Spock.)
B is for Leigh Brackett, Queen of Space Opera, and her unbeatable story titles like “The Beast-Jewel of Mars,” and “Purple Priestess of the Mad Moon.”
C is for Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, who wrote of submarines in the sixteen hundreds in The Blazing-World.
D is for Aliette de Bodard’s “The Heartless Light of Stars”: “In space, distance is time.”
E is for Ekaterina Sedia’s “Herding Vegetable Sheep” where entertainment conglomerates run for and win presidencies.
F is forever for Frankenstein, written by the nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley, laying bare the hubris of science unhinged from ethics and one of the most important science fiction works ever written.
G is for Glotolog documented in Joanna Russ's searing tale of the encompassing cultural oppression of the Whelk-finned Glotologs over the Crescent-finned, Spotty, and Mottled populations, How to Suppress Women's Writing.
H is for Nalo Hopkinson whose science fiction is unconstrained by anyone’s rules or expectations, who weaves together magic and science as suits the story, and who made a dress that hangs in my closet (shameless fangirling by me, sorry).
I is for “In Hiding,” by Wilmar Shiras, a short story that became the first chapter of Children of the Atom—thought to be the inspiration for the X-Men comic books.
J is for Jezebels, sterilized, state-controlled prostitutes in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
K is for Kameron Hurley rescuing the history of soft, downy, non-cannibalistic llamas in “We Have Always Fought.”
L is for Madeleine L’Engle: her genre-busting science fiction and fantasy novel, A Wrinkle In Time, is one of the most marvelous introductions to SFF a child could have.
M is for Mistressworks: go.
N is for Nnedi Okorafor: vengeful swordfish, robotic spiders, rapacious multinationals, elgorts, clack beetles, aliens, apocalypses, and goddesses—what’s not to love?
O is for Octavia Butler: the first science fiction writer ever to win the MacArthur Fellowship (aka, Genius Grant).
P is for Parrish Plessis, the star of Marianne de Pierres’s rollicking SF action adventure series.
Q is for the Quetz, Joyce Chng’s empathic, pterosaur-like creatures. With feathers!
R is for Rukbat 3, aka Pern, the setting for Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders series.
S is for Memoirs of a Spacewoman by Naomi Michison where space exploration is the skeleton for an exploration of empathy, binary thinking bias, sexuality, and whose own life is a fantastic tale of its own.
T is for Tiamat, home of the Winters and the Summers in Joan Vinge’s The Snow Queen.
U is for Ursula Le Guin and her Hainish explorations of physics, gender, sexuality, politics, and religion. And who published her story “Nine Lives” in Playboy as “U.K. Le Guin” because, as an editor noted, “Many of our readers are frightened by stories by women.”
V is for Eliza Victoria’s Project 17: Orwell with robots! And world-building that feels all too real.
W is for Clare Winger Harris: the first woman to be published in SF publications and a visionary for her recognition that one gender need not embody all the courage, curiosity, intelligence, abilities, daring, and strength in a tale.
X is for all the names and stories and worlds and ideas lost to us through willful blindness, dismissal, fear, and antipathy.
Y is for Yod, the cyborg at the center of Marge Piercy’s novel, He, She, and It, exploring love, gender, and identity in a corporate-controlled dystopia.
Z is for Zinzi December in Zoo City, Lauren Beukes’s novel of an alternate South Africa, animalling, the music industry, and a criminal underworld. Bonus points for wearing a fake sloth while accepting the Arthur C. Clarke Award.
* TBRA=To Be Read Again
Jude Griffin is an envirogeek, writer, and photographer. She has trained llamas at the Bronx Zoo; was a volunteer EMT, firefighter, and HAZMAT responder; worked as a guide and translator for journalists covering combat in Central America; lived in a haunted village in Thailand; ran an international frog monitoring network; and loves happy endings. Bonus points for frolicking dogs and kisses backlit by a shimmering full moon. Jude is also an editorial assistant at LIGHTSPEED.