September 2nd, 2009



Related but only slightly, when I had coffee with D on the weekend, I mentioned to him the Mammoth Mindblowing Fail debacle. It was straight after we'd been talking about Le Guin, I think. D's immediate comment was, "it all depends on the capacity of the mind that we're blowing." Heh. Kinda sums it up really.

Out my way I've had the chance to talk a lot, at length about this issue and several others - especially since I was in Melbourne not long after it happened and I got to discuss this stuff in person with a lot of people. One of my friends, keeps reminding me that I need to understand what a Hugo really means - as in, who that decision represents, who votes for it and therefore whose opinion it is.

It's had me thinking a lot about the kind of editor and publisher that I want to be and made me aware of things that I think I could improve on. For ages, I've been wanting to get to a ton of reading that cassiphone has been recommending to me and I think this last round kick started me into getting round to it. If not now, when? And if not me, who? (paraphrased from Hillel).

I've been reading Justine Larbalestier's Daughters of the Earth this week. Figured I'd jump into my feminist SF nonfiction reading here as as good a place as any. And I am thoroughly enjoying it! My goal is to read one nonfiction essay a week but I must admit I'm going faster than that :) I'm loving reading the stories published in the pulp magazines, which is the beginning of the book - charts women sf writers through the decades starting in 1927. I must admit I have a hankering for collecting my own copies of some of these old mags but I fear to look and see the actual going price on ebay. I so don't need a new obsession right now.

I'm really enjoying the combination of reading a story, thinking about why it was chosen, and then reading the essay afterwards. I have learned that the Hugos were named for Hugo Gernsback who founded Amazing Stories in 1926. Gernsback was actually quite pro female writers, publishing the first female in his magazine (though somewhat patronisinly in his intro) in 1927. He encouraged and founded fandom and he encouraged the blurring of the lines between fan and writer, encouraging readers to become writers in his magazine.

Though the second essay, by Brian Attebery (on Leslie F Stone's "Conquest of Gola") was a bit more scathing of Gernsback by pointing out that he encouraged readers to focus on the science of the stories rather than the emotional content, say. I read one sentence in the middle of this essay last night that said something along the lines of - readers took this guidance and their favourite stories were the ones that contained the most accurate orbits. I laughed so hard and loudly that I had to put the book down. Have we not all been stuck in panels with readers like this?

Attebery's essay also talked a lot about the role that sf mags had in the development of the story and the tropes - one writer would write something, someone else would write something in direct response, a third writer would take the first and flip it upside down and a fourth writer would take the idea and write something comic. I personally love stories that talk across publications and writers to other writers. We do that a bit in New Ceres and it's so much fun to read. I guess I also like it when writers play with each other's work. It can be really funny and smart, when done well.

The book is really worth recommending, though I am but 50 pp in. I am learning a lot - about feminism and feminist issues in SF, but also about the history and roots of the genre, the development of story in the genre and the players who brought us to where we are today. I thought it might be a bit of a dry read but it's really entertaining and fun.

The Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test entered pop culture via the comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel. Also known as the Bechdel/Wallace test, the Bechdel rule, or Bechdel's law, the test is used as a diagnostic indicator for the objectification of women within a particular text. Bechdel credits her friend Liz Wallace for the test, which appears in a 1985 strip entitled "The Rule", in which a character says that she only watches a movie if it satisfies all the following requirements:

1. It has to have at least two women in it,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something besides a man.

A variant of the test, in which the two women must additionally be named characters, is also called the Mo Movie Measure. The name is a misnomer as neither Mo nor the other regular characters had been introduced yet at the time of this strip's publication.

The test falls down for a lot of examples including first person narrative. My guess for written fiction is, if you always write in first person male narrative, you probably fail the test :)

(information taken from Wikipedia and Fanlore.)


not looking good for the books

My awesomely awesome Ms jbaby77 just called the supermarket for me to see if my books had been handed in. I just could not do it - so embarrassed. Also I have absolutely no phone privacy at work. It's dead silent and I am seated out in the open area.

Anyway, they went and looked and were away from the phone for some time. The books were nowhere to be found.

I will do one final hunt/clean out of my car before I call the time of death on this one. And then a short mourning period.