Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Jo Walton’

I have a thing about Beauty and the Beast tales, and I think I’ve just figured out why.

Fairy tales are classics for a reason. They strike deeply-ingrained cultural notes that resonate across many lines. (And like most of history, they’re often pretty hard on women.) But what is it about this particular storyline that appeals to me? I’d never really thought about it, until I found myself reading a not terribly well-done version and wondering why I was still reading. Why this sub-genre appeals to me. Then I figured it out.

It’s because in this story, she saves the day.

* * *

We can argue about the story or the level of efficacy Beauty has (not to mention her name), but the template of the story lends itself to modern updates in a way that many other fairy tales do not.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed other fairy tale retellings, but they don’t always appeal to me in the same way. Is it because there’s no princess in sight? Because there’s room for ethical debates alongside the magic and mystery? Because both main characters are flawed in interesting ways? Probably.

* * *

If you’re too young to remember a time when girls in (at least some) stories did not rescue themselves, count your lucky stars. When I was a kid, that’s pretty much all we had. Princess in a tower, waiting to be rescued? Check. Princess in dragon’s lair, waiting to be rescued? Check! Princess orphaned, alone, and (say it with me now) waiting to be rescued? Yep. And then, of course, there were all those stories where the girl didn’t even make it out alive. Ouch.

My parents tried, but it’s hard to counter the weight of all that history. Slowly, slowly, feminists pushed and creators did better and the world began to shift, but in the meantime, I was a voracious reader with limited formative years.

My attachment to the story may also have had something to do with my own position in the world at the time. The role of misunderstood outsider was one to which I could relate.

I mean, Heinlein’s* Friday was a big deal back in the day. Hard sci-fi starring a kick-ass woman of complex genetic makeup and latte-colored skin? Um, yes please.

* * *

On a related note, I recently learned that my father’s science fiction habit started thanks to recommendations from a sci-fi minded staff member at his university, lo those many years ago. That’s what got our shelves filled with speculation, and I’m better for it. So thank you, interesting unnamed woman who cared enough to share what she knew. (And if that doesn’t sum up most of human history, well, I don’t know what does.)

And that is one reason why I like what I like. Whatever you like, find a way to distill what’s good from it and embrace it. Even if at first it looks a little like a beast.

* * *

* There is deserved debate over Heinlein’s treatment of gender, but his stories helped me see that a different world, a better world, was possible as a kid, and that’s something I’ll always appreciate. It also made me think more about writing, and how to fix what’s broken, and it looks like I’m not the only one. Here’s Jo Walton’s take: The worst book I love: Robert Heinlein’s Friday.

* * *

lion in darkness
Photo by Matthew Kerslake on Unsplash

Read Full Post »

It’s International Women’s Day and while there are a lot of related events taking place, I’d like to highlight one with particular interest to writers. Tor.com has put together a short fiction collection spotlighting women, justice and persistence.

Here’s an excerpt from Tor’s announcement:

In collaboration with colleagues Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Lee Harris, Liz Gorinsky, Marco Palmieri, and Miriam Weinberg, we have assembled this flash fiction collection featuring several of the best writers in SF/F today. Together these authors share unique visions of women inventing, playing, loving, surviving, and – of course – dreaming of themselves beyond their circumstances.

Look forward to stories from:

Charlie Jane Anders
Brooke Bolander
Maria Dahvana Headley
Amal El-Mohtar
Kameron Hurley
Seanan McGuire
Nisi Shawl
Catherynne M. Valente
Carrie Vaughn
Jo Walton
Alyssa Wong

The stories are inspired by the words “Nevertheless, She Persisted” and will roll out starting May 8th.

Read Full Post »

Today’s free fiction comes from Ann Leckie of Ancillary fame and more. “Hesperia and Glory” was her first SF&F sale, and she blogs about the story and her experience writing it as part of the Clarion West writers workshop:

…all the best advice in the world (and trust me, it was fabulous advice for the story I appeared to have written) isn’t useful if it’s not for your story.

“Hesperia and Glory” is available free as part of a special issue of Subterranean Magazine guest-edited by John Scalzi. Also in this issue, stories by Rachel Swirsky, Jo Walton, Elizabeth Bear and more.

Heck, since I’m at it, let me link two other Leckie stories I read in the past few weeks, both in the Imperial Radch universe:

Night’s Slow Poison from Tor.com
She Commands Me and I Obey from Strange Horizons

Enjoy!

Read Full Post »