Feminist Science Fiction for the Win!

Friday, 15 November 2013 20:28

Last year, I took to saying that 2013 would be my “debut year” as an independent scholar. After transitioning away from academia, establishing Academic Editing Canada, delivering conference papers, writing articles, and editing a book, I felt that I was finally starting to see my new (portfolio) career path solidify ahead of me. I could not have predicted, however, just how exciting this year would turn out. The publication of my collection, Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure, this past August was a big deal for me—I’m still in wonder that I made that I made a book happen. I haven’t yet come across any published reviews of Disability in Science Fiction, but positive appraisals have begun reaching me by word of mouth, so I can’t be any happier about that whole project. With the edited collection alone, 2013 was shaping up to a significant year in my professional life.

Until two weeks ago, I had no idea that I would be achieving another major milestone: on November 8, I was named the first ever Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellow. I cannot express how deeply honoured I am to have received this award. The fellowship is a $3000 grant to perform research at the University of Oregon’s Knight Library Special Collections and Archive, which houses an amazing treasure trove feminist SF papers. The title of my proposed project is "'The Other Lives'--Locating Dis/Ability in Utopian Feminist SF" (which I will blog about more soon). It isn’t the money that I am excited about here (although it is certainly extremely helpful), but that other people think that my scholarly work is important and has an impact on the field of feminist SF studies. I still cannot quite believe my good fortune.

This past weekend (Nov. 8-9), I attended the Sally Miller Gearhart “Worlds Beyond World” Utopian Feminist Science Fiction symposium (held as part of the celebration of the U of O’s The Center for the Study of Women in Society’s 40th anniversary celebration). Even if the I wasn’t chosen as the inaugural Le Guin Feminist SF fellow (which was officially announced before Le Guin’s keynote reading and interview), I still would have made the trek to beautiful Eugene. An event like this one doesn’t come along too often these days. In attendance were many of the feminist SF writers I’ve long admired: Vonda N. McIntyre, Sally Miller Gearhart, Molly Gloss, Kate Wilhelm, Suzy McKee Charnas, L. Timmel Duchamp, Hiromi Goto, Andrea Hairston, Larissa Lai, and, of course, Ursula K. Le Guin. In addition, there were many wonderful feminist SF scholars in attendance. I was pleased to meet (or reconnect with) Margaret McBride, Alexis Lothian, Joan Haran, Liz Henry, and Grace Dillon, along with all of the keen and dedicated grad students too numerous to individually name here. It was a real treat to inhabit a space that was full of intelligent and passionate talk about feminism, science fiction, and fandom.

In a word, I found this weekend overwhelming. In the best possible way. In an if-I-think-about-it-too-long-I-start-crying kind of way. Because graduate school was damn difficult and painful. Because the past three years have been full of hard decisions and sometimes unbearable loneliness. During the panel I was on (focused on current feminist SF research), I said that attending this symposium felt like “I was coming home.” It has been a very long time since I last felt such ease at being part of something larger than myself. I’ve enjoyed my time at fan conventions, and I certainly have a fondness for academic conferences like ICFA, but none of those gatherings have been as welcoming, stimulating, and just plain right as the feminist SF symposium. Over the past few years, I have often felt too fannish for the academics and too academic for the fans. At the Worlds Beyond World symposium, however, I didn’t feel that I had too much or not enough of some intangible quality to belong. I wasn’t the only feminist in the room (far from it). I didn’t have to defend being an independent scholar (in fact, people wanted to know more). It was a celebration of everything I love about science fiction, feminist and otherwise.

There were so many amazing and surprising experiences I had during the symposium that it is going to take me a few weeks to process everything. I definitely want to share more of my thoughts, so I will write more posts as soon as I can about what I learned at the symposium, about my fellowship, and my current/upcoming research activities. Things are good!

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