Cold Wind April 16, 2014 Cold Wind Nicola Griffith Old ways can outlast their usefulness. What Mario Scietto Says April 15, 2014 What Mario Scietto Says Emmy Laybourne An original Monument 14 story. Something Going Around April 9, 2014 Something Going Around Harry Turtledove A tale of love and parasites. The Devil in America April 2, 2014 The Devil in America Kai Ashante Wilson The gold in her pockets is burning a hole.
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April 13, 2014
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April 11, 2014
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April 8, 2014
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April 4, 2014
The Age of Heroes is Here. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
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Showing posts by: Alex Dally MacFarlane click to see Alex Dally MacFarlane's profile
Apr 8 2014 10:00am

Shadow Man Melissa ScottIn the future of Shadow Man (Tor: 1995, currently Lethe Press), a drug taken to survive FTL travel has increased intersex births and led to the widespread recognition of five body types among the Concord worlds: five sexes, called fem, herm, man, mem and woman. Each has a different set of pronouns. On the world Hara, cut off from the other worlds shortly after settlement and recently reunited with the Concord worlds, the old two-gender system remains in place despite the variety in body type. Pressure for social change on Hara is inevitable.

It’s an interesting set-up for a story. Shadow Man focuses on two people: Warreven, a Hara herm living as a man who works as a legal representative for people involved or indicted in “trade” (sex work); and Tatian, a Concord man who represents the business interests of a pharmaceutical company. Their paths cross as one of Tatian’s employees intends to testify in a case that Warreven hopes will call the gender law of Hara into question.

[It’s especially interesting, to me, to read a book where five is the default instead of two.]

Mar 18 2014 11:00am

Here We Cross Rose LembergWhat I love most about poetry is its potential for voice: when I’m reading my favourite poetry, it feels like I’m being spoken to. The brevity of most poetry brings that voice to precision, “a way to whittle down to this direct voice, to make it the only thing—to amplify it by way of having nothing else around it.” (Quoting myself.)

This isn’t the only way to read poetry—there is no ‘one’ way. Amal El-Mohtar wrote about how to read poetry on this site last year, stressing the many possible approaches. An English Literature degree is one. Another, prisoners in Lebanon listening to her grandfather’s spoken poetry to survive. Poetry is many-faceted, many voices speaking in many ways. It can intersect with speculative fiction—I really recommend a conversation between Lavie Tidhar and Shimon Adaf in Strange Horizons on this subject. I know a lot of people are wary of poetry, but it’s this easy: if you read a poem and find something—a turn of phrase, an idea, a voice that hooks on your ear—you’ve gained something from it. Poetry isn’t for everyone, of course, but it’s varied and more vast than many people know.

[It’s a place for post-binary voices to speak in other ways.]

Mar 4 2014 12:00pm

The Cage of Zeus Sayuai UedaThe Cage of Zeus by Sayuri Ueda gives us a not-too-distant future of human exploration and habitation of our solar system, where an experimental project in the Jupiter System has engineered the Rounds: humans with ‘both’ sex organs whose gender is neither male nor female.

The reasoning for this is given early:

“To resolve the issues raised by gender differences... We’re incapable of eliminating the conflicts stemming from the differences in the sexes. And that’s only natural. Our physiology is different. So are our hormonal cycles. There’s no way to understand the other completely... But now as we’ve left the tiny confines of the solar system and are attempting to embark on a journey into the dark expanse, we can’t afford to quibble over such trifling matters. Which is why we should dispense with the problems that can be resolved by reinventing the body. A society where we are all equals, where only individual differences exist.”

[Read More]

Feb 18 2014 11:00am

Ann Leckie Ancillary JusticeI enjoyed Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Orbit: 2013) a lot. It’s such fun. A spaceship AI with human bodies that it uses to sing! Fragmentation of many-bodied entities! A culture with a non-gendered norm!

That last is both a strength and a place where it stumbles.

Ancillary Justice is not about gender, which is a strength: it normalises non-gendered people and doesn’t present a narrative in which they are exceptional, strange or a source of curiosity. It also means this post doesn’t spoil the plot in the slightest.

[The book opens on the planet Nilt, where gender is binary.]

Feb 4 2014 11:00am

I want to begin the discussion of texts with a recommendation. At several conventions last year, I pointed to Mission Child by Maureen F. McHugh (Avon, 1998; Orbit, 1999) as the only good science fiction book about non-binary gender I had found. It remains my favourite.

The narrative focus of Mission Child is one person’s life: a very real life, one of reaction to major events and trying to find a path to survival and satisfaction. Janna lives on a world long ago settled and then forgotten by Earth, until recently. The return of people from Earth causes problems for the various inhabitants of the world. For Janna’s people, reindeer herders in the planet’s arctic region, it causes an influx of weapons that leads to violence, war and displacement. The hardships Janna faces—while surrounded by conflict, while fleeing it across a brutal winter landscape, while living in a refugee camp, while living as an immigrant in a city—are told very matter-of-factly, which gives the book a very personal intensity. The narrative is of a person experiencing events, without the grand over-arching direction of fiction.

[A very individual approach to writing about gender...]

Jan 21 2014 11:00am

The Left Hand of Darkness Ursula K Le Guin Tim White

I want an end to the default of binary gender in science fiction stories.

[Read more...]

Oct 1 2013 11:00am

About a year ago, I was reading an anthology that collected almost fifty science fiction stories, a high percentage of which were recently published. Some offered exciting, thought-provoking ideas of the future. Many did not: the far-future felt like today, IN SPAAACE.

This failure of the imagination is one I encounter too often, and it can happen in many ways. The one I want to talk about is the depiction of families: namely, that they are almost always families of one man and one women—straight, cisgender—with a child or two.

Families across Earth exist in great variation, from extensive kinship networks to only a few relationships, connected by genetics or choice. People of all sexualities and genders join together in twos, threes, or more. Family-strong friendships, auntie networks, global families... The ways we live together are endless.

[But that’s not the case in science fiction. At least not yet.]