BBF: Gender in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Sunday September 18, 2016
This event brought together celebrated voices from science fiction and fantasy whose work explores gender constructs and/or notions of sexuality, to talk about the current state and representation of these themes in the field. Multi-award winner Catherynne M. Valente (The Labyrinth (2004), Deathless (2011), Radiance (2015)) joined Seth Dickinson (The Traitor Baru Cormorant, 2014), 2015 Nebula Award-winner Alyssa Wong, and Whiting Award-winner Alice Sola Kim.
Catherynne M. Valente is a New York Times Bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction novels, short stories, and poetry. She has written over two dozen volumes of fiction and poetry since her first novel, The Labyrinth, was published in 2004. Her full-length novels include (chronologically) Yume no Hon: The Book of Dreams, The Grass-Cutting Sword, The Orphan’s Tales (a duology consisting of In the Night Garden and Cities of Coin and Spice), Palimpsest, The Habitation of the Blessed, Deathless, and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. She is also the author of two novellas, Under In the Mere and The Ice Puzzle as well as several collections of poetry, including Apocrypha and Oracles (2005), The Descent of Inanna (2006) and A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects (2008). Her first collection of short stories, Ventriloquism, came out in the winter of 2010, her second, The Bread We Eat in Dreams, in 2013, followed by an essay collection, Indistinguishable from Magic, in 2014.
She has won or been nominated for every major award in her field: the Hugo (2010, 2012, 2013, 2014), Nebula (2013 & 2014), Locus (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) and World Fantasy Awards (2007, 2009, 2011, 2014). In the Night Garden won the James Tiptree Jr. Award for expanding gender and sexuality in SFF (2007), and the series as a whole won the Mythopoeic Award for Adults (2008). Palimpsest won the Lambda Award for LGBT fiction (2010). Her story Urchins, While Swimming, received the Million Writers Award for best online short fiction in 2006 and her poem The Seven Devils of Central California won the Rhysling Award in 2008. She can be found on Twitter as @catvalente
Seth Dickinson is the author of The Traitor Baru Cormorant, and more than a dozen short stories. His short fiction has appeared in Analog, Asimov's, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and more. He is an instructor at the Alpha Workshop for Young Writers. During his time in the social sciences, he worked on cocoa farming in Ghana, political rumor control, and simulations built to study racial bias in police shootings. He wrote much of the lore and flavor for Bungie Studios' smash hit Destiny, where his favorite contribution is the Book of Sorrows in The Taken King.
His 2015 début novel The Traitor Baru Cormorant, a hard fantasy expansion of a 2011 short story, is about a brilliant young woman who, educated in the schools of the imperial power that subjugated her homeland, sets out to gain power to subvert the empire from within. Publishers Weekly appreciated the "seductively complex", ambitious worldbuilding and the "subtle language" of Dickinson's "compelling, utterly surprising narrative". At NPR, Amal El-Mohtar praised the "crucial, necessary" novel for its brutality in looking "unflinchingly into the self-replicating virus of empire", noting in particular the unexpectedly "viscerally riveting" portrayal of economic conflict.
Dickinson has blogged about explicitly addressing issues around gender and feminism, race and homosexuality, as well as imperialism in the world of Baru Cormorant. He is currently working on a sequel: The Monster Baru Cormorant. He can be found on Twitter as @sethjdickinson
Alyssa Wong is an author of speculative fiction. She has published short fiction and poetry, and studies fiction at North Carolina State University. She is a finalist for the 2016 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her work has been published in Uncanny Magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Nightmare Magazine, Black Static, and Tor.com, among others. Her short story "Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers" won the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Short Story, and was a finalist for the 2015 Shirley Jackson Award, the 2016 Locus Award for Best Short Story, and the 2015 Bram Stoker Award for Short Fiction. Her short story "The Fisher Queen" was a finalist for the 2014 Nebula Award for Best Short Story, the 2014 Shirley Jackson Award, and the 2015 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. She can be found on Twitter as @crashwong.
Alice Sola Kim is a winner of the 2016 Whiting Award for Fiction. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in places such as Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Asimov's, Tin House, Electric Literature, Lenny, McSweeney's Literary Quarterly, BuzzFeed Books, and The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy. She has also received grants and scholarships from the MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Elizabeth George Foundation. She is currently working on her first novel and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Of her work, the Whiting Award committee said, “Staking out new territory with charismatic ferocity, Kim shows us what playfulness and power can be found in the hybridization of genres (…) Her protagonists are often trying to define themselves against the expectations of those around them, and so the stories are as much speculations about the shape a life will take as they are explorations of speculative new worlds. She is a writer of great nuance and tenderness, of mirth and mischief, who honors magic and is already a master of human idiosyncrasy.” She can be found on Twitter as @alicek