There is no solution except the freedom of woman—which means, of course, the freedom of the masses of the people, men and women, and the ceasing altogether of economic slavery.

— Edward Carpenter (1896)

 [ Issue 2008.15; Cover art © 2009 Paul Downes ]

Issue 2009.15

Short stories


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It was recently pointed out to us that there seems to be a shortage of female-authored stories, not only in TFF but in science fiction generally. This may be, as some have suggested, because women prefer to write horror and fantasy, and indeed these genres see more equal numbers of writers of the two sexes (but the experience of TTMC, who receive a lot of science fiction submissions from women, seems to belie that theory), or it may be to do with the unwritten rules and expectations that most (male) editors of the genre propogate. There is of course plenty of great science fiction by women such as Le Guin, Kress, Tiptree, Butler, Cadigan, and Vonarburg, and there are male writers who write feminist science fiction, so this isn't about to become a dirge for the genre.

It is interesting, though, that this is not a neutral conversation: any attempt to redress a perceived imbalance runs the risk of appearing to pander, to be guilty of positive discrimination, or of lowering standards. (This is equally true of editors who try to attract black science fiction, queer authors, non-anglophone stories, or other perhaps under-represented demographics.) In a partcularly bizarre thread last Summer, the Podcastle fantasy podcast, edited by Rachel Swirsky, was charged with "sexism" [sic], on the grounds that several of their stories had feminist viewpoints. Leaving aside the confused logic behind this complaint, the main point to be made is that taking a strong editorial position is important; an editor makes choices, an editor has an agenda, an editor discriminates, and an editor stands by her or his decisions. Otherwise we would not be editors, we would merely be the publishers of democratic and free-for-all collections of writing.

An old slogan defines feminism as "the radical idea that women are human beings". This is an important statement, the more so because it has to be explained in what sense this idea is radical. If we merely said that "women are human beings," nobody would disagree; it's an easy platitude. But that isn't enough: feminism is the recognition that true equality, true freedom for both sexes requires the more radical idea that full human rights still need to be fought for. The rights of women are up there with the rights of minority religions, the rights of disadvantaged ethnicities, the rights of the poor, the rights of queer and transexual and polyamorous people, the rights of unbelievers, the rights of those who disagree with you. And the rights of men. And they all need to be fought for. (Just see the recent "Race Fail" controversy to see how wide some of the misunderstandings still are.)

Partly as a result of these thoughts, and partly because it's something that has always been close to our hearts, we have decided to run a themed "feminist science fiction" issue of TFF toward the end of this year or the beginning of 2010 (as long as it takes us to acquire the requisite number of stories). By "feminist" we do not mean stories necessarily written by women or featuring female protagonists; what we are interested in are science fiction (or speculative) stories that address issues of gender, sexual identity and sexuality; stories that take the "radical idea" and do something about it; stories that can engage, empower, educate, and inspire men and women alike. And of course stories that challenge our expectations, that avoid cliché, that are beautiful and useful, that are social, political, and speculative cyberfiction.

Please follow the usual submission guidelines, and indicate in your cover letter that this is a submission for the Feminist SF special issue. Stories submitted to the general pile will be considered for the feminist themed issue, and stories submitted to the theme will be considered for the intervening issues. This will in no way affect our selection criteria or standards: we shall still purchase only the best stories we receive.

In the meantime, enjoy the great art and fiction in this issue. Many thanks to all of our contributors and associates.

March 2009

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