The Abstracts — Femspec 1.1, Vol 1, Issue 1, 2001

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EDITORS' REMARKS:

Birthing in a Hotel Room in San Antonio by Batya Weinbaum and Robin Anne Reid
This brief introduction to the journal explains why the women writers and critics felt a need to begin an interdisciplinary journal. One reason for this need to create the journal was a common feeling of being alienated as writers in male-dominated publishing circles. The women who met in the Popular Culture meetings in San Antonio at the SF/Fantasy Area party decided the journal should include subjects that deal with spirituality, creative works. They wanted to expand from science fiction to speculative fiction and to also include women writers of mythological or imaginative stories written with the intent to debunk the historical perspective of gender roles. The articles contained in the journal are on different media critiques, art styles, poetry and authors of speculative literature who  write about gender-bending roles. The articles the editors want to include in the journal are a representation of changes in gender roles and in the historical depiction of womanhood. The editorial states it was important to the professional women authors to create a journal that explained how feminism was a part of their lives and gave them reasons to use these literary devices. The literature covered in the issue reflects the avant-garde in writing and examines gender-bending creative art.

CRITICISM

Sex Role Reversals in Star Trek’s Planets of Women as Indices of Second Wave Media Protest by Batya Weinbaum
The critique made is that popular shows on television are reactionary products of a culture that treats women as sex objects. The episodes of Star Trek critiqued in the journal are about how the feminist movement coincided with the sexist illustration of women in the television. Watching these Star Trek episodes will reveal how icons of American culture can express popular American ideologies. The text is concerned with two episodes of Star Trek (1968 and 1980). They both suggest in different ways an interaction between male dominance and separatist matriarchal society. This piece explores how Hollywood and its levels of hierarchy promote sexist television shows and how those containing women's issues are related to the feminist movement.

Must Collectivism Be against People What Remains of Zamyatin’s We after the Change of Leviathans: Reflections from Feminist and Other Standpoints by Darko Suvin
Suvin discusses how feminist theories connect to individuality and collectivity. He takes a look at the cubist, anti-utopian writing We by Eugene Zamyatin written in 1924. The novel expresses how man acts in response to the theological world that is full of conflicting characters who represent God, Satan, and the power of the State. The opposition of the positive individual and the negative collectivity dominates the central thesis of We. The role of the female protagonist as the seductress and agent of the revolution is discussed. There is some imitation of Orwell in the book We. There are comments made on authors who characterized a feminist/utopian/fictional society. In the essay, the reviewing of Sally Gearhart brings to light the prevailing attitude that the women are compared to other exploited beings and Stalin-like conditions exist. The dominant white male world is compared to the oppressive power of the State in We . In summation, the essay is a discussion on the fictional writings by Zamyatin from Soviet society and the usefulness of connecting his work to later speculative feminist authors  who curiously enough deal with the same themes and issues in a very different context.

The Surrealist Cosmovision of Bridget Tichenor by Gloria Orenstein
Mexico provides a surreal surrounding for painters to experience new visions. Tichenor's artistic conceptions are not European. The artist makes an analogy about past practices of shamans and unexplainable phenomena in her art work. Her artwork glows in a radiating way that is un-natural. Tichenor's revealing artwork lets us see ordinary human beings unmasked. The artist also incorporates many figures from Mesoamerican myth and folklore. Orenstein describes the art as surrealistic. The dimensions of Tichenor's artwork are made up of the evolution of human beings toward clear vision for a harmonious world. The artwork transmits to the viewer an ability to interpret fate and the cosmos. The author connects this vision to later developments in ecofeminism.

HISTORICAL DOCUMENT:

Letter of the Twenty-Fourth Century by Leslie F. Stone
This writer from the 1930s was similar to modern feminists. The story set in the twenty-fourth century includes introspection on prophecies of the past through the mechanism of old books that had been discovered from the turn of the 20th century by the protagonist. It is an uncomplicated short discussion that compares utopian predictions coinciding with the inventions such as the radio and airplane, to the progress and changes that were taking place in the evolving modern world.

FICTION:

The Feminist Pathfinder Does Not Probe Mars by Marleen S. Barr
This is a short imaginative piece of fiction about a surrealistic office that has been invaded by a space probe. The main characters are women who have received a space probe in search of a prototype of a sexist man. It is an amusing inquiry on the disorder between sexes in the professional world.

POETRY:

Dream Hunt by Christina Springer
An artist writes "Dream Hunt" from a multi-disciplinary background. This poem has many metaphors and the descriptive verse includes references to colors. It is a poem full of the raw emotion of an industrial city. The poet mentions dreams and the colorful street life of Pittsburgh.

Juneteenth by Christina Springer
Depiction of WinoWoman on a street in Philadelphia, with references to the mythic Harriet Tubman's feet and other aspects of celebration.

Word Worlds by Christina Springer
The poet creates visions of similarities existing between the jungle and the city using metaphors that connect earthy atmospheric qualities with the emotions of street life. In lines such as “muscles churning like the birth/of the Atlantic Ocean when the continents divide,” she conjures up female experiences related to reproduction in mythical poetic interpretations of the origins of the waters on the planet. She relates the street woman “Maugritte” crawling with her “bone necklace clacking” as she hassles people for money to the displaced shamaness who with her words, holds the world together.

The Taboo by Darko Suvin
The poet writes about a strange tribe of women he meets in an exotic country. He realizes the sort of man he is appears to be “taboo” to a certain type of female tribe.

Imagine a Fish by Darko Suvin
A very short poem of what a fish might look like if it was out of water, playing on images of male and female, and of a male trying to relate to a female being like a fish out of water.

OVUMINAL WORK:

Excerpt from Trouble on Triton -- a Novel by Samuel R. Delany
In Trouble on Triton (1976), Delany prophesizes about issues related to gender sex and the body issues of relevance to feminists in both the 1970s -1990s. Delany's protagonist in this excerpt, Bron, is a genetic male who was born on Mars. He was living as a man on Triton a moon of Saturn. Most residents on Triton live in communes or co-ops which are distinguished according nonsexual preference. Here the character goes to apply for sex change; by the end of the excerpt, Bron has become a woman.

CONFERENCE AND CONVENTION COVERAGE:

Transcending Gender: Challenging the Binary Divide by Mary Fambrough
A doctoral candidate in organizational behavior from Case Western Reserve covers the Third International Congress on sex and gender held at Oxford University. She discusses intersexual individuals reported on by Lee Anderson Brown of Sydney, and explores sources that might inspire artistic representations of gender that might be more experimental for creators of future gender bending science fiction works.

REVIEWS:

A Little Light Shed On: Into Darkness Peering by Janice M. Bogstad
Bogstad's review of Elizabeth Ann Leonard's collection Into Darkness Peering: Race and Color in the Fantastic, Number 74, Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Westport, CT: Greenwood 1997, 95 pp) commends the volume for remarkable feats in the history of science fiction criticism. In particular, Bogstad finds most notable the discussions that attempt to "fore ground, overturn or invert the preoccupations and stereotypes in America that are associated with race” (116). African Americans, Creole, Hispanic, Caribbean and Native American characters are discussed, in the works of such disparate writers as Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany. Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein, Stephen King, Ursula K. Le Guin, Elizabeth Lynn, Pamela Sargent, Lewis Shiner, Robert Silverberg and Leslie F. Stone.

Margins Made Visible by Earl Pike
Pike's review of Laurence Schimel, ed., Things Invisible to see: Gay and Lesbian Tales of Magical Realism (Cambridge, MA: Circlet Press, 1998, paper, 12.95) explores domains in which gender and desire are flexible, using the concept of border land communities. He finds the collected works in this volume to be uneven, but admires Sarah Schulman's "The Penis Story" in which the main character, a committed feminist and lesbian activist, wakes up to discover a penis hanging between her legs. He finds value in applying magical realist strategies to fictions of gender and sexuality.

The Suncomers, pages 67-77, a girl's SF by a nine year old in 1961 is a young work that FEMSPEC sometimes includes. Since “girls have the same fantasies of omni potence and infinite transformation boys do,” a nine year old girl shows the early attention to the joys of space invasion.Her "found" fiction contains three yellow people: Sunny, Beamer, and Ray, aliens equipped with an English dictionary.Young art work also accompanies this cute piece of history without an ending.  

WisCon 22 and the Secret Feminist Cabal by William Clemente
WisCon 22 and the Secret Feminist Cabal by William Clemente is a conference and convention coverage piece on pages 110 and 111.This convention at Concourse Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin, Memorial Day Weekend, 1998, was for about 600 writers and readers of sf and feminism. As stated:"You don't just get feminism at WisCon, you get thoughtful social analysis" (110). In fact, the questions about gender are asked with the questions of race, class, politics, and economics. WisCon brings together the community of writers, such as Suzy McKee Charnas, Eleanor Arnason, Joan Vinge, Pat Murphy, Karen Fowler, and Elizabeth Vonarburg,with  the guest of honor, Sheri S. Tepper, an author of a feminist classic of speculative fiction. “WisCon: Home of the Feminist Cabal,” the motto, and laser-toting space babe logo of the convention programmer Jeanne Gomoll graced that year’s t-shirts. Other special guests, Della Sherman, a fantasy author, and Ellen Kushner, a fantasy author/radio personality, attended as well, with different panels. There also was a presentation of the Tiptree Award, an annual literary prize event for sf or fantasy.

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