I try to define gothic fiction and why I love it so much: Gothic horror: We’re all mad here | Noir Femme
I discuss a less brutal and, I think, more realistic approach to the post-apocalyptic novel in this essay.
This essay also discusses Into the Forest (Jean Hegland; 1996);A Gift Upon the Shore (M.K. Wren; 1990); and Always Coming Home (Ursula K. Le Guin; 1985), among various other stalwarts of the post-apocalyptic sub-genre. There will be spoilers for these books.
Pop quiz, hotshot. It’s the apocalypse: What do you do? What. Do. You. Do?
If hundred (thousands?) of post-apocalyptic books and movies are to believed, you break out your cache of automatic weapons, gun down every guy you see, capture a woman and lock her in a cage for later, then chow down on some roasted baby.
There is a certain amount of wish fulfillment going on there. The apocalypse novel is one part fear, one part fantasy. All the rules are suddenly gone; you can do whatever you want! It’s a dim view of humanity that assumes that all people want to do is murder, rape, and…
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Yes, I’ve started a new blog project called Noir Femme. This one is kind of a sister project to Sci Femme, about women writing horror and dark fiction, as opposed to science fiction. But before I could get started on the reading, I had to identify (for myself, anyway) exactly what horror is. Here’s my stab at it.
Horror has one goal: to disturb. To remind us that we don’t have all the answers. To explode our illusions of being in control.
There may be monsters or the supernatural, but there doesn’t have to be.
There may be blood, gore, and guts, but there doesn’t have to be.
There may be psycho killers running around with axes, but again, it’s not necessary.
Horror can be, and often is, scary, but more important is a lingering feeling of unease, a delicious sensation of being unsettled.
The best horror takes place in our living rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms. The best horror shatters the comfortable little worlds we’ve constructed for ourselves. It pulls back the veil and reveal the things in the shadows. Horror helps us understand exactly how insignificant we are in a vast, unknowable universe.
It reminds us that we are animals, and sometimes we are monsters. It reminds us…
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I’ve resurrected an old idea of mine, which is to read science fiction about women and blog about it. I call the blog Sci Femme, and I hope to use it as a forum for longer-form essays about themes and trends in science fiction written by women. I’ll be looking at both new and classic books. I’ll also post news and other resources there as I discover them. There’s not much there at present, just a few older pieces to seed the garden, so to speak, but I hope you’ll visit and follow. I plan to blog regularly there for at least the next year of reading, perhaps longer if this project takes hold. I’ll also post updates here when I make them.
For my yearly reading project in 2015, I have been focusing on women writers, specifically of speculative fiction. This project has led me down lots of wonderful side alleys discovering new writers, revisiting old favorites, and thinking about what they have to say. It’s also helped me understand the bias that women writers continue to face when it comes to getting published, reviewed, and honored. Here I want to share some related links and also encourage every reader to seek out more women writers to add to their To Read lists.
- Shit people say to women writers – A Tumblr dedicated to the shit women writers have to hear all the time
- One of my favorite women writers, Margaret Atwood, lays down her 10 rules of writing
- Daphne du Maurier, women writer and badass
- Is there a double standard for judging domestic themes in fiction?
- Madonnas and whores: on mothers writing about sex
- How to pose like a man for your author photo
- How to analyze male characters in book reviews
- Ban men from literary readings
I am putting together a list of great books by women writers to read. It is now over 150 books. I’ll probably share it when it gets up to 200 or so titles. In the meantime, here are some women writers who I have been reading lately to go out and discover right now: the aforementioned Margaret Atwood and Daphne du Maurier; Shirley Jackson; Patricia Highsmith; Ursula K. Le Guin; Octavia Butler; Jane Austen; Stella Gibbons; Dorothy L. Sayers; Harper Lee; Tana French; Mary Doria Russell; Kate Atkinson; Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie; Ruth Ozeki; Jhumpa Lahiri; Ann Leckie; Emily St. John Mandel.
Did you know that #readingwomen2014 was a thing on Twitter? I did not know it until a short time ago, but with the end of the year coming up, I don’t think we should stop reading women.
Why should we make an effort to read more women writers? If you were not aware, there is a lot of unconscious bias embedded in our culture that favors white, male writers (white males of all kind, in fact), often despite our best intentions. White men are more frequently published, reviewed and given awards. To overcome this unconscious but inherent bias, we have to consciously and purposely seek out books by women and people of color to read.
I hold myself up as an example. I actively read women writers often and count women among my favorite authors. Yet, when I pull up the stats on my LibraryThing record of books read, it is a depressing 63% male and 36% female (the remaining 1% is other or unknown). Certainly, I was an English lit major in college, which has skewed my reading toward white men from the start. But I have been trying to make up for that — apparently, not trying hard enough.
In 2014, I tried an annual theme read for the first time, but without a whole lot of commitment. I revisited the mystery genre, which I used to love as a child but have neglected as an adult reader. I read several classic and new mysteries, which I’ll discuss in a future blog post. Still, this was just for fun and probably didn’t even comprise the bulk of my reading.
In 2015, I’m committing to reading mostly books by women. I intend to read new fiction and classics, heavily skewed toward speculative fiction, which is my favorite genre. I also want to throw in some nonfiction and find out what women have to say about feminism, climate change and other topics close to my heart.
So, yes, I will be #readingwomen2015. I invite you to join me. Check here for recommendations.
In a recent post, I discussed trying to read books written by women. This led me to consider which women authors I would recommend, and I came up with a list of books by women that I think are entertaining and enlightening reads. Of course, I am not the only person to have come up with such a list, and if you are so inclined, you can find 50, 100, or even 500 more books by women to fill up your “to read” shelf.
Here is my list (my absolute favorite books are starred and my favorite women authors are bolded):
- Kate Atkinson: Life After Life: A Novel
- Margaret Atwood: Cat’s Eye; The Handmaid’s Tale*; Oryx and Crake*
- Jane Austen: Emma; Persuasion; Pride and Prejudice*
- Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre*
- Octavia Butler: Lilith’s Brood*; Parable of the Sower*; Parable of the Talents
- Kate Chopin: The Awakening
- Daphne du Maurier: Rebecca*
- Jean Hegland: Into the Forest: A Novel
- Patricia Highsmith: The Talented Mr. Ripley
- Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Classics)*; The Sundial*; We Have Always Lived in the Castle*
- P.D. James: The Children of Men*
- Nancy Kress: Beggars in Spain: The Original Hugo & Nebula Winning Novella
- Madeleine L’Engle: A Wrinkle in Time (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet)
- Anne Lamott: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
- Ursula K. Le Guin: Always Coming Home*; The Dispossessed; The Lathe Of Heaven: A Novel; The Left Hand of Darkness*; The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories; The Word for World is Forest
- Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird*
- Erin Morgenstern: The Night Circus*
- Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler’s Wife
- Flannery O’Connor: A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories*
- Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar
- E. Annie Proulx: The Shipping News
- Mary Doria Russell: Children of God (Ballantine Reader’s Circle); The Sparrow: A Novel (Ballantine Reader’s Circle)*
- Dorothy L. Sayers: Gaudy Night: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane*
- Sheri S. Tepper: Grass
- Jo Walton: Among Others
- Kate Wilhelm: Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang: A Novel
- Connie Willis: To Say Nothing of the Dog*
- M.K. Wren: A Gift Upon the Shore*