Health issues have caused me to fall behind on a number of things in last few weeks, and as a result I've been remiss in letting you know about "Women Destroy Fantasy," a special issue of Lightspeed magazine, made possible by extra funds raised from Lightspeed's "Women Destroy Science Fiction" Kickstarter campaign. Lightspeed's managing editor, Wendy N. Wagner, explains the genesis of this special issue, dedicated to fantasy fiction, nonfiction, and illustration by women:
"Fantasy Magazine ran from 2005 until December 2011, at which point it merged with its sister-magazine, Lightspeed. Since that time, Lightspeed has been doing its best to uphold the fine tradition established by Fantasy, and we like to think it has kept the old girl alive by continuing to publish the same kind of quality fiction Fantasy fans had come to love and expect. Over at Lightspeed we were excited to publish our special issue, 'Women Destroy Science Fiction,' in June, but when our Kickstarter’s tremendous success unlocked all of our stretch goals -- thus offering us the chance to expand the destruction into fantasy and horror -- we knew that the 'Women Destroy Fantasy' special issue had to be a Fantasy Magazine special issue."
The "Women Destroy Fantasy" issue contains four original stories chosen by Guest Editor Cat Rambo (Cat was co-editor of Fantasy Magazine from 2007-2011), four classic fantasy stories chosen by me as Guest Reprint Editor, and seven works of non-fiction about women writers and artists in the fantasy field, chosen by Wendy Wagner...along with Author Spotlights and Reading Lists that are quite interesting in themselves.
You can read four of the stories online entirely for free: two of Cat's selections (by Kate Hall and T. Kingfisher), two of my selections (by Delia Sherman and Nalo Hopkinson), plus editorials (by Cat, Wendy, and me) and four works of nonfiction. Or you can plunk down $2.99 for the full digital edition (or $12.00 for a trade paperback edition) -- which is definitely worth the price, not only for the extra stories (originals by Julia August & H.E. Roulo, classics by Emma Bull & Carol Emshwiller) and the useful Reading Lists, but also for Sofia Samatar's particularly lovely essay, "The Frog Sister."
Do go have a look at what you can read online, including Kat Howard's fairy tale essay "The Princess and the Witch" (highly recommended), and an informative round-table on "Women in Fantasy Illustration" (which aspiring illustrators should not miss).
Best of all, you can listen to a podcast of Delia Sherman's "Miss Carstairs and the Merman," beautifully read by Gabrielle de Cuir, and with a witty introduction by Ellen Kushner (which, admittedly, made me blush). Delia discusses the writing of the story with Sandra O'Dell here.
There's some good-natured controversy about the project's name. "Women Destroy Science Fiction" was a natural choice for the SF version of this project since women have historically had a harder time in establishing themselves in the SF field, and complaints about women "destroying" the SF genre are at least as old as I am. Fantasy, however, has long been a women's preserve, as I argue in the editorial section...and yet it remains true (in the adult fantasy genre, less so in children's books and y.a.) that the best-sellers lists and prize lists still tend to be dominated by men, though notable gains by women (and writers of color) have certainly been made in the three decades I've been around. Although fantasy has been friendlier to women than some other fields (possibly due to its strong ties to children's literature), some of the overtly sexist incidents and assumptions I encountered during my early years in Publishing seem almost unbelievable today...and the fact that they seem so means we're making progress (all of us, men and women alike), even if we're not fully there yet.
This is, of course, not the first women's fantasy publication; if you're as old as me, you might remember the Sisters of Sorcery series published by DAW Books back in the '80s, among others. Whether there's still a need for such a publication is something that you, the readers, must each decide for yourselves. (There's bound to be a range of thoughts on the subject -- but if you express yours here, on the blog of this dyed-in-the-wool feminist, I beg you, be polite!)
As for my own opinion: when Lightspeed's Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, the gracious John Joseph Adams, wrote to ask if I'd be willing to select the reprints for this project, I found myself powerfully curious to see what form a women-writers-and-artists issue would take in 2014; and I'm always glad to see work by women celebrated, in this or any other field.
It should be noted that Cat and I worked in separate realms of endeavor and did not confer on our choices. If, as a result, "Women Destroy Fantasy" is shaped just a little less tightly than might have been possible by a single fiction editor (like Ellen Datlow's "Women Destroy Horror"), it also benefits by showing the work of two different generations of women editors: the places where our visions are similar, and where they contrast, is as interesting to me as the stories themselves, and shows some of the changes the field has undergone since I first joined it in the early 1980s.
There were, as is always the case with reprints, two classic stories I would have liked to have included that Lightspeed was unable to obtain, and so I must content myself with urging you to go and seek them out: "Transmutations" by Patricia A. McKillip (Xanadu II, Tor Books, 1994) and "The Little Dirty Girl" by Joanna Russ (The Armless Maiden, Tor Books, 1995). I only wish I could have chosen many more stories, for women have done such sterling work in fantasy that I want to honor them all. (I expect that Cat Rambo feels the same.)
Coming up: Look for the podcast of Nalo Hopkinson's brilliant tale, "The Glass Bottle Trick," which will come online this Friday. It, too, will be introduced by Ellen Kushner, who I expect to be in fine form, as always.
The art above is by K.A. King, Julie Bell, Rebecca Quay, Sandra Buskirk, Julie Dillon, and Tara Larsen Chang. It comes from the online editon of "Women Destroy Fantasy," reproduced here for promotional purposes only. All right reserved by the artists and Lightspeed/Fantasy Magazine.