Mixed Signa: the Ivy League and Literary Success

Went to a conference today. It was two minutes from my dorm. It was good, but one of my worse habits is my need to compare myself to others and be like them. Not the best thing in writing. Most of the writers I look up to went to Ivy League. Think Kelly Link, Karen Russell, all the dead authors we’re taught about in college literature classes.The humanities chair opened up today’s conference by talking about Thorea. He loves Thoreau and says how he went to Harvard. He talked about the Lysium Circut and the American scholar. Afterwards he talks about how we cannot try to be our role models. We have to let our role models help us be our best selves. It’s a beautiful thought and despite the fact I know it’s true I can’t help but be puzzled by the fact that two hours later we have a keynote speaker who got his bachelor’s from Princeton.

These thoughts filled my mind because I presented my paper on magical realism that talked about Link, Russell, and Ursula K. Le Guin. For years I have felt that I have been fooling myself when I examine the lives of the writers who I admire. Is there any place for a low-income, first-gen with ADHD and mediocre grades in the literati? Or is she destined to always remain the lecturee, never the lecturer?


Women in Science Fiction

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With women winning in all of the fiction categories at the Hugo Awards of the weekend, I would like to take this time to discuss female science fiction writers, and how they don’t get the the recognition they deserve. It is as good as fact that women writers are, in large part, only accepted in the fantasy or soft science fiction.

As my best friend from high school, io9, explains, “To some extent, this comes from preconceptions about the types of people who read hard SF, and that indirectly influences expectations about who’s going to be writing in that genre.”

And the writers that do exist and are revered aren’t revered enough to be introduced or mentioned in high school or colleges, keep in mind, I did not receive the best high school education, I am lucky that I was the sci-fi girl in my reading team in high school, and to have read The Martian Chronicles, Brave New Worldand 1984, but I would have loved to have heard about Ursula K LeGuin or Kit Reed.

I give myself grief that I did not know of Ursula K Le Guin until Open Culture introduced me to her some months ago. It would have been nice to have a teacher introduce me to her. A living person. I only learned about Kit Reed over the weekend, and that was thanks to Joachim Boaz. But the shortcomings of teachers when it comes to literary citizenship is not what this post is about. It’s about how female sci-fi writers need to be better known.

Who is the first living, female, sci-fi writer you can think of, besides the two mentioned? I can only think of Margaret Atwood, and I do not like that one bit, for I know there are many others out there. I mention a lot how I want to scream because the amount of books out there are overwhelming, and it is up to educators to help students find books. While educators do help students find literature, the way that science fiction and other genres of speculative fiction aren’t appreciated unless they become adapted into films means that the idea that only certain types of people read science fiction continues, and it is caused by the fact that no one is comfortable with the genre.

I grew up enjoying the Canadian sci-fi shows created for children. I also grew up playing video games, many of which had sci-fi elements. I was introduced to the genre in a visual form from an early age, and I take pride in that. I assume that childhoods like mine will become commonplace over time, as children are introduced to technology at earlier ages, and seek to create their own forms of technology in real and ficitional ways. As education aims to include females into the sciences, it is important that they be included in imaginary science.

But let’s keep in mind science fiction isn’t the only genre where women are overshadowed by men. It is in science fiction, however, where it has the greatest prevalence. Science fiction has its flaws, which is why I prefer watching science fiction to reading it, for I too often am disatisfied and I abandon it, but it is my opinion that science fiction is for everyone. I don’t think it will begin to be taken seriously until it expands, and it can only expand with the inclusion of more voices. The same way that the cure for cancer can be trapped in the mind of a kid who can’t afford college, the first Pulitze Prize and Hugo award winner could be trapped in the mind of a girl, who has been victimized by what society deems a woman’s imagination capable of.