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Q&A with Christie Yant “Women Destroy Science Fiction”

Q&A with Christie Yant “Women Destroy Science Fiction”

Geek & Sundry: You’ve been at Lightspeed Magazine since nearly the beginning, how did you get started with them?

Christie Yant: I met editor John Joseph Adams at a convention in October of 2009. At the time I was doing some volunteer narration for the StarShipSofa podcast, so when John mentioned his own podcast, Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (currently hosted on Wired.com) I was interested in getting involved. I started working for GGG first, and as a result John invited me to work for the as-yet-unlaunched Lightspeed Magazine as a slush reader (someone who performs a sort of triage on the unsolicited submissions). I loved the work and was happy to take more on as it came up. It’s been amazing to watch Lightspeed grow from a brand-new ezine to getting its fourth Hugo Award nomination in a row!


“Salvage” by Carrie Vaughn – Art by Elizabeth Leggett

GS: How did the team conceive of “Women Destroy Science Fiction”?

CY: It started as a joke on Twitter, as such things seem to do. There had been a bunch of nonsense online about how women were ruining science fiction by slimeing it with our fantasy and romance cooties. I was sitting down to write one morning and tweeted, “I feel like destroying science fiction some more today! Who’s with me?” And so many women responded! It was one of those moments where the joke is in the air and is just waiting for someone to say it. John emailed me right away, saying “We should do a special issue!” We created the email address “[email protected],” posted a short, vague announcement about it, and were immediately inundated with email from women who wanted to help.

Like Daughter by Tananarive Due - Art by Elizabeth Leggett
Like Daughter by Tananarive Due – Art by Elizabeth Leggett

We knew we needed to make it something really different, so we gave all of the guys the month off and recruited an editorial staff entirely comprised of women to help us assemble the issue. There were a lot of women involved with Lightspeed’s editorial process month-to-month already, but we wanted to double our usual amount of fiction. More stories by more women! And what if we published flash fiction for the first time? We could include even more women! Then we doubled the number of illustrations, commissioned a round-table discussion with women in the field, doubled the number of stories we’d podcast–it just kept growing, which is exactly what we wanted.


“Love is the Plan the Plan is Death” by James Tiptree Jr – Art by Li Grabenstetter

In my editorial I wrote that it was the product of 109 women—we actually added four more after the editorial was finalized. It was 113 by the time we went to press. I could not be more proud of each and every one of them.


“The Case of the Passionless Bees” by Rhonda Eikamp – Art by Christine Mitzuk

GS: The Kickstarter smashed its goals, what do you think that says about the SFF community?

I think it says that we all got the joke, and we all desperately needed that release. And it’s confirmed daily, even now, how much people needed it, because even after the Kickstarter was over people were still talking about it in the months before it came out. Now that it’s out people are posting pictures of it, talking about the stories, articles, and personal essays. Every day the hashtag (#wdsf) has more added to it. Personally I’ve never seen an issue of a magazine with its own hashtag! (Apologies to the World Dance Sport Federation, whose conversation we seem to have interrupted a bit. They’re probably pretty confused!)


“Walking Awake” by NK Jemisin – art by Hillary Pearlman

GS: What is something about this issue that you think will surprise readers?

CY: How many names they’re not familiar with. I found some great stuff in the submissions, many of them from authors who hadn’t published professionally anywhere before. This will surely not be the last you’ll hear from them!

Other surprises are in the content—few people would imagine that mermaids could work as a science fiction trope, but Seanan McGuire’s “Each to Each” manages to do exactly that. Maria Dahvana Headley brings a surrealist approach to the new science of gastronomy in “Dim Sun.” We’re introduced to a steampunk mystery starring Gearlock Holmes in Rhonda Eikamp’s “The Case of the Passionless Bees.” In our submission guidelines I had joked that “we love Regency gowns and chandeliers—in space!” and guess what? We got them, in Elizabeth Porter Birdsall’s “A Burglary, Addressed by a Young Lady.”

Seanan McGuire’s “Each to Each”
“Each to Each” by Seanan McGuire – Art by Li Grabenstetter

Of course there are also science fictional tropes that are more tried and true—a cyborg story from Heather Clitheroe, alien parasites by N.K. Jemisin, and a deep space salvage mission from Carrie Vaughn, to name a few. I think readers will find that there is something for everyone.

GS: What about the SFF genre do you think lends itself to telling better stories about women? What, if anything, is more prohibitive?

CY: I think that we SHOULD be able to tell better stories about women, or that we SHOULD be able to tell better stories about all people who are – and who are not – us. If we can imagine and tell stories about aliens, we should be able to do actual humans better than anyone.

In science fiction and fantasy we’re not constrained by how things have always been. In truth, women’s stories have always existed—they just haven’t always been heard and preserved. (See author Kameron Hurley’s award-nominated essay “We Have Always Fought.”) But when we’re writing about a possible future, or an impossible alternate present, we don’t have to think of our characters the way we have been made to feel about ourselves and the unacknowledged women of history. In science fiction and fantasy, there is absolutely no reason to not make our heroes women. We’re less likely to hear the cry “But that’s not realistic!” when our entire premise is based on a system of magic or set on Titan.

And the fact is that there’s absolutely no reason to not make women our heroes in any kind of fiction, and I think society at large is starting to understand that. We have always been here, we have always shaped the world.


“Cuts Both Ways” by Heather Clitheroe – art by Elizabeth Leggett

GS: Is there anything else you want readers to know about this issue?

CY: That it’s not the last of its kind! I’m delighted to be passing the Guest Editor torch to Seanan McGuire, who will edit next year’s anniversary issue, Queers Destroy Science Fiction! And in 2016 our special issue will be devoted to authors of color. We haven’t actually announced the 2016 issue yet, so you heard it here first!


“A Word Shaped Like Bones” by Kris Millering – Art by Li Grabenstetter
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