On libraries, and women in SF

I have two posts up on Tumblr today that I wanted to mention here.

First, there is one I’ve been working on for the past few days, called “On Libraries.” It was born out of my frustration with some quotes about libraries that don’t reflect the reality I see. Here’s the opening:

Here’s the thing about public libraries: they are so much messier and weirder and funnier than you think.

They are kids throwing up on the brand-new carpet; kids missing the toilet entirely; mysterious substances smeared on the covers of books, on the pages, on the inside of DVD cases. They are a full bag of poop tied shut and shoved into the book drop. They are left behind trash and bedbugs crawling out of books and used condoms in the bathroom trash.

Second, go read Alexandra Duncan’s post on Stacked today, called “Staking Our Claim in the Science Fiction Universe.” It’s a great post, but I also had some thoughts about history and context. You can read those here.

By Maureen LaFerney

My name is Maureen. I currently work as a library assistant in a public library in the Indianapolis area, and also just so happen to be a voracious reader. I frequently end up under a cat.

8 replies on “On libraries, and women in SF”

Thank you for sharing!
And I agree – there is great sci-fi by women, even hard sci-fi, going back much further than she mentions. I feel how lucky I was to grow up in a bookish family in a bookish town!

Yes, that’s definitely part of it–who gets access & even just awareness. There’s also for me the fact that I wasn’t as interested in SF until my late teens & even now consider myself more of a fantasy reader.

Your library post is so spot on. Almost everything listed has happened at my library, including the bag of poo.

That one actually happened to my boss, but I completely believe it. Amazing, what goes on!

Yes! Women have been fighting the good fight in SF since day one! Not only is the hard/soft distinction a battlefield, I think there’s also something to be made of what issues (and whose stories) get relegated to adult-marketed SF versus J/YA. It’s been a while since I read a lot of SF history, but I think the splitting of the adult/youth markets was part of what allowed critical discourse about race, gender, sexuality, etc., to find a place in the “adult” world.

But “The Women Men Don’t See,” “When It Changed,” The Left Hand Of Darkness all are over 40 years old! This conversation has been going on for a LONG time, and our foremothers deserve a lot of credit.

I like your point about YA/adult; my interaction with SF has been primarily adult, simply because while I totally agree that dystopias are SF, they’re also not my thing reading-wise. And at the moment, that seems to be the bulk of what we’re seeing from YA.

I mean, Lois McMaster Bujold and CJ Cherryh have been writing for over thirty years. They’re still writing. That doesn’t mean that we don’t stop fighting (as the Hugos showed us this year), or that we pretend everything’s fixed (Cherryh’s penname alone should show us that) BUT if we don’t acknowledge our foremothers, we’re actually contributing to the problem.

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