The Geek Feminist Revolution
by Kameron Hurley
Kameron Hurley is one of a new generation of feminist SFF writers who began to publish in the 2010s, when social media began is phase of near-ubiquitousness, a cornucopia of hype, much of a geek-related. By geek I mean SFF in its many media — games, fanfic, fiction, movies, and reviews of those media. It’s a situation similar to the old Pohl Anderson story the “Man Who Ate the World” where manufacturing has become so cheap and widespread citizens must consume a certain amount of goods every day so the system doesn’t collapse. (The problem in the story comes from a man who is driven to consume too much, causing power blackouts.) I think we are living in that kind of world today, where media of all sorts is constantly clamoring for our consumption and being publicized and touted by other consumers, making yet more media.
But Hurley navigates this web with ease. Her essays, of which this is a collection, are about the intersection of feminism with this riotous tumult, ranging from Anita Sarkeesian and Gamergate to the Sad Puppys/Hugo Awards debacle of 2015. There is also much written about the depiction of women in media, and the issues that come with being an outspoken women in media. And make no mistake, in 2019 media depictions of women are still problematic in many ways.
Her essays are very readable and move along breezily, influenced by her advertising work. Her most tweeted and linked essay, “We Have Always Fought,” which one a Hugo award, discusses the role of women in war, giving lie to the notion we were just passive homebodies waiting at home to be raped or the menfolk to come home. There is so much SFF fiction written even today that still shoves women into a passive role, not to mention the books that are still out there written in previous years that are still being read. It is food for thought and I think every SFF writer should read it.
The essays referring to recent events in the SFF world are worth reading also if you have only a tangential memory of them. Time passes at lightspeed on the internets and it’s easy to forget or overlook; these events are also referred to in the present which also happens at lightspeed, so they were a good overview of the situation(s).
Hurley also writes about the art of writing itself, and the decisions to inculcate, or not inculcate, the attitudes of The Biz. Frankly I’d say. And these are worth reading also.
She does get a too personal and drumbeating at times, particularly in an essay where she mentions a grandmother living under the Nazis (my dad killed Nazis) and an abusive relationship when younger (my ex-husband tried to kill me) that, though meant well, might not resonate with everyone. It depends on one’s age; the author is at least 20 years younger than I. On the other hand, an essay about being hospitalized in a coma, and awakening to find one is suffering from diabetes, is a very good indictment of the American Health System and an unspoken commentary on the nature of American work, where one must keep a job, no matter how vile, to ensure health insurance simply for one’s survival.
The writer also has interesting things to say about 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road movie and its feminist aspect. I am reading Richard Morgan’s problematic grimdark fantasy The Cold Commands now and I would dearly love to hear what this author says about that. I think it’s so patently offensive and overly trope-twisting it’s hilarious, but like feminist author Suzy McKee Charnas’ Walk to the Ends of The World, which is anti-female grimdark as harsh it comes, might it mean something more?
Hurley also writes about her fascination with woman as strong, silent loner characters, like the male protagonist of the 1980s movies she grew up on, the Bruce Willises and Patrick Swayzes. It’s something I don’t personally relate to, yet she makes a case for them, and I enjoyed getting a secret peak into her character fetish, as it were.
Five stars and recommended.