Lightspeed Magazine Issue 49 – Women Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue

Lightspeed Magazine Issue 49 – Women Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue

This themed issue included an extensive Table of Contents, shown below. Only my portion of the larger group review appears here.

Science Fiction Stories

  • Each to Each by Seanan McGuire
  • A Word Shaped Like Bones by Kris Millering
  • Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death by James Tiptree, Jr.
  • Walking Awake by N. K. Jemisin
  • The Case of the Passionless Bees by Rhonda Eikamp
  • Salvage by Carrie Vaughn
  • A Guide to Grief by Emily Fox
  • A Debt Repaid by Marina J. Lostetter
  • The Sewell Home for the Temporally Displaced by Sarah Pinsker
  • #TrainFightTuesday by Vanessa Torline
  • The Hymn of Ordeal, No. 23 by Rhiannon Rasmussen
  • Cuts Both Ways by Heather Clitheroe
  • Like Daughter by Tananarive Due


  • Women Destroy Science Fiction! — Kickstarter Backers by Women Destroy Science Fiction! Editors
  • Women Destroy Science Fiction! — Staff by Women Destroy Science Fiction! Editors
  • Editorial, June 2014: Women Destroy Science Fiction! by Women Destroy Science Fiction! Editors
  • Artists Showcase by Galen Dara
  • Women Remember: A Roundtable Interview by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Illusion, Expectation, and World Domination through Bake Sales by Pat Murphy

Exclusive eBook Content

  • NOVELLA: The Cost to Be Wise by Maureen McHugh
  • SHORT STORY: The Unfathomable Sisterhood of Ick by Charlie Jane Anders
  • SHORT STORY: Dim Sun by Maria Dahvana Headley
  • SHORT STORY: The Lonely Sea in the Sky by Amal El-Mohtar
  • SHORT STORY: A Burglary, Addressed By A Young Lady by Elizabeth Porter Birdsall
  • SHORT STORY: Canth by K.C. Norton
  • SHORT STORY: Knapsack Poems by Eleanor Arnason
  • SHORT STORY: The Great Loneliness by Maria Romasco Moore
  • NOVEL EXCERPT: Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold
  • INTERVIEW: Kelly Sue DeConnick by Jennifer Willis
  • ARTICLE: The Status Quo Cannot Hold by Tracie Welser
  • ARTICLE: How to Engineer a Self-Rescuing Princess by Stina Leicht
  • ARTICLE: Screaming Together: Making Women’s Voices Heard by Nisi Shawl
  • FLASH FICTION: The Mouths by Ellen Dunham
  • FLASH FICTION: Standard Deviant by Holly Schofield
  • FLASH FICTION: Getting on in Years by Cathy Humble
  • FLASH FICTION: The Lies We Tell Our Children by Katherine Crighton
  • FLASH FICTION: Emoticon by Anaid Perez
  • FLASH FICTION: Everything That Has Already Been Said by Samantha Murray
  • FLASH FICTION: Ro-Sham-Bot by Effie Sieberg
  • FLASH FICTION: M1A by Kim Winternheimer
  • PLUS: 28 Personal Essays by Women About Their Experiences Reading and Writing Science Fiction
  • BONUS STORY: They Tell Me There Will Be No Pain (exclusive to the limited edition) by Rachael Acks


Christie Yant’s guest editorial, “Women Destroy Science Fiction,” begins with a 1991 quote by Tiptree Award co-founder, Pat Murphy, in which Murphy alludes to rumblings that women are destroying the genre by writing stuff that isn’t “real” science fiction. Yant then fast forwards to 2013 and “a certain subset of the field” that still doesn’t welcome women in the genre. She addresses responses to the undercurrent, including the June issue of Lightspeed and the 2014 all-women’s speculative anthology, Athena’s Daughters.

There are a couple of important points here that could be easily overlooked in the chaos of action and reaction. First, rather than a “majority,” Yant is discussing a “subset” though its size is never clarified. While any discrimination—to call it anything else would be disingenuous—is unacceptable, one who is convinced against his or her will is of the same opinion still. In other words, the best way to shut down disbelievers is to prove them wrong by doing the thing they insist you cannot, or should not, do. The second point is that Athena’s Daughters is but the latest entry on a list of all-women’s speculative anthologies that goes back forty years. Information about some of the others can be found at

Yant goes on to briefly touch on the insidiousness of internalized oppression and how some women keep themselves from writing science fiction because they have subscribed to the subset belief that there is only one true way to write the stuff, and it must include rocket ships, robots, and extra-planetary adventures. Oh my. This editorial serves as both introduction and explanation for the June Lightspeed issue. It is also a celebration of what can happen when people believe in themselves enough to tell the subset of hostiles to shove it up Uranus.

Short Fiction:

“Dim Sun” by Maria Dahvana Headley is reminiscent of Douglas Adams’ Restaurant at the End of the Universe. The tale takes us to a very special Dim Sum restaurant where the cart features such unusual delicacies as Comet Ice and Io’s Moonlight. Here, they are literal offerings, not just fancy names. The narrator, Rodney, is invited to dine with his food critic friend, Bert Gold. Neither man is expecting Bert’s ex-wife, Harriet, the President of the Universe, and designer of technology that “made climbing through the space-time continuum as easy as climbing through a bathroom window,” to show up. Nevertheless, she not only shows up, she also joins them at their table and commandeers the dining experience. What follows is a course-by-course story of betrayal and revenge that leaves one hungry for dessert. The evocative visuals here are worth the read.

Dr. Leila Ghufran, the narrator of Amal El-Mohtar’s “The Lonely Sea in the Sky,” is a planetary geologist who is allegedly exhibiting signs of an obsessive disorder. The story is told in the first person point of view against a backdrop of songs and stories related to the theme of diamonds. The disorder, adamancy, is brought about by the doctor’s work with Lucyite—a diamondlike substance from Neptune that humanity discovers can be used for teleportation. Ghufran’s condition advances as more of the Lucyite is pressed into use. Eventually, the ascendency of the Lucyite and the doctor’s descent into the madness of her condition reach a critical intersection. This tale synergistically tackles two parallel storylines, neither of which would be particularly interesting alone.

In “A Burglary, Addressed by a Young Lady,” Elizabeth Porter Birdsall gives us Genevieve Tadma who, for her debutante raid, her entry into Society, has her heart set on burgling young James Yendaria. Unfortunately for Genevieve, her mother disapproves. There is strict etiquette about if or when it is appropriate to steal from your social inferiors, equals, or betters and Lady Tadma will not tolerate it being broken. During Genevieve’s dutiful burgling of a target who was selected by her parents—one in whom she has no interest whatsoever—fortuitous circumstance brings her both a rival and a solution to her problem. The most speculative bits here are the gadgets, giving this tale the feel of a mash-up between a contemporary black-ops mission and a debutante ball.

K.C. Norton’s “Canth” is a special sea-faring ship. It belongs to Captain Aditi Pearce. At the core of its perpetual motion engine is her mother’s heart. This story is reminiscent of, and gives a nod to, Melville’s Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. Canth has abandoned Captain Pearce who has hired a small boat to follow and retrieve her vessel. Were it not for the question of why the ship left in the first place and the mysterious stranger who suddenly appears and claims to be working with her father, who is in search of a mythical sea monster, Pearce would have an easier time of it. However, it is through, or perhaps in spite of, these challenges that Pearce grows less despondent and more passionate. This is a high seas romp with the requisite fantastic creature.

“They Tell Me There Will Be No Pain” by Rachel Acks is an extra story in the Limited Edition of this Special Edition of Lightspeed. In it, we follow a futuristic soldier who is being discharged after three tours of military service. As part of the separation, she has to “return all government property issued to you upon entry, including all surgical and neural enhancements.” This includes a “Tactical Analysis and Oversight Guidance (TAOG) system” that she named Phoebe in honor of her dead older sister, who died in a terrorist attack when a religious fanatic, acting in the name of Jesus Christ, spaced ten thousand people from a habitat on Juno. The tale follows this soldier who, even after her enhancements have been removed, still hears the TAOG’s voice giving her direction and authorization to kill. She seeks help from the era’s VA, and they insist that nothing remains of Phoebe, the TAOG, so it must be all in the soldier’s head. This well-done story about war, and the traumas that both cause and come of it, is an excellent read.


“Women Remember” is a round-table interview facilitated by former SFWA secretary and vice-president, Mary Robinette Kowal. In it, Ursula K. Le Guin, Pat Cadigan, Ellen Datlow, and Nancy Kress discuss this question: “How do you think science fiction has changed, either as a genre or as a culture, from when you started in the field?” As is to be expected with such a discussion, there are not only anecdotal thoughts and perspectives, but also sidebars. Some of the tangents cover such ground as the rise of fantasy as a genre, and how this impacts science fiction. Also discussed is how some mainstream authors, regardless of gender, refuse to label their writing as science fiction lest their reputation be “tainted” by association with the genre. Ageism and its prevalence at science fiction conventions is another thread here.

In some ways, this is a discussion much like those concerning faith versus science. Here, gender inequity and the perception that female speculative fiction authors could somehow destroy speculative fiction faces off against facts like the increased diversity in the genre. Like the faith versus science debate, each position has thought-provoking points. That such a discussion appears in this issue is both expected and, in its own way, preaching to the choir. However, it does not appear to be the interviewer’s intent to convert readers. Rather, this is an opportunity for readers to engage in voyeurism while some of the genre’s grande dames converse about their experiences and discuss their thoughts on how much the genre has, or hasn’t, changed in their lifetimes.

To that extent, it is an updated version of a similar interview, “Women Writing Science Fiction: Some Voices from the Trenches” which can be found at That discussion, facilitated by Susan Elizabeth Lyons, included some of the same names found here. It was a compilation of the answers to four questions that Lyons sent out to thirty-one new to established “women writers who write or have written in the science fiction genre.”

In the Lightspeed interview, Kowal states up front that, “It feels very much like a case of ‘the more things change . . .’” Combined with the broad spectrum of topics covered, including how the genre is perceived by mainstream writers as well as an anecdotal look at historical gender inequity within the genre, one could take Kowal’s statement to mean that, as is often the case with social issues, the degree of oppression—intended or not—and under- or mis- representation of certain groups within the speculative fiction genres is decreasing. And the pioneers who get in on the front end make it easier for later generations. This makes the meme of anyone “destroying science fiction” a metaphor that acknowledges not only how much of a “good old boys” club the genre may have been in the past, but also how diversity has been welcomed, albeit perhaps grudgingly at first, and is now the rule rather than the exception. Think Rosa Parks. Think Billy Jean King. Because the women, minorities, and other writers who refused to be excluded persevered, the speculative fiction genres are that much more open to any who wish to make themselves at home and claim the genre as their own. If this is true, it is as it should be and this reviewer wholeheartedly welcomes the “destruction.”

Personal Essays:

According to Sandra Wickham’s personal essay, “We Are the Army of Women Destroying SF,” Star Wars is not science fiction. If this assertion by someone who “slush reads for Lightspeed Magazine” was meant to be sarcastic, that intention did not make it onto the page. That someone in a position to influence whether or not genre writers are published in a professional market would utter such a statement boggles the mind. The epic space opera that first hit the big screen in 1977 and has spawned a worldwide following, the series which includes six films to date with a seventh in the works, numerous spin-offs in both literature and animated film, not to mention the May the Fourth be with You greeting used by those in the know is not science fiction. After that shocker, this reviewer is concerned that if women are, in fact, destroying science fiction, they may be doing so not by writing it, but by refusing to acknowledge the genre, in all its forms, when they encounter it.

In “Stomp All Over That,” O. J. Cade uses shoes and humor to revisit the history of how women have branched out from “destroying” science to doing the same to science fiction. While some would rather have had these women barefoot and silent, it was difficult for anyone to disregard them when, “ Rebecca Lancefield was helping them see off Streptococcus in sequined, sequenced sandals and when Gertrude Elion was doing the same with leukaemia, with her toenails peeping red painted out of open-toed marrowbone shoes.” For this author, the bottom line is that, like they have been in science before, women bring value to the speculative genres. She encourages women who face naysayers to follow in their science predecessors’ footsteps and, “stomp all over that.”

“An ABC of Kickass, or A Partial Exorcism of My TBR/TBRA* Pile” by Jude Griffin is an alphabetical listing of important women, real and fictional, in the genre. Griffin is “an editorial assistant at Lightspeed Magazine.” Per the author’s footnote, “* TBRA=To Be Read Again.” The list is a hodge-podge mix with no common reference. Some of the entries are there because an author’s last name begins with a certain letter; some are there because an author’s first name begins with a certain letter; and, some are there because the title of a work, or name of an important feature in a work begins with a certain letter. Inconsistently, the entries have explanatory notes. The listing for Mistressworks, for example, simply says, “go” without indicating that Mistressworks is a website where books by women science fiction authors are reviewed or providing the URL, Rather than a personal essay, this is a reading list.

As general references for those who might be interested in seeking out more works by women science fiction authors, the Index to Female Writers In Science Fiction, Fantasy & Utopia: 18th Century to the Present which can be found at, the Wikipedia entry on Women in speculative fiction at, or the SFWA member directory at are all better starting points.

A review of the entire Lightspeed: Women Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue was a group effort by the Tangent Online staff and can be found at

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