Luna Station Quarterly is a speculative fiction magazine featuring stories by emerging women authors.
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“Dracula” and Women of Classic Literature

by Christina “DZA” Marie


One of my favorite YouTube channels is Overly Sarcastic Productions. They’re a two-person team: Blue does videos that focus on history (usually ancient Greek/Roman) while Red does videos on myths, classic literature, and modern tropes. They’re both hilarious and educational, so if you haven’t checked them out, do so.

A couple of years ago Red put out a video on the 19th century classic Dracula, and it was so funny that I ended up buying a copy of the book and reading it over the holidays. (Yes, I was reading it on Christmas Day. Judge all you want. Just remember that a hallowed holiday tale involves three ghosts trying to convince a rich asshole to be good by terrifying him with visions of his own death.)

This was the first time outside of school that I had read a book that was written more than twenty years ago. Some would consider that weird, seeing as I have a bachelor’s in history and go through books like a smoker goes through cigarettes. But I tend to resist reading anything that was written more than a generation ago on account of one thing: women.

Racism, ableism, and homophobia are also all factors, but I’ll admit that it’s the casual sexism in classic literature that really gets under my skin because it’s a more personal attack on me. Think of all the old classics: Huckleberry Finn, Lord of the Flies, even books written by women like Frankenstein (which I got for Christmas because it was on my wishlist because Overly Sarcastic Productions did a video on that one, too). If there are any girls or women around, they’re pushed to the sidelines and usually have no real bearing on the plot. On the rare occasions that they are front and center, their stories revolve around romance (Romeo & Juliet, Pride & Prejudice, Les Miserables, et cetera). They don’t get to make monsters or go on adventures down the river or, as I found out over the holidays, kill vampires.

I picked up Dracula because of one character and one character only: Mina Murray. She fills the Lone Vagina trope as the only woman in a group of guys (often used by writers today in the hopes of satisfying us feminists). According to Overly Sarcastic, Mina is a fiercely intelligent woman who, aside from Van Helsing, contributes some of the most vital pieces of information to the group in hunting and killing Dracula. She also gets married to one of the characters about halfway through, so there’s none of that ridiculous romantic subplot going on.

Maybe it’s just because Red hyped her up so much in her video, but I wasn’t that impressed with Mina. The fact that she’s there and actually helps her friends in their quest is significant, especially when you consider how old this book is. But I found it annoying how all of the men–from her husband to Van Helsing–would all insist on how smart and resourceful and awesome she is . . .only for her to contribute very little to their efforts, and only then at the end.

That doesn’t make it a bad book. Not at all. I enjoyed reading it. And I’m not a person who usually reads horror. I prefer that in my movies. But it definitely is not as feminist or pro-woman as many people make it out to be.

I will say this for Dracula: there’s some romantic drama near the beginning concerning another woman, Lucy, and the fact that she has three suitors. She ends up picking one of them to marry.

Think about any story–or possibly even real-life situation–where something like that has happened. How does the ex-boyfriend usually react? Not well. Usually he’s either bitter, or a crybaby, or decides he’s never going to speak with the woman again despite years of knowing her.

So how does it play out in Dracula? The two ex-boyfriends carry on as adults! They remain friends with both Lucy’s fiance and Lucy herself without any resentment or hoping for an affair or any of that crap. It’s a refreshingly drama-free romance and I wish more ex-boyfriends–fictional and otherwise–acted this civil.

Then Lucy is killed, rises as a vampire, and has to be beheaded by her husband, thus destroying a solid half of all meaningful women in this story.

And that’s why I don’t read classical literature.


Issue 036 Author Interview: Laura Duerr and “Transcripts of Tapes. . . “

by Jen Gheller


Are you still savoring our Issue 036??? We certainly are — it is delicious. Which is one main reason we’re here today to share with you all our recent chat with Issue 036 author Laura Duerr about her story “Transcripts of Tapes Found Near the Depot, 06-45.” Please go enjoy Laura’s story and our interview below!

LSQ: The structure of this story would make for an excellent podcast. Is that something you have, or would ever, consider?
Laura: I have actually had two stories come to life as podcasts. It’s a much different experience as an author to hear your words, rather than just read them – it was a little nerve-racking, to be honest! But it’s incredible to hear how a narrator interprets the phrasing, the voice, etc., and I’d absolutely love to hear Linda’s voice out loud.
LSQ: An old woman keeping a farm by herself isn’t exactly the quintessential face of an apocalypse survivor. Where did you get the idea for your protagonist?
Laura: Linda and her farm come from many different sources. I’ve spent a lot of time driving through the Willamette Valley and out to the Oregon coast, and I always wondered about the lives of the people who work on the farms and vineyards I’d pass by. Linda talks very much like a Portland-area woman I used to work with – no one messed with her, and it was always entertaining to overhear her profanity-laced phone calls. As for Linda’s age, I get a little tired of teenage protagonists (despite working on a book about one myself), and after seeing the clan of biker grandmas in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” I never got over the idea of tough-as-nails old ladies bucking expectations. I also have to give credit to Grandma Ben from the “Bone” comics and Judi Dench’s M in the Bond movies.
But even more important than her toughness is Linda’s capacity for kindness. She’s absolutely entitled to keep her flourishing little farm a secret, but instead she goes through a lot of effort to share her resources with others who might need them. Even though it puts her at risk – and people do actually try to take advantage of her generosity, in the form of the gang members attacking her farm – it never occurs to her to not try to build this community. I hope people see that when they read the story: we all need to get there together.
LSQ: “They never wanted to change.” That line, as well as Linda’s remarks about how one woman’s eco-friendly efforts were nothing compared to the carbon footprint of corporations, really hit home. What can we, the regular folks, do in the face of such an imminent climate crisis?
Laura: Call your representatives. Write to your representatives. Tweet your representatives. Send balloons to your representatives. Okay, not the last one, but seriously, our elected officials are the ones who have the power to enact the changes our world needs. On the other hand, don’t give up on the little things you’re doing to help. Those matter, too, and no one should feel useless or ineffective for doing them! What I’ve had to do is come to terms with the fact that I can’t save the world alone (I know, right?) and that the best I can do is to give my time or resources to those in a position to do the world-saving, whether that’s candidates or nonprofits, while also recognizing that the little things I do still have value. Every reusable bag and thermos counts – but yeah, find and contact your representatives.
LSQ: Just when all hope seems to be lost for Linda, it rains. Why is the promise of hope so important in post-apocalyptic stories?
Laura: The promise of hope is important in everything. There’s a line in The Rewind Files by Claire Willett that goes, “Why do we do what we do if not for the belief that the future can be changed?” Our own world can look pretty post-apocalyptic at times, with climate crises, refugees fleeing wars and corruption, and poverty and oppression in our own cities. If we don’t have hope in our own lives, we’ll burn out. What I love most about science fiction, including the post-apocalyptic genre, is its ability to tell us truths through a different lens, and the truth I try to tell in all of my stories, even and perhaps especially the post-apocalyptic ones, is about hope. We can have all the grit in the world, but if we don’t have an image of hope before us as a goal, we’ll run out of strength.

LSQ: What was your favorite part about writing this story?

Laura: The structure was really fun to play with. Originally I had sound effects and notes like [unintelligible] to emphasize that these are, as the title says, transcripts, but I ended up liking the immediacy of Linda’s story in the form it’s published. The reader is freer to guess on when these tapes were actually found and transcribed, and by whom. The ending of The Handmaid’s Tale (spoiler alert?) does something similar, revealing that the whole story was found via tapes, but the story itself doesn’t give any clue that Offred’s experience isn’t happening in real time. The reader doesn’t get any kind of catharsis from the fact that Gilead no longer exists because Offred’s fate remains unknown. Ultimately Linda’s fate is unknown, too, but I think it’s easier in this iteration of the story to imagine her finding a happy ending.

Weekly Wrap-Up: Week of January 21, 2019

by Anna O’Brien


There once was a blog on the moon

That rumbled the ground with a boom

So much content to read

It’s hard to believe

So you should really catch on to it soon.

  • On Monday, Beth McCabe started the week with mentions of some favorite SFF women authors of the past;
  • On Tuesday, we had Part 1 of an interesting personal story from Anna O’Keefe;
  • On Wednesday, Anna O’Keefe continued her story in Part 2 of her column “Fearless Thoughts”;
  • On Thursday, D.M. Domosea continued her fascinating thought-experiment regarding a world without sex in her column “The S Word”;
  • On Friday, author Suz Thackston introduced us to Medea, a complicated ancient Greek indeed, in her column “Waifs, Wolves, and Warriors – Women in Greek Mythology.”

Medea

by Suz Thackston


I have been wanting to explore human women in Greek mythology for this blog, in addition to the great Goddesses. So, I’ve been seeking out, introducing myself, and chatting with some of them:

  • Atalanta the swift runner
  • Erigone who hanged herself by the well
  • Queen Metaneira and her lovely daughters
  • Nausikaa who helped Odysseus

Some of them were very forthcoming. Many are fascinating and will surely find their way here at a later date.

I was cleaning stalls the other night, which is one of my best meditative exercises, when she came marching in and shoved me against the wall, almost knocking me into the muck bucket.

Medea.

The one we all love to hate, the uber villain who did the one thing which society cannot and will never forgive a woman- murder her own children.

Medea, the witch-bitch who turned traitor to her own family, brutally slaughtered her little brother, consorted with spirits, dabbled in poisons, murdered anyone who got in her way, all because of her insatiable lust and possessiveness over Jason.

Medea, held up for millennia as the anti-woman, the greedy, evil, conniving pharmakos whom your daughter might become if you don’t raise her right.

The root word for our modern ‘pharmacy’, pharmakos is nuanced in its translation issues. It can mean witch, spellcaster. It can refer to someone who kills with poisons – but it also refers to those who heal using herbs. In the ancient purification rite, the Thargelia, pharmakos means ‘scapegoat.’ A man and woman from each community were chosen for their ugliness, feasted and feted, then whipped out of town. In their banishment they took all of the community’s sins with them, leaving the inhabitants purified.

There are dark whispers of times and places where the pharmakoi were human sacrifices.

Medea, witch, poisoner, murderess – is she also a scapegoat?

Let’s back up. Where do we meet the famous princess of Colchis?

She shows up as early as Hesiod’s Theogony, but we get to know her best in the Argonautika, the famous tale of Jason and his Argonauts. Jason formed his crew to retrieve the Golden Fleece and set sail to find it in Medea’s father’s kingdom. It’s not surprising that his welcome was lukewarm since he made no bones about his plan to make off with King Aeetes’ famed treasure. What a piece of luck for him that the king’s daughter, a priestess of the Goddess of magic, Hekate, should fall hard for him. Not only did she help him get past her father’s safeguards and steal the fleece, she had the foresight to kidnap her little brother, the heir to the kingdom of Colchis.

When King Aeetes’ ships started getting too close, Medea cut pieces off the little fellow and threw them overboard. Aeetes was forced to call off his pursuit in order to gather up the bits of his small son so that the boy could receive a proper burial.

This alone should probably have given Jason pause.

She flowed around me as I trudged through the mud of my paddock, back to the house. What did she want from me? Everyone from Herodotus to Euripides had something to say about her. What could I possibly add?

“I was thinking of mortal women,” I said to her as we went inside. “You’re not, really. Granddaughter of Helios, niece to Circe – makes you a demi-Goddess at the very least, doesn’t it?”

“My troubles were those of mortal women, my loves and hates and sorrows. Like most heroes I have divine associations. But would a Goddess put up with Jason?”

We came in and sat by the fire. I made the tea for us – no point in taking chances.

“Are you an evil sorceress?” I asked her as we settled into our cushions. “Or another maligned woman taking the heat for the inconstant men in her life?”

She fixed me with almond-shaped eyes.

“Jason and his men arrived in my father’s kingdom all arrogance and swagger. Why on earth did they think the king would meekly hand over one of his kingdom’s two great treasures just for the asking?”

“What other treasure?”

She uncoiled on her cushion like a cat.

“Oh,” I said. I felt my cheeks warm. “Then you didn’t fall madly in love with him? Conquer the zombies, tame the wild bulls, put the guardian dragon to sleep, all to help your lover steal the Fleece?”

She shrugged. “It was fun thumbing my nose at Daddy. But why would I give up being the head priestess at Hekate’s temple and all my power and respect as a princess to be a saltwife to a conceited buccaneer?

“He took me just like he took the Fleece. I was a trophy.”

“Did you ever love each other?” I asked.

She sipped her tea. “I was bedazzled by him. The myths have that much right. He took me, but I knew that if I didn’t go with him my life was forfeit after the help I’d given him. He was attracted to me but he feared me too much to love me. He used me. But I also used him. To answer your real question – I decided to love him. He didn’t deserve it.”

“What about your little brother? Did you cut him up and toss the pieces overboard to distract your father?”

Those fabulous onyx eyes grew distant. “My brother was a warrior grown. He caught up to the Argos and tried to rescue me. Jason’s men mobbed him and cut him down, fifty to one. They blamed that one on me lest their own cowardice be known.”

We sat in silence for a few minutes. Then I said, “And Talos? Did you put the giant automaton to sleep so that his heel plug could be pulled and his ichor drained?”

Medea swirled her tea. “I am a priestess of Hekate. I know my herbs.” She smiled into her cup. “Even when we’re dealing with non-humans.”

I sat down my mug and turned to face her. The firelight played over the planes of her face, bright and dark. She was very beautiful.

“I know Euripides was the first to suggest you killed your boys. The earlier tales say it was the villagers, in retribution for your killing Princess Glauke and her father Kreon. Did he just make it up?”

She was silent for a long moment. Then her black eyes lifted and met mine. “Do you think you are the first storyteller to ask for my tale? Euripides invoked me in his seaside cave, plied me with libations and flowers, begging me for my truth. I gave it to him. Some of it he set down faithfully. But he also lied, as you storytellers do.”

“I want your truth,” I told her.

She twisted a coil of glossy hair between her fingers, then flung it back over her shoulder. “Is that how you think it works?” She laughed, a bitter, hard laugh. “Euripides’ play has become my truth. But truth is not simple or linear.”

I shook my head. “Don’t be enigmatic. I want your truth, not Euripides’ or Homer’s or Jason’s. Did you kill the princess? Did you kill your boys?”

She smiled slowly. “That girl was taking everything from me. She was welcome to Jason, that strutting buffoon. But if my sons and I were cast off, where could we go? Not to my family in Colchis. Not to any civilized part of the world where Jason’s exploits, and thus mine, were known.

“Not to mention she was a simpering idiot. I’ve never suffered fools gladly.” Her face darkened. “So, a little itching powder in the cloak I gifted her, in the crown. How was I to know she was allergic to the herbs I used? Or that she had inherited the allergy from her stupid father? But dead is dead. And those Corinthian animals avenged my mistake with the murder of my babies.” Her eyes met mine, dry and glittering. “They tore them apart in front of my eyes.”

I stretched a hand to her, but she moved away.

“I have blood on my hands. But not that blood. Yet, even if I had done, Eros is all that matters. I could make more.”

We were quiet for a time. We drank our tea.

Finally I said, “There’s such a blurring of lines between your mortal self, the Goddess you served, the archetype whom people associate with you, the egregores they create of you.”

“I’ve been dead a long, long time,” she replied. “I’m less than I was when I was warm and quick. I’m also more, much more, as I bleed slowly into those Others.”

My big Siamese cat came in, circled me, then leapt purring into Medea’s lap. Long fingers stroked the tawny fur.

I frowned at the cat, then asked, “Did you kill old Peleus?”

She sighed. “I did a lot of bad things. I take full responsibility for them. In retrospect there are some I wish I had not, and that smelly old goat is one of them. But I don’t spend my afterlife in self-flagellation. I did the best I could at the time. Jason had me in his power more than I care to remember. I killed to protect him, to protect myself, because he asked me to, because I cared less for my victims than for his regard. It terrified him and turned him on when I killed for him. Whenever I Worked my sorcery on his behalf he shagged me blind afterwards. But each time also moved him further from me.”

“What do you want people to know about you?” I asked her.

She frowned. “I don’t need to be explained. I’m not ashamed of my reputation. I didn’t do all the Bad Deeds ascribed to me, but,” and she smiled a smile that chilled me, “I did a lot of Very Bad Things that no one knows about.”

She stood, towering over me in the flickering light. “That old misogynist playwright got some of it right. The warrior monologue is mine. He got it down just as I gave it to him. The deus ex machina ending is right too.”

With that she left me. My dog began barking wildly. I stepped outside and watched Medea’s dragon-drawn chariot arc across the night sky.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medea

http://www.maicar.com/GML/Medea.html

https://www.theoi.com/Ther/DrakonesMedea.html

https://www.shmoop.com/medea/women-femininity-quotes-2.html


A World Without Sex: Politics without the Pussy-Grabbing

by D. M. Domosea


In this month’s column, we apply our thought experiment to the ever-contentious topic of politics and consider how women might participate in government in a society unburdened by sexual politics.

Worldbuilding requires worlds, and aside from lawless dystopian societies, worlds require political machines to run them. Authors who wish to write matriarchal or egalitarian societies may find our current reality a poor environment for inspiration and modeling. Most modern societies either rely strictly on male-dominated governing systems or display the heritage of such systems, as seen in the unbalanced male-to-female ratio of governing bodies around the globe.

As of 2018, only two countries—Rwanda and Bolivia—boast legislatures with more than fifty percent women, with Cuba at a close 48.9%. The numbers fall steadily from there. The United States comes in well below the global average, though significant gains in the recent November 2017 elections improved this to a record-breaking number for the U.S.

Even as women make numerical gains in congress, they don’t often garner the same esteem as their male counterparts. Consider the recent confirmation of Rep. Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House and the manufactured controversy surrounding Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The sexist comments and criticism female politicians receive are more nuanced than in previous eras but still very much present.

Throughout history, women have also occasionally served as heads of state, though again not nearly to the same degree as men. This list provides a rundown of female rulers throughout history while this list provides a more modern—yet not entirely inclusive—accounting of women leaders. The United States has yet to place a woman in the Oval Office. We’ve come close, but no cigar.

Even once we reach that milestone, I expect our first female Commander-in-Chief will also face commentary and criticism that is coded as sexist. Consider how Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin were treated on the campaign trail. They received more questions and comments on sartorial choices and emotional fortitude than their male counterparts. The question of whether Clinton lost because she is a woman still hangs heavy in the air.

Speaking of Clintons and cigars, that’s a perfect segue into how sex and sexuality have had a direct impact on politics. In today’s reality of porn star lawsuits and “grab ‘em by the pussy” attitudes, sex scandals seem par for the course, but they have brought down political figures. Just ask Gary Hart, subject of the recent movie The Front Runner.  A long list of male political figures have been shamed into retirement, resignation, or general infamy because of their sexual misconduct. It’s only fair to note that while the dearth of women in politics largely explains why female-based scandals are few and far between, they happen, as well.

So how would a world without sex shape the political landscape? For starters, Gary Hart might be former President Gary Hart today, but removing the prospect of sex scandals doesn’t mean smooth sailing for political leaders of any gender. There are still plenty of other vices to take its place: drugs, embezzlement, falsification, bigotry, greed, and abuse of power to name a few. Opponents need mud to sling, and the darker nature of humanity and human society provides no shortage of ammunition. Of course, this is a straightforward aspect to consider when imagining our world without sex.

A more important question for fictional worldbuilding is how might a sexless society—one that stands a better chance of being matriarchal or egalitarian—affect the participation of women in politics? Unlike most of the topics covered in the World Without Sex series thus far, politics translates to power and control. There is thus a strong motivation for select groups to seek dominance over others through governance (see: apartheid and the Rohingya crisis.) Indeed, this is why women were historically shut out from participating in their own governance. Sexual control translates to gender-based control, which then extends to and through politics.

Remove sexual reproduction and you remove the motivation to exert gender-based control. It’s therefore likely that without sexual politics to muck it up, women would have exhibited greater presence, agency, and influence in politics throughout history and around the world. They would have selected candidates, run for office, and voted in even the earliest democracies, at least in places where they weren’t otherwise restricted by arbitrary and “othering” categories, like race or religion.

Yet another point of exclusion might exist for all women, one that belongs only to that biological sex. Women around the world have long been limited to roles as caregivers and homemakers. The “women belong in the home” mindset has long kept them out of the workforce, out of military service, and out of the political arena. Some might argue this mindset is a thinly-veiled form of sexual control, and it is definitely a form of gender control, but it highlights a specifically-defined group: mothers.

In this case, remember that our thought experiment envisions a reality in which women still go through pregnancy and childbirth. Would women’s roles be restrictively defined in a world in which sex doesn’t exist but motherhood does? I’ll explore this topic in depth in a future column, but in regard to political participation, women of childbearing age or those with small children could still potentially be discouraged if not altogether prevented from seeking office because of that “caregiver” role.

When it comes to worldbuilding, it’s not enough to place a female character on the throne or at the president’s podium to defy patriarchal norms. Authors must examine all the ways women interact with their countries’ governments—from voting to candidate selection to serving in office—and ask: how might this government develop in my fictional world if gender wasn’t divided and controlled on the basis of sex?  On that note, the same-titled movie about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s successful struggle in the male-dominated (and highly politicized) world of the U.S. justice system is out now in theaters. Grab a girlfriend or two, go watch it, and call it research for your novel.


The Woo Woo Factor: Part 2

by Anna O’Keefe


[Editor’s note: see Part 1 of this two-part series yesterday.]

Over the course of those two years I watched this man’s star shoot higher, shine brighter. It seemed like everything he touched, with every acting job, his popularity went even higher. This made it much harder for me to find an avenue to delivery Freddy’s book. I might have decided to follow this through, but I was not happy about it. As months passed, my frustration grew. But along the way I was having another new experience, a sudden insight about him came to me. Just freek’n great! More things to share with him. I was making a list. How would this ever play out? With each new insight I would think, “Well this is it, this is the real reason for this journey.” I had long since thought that there was far more going on here than a little book finding a new owner.

I had grown sick of following his Twitter account, which seemed to be no more than female fans objectifying him relentlessly. What I would have gotten from Teen Beat and Tiger Magazine when I followed Davey Jones as a girl, but bigger, bolder, uglier. Fandom on steroids. I hated it. I was not a fan girl and would never act this way towards anyone. Let alone someone I do not know. It was painful for me to immerse myself into a world I wanted nothing to do with.

I had tried the direct approach. A DM to his Twitter account. But sadly, no reply back.

Oddly I received no other trinkets to share. No new energy circled into my life. The Universe was making it clear just how important this trinket and the added insights were to this man.

There had to be more than a sweet little book, more than the insights that gathered themselves to me as I went along. More of something, but what?

It was during my daily meditation that I started to ask for help from the Universe. Maybe find inspiration, or a direction to go. There had to be an answer out there. Perhaps my subconscious, and the spirits that helped me, could bring forward a solution. Damn, I sure was not prepared for the help that showed up.

About thirty minutes into one meditation I became aware of two people standing at the foot of my bed. Spirits I did not know. A man and woman radiated the most exquisite energy. I immediately liked both of them, and I knew they were the actor’s parents.

Their energy was so lovely and peaceful. Warm and encompassing. I just wanted to soak it up. The light they brought into the room was inviting and radiated into every corner of my body.

His dad is a big man, tall, very strong and forthright. I didn’t hear him speak but felt his worlds vibrate inside of me. Dad makes me smile, even now; when I think of him I am filled with the memory of that energy and it is wonderful! I would never want to go up against him in a debate or get on his wrong side but this was about his son, his baby boy. Only the most incredible love radiated from him.

“I love this boy fiercely,” he began. “I am always with him. Tell him everything is alright.”

Behind his dad stood his mum. Smaller than dad, with the most lovely eyes. Her son has his eyes. Her energy was gentle and soft, less intense than dad’s, but the wave of love I felt from her for her son was like nothing I have ever felt before. It was so wonderful to experience the love both of them had for this man. Here stood two people who do not see him as a celebrity or an actor, just simply their son. This visit only lasted a few seconds and they vanished. All that incredible energy was now gone but the love they had for their boy hung around. It can bring me to tears even today, more than a year and half down the road.

As wonderful as their visit was, I still had no clear idea how to get the book and now this message to him. But I felt certain that it would happen in its own appointed time.

I knew this was it, this was the reason for the book, for the other insights. This was the real gift. Everything else was just part of the journey. I had no doubt I would have to share it with him, no matter how weird it might sound. I had never been nervous before but this was different. I was not on sure footing any longer.

After his parents’ visit I tried once more to make contact through a DM. To my amazement almost immediately I received a reply back from him, giving me instructions on how to get the book to him. Sending it to his manager, of all people. The same person I had started with way back in the beginning.

I sent the book off with a letter, and the hope that I didn’t come across as creepy. After all, this was not the kind of thing someone gets every day in the post. I felt that his parents will make sure the message of their love is received the way they meant it to be. How he thought about me was not a concern.

I have never heard from him. I have no idea when or if he got the package or how he accepted the gifts and letter. I just sat back and waited for some sign. Over the course of several weeks he tweeted photos of both his mother and father and shared some touching moments. So even if the package never found him, it looks like the message did. I feel privileged, as I always do, that I was allowed to share in such a gift. I hope this actor, this celebrity, this man receives all the blessings he needs and contentment in life he can hold. I know I will always keep track of him. I know I will perk up whenever I hear his name mentioned. I wish him well.

Since the Woo Woo factor has always been part of my life, I’ve learned to just accept the gifts I am given, being a caretaker of sorts. When I decided that I will honor any such Woo Woo inspiration by doing what I felt it led to do, I gave up being worried about it. Even, as I have learned, when the Trinket belongs to a celebrity.

When I made my way back to my car that August morning last summer, all the swings on the playground were still. Heavy with the thick air of deep August, I smiled knowing the little occupant I saw earlier had moved on, perhaps called in for a celestial breakfast. The swing sat completely still. The Woo Woo factor — we all experience it. Some are open for more. Tell me about your Woo Woo factor. I would love to hear your stories.

With love and light,
Anna O’Keefe


The Woo Woo Factor: Part 1

by Anna O’Keefe


Early one hot August Saturday morning, I walked through a park near where I live. I like the quiet the early morning brings to me. The day was muggy with no breeze. Nothing was stirring except the few brave joggers and dog walkers. Passing a playground that was empty, I noticed one swing in a line of six start to move back and forth, as if someone was sitting on the seat and pushing themselves up and back. None of the other swings were moving. I looked around to see if some little person had just jumped off, but I was the only human around.

The swing kept gaining momentum. I watched for a while, fascinated and feeling privileged at this view through the veil. It’s what I call a Woo Woo moment. If we are honest, we all have them, often explained away or ignored completely by most. But others, like myself, embrace them. A lifetime of Woo Woo interactions has given me a comfort zone.

The town I live in, Frederick, Maryland, is known to be a hotbed of Woo Woo activity. Seeing swings move all by themselves is, well, just child’s play. I just smiled and nodded my head towards the swing, and wished its unseen tiny occupant a happy day and got on with my walk.

My mom would often ask, “What is wrong with you?” and dedicate her energy to making me “normal.” I have heard a different voice inside of me, a gut feeling pushing me in a direction Mom never wanted me to go. But I have no choice. I can not stop listening and responding any more than I can stop breathing. I tried it Mom’s way, to embrace a world where no Woo Wooing is allowed. I damn near killed myself in the effort to make myself be something I am not.

So what am I exactly?

I am a Giver of Trinkets. Simply put, I have small items come to me, and I know who these gifts or trinkets belong to or I hold on to them and the right person is made known to me. ​I might know the person, I might not. I wait for the urge to give the gift to someone. When the urge comes it is always the perfect time to be received, it never fails. The trinket can be anything: buttons, pictures, records, lace, jewelry, often books. There is much I want to share about being a Giver of Trinkets, and I look forward to sharing in a future blog post. However, today I want to share a recent encounter that has been unique.

More than three years ago, a book fell off a shelf as I reached for a different book next to it. I was in my favorite used bookstore with shelves and aisles piled high. It’s not so unusual to have a book or books tumble out when reaching for something else, but this book was different. This book had energy as all the trinkets do. It was a sweet small volume almost 140 years old called Bonnie Scotland by Grace Greenwood, published in 1885. I opened the front cover to see a simple inscription in pencil: “To my son, Frederick Gregory on his 10th birthday. From your mother.” I fell in love with it instantly and became curious about Freddy Gregory, but this book was going to have a new owner. Like I said, it had energy–woo woo energy. I knew exactly who it belonged to from the moment I touched it.

The book’s future recipient’s energy had circled into my life a few months earlier. I had no idea who he was, or even what his name was. He is an actor and I have learned a very success one. Before the book found me, I was stumped why his energy showed up. Of the countless lives I have touched with these little trinkets I have never had a trinket for a public figure. Did he need healing energy sent his way? Was it unconditional love? These are often the longings of many. And there had been times when I was led to do nothing more than offer such energy to someone.

But, crap, a celebrity! I didn’t like the idea in the least. I do not follow celebrities, don’t care what they think, or what they are doing. I don’t need any of them to know how to dress or vote or act. I am happily, blissfully ignorant of almost everyone in the entertainment industry. The idea that I had to find and give this little book to someone with such a huge public presence put me off. I simply did not want to do it. I’ll admit I pouted. This was something new even in my Woo Woo world. I had never failed to deliver a trinket once I understood who it belonged to, but this might have been the first. I was so opposed to the notion that I refused to even learn the man’s name. For a couple of months I simply referred to him as That Fucking Actor.

I got a very clear message one night while meditating. If I did not do this, what this man needed would come to him in a different way. He would not lose out of what was his, but I would lose out on the gift this interaction had for me. Woo. What? I had never contemplated that when I gave a Trinket I was also receiving a gift. But here it was plainly being said. I could make the choice to not seek him out but I would also be the one who lost out. That put me right back on my heels. I was beginning to see that this Trinket was not going to be normal for me. I was clueless if this actor found this type of thing normal. Did he embrace Woo Woo moments in his life? I had no idea. Regardless, I made the decision right then that I would commit to delivering this little book to its new owner. I would stick with this new journey right to the end, wherever it would lead. I asked Freddy to help with this endeavor and to my delight the energy of a 10 year old boy began to be my constant companion. Besides, I pondered: how hard could it be?

How hard indeed! For the next two years I tried every avenue I could. I started a Twitter account, a new Facebook account. I contacted his manager and was rebuffed in such a startling way that I was taken aback at the reply. I was clearly out of my depth, a feeling so strong that when I look back, it still comes forward.

[Editor’s note: Part 2 tomorrow!]


Women on the Edge of Time

by Beth McCabe


Throughout the latter part of the last century my bookshelf held a rather good, if dog-eared, collection by spec women pioneers. I gave away these physical manifestations when we moved coasts in a single U-Haul UBox a few years ago. But they live on in my heart.

Some of the writers from my shelf have slipped entirely into obscurity outside of the most woke used bookstores. Some of the works were those of better-known authors that weren’t their most commercially successful, but were the ones I loved best.

Last month my friend C.R. Hodges offered insight into the fiction of two of his favorite trailblazers, Connie Willis and Elizabeth Moon. Thanks again, C.R., for painting my fence. What are friends for, right? Here’s his guest column.

And here are three of mine.

Margaret Weis

Weis’ books resided on our co-ed shelves, not on my Special Shelf, since my husband and I both loved them. Her early work definitely qualified as “gee whiz, look what women can do.” I was pleased to find out that Weis (read her bio here) and her co-writers are still churning out books. I’m looking forward to catching up.

In the early 1980s Weis co-wrote the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy, the first of many collaborations with Tracy Hickman. The trilogy and its universe became immensely popular. However, my favorite fantasy collaboration of theirs was an off-beat series called The Darksword Trilogy, written in the late eighties.

Moving from fantasy to sci-fi, my very favorite Weis series was a kick-ass space opera that she wrote solo, The Star of the Guardians. The first book appeared in 1990, with three more to follow and a slew of spin-offs which I thought were far superior to most series add-ons.

The world in this series is a vast, complete, and utterly believable universe ruled by imaginative future tech. The story revolves around a young prince, Dion, but the true main characters are Guardians Sagan and Maigrey; apparently, Weis wrote the fourth book just to complete their journey.

The Lady Maigrey is an amazing character, especially for the times, when women had yet to commonly hold positions of authority—not to mention swords that are linked to the user by a flow of nanobots from the hilt—in the science fiction world. Just as brave but more complex than Leia, she is a warrior who puts planet, prince, and right above love and personal satisfaction. Read Book One, The Lost King, just to meet her.

Joanna Russ

According to Goodreads, Russ’ The Female Man (1975) shows up on lists of essential science fiction. Yet Russ certainly does not share the prestige of some of her male counterparts from that era. It’s easy to see why; as you may gather from the title, her fiction is seriously political.

Goodreads says: “…THE FEMALE MAN is a suspenseful, surprising and darkly witty chronicle of what happens when Jeannine, Janet, Joanna, and Jael—four alternative selves from drastically different realities—meet.”

I don’t know how relevant Russ’ work will feel today. Although issues of equality are still urgent, the cultural context has changed dramatically. Definitely worth a look, though, even if you aren’t writing a dissertation on the portrayal of women in spec lit in the second half of the 20th century.

Another Russ work I particularly enjoyed was the The Adventures of Alyx (1976). All I could find was a paperback copy on Amazon for $15, so it’s a good title to ask your local used bookstore about (and probably cheaper that way too).

Russ was also a playwright, essayist, and author of nonfiction works, generally literary criticism and feminist theory. She died in 2011.

Marge Piercy

Piercy is probably best known as a poet, literary novelist, and social activist. Woman on the Edge of Time (1976), however, can’t be omitted from a list of speculative trailblazers.

Woman has a lot to say. It’s a time travel book and a utopia. It’s gender bending, feminist theory, and awareness of the rights of those incarcerated in mental institutions. And those are just a few of the dragons at which Piercy aims her lance.

Her other major speculative work is He, She, and It (1991), also published as Body of Glass. It’s classified as cyberpunk; how trail-blazing is that? This book takes on post-apocalypse, more gender-bending, and human-machine love. Buckle up if you check out the fearless Marge Piercy.

A tip o’ the hat to the LSQ blog and bloggers for keeping our spec pioneers from being forgotten. More next month!

 


Weekly Wrap-Up: Week of January 14, 2019

by Anna O’Brien


Here we are, dear readers, at the end of another week. Staying warm? Staying well-read? We can’t really help you with the first one, but we sure can assist in the second! To get you started, why not take a peek at the awesome posts that appeared on our blog this week:

  • On Monday, Cathrin Hagey explored the hidden meanings and meanderings of wind as it features throughout some well-known fairy tales;
  • On Tuesday, we ran a double-header:
    • First, Erin Wagner shined a spotlight on medieval author Marie de France;
    • Second, we started a new blog series in celebration of our tenth year of publication! We will be interviewing our staff to showcase the awesome talent hiding behind the scenes to make this publication tick. We started the only way we knew how: with an exclusive interview with our editor-in-chief, Jennifer Lyn Parsons.
  • On Wednesday, Jennifer Karr emphasized the importance of interesting characters in her column “The Wordy One”;
  • On Thursday, Lale Davidson celebrated the work of author Kij Johnson in her exploration of strong female protagonists;
  • On Friday, blogger Calee Jordan bemoaned the sad, tragic situation when a reader falls out of love with a book series in her column “The Heart of the Genres”;
  • And special post!!!! On Saturday, Jennifer Lyn Parsons wrote an homage to awesome inventor Hedy Lamarr, who passed on this day back in 2000.

Forget the bombshell, remember the brains

by Jennifer Lyn Parsons


The first thing I want you to note is that I will not be including any images of Hedy Lamarr in this post honoring her passing on this day in 2000. I think she would have found this refreshing. As I was writing this piece, the articles I found that spoke about her brilliant mind and focused on her plethora of inventions still featured at least a few pictures of her in her youth, when she was considered one of the most beautiful women on film.

A brief version of her biography goes something like this: born in Austria in 1914, at 18 she was in the infamous film, “Ecstasy” and also married a much older man. She left both husband and country when they became unbearable a few years later. After meeting Louis B. Mayer, she started a Hollywood film career, but that became a trap from which she would never find a way to flee.

There are many sad aspects to Lamarr’s life: a string of failed marriages, a flagging production company, and later on, deep seclusion from the outside world as her beauty and eyesight faded. Yet there was, in the background, her inventing which seemed to bring some satisfaction and joy into her life.

By all accounts, she considered her beauty to be a curse as much as anything. It’s easy to see why she would feel this way, despite the doors it opened for her. She was never respected in her lifetime for the various inventions she designed and the scientific mind that was, for lack of a better phrase, trapped in a beautiful body.

When the Navy purchased her patent for the frequencing hopping technology she invented to aid in the war effort, she was told she would be better off spending her time selling kisses and being a pinup for the men at the front. That technology she invented? It’s the basis for wifi, bluetooth, and other technologies we all use every day. Sell kisses indeed.

There are some who say she got the idea for this technology from a diagram she saw in her first husband’s office. As if this meant she should not receive the credit she gets for her patent. As a programmer and writer and I tell you that no idea ever comes from a vacuum. Everyone who has ever created anything built it on bits and pieces of what came before. It actually makes me a bit angry to hear someone try to devalue Ms. Lamarr’s contributions, as if she were too beautiful to have the brains for the work she did.

The basis for wifi was not the only thing she invented, either. She worked on an improved version of a traffic light, an interesting carbonation tablet, and when she dated Howard Hughes, she offered up designs for streamlined versions of his airplanes.

It wasn’t until 1997 that she began receiving real recognition for her pioneering work. She (and her co-inventor) were awarded with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Award and she was also honored with the prized BULBIEª Gnass Spirit of Achievement Bronze Award (the “Oscar” of inventing). In 2014 she was posthumously inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame.

Her name began fading into obscurity when she began secluding herself from the public, and her passing in 2000 was quiet. Fortunately, she received some recognition for her beautiful mind as well as her beautiful visage before the end. I hope she was able to find some satisfaction in that.

I had known about her involvement in inventing frequency hopping, but am glad to know more of the details and about how much Ms. Lamarr valued intelligence and inventiveness. Now when I hear the name Hedy Lamarr, I’ll think of her brains before her beauty. I hope you will as well.

Want to learn a bit more?

Hedy Lamarr – Wikipedia

Hedy Lamarr: The Incredible Mind Behind Secure WiFi, GPS And Bluetooth

Hedy Lamarr – the 1940s ‘bombshell’ who helped invent wifi | Film | The Guardian

Hedy Lamarr: Invention of Spread Spectrum Technology

And the documentary about her life and work, “Bombshell” is currently available on Netflix and Amazon streaming services.