Tag Archives: Literature PhD

#Post-Ac Essay in Progress!

Hey y’all, I’m working on another post-ac essay. It’s Part Three of last year’s two-part blog series about reading only women authors.

The part where I figure out why I care increasingly less about my dissertation research every year. (Is that true?! It may be true??!!!??)

Here’s a teaser from the draft:

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Feminist SF Throwdown: Atwood V. Butler

I finished Maddaddam in a plot-fueled daze. Then I immediately began rereading Octavia Butler’s “Xenogenesis Trilogy,” which is conveniently/frustratingly published in one volume entitled “Lilith’s Brood” with cover art that looks like it’s soft core porn.

The thing is, the trilogy is bona fide SF. Aliens, apocalypse, ethics, science. The “nature of humanity.”

If that publisher thought for half a second about how bullshit that cover is, they’d realize that if they pretended Octavia Butler were a dude, and put some flipping aliens and stars on the cover, and a big blobby spaceship that itself is alive, to more accurately represent the book’s actual content, maybe they’d DOUBLE THEIR CUSTOMERS.


Instead, they made the book look like it’s about a skinny black woman having sex.

Which, technically, happens in the trilogy. But only through a gender-neutral being who mediates between her and another’s nervous system in a mandatory threesome, and no one touches anyone. Etc. Science fiction sex. You know how we do.

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Post-Academic Life Part 357

You know how sometimes you can’t tell whether a story or TV show or film is either sexist or critiquing sexism?

If you’re getting that sense of ambivalently non-feminist slime dripping into your eyes, even if it’s in the New Yorker (“Thirteen Wives”) you can just stop reading it.


You don’t have to keep reading just to see if it ever gets to the critique. Or, like, try to see what the hell it’s doing in the New Yorker in the first place. 

Blink that slime away and move on with your life.


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When Lit PhDs Don’t Hear about Totally Relevant Books

So in the mid-2000s, I was thick in academic study of contemporary fiction, especially fiction that dealt with technology.

I was also starting to feel uncomfortable with the prospect of writing about books exclusively written by white men (except for the Japanese guy, who nonetheless wrote from a perspective of cultural power and entitlement). I sometimes discussed this discomfort with academic mentors and peers.

So when this book came out, why did no one tell me about it?

This PEN-USA-award-winning book by a woman about the effects of nuclear power on US and world culture?

Because graduate education in contemporary fiction is no place to learn about recently published contemporary fiction.

I like the book so far and will review it in full when I finish it.

My halfway-point teaser review: in this book about nuclear energy—when sub-atomic particles destroy very large regions—the book shuttles very quickly between the very large and very small observations. Characters speculate about the nature of this or that universal experience while they experience hyperlocal sensations, petty sniping, and the like. There are some Deadheads. I get a little tired of the reincarnated Oppenheimer’s obtuse reflections on the nature of suffering: but maybe that’s the point. Because he’s Oppenheimer.

I’ll know more about this when I finish the novel!

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