For (un)Science

Cheerbaby Goes to State is off on the first stage of its editorial journey, and that means it’s time to get back to Secret Secret Shush Shush.

Relatedly, I would like to point out this great io9.com article by the most excellent Ms Charlie Jane Anders on the 10 Myths About Space Travel That Make Science Fiction Better, with actual physicists talking about their favorite space tropes.

A lot of the comments have maybe missed the point though. I summarise, exaggeratedly: SFF writers just keep on getting it WRONG. SO WRONG. YOU CAN’T TRAVEL FASTER THAN LIGHT. WHY WON’T THEY GET SMARTER AND WRITE IT RIGHT?

I promise, we’re getting it wrong on purpose.

The thing is, if SFF writers had to stick to completely realistic space travel stories, we’d run out of material pretty fast.

Like, “We went to the moon and then we planted an American flag for SOME REASON even though the moon is kind of everyone’s and walked around a bit and then came home, it was awesome!”

Or, “The shuttle blew up 73 seconds into its flight after an O-ring failure and tragically everyone on board died.”

Or, “There’s a robot on Mars and it is sending home pictures and descriptions of Mars and its makeup and our scientists are analyzing them, that’s pretty neat.”

These are all good stories (not all about good things, sadly). I find them fascinating. But we can have even more stories where we go, okay, inertia dampeners, FTL travel, no radiation sickness, and let’s make up a random substance that provides lots of energy!

Authors draw different lines about what will and won’t work in their universes, which laws of physics do and don’t apply. My only concern about these rules when I’m reading (and writing) is that they be clear and consistent. Other than that, I don’t care. Bring on the alien species with whom we can communicate! Bring on the dogfights in space!

I am in favor of more stories. I am in favour of ignoring physics in the service of fantasy. I am a big fan of science fact – but I adore science fiction.

I Mean You

Hey, Internets, how’s it going for you?

I have been having a tough time lately – deadline! financial concerns! family health stuff! that one button that keeps popping off that one shirt! – and I know I’m not the only one. Despite anxiety disorder, I am a generally happy person most of the time, but when I hit simultaneous rough patches and overload, it is really easy for me to enter a shame-and-blame spiral when I am down on myself for not working hard enough, not being grateful enough, and not fighting hard enough for others who are facing way worse than I am – instead of giving myself credit for my accomplishments and creditable behaviors.

A couple of years ago, feeling similarly, and seeing a lot of women on my friends list express like emotions, I asked women to tell me why they were awesome. And they did, and it was beautiful and made me cry a zillion times and was just really crammed full of ladies recognizing their excellence and praising others for same. (Follow up post about how truly difficult this can be to do, here.)

Because you are awesome! But it’s easy to forget. The world as a whole is happy to tell women they are not awesome, and sometimes we need to stand back, call that some straight up bullshit, and tell the truth about how great we are. Sometimes we need to claim that, unashamed, without reserve or qualification.

I’ve been thinking about that post because, in just over a week, I’m going to be a keynote speaker at my old high school, at the New Zealand Girls’ State Secondary Schools Conference, where the theme is “Ordinary Girls Doing Extraordinary Things” , or, my personal translation: “Ladies Are Awesome, No Lie”. I was massively honored by this invitation, and said yes immediately. In the last couple of days, as the deadline looms closer and I have wrote not one word of the hour long speech, I have become slightly itchy. How can I talk about the awesomeness of ladies when I feel so unawesome?

Screw that, I decided today. I’m awesome. Ladies are awesome – and sometimes in ways that are not always recognised and supported in academic environments. I want to talk about that, and also how environments that focus on the skills and achievements of young women are vital. Oh, and about that one time I wrote my favorite teacher a long letter thanking her for what a great influence and inspiration she was, and then I was overcome with embarrassment and the horror that she’d think I was sucking up, and I didn’t have time to write another letter but I was supposed to be writing a thank you letter, so I just sent the empty envelope.

She’s going to be at the conference. This time, I’m going to tell her in person.

Re-reading that post, I have been thrilled and rejuvenated by all the women who responded to this request last time. Re-reading made me go from being bleah about writing this speech to raring to go. In my speech, I want to talk about the many ways in which ladies are awesome, and I’d like to quote some of you in so doing. If you’re comfortable with me quoting you in that way, just add a line to that effect in your comment. If you’re not comfortable, don’t worry about it – I absolutely won’t do it without your consent.

Here are the rules:

Ladies*, in the comments to this post, I cordially invite you to tell me why you are awesome.

Please do not phrase your awesomeness with self-deprecation, or sorrow that you are not awesome enough, or not awesome in the right way. This is a space in which to acknowledge your awesome without condition or qualification.

I encourage you also to respond to other awesome women on this thread, congratulating them on their awesome. Please do not do so with wistful self-putting-down disguised as compliments. Do not say, “I could never be as awesome as you are!” or “I only wish that I could one day do an awesome thing like you did.” Cherish your awesome as you do theirs.

And I will kick it off:

Hello, I am Karen Healey, and I am awesome. I have made my bed nearly every day for the last three months. During that time I have also written the first draft of a novel I think does some really interesting things and has some great characters. I take my anxiety medication every day. I am very, very good at my Retail Job, where I deliver excellent and genuine customer service. I am an excellent reader, and I take pride in my insight and skill when it comes to literary analysis.

I am awesome!

So are you.

Tell us how.

*Ladies = all people who identify as a woman/lady/girl/female human type of any classification.