BARDIC DREAMS

March 26, 2020

Bold warriors and women, shield mates, sat
wrapped in the darkness, sheltered between knees
warmed by their lovers and heat of kettle fire.

A bard regaled with tales and love song
Bold warriors and women, shield mates, sat
toasting their fallen friends with ale and tears.

Mist rose from the surface of the enchanted lake.
Wrapped in the darkness, sheltered between knees
a sprinkle of fireflies crowned the knight’s heads.

Some stood like shields behind their ladies back
warmed by their lovers and heat of kettle fire.
Heads lolled; golden strands were drawn through fingers.

Seated knights cradled ladies between armoured thighs.
A bard regaled with tales and love song
washing the weary of bloodlust and death cries.

Mere hours before, they had held swords not cups
toasting their fallen friends with ale and tears.
Now, cameo visages flushed in firelight

revealed ice-blue eyes of Viking descent.
Mist rose from the surface of the enchanted lake
as each weary warrior visited, in tale,

the halls of Beowulf, and Artur’s Camelot.
The daytime was bent on war, but the night,
sprinkled with fireflies, was meant for lovers.

Deborah Guzzi

I’m here to talk about sex and writing about sex, especially writing sex in science fiction that expands beyond real-world boundaries and assumptions about sex. To evoke a recent Hugo winner, I’ll call it a three-body problem, where the three elements are sex, science fiction, and writing itself, and the solution requires understanding of each. I see many essays about sexuality or sexual identity in genre fiction — I’ve written quite a few myself — that I feel don’t adequately include the act of writing itself in the equation. Because once I began to address writing directly in the relationship between sexuality and science fiction, I laid bare the entire fallacy of the literary establishment, which condemns laser beams and lasciviousness equally.

Cecilia Tan
Out of This World Sex Writing

American SF is a wide field in itself, but I sometimes think that it can be limited by shared sensibilities and reading protocols, by the conversation with how things have been done before. This is changing slightly as ever more novels are produced, and as the Young Adult contribution to science fiction is taking a larger place in the conversation, but I still feel that there is a cultural koine there that elides a universe of experiences.

Liz Bourke
Nnedi Okorafor’s LAGOON

He’s almost weightless. When he enters me it hurts and my pain belongs to the subterranean world, primitive as the clay. His body is slacker than I expected, a small paunch begins at his waist and settles in a downward parabola to his groin. His pubic hair is red. His erect penis is a surprise although I had imagined what they would feel like, read about them, seen them represented on toilet walls and magazines. I didn’t see it before he entered me, but afterwards it is small and sticky and amusing. I want to touch it but I don’t dare. I don’t know the etiquette. He is twenty or more years older than me. This is sex.

William Wall
Grace’s Day

All through our gliding journey, on this day as on so many others, a little song runs through my mind. I say song because it passes musically, but it is really just words, a thought that is neither strange nor complex. In fact, how strange it would be not to think it – not to have such music inside one’s head and body, on such an afternoon. What does it mean, say the words, that the earth is so beautiful? And what shall I do about it? What is the gift I should bring to the world? What is the life I should live?

Mary Oliver
Flow
Long Life

heroines

March 26, 2020

I read mythology, folk lore and fairy-tales voraciously, yet certain tales felt inappropriate and even irritating long before I was capable of analysing why that might be. They annoyed me in the same way Barbie dolls did. These were the stories featuring passive girls, usually born or destined to become princesses, like Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella. Girls whose physical attractiveness was the sum of their identity; girls who were not so much protagonists as prizes.

I yearned for heroines I could identify with and aspire to be like. Girls who DID things. Who underwent hardship and suffering and overcame the odds by use of their own wit or courage. And I found Gerta in Andersen’s The Snow Queen and the brave sister in the Grimms tale, The Six Swans. I found Gretel in Hansel and Gretel; Janet in Tam Lin; and the redoubtable, splendidly named Molly Whuppie – the female Jack who bests her giant. Molly may marry and disappear into ‘happy-ever-after’, but you know she will go on dominating life just the same.

Ellen Renner
HELPERS, HEROINES AND HAGS

a mountain of bones

March 26, 2020

Through all this horror my cat stalked unperturbed. Once I saw him monstrously perched atop a mountain of bones, and wondered at the secrets that might lie behind his yellow eyes.

H.P. Lovecraft
The Rats in the Walls

Wolf

March 26, 2020

For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

Rudyard Kipling
The Jungle Book