7. avg. 2008

Other Wor(l)ds at Ladyfest Amsterdam 2008

In Other Wor(l)ds
An Exercise in Collective Writing
by Tea Hvala

You are invited to write a science fiction story that involves and relates humans to an other, an alien, a being who is radically different from what you know and allows you to also perceive things differently. It allows speculation or extrapolation, as they call it when you alienate something familiar, obvious.

The first part of the session is going to discuss some examples from already existing feminist science fiction novels, for instance, Octavia E. Butler's Xenogenesis trilogy (1987-89, see below), in order to see what has been done, what hasn’t been done, and perhaps also see why it hasn’t been done… Ask questions like why does the other, the radically different, the hardly imaginable seem to often seem so monstrous; why the critique of thinking in either-or opposites in Ursula K. Le Guin's groundbreaking novel The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) does not automatically extend to the critique of homophobia. Stuff like that.

After this initial exercise in thinking difference, we're going to write our own stories or, if there is sufficient interest in formal experimentation, one collective story. In this case, in the style of music or comics jam sessions, each person is going to write only one part of the story and then, we'll mix, continue, finish, polish, dismember or assemble all these pieces into one messy, collectively written mistresspiece;)

Saturday, September 6th 2008 from 14.00 to 17.00 at Dokhuis Studio
Address: Plantage Doklaan 8/12, 1018 CM Amsterdam, http://www.plantagedok.nl

A follow up session for the workshop will be planned (time and day will be decided during the workshop on Saturday). The number of participants is limited to five people and English language. Open to all genders. Info on workshop reservations should be announced on http://www.ladyfestamsterdam.nl/practical any time soon. Below, you can see some examples that are going to be discussed at the workshop.


“All right,” she said. “Show me.”

The lights brightened as she had supposed they would, and what had seemed to be a tall, slender man was still humanoid, but it had no nose – no bulge, no nostrils – just flat, grey skin. It was grey all over – pale grey skin, darker grey hair on its head that grew down around its eyes and ears and at its throat. There was so much hair across the eyes that she wondered how the creature could see. The long, profuse ear hair seemed to grow out of the ears as well as around them. Above, it joined the eye hair, and below and behind, it joined the head hair. The island of throat hair seemed to move slightly, and it occurred to her that that might be where the creature breathed – a kind of natural tracheostomy. Lilith glanced at the humanoid body, wondering how humanlike it really was.

“I don’t mean any offense,” she said, “but are you male or female?”

“It’s wrong to assume that I must be a sex you’re familiar with,” it said, “but as it happens, I’m male.”

Good. “It” could become “he” again. Less awkward.

Octavia E. Butler, Dawn. Guild America Books, 1987, p. 16-17


"But surely--"

"But surely be damned! Balance of trade - balance of life, man. I don't know if our birth rate is going, that's not the point. Our soul is leaking out. We're bleeding to death!"

He took a breath and lowered his tone.

"What I'm trying to tell you, this is a trap. We've hit the supernormal stimulus. Man is exogamous - all our history is one long drive to find and impregnate the stranger. Or get impregnated by him; it works for women, too. Anything different-colored, different nose, ass, anything, man has to fuck it or die trying. That's a drive, you know, it's built in. Because it works fine as long as the stranger is human. For millions of years that has kept the genes circulating. But now we've met aliens we can't screw, and we're about to die trying... Do you think I can touch my wife?"


"Look. Y'know, if you give a bird a fake egg like its own but bigger and brighter-marked, it'll roll its own egg out of the nest and sit on the fake? That's what we're doing."

"We've been talking about sex so far." I was trying to conceal my impatience. "Which is great, but the kind of story I'd hoped--"

"Sex? No, it's deeper." He rubbed his head, trying to clear the drug. "Sex is only part of it - there's more. I've seen Earth missionaries, teachers, sexless people. Teachers - they end up cycling waste or pushing floaters, but they're hooked. They stay. I saw one fine-looking old woman, she was servant to a Cu'uhbar kid. A defective - his own people would have let him die. That wretch was swabbing up its vomit as if it was holy water. Man, it's deep... some cargo-cult of the soul. We're built to dream outwards. They laugh at us. They don't have it."

James Tiptree, Jr.: And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side (1972)
In: Justine Larbalestier (ed.): Daughters of the Earth. Wesleyan University Press, 2006, p. 166-167