The Abstracts — Femspec 10.2, Vol 10, Issue 2, 2010

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Summary: We dedicate the issue to Mary Daly, Ray Browne, and survival. Mary Daly will always be remembered for her pioneering efforts in the feminist community. Ray Browne will also be remembered for his contributions to the academe movement. This 10.2 issue contains a full range of topics, including book reviews on the Tarot, SF and lit, the Divine (transcendence, immanence, the Goddess, feminine spirituality) and gender. There are also critical articles, such as an essay about themed space in Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, an essay about Joanna Russ’s The Female Man, in which Douglas Barbour (reviewer of the Toronto Star) praised Russ’s work as “incredibly sensitive to the variables of speech, and thus gives even the shallowest character a true voice,” and an essay about female masculinities in children’s fantasy. Even love shared between beings from two different worlds is presented in the fiction section. The cover art by Kartika Affandi Koberl, which is a colorful sculpture of five unusual-looking penises (with the main one being large, blue and with the shape of a fist for a head), should be an indication that challenging gender through speculative means continues to be the focus of the journal. However, survival may be the central theme, and as the Femspec journal continues to survive, so too will the triumphant spirits here who raise our fists against gender discrimination, stereotyping, oppression and gender inequities, as well as injustices of any type... all of which unfortunately still manage to “survive” in society and the world at large. Our fists will always remain raised in this fight for peace and equality for all.



By Batya Weinbaum

Batya Weinbaum pays tribute to Mary Daly, an “intellectual pioneer” and feminist author who sadly died on January 3, 2010. She also remembers Ray Browne and all his contributions to the academe world. The editor then concludes her remarks with mentions of those who contributed to the issue and its contents, as well as remaining thankful for those who have showed “continued interest” and loyalty to the organization.


“‘They’re Closin’ up Girl Land:’ Female Masculinities in Children’s Fantasy” By Anne Balay This essay examines gender confusion or the testing of gender rules and roles which exist in fantasy fiction geared towards children. The novels discussed in the essay demonstrate “the constructedness of gender,” and seem to suggest that because anyone can be masculine (including girls and women), men shouldn’t be thought of as better than women, at least in the realm of masculinity. Of course, if fantasy rewards those who constantly strive to be masculine, thus keeping a good amount of “distance from femininity” (as if there is something wrong with being feminine), it would be safe to say that “masculine tyranny” would ensue, as well as sexist ideas.

“‘This Shapeless Book:’ Reception and Joanna Russ’s The Female Man” By Ritch Calvin Ritch Calvin discusses the novel, The Female Man by Joanna Russ. Collective responses, reactions and criticisms of the book were also examined. Russ’s book in question challenges the over-all beliefs of critics that “good literature should not be an expression of personal anger,” agendas or biases.

“‘Not Unmarked:’ From Themed Space to a Feminist Ethics of Engagement in Atwood’s Oryx and Crake” By Shari Evans In this essay, Shari Evans covers themes of science fiction and the hope that the right ethical decisions in a society can reverse inequality, all of which are discussed in Margaret Atwood’s book, Oryx and Crake. The novel examines how different codes of ethics and forced gender roles or identities can fail in a society with numerous versions of reality or themed space.


“Interview with Kartika Affandi Koberl: A Contemporary Indonesian Woman Challenging Gender through Speculative Imagery By Batya Weinbaum, Li Weinbaum, and Daniel Hill Batya and Li Weinbaum, and Daniel Hill talk with Kartika Affandi Koberl, an Indonesian painter and sculptor. This interesting and creative lady serves as a role model for aspiring women artists, especially those in and around Indonesia. Kartika made a shocking sculpture of colorful penises, in which each has a symbolic face or head on it. This potentially controversial yet interesting artwork can be found on the cover of the 10.2 issue of Femspec. (See our special feature)


“Khunta” By Susana Sussman (Translated by M. Elizabeth Ginway, with help from Thais Ribeiro) A strange yet compelling fiction piece that centers on themes of sex, pregnancy and birth, in which the narrator makes comparisons between species from two different planets. The narrator in the story must cope with the pain that loving a woman from a different world brings.


“Review of Crafting the Witch” By Emily Auger Emily Auger examines the book, Crafting the Witch by Heidi Breuer.The book discusses how representations of witches changed over a 400 year period in Arthurian literature. There are three stages involving the characterization of the witch during early literature, which are: “monstrous giants and hyper masculine males,” the wicked witch or “loathly lady,” and temptress or hag.The reviewer feels the book suggests that further research on the subject of variations of the witch in fairy tales is still needed.

“Review of Fairy Tales Reimagined By Emily AugerEmily Auger reviews Fairy Tales Reimagined , an anthology of comparison papers by a number of different authors. The authors made comparisons between different versions of fairy tales, the old and recent.The reviewer feels that the anthology marks the advancement of the study of fairy tale literature and believes such ideas are relevant to modern culture.

“Review of Fortune’s Lover By Emily Auger A review of a book by Rachel Pollack that devotes itself to Tarot and fortune-telling expressed through poetic form. In the book, comparisons are made between poetry and Tarot imagery. The reviewer feels one does not necessarily have to be a tarot enthusiast to appreciate the poems contained within the book.

“Review of Red Planets By Emily AugerHere is another review of a multi-author anthology. The anthology explores the genre of science fiction with its relation to Marxist theories. The various authors and their contributions to the anthology are discussed. Topics mentioned include: anamorphosis (a phenomenon involving pictorial space), and theorization (involves speculation, defense and elevating the “status of an object” in a study).

“Review of An Introduction to Western Esotericism By Emily AugerEmily Auger writes a review of a book that contains several essays on the subjects of esotericism and the Tarot.The essays mentioned certain tarot decks, such as ones that carry a theme in literature, one of them being The Lord of the Rings Tarot. The reviewer felt that Chishty-Mujahid’s research of the Mantegna and Sola Busca decks and of the study of patterns, symbols, and design theories related to the cards was the best part of the book.

“Review of The Circling Song By Ardys DeluArdys Delu shares her thoughts of a book she found difficult to read at times due to the violent imagery and unpleasant subject matter, yet also found it to be a “quite powerful” story.The title refers to children forming a circle and singing a song which describes parts of the story. The story is mainly about an Egyptian family in which a male twin must murder his twin sister due to her dishonoring the family because of her impregnation.She became pregnant not by choice, but due to being raped.However, how she became pregnant seemed to make little or no difference to the family’s decision to kill her.The reviewer felt that the glossary at the end of the book is “useful in describing places, costumes,” and Egyptian peasant life.

“Review of Frankenstein By Phillipa KafkaThe reviewer shares her thoughts of two new versions of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, one being an early draft by Mary Shelley and the other being a revised text edition by Percy Shelley, her husband. Charles E. Robinson is the editor of this version of the popular classic. The reviewer felt that the editor tediously and unnecessarily tried too hard to prove that Mary Shelley was indeed the genius and creator behind the horror story. She felt Mary Shelley’s “declaration of authorship” in 1831 bore enough weight and credibility on its own, and perhaps didn’t need any help.

“Review of Women Writers of the Provincetown Players By Phillipa Kafka This is a review of an anthology which was put together by a professor of English and Women’s Studies at SUNY Albany. The anthology contains a collection of 13 plays written by women of The Provincetown Players. The reviewer’s favorite play is “The Eldest” by Edna Ferber, even though it enraged her due to the cruel and sexist stereotypes the protagonist had to deal with.

“Review of King Kong Theory By K. A. LaityThis review tackles the messages in the King Kong Theory, a book that at first seems to suggest that feminism is not necessary in our modern world of gender equality. The author of the book being discussed also recounts her own personal experience of rape which occurred two decades ago.The reviewer seems to suggest that the author merely made the statement that feminism is not needed, to provoke the reader a little. Apparently, Despentes herself is not against the idea of feminism, because she stated that feminism is “a revolution, well under way” (131).

“Review of Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy By K. A. LaityThe reviewer takes a look at an encyclopedia devoted to women’s contributions to the science fiction and fantasy genres.The reviewer believes the reference book would serve teachers and students in their research very well, especially with analytical theory of the genres, although she was somewhat disappointed that some of her favorites were missing in the collection.

“Review of Women and the Divine By K. A. LaityHere is a review of a collection of works regarding the divine female. One of the authors, Claire Colbrook, stated that “the self oriented to the divine is a self in becoming” (95). Construction of culture, transcendence, materialism, sacrifice and feminine leadership are all topics that are discussed. The reviewer feels that the book “makes for lively reading” due to the different philosophies of feminism and theories of the divine.

“Review of Daughters of Empire By Gillian I. LeitchThis is a review of a memoir written by Jane Satterfield. It involves the author remembering a year in the mid 1990’s in which she stayed in Britain during a time when her husband taught in an exchange program.This appeared to have been an important time of her life, in which she experienced profound moments of self-discovery.An unplanned pregnancy while she was in Britain challenged her sense of self and understanding of the British medical system, as well as their entire culture.

“Review of Priestess of Avalon By Lani RavinThe reviewer examines Priestess of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Diana L. Paxson, as well as some other works. The Mists of Avalon, which was written before Priestess of Avalon, put forth the idea that all religions have an underlying truth to them and all go to the same source, which created everything. The reviewer describes what Avalon is like, a place that exists in a different dimension and can be found by “parting the mists of the Lake .” The heroine in Priestess of Avalon faces the difficult decision of choosing between her own culture and the man she loves.

“Review of Failing the Future By Maria Shine Stewart This is a review of a book by Annette Kolodny, which is about the problems that exist in higher education. The author is concerned that American universities will not survive in the 21st century if disciplines continue to be segmented and fields of knowledge keep getting compartmentalized. The author also grew impatient with “unfair promotion and tenure practices” that exist in the academe of feminist studies. The reviewer feels that positive change can be made in universities if the author’s insights are implemented.

“Review of Tarot and Other Meditation Decks By Batya WeinbaumOur editor Batya Weinbaum, discusses a book about the Tarot written by Emily Auger, one of the many contributors to Femspec. Her book is made up of 3 chapters, which are about visual art in Tarot, the Tarot and literature, and the Tarot itself. The reviewer was pleased with Auger’s use of critical methods in approaching Tarot reading and interpretation.

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