Marathon Reading Appeals to Kindred Spirit

The Cauldron, March 25, 2002
 -By Mar Brencic

When people have a lot of time (like prison) they do a lot of black feminist science fiction reading.
     All week long a reading was held in the CSU Library fourth floor poetry room for Octavia Butler, a well-respected author of science fiction.
     The reading began on Monday and continued through Thursday. On the respective days selections written by Butler were read aloud.
     As each person that volunteered their time began, they received a ceremonial stick, which they held or rested on their lap while they read. The stick was subsequently passed to the next reader.
     Each person read aloud for approximately 15 minutes or about 10 pages.
     The reading was not done around the clock but only between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Students, staff, and faculty came in and out of the Poetry Room at their leisure to read and listen.
     The reading was held as a display of thanks to Butler who will be coming to Cleveland State University for a public lecture to be held at the Mather Mansion on April 11, at 7 p.m.
     Butler is member of the Editorial Board of FEMSPEC which is an academic journal published at Cleveland State University.
     Batya Wienbaum, professor in the English Department and First College, explained Butler is the first Black Science Fiction Writer.
     "I worked with Austin Allen of First College who was interested in bringing Butler to campus," said Weinbaum. "She will be speaking here about science fiction and other issues."
      Butler will be doing a series of lectures in and around the Cleveland area the end of this month and the first two weeks of April. Butler will also visit the Grafton Correctional Institute to speak to inmates at the prison. 
     "They read her in prison and argue about her," said Austin Allen, Director of First College. "The inmates do a lot of reading, but people don't understand that when people have a lot of time they do a lot of reading." 
     Allen explained that First College visits Grafton regularly as part of a mission of outreach to the community. 
     Science fiction writing has become a way for women to express themselves in ways they cannot in other genres. Many women feel alienated when writing for critical journals, according to Batya Weinbaum who helped to found FEMSPEC.
     FEMSPEC is "an interdisciplinary feministjournal dedicated to critical and creative works in the realms of science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, surrealism, myth, folklore and other supernatural genres." 
     In the introduction to the first ever FEMSPEC, published in 1999, Weinbaum writes about an experience in a hotel in San Antonio, Texas in 1997 when the journal was founded. 
      The other person involved in the initial issue was Robin Reid. Both Reid and Weinbaum contribute to an editorial explaining the reasons and how the ideas came to be for the journal. 
      Most of them deal with the alienation felt by women, and how science fiction serves as a perfect forum to express ideas beyond the realm of reality in creating alternate worlds and societies. 
      Science fiction has become a hugely popular genre in fiction writing, and is popular because of its openness in ideas. 
      The lecture will be presented by Cleveland State University First College and is supported by the George Gund Foundation.