The Geek Feminist Revolution
by Kameron Hurley
Review by Benjamin Wald
Tor Books Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765386243
Date: 31 May 2016 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Geek Feminist Revolution is many things. Part memoir, part call to arms, part exploration of the power of the stories we tell ourselves, it collects the deeply personal, combative and always interesting non-fiction of Kameron Hurley. While the short length of the individual pieces and their thematic overlap occasionally leads to repetition, there are a number of real gems in this collection, and having these pieces collected together helps highlight the themes that drive Hurley’s non-fiction writing.
The collection is divided into four sections. Section one is devoted to writing advice. But this isn't traditional advice on the craft of writing--instead, it is mostly devoted to discussing the issues with being a writer that rarely get mentioned. She discusses the publishing industry, the need for relentless persistence, the myth of talent over hard work, and her attitude when her own stories end up containing traces of the sexism and racism she relentlessly opposes. It's an interesting look at Hurley's own journey, and sobering advice for would be writers.
Section two discusses Hurley's thoughts about pop culture and SF, including discussions of particular works, such as a fascinating take on the first season of True Detective, and more general trends, such as the importance of unlikeable female protagonists. This was my favorite section of the book. Hurley is excellent at unpacking elements of pop culture that cast it in a new light, uncovering the sexist assumptions of so many narratives and showing how our beloved genre could be better than it is.
Section three is called "let's get personal", but it would be a mistake to think that any of Hurley's writing is impersonal. Her own experiences are involved in almost all of her essays. But in this section, they take center stage, with Hurley provided a deeply personal look at her own encounters with illness, abuse, and online harassment.
Section four, called "revolution", takes on the culture war in SF head on. It discusses gamergate, the Hugo slates, and other SF controversies, interspersed with her own experiences with gender and race. A common theme is her combination of refusal to stop fighting, and a kind of grim optimism that things that can get better, although so much more work remains to be done.
Hurley is a powerful writer, and her collection is a clarion call for SF. She shows us both how much work there is still be done, but also the importance of that work, and holds out hope that SF can be more inclusive, more diverse, and tell better stories than ever before. This is a strong, and very timely, collection.