|Women SF/Fantasy Writers, Artists Gather in Broad Universe|
The women who attended the World Domination 101 panel of WisCon 2000 didn't know they were signing up for a mission to boldly go where no women in science fiction, fantasy and horror had gone before.
"Among the many great ideas we discussed [at the session] were the fact that two other genres have groups for women: Women Writing the West and Sisters in Crime," Amy Axt Hanson of Broad Universe recalled. "We looked at what these two groups do for their members: quarterly newsletters, twice-a-year books-in-print catalogs, staffing tables at conventions and awards, 'how-to' chapbooks, outreach to writers of color, and special programs for new writers.
"So we listed all that in columns one and two of a chart," Hanson continued. But when it came to the third column -- similar activities for women SF, fantasy and horror writers, the panelists found, "Uh…nothing."
Well, not exactly nothing, Hanson conceded. WisCon itself, an annual Memorial Day gathering of the feminist science fiction community in Madison, Wis., certainly celebrates feminist contributions in these sub-genres. You also need to count the James Tiptree, Jr., Award, which honors works that expand the gender roles of women and men. But the women at WisCon couldn't point to any organization that conducted continuous promotion, outreach and support efforts for women writers and artists in this field.
"So, the group came out of a collective sense of envy for women in other genres -- that they're getting together to talk about how to find time to do the work, how to do the work better and then how to promote their work. And they're having fun in the process. We realized that their templates already existed and that we could do the same things too," Hanson said.
Hanson hastens to add that the fledgling organization, called Broad Universe (short for "Broads United in Verse") did not arise out of any sense of ire or injustice. They do not see themselves as a political action group. Broad Universe seeks to promote women writers and artists in the SF, fantasy and horror community. "Yeah, sure, there are a few things we don't like and probably will work to change, but the group arose because we just simply like each other. We like getting together and chatting about writing and art. It's fun."
Hanson and other members of the Broad Universe Steering Committee hosted a tea at World Fantasy Con 2000, October 28, to announce the new organization and their Web site. The enthusiasm among editors and agents at the convention pleased Hanson but didn't surprise her too much. Broad Universe exists to help writers create more and better books, to help artists create more and better work, and to help both get more exposure for their current creations. What's not to like?
Hanson advised interested writers, artists and fans interested in Broad Universe to check out the organization's Web site for current activities. "Right now, there isn't a way to 'join' or be a 'member,'" Hanson said, although she expects that to change. "We're using the Web site to convey who we are, to generate interest and enthusiasm, and start the conversation and flow of ideas.
"What we really need at this point is for authors to send us information about their books for the online catalogue," Hanson continued. Broad Universe can't post information it doesn't possess. Hanson noted that Broad Universe does not plan to sell books directly from the Web site, but like similar support organizations, seeks to help readers -- men and women -- find more great books.
Broad Universe promotes women writers and artists, but in no way to seeks to exclude men. "When great books are easier to find, everyone benefits," Hanson said. "Besides, our Web site is in the public domain. Not a lot of it is going to be anything particularly secret or exclusive to women.
"Well, the brass breastplates will be kind of kept under wraps…and the secret decoder earrings. But the guys already have Jock Straps of Power, so it evens out."
Jean Marie Ward