Sci-fi Women discussion

Who Runs the World?
This topic is about Who Runs the World?
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Freedom for All in Sci Fi?

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message 1: by Rachel Adiyah (new)

Rachel Adiyah | 37 comments Note: I tried posting this to a feminist board for discussion but no one was interested in discussing it. Maybe this belongs in a discussion about science fiction, instead.

Last night I was checking out books on the Matriarchal Societies (I think that was the name - it had Matriarchal in it, definitely) List, and I saw one book titled Who Runs the World? by Virginia Bergin. I have not read this book. But the first review I saw was from a woman who criticized the book for being matriarchal, not having trans-gender people, and the plot for it's existence, because it was so offensive that the characters considered a boy to not be human (after not seeing one for sixty years) that the book should basically set it itself on fire and disappear.

I left a comment that science fiction is frequently labeled as "subversive" precisely because it's not politically correct but speculative, a special creative space to explore worlds and scenarios. I also informed that comment's author that men have had control over sci-fi for the longest time and have written many misogynistic books, yet a woman writes one exploring matriarchy and she gets angry over it. I said that if she can't handle this kind of environment that she shouldn't read science fiction.

I was attacked by a troll (of course) who wanted me to be embarrassed about something called "TERF" (I'm not a millenial and I don't know this term), but I told her that she really sounded as though she didn't know what she was writing about. So she kept attacking me and I told her that I wasn't angry, that this was all intellectual to me, so I finally bid her farewell and blocked her.

The point of speculative fiction is not to create a perfect world but to explore ideas. To say that feminism is simply the belief that "we are all equal" ignores other types of feminism that are unabashedly pro-woman and flip men the bird. And there are different types of feminism; there is not one type. Also, depending upon race, ethnicity, religion, and class, your feminism is going to be different. Science Fiction should be an ideal medium to explore these different types of feminism and/or women's place in a given society.

I don't believe in telling writers that they must adhere to a politically correct social order where we're all holding hands in "perfect harmony". Let's face it: that might never happen. Even if it does, why does a writer creating a fictional matriarchy deserve to be skewered?


message 2: by Mary J Starry (new)

Mary J Starry | 4 comments I don't know what TERF means either, so can't help you there. I do think the wonderful thing about science fiction is that it allows the author to create an alternative world where totally different political, spiritual and sexual realities can exist. The value of science fiction comes from what moral or ethical issues can then be raised within that world that we can relate to as humans.


message 3: by Matilda (new)

Matilda Scotney | 0 comments Trans-exclusionary radical feminist. Not a term I like. In my recent sci fi novel, homosexuality and mixed-race marriages were included to highlight my heroines ignorance and simplicity. One reader questioned 'my'views. I tried to explain they are not my views but the views of the fictional society I created. But as Rachel says, I got 'skewered' anyway.


message 4: by Sherri (new)

Sherri Moorer (sherrithewriter) I was quite amused by a reviewer who told me that my sci-fi trilogy had too much hard science in it, and I need to dumb it down. No ma’am. It’s science fiction, and these days it means A LOT of science! I think the bigger issue is that people are intimidated by smart women. It always amazes me that I get criticized for the same traits that my father and brother are praised for. Intelligence in women still isn’t welcome in our society.


message 5: by Mary J Starry (new)

Mary J Starry | 4 comments Remember some people enjoy being negative, especially when it comes to commenting on writing by women. Just ignore them as unhelpful.


message 6: by SamSpayedPI (new)

SamSpayedPI | 8 comments Rachel Adiyah wrote: "I don't believe in telling writers that they must adhere to a politically correct social order where we're all holding hands in "perfect harmony". Let's face it: that might never happen. Even if it does, why does a writer creating a fictional matriarchy deserve to be skewered?"

I agree; in fact, the entire point to most science fiction is that you can't ever hold hands and sing in perfect harmony; when you pull one string to correct society's problems, your society tends to unravel elsewhere. Brave New World. Logan's Run. Starship Troopers. The Time Machine. Frankenstein. (It would be easier, in fact, to list books about true utopias)(although I can't actually think of one). Even in The Left Hand of Darkness, in which (almost) everyone is hermaphroditic, society discriminates against the few mutant non-hermaphrodites. So, yes, when a society is matriarchal, it will of course have problems in the other direction (otherwise, there's no conflict, and you're writing a romance, not an SF novel).

Your troll is probably quite young, as you point out. I recently argued about a book with a young person myself. They said a book was bad because they absolutely hated a couple of characters, who were "really mean" and not supportive of the MC.

Doesn't that actually mean, I proposed, that you thought the book was very good? It made you feel so strongly about these characters: you felt sorry for the MC, and angry at the other characters who were cruel to him. Doesn't a book have to be quite good to elicit that sort of emotional response?

I don't think I got through, but hopefully, they read my comment and gave it some thought, and might influence them in the future.


message 7: by Rachel Adiyah (new)

Rachel Adiyah | 37 comments Sherri wrote: "I was quite amused by a reviewer who told me that my sci-fi trilogy had too much hard science in it, and I need to dumb it down. No ma’am. It’s science fiction, and these days it means A LOT of sci..."

I completely agree. I am a MENSA member, and sometimes it seems like everyone - especially males with self-esteem issues - wants to start a fight with me and put me down. You simply would not believe what I've been through. One time I was attacked by a bunch of British misogynistic trolls, some disguised as females on Goodreads, because I challenged a ridiculously hateful review of Only Ever Yours. Into the thick of the fight I brought up MENSA, always a mistake, I've found, and one I usually avoid, and they all jumped on me. The hate that is created by female intelligence, regardless of the fact that unlike most men I can think of I don't wave my I.Q. around like a damn flag, is undeniable.

What makes it worse for me is that I have a very rare personality type shared by 3% of the population that has to do with having a very logical way of thinking and behaving. My mother told me I was the only kid she ever knew who started speaking without contractions. Sometimes, when people act irrationally, I'm thrown for a loop, or I make the mistake of pointing it out (I'm getting better at letting things go), and people suddenly ditch me like I'm radioactive and a horrible person.


message 8: by Rachel Adiyah (new)

Rachel Adiyah | 37 comments Mary J Starry wrote: "Remember some people enjoy being negative, especially when it comes to commenting on writing by women. Just ignore them as unhelpful."

A few years ago a space opera anthology, Dark Beyond the Stars A Space Opera Anthology by David Gatewood Dark Beyond the Stars: A Space Opera Anthology, debuted, and it was written entirely by WOMEN! However, there was one infamously misogynistic "review" (gag, puke) which warned the "ladies" to "go no further" because they didn't really produce "authentic" space opera, and typical of Amazon they ignored thousands of requests to remove this review and left it up.

Men hate the fact that women are going into science fiction, and to this all I can say is that I flip the bird to all such misogynists and grin as we tear the gates down.


message 9: by Kellyn (new)

Kellyn Thompson (authorkellyn) I'm sorry you had such a terrible troll attack you. I love your take on not restricting writers. What would the point of creative writing be, then?

But at least you have made whoever the troll was think enough to come up with responses to you. Maybe they'll get it someday.


message 10: by Welwyn (new)

Welwyn Wilton Katz | 7 comments I think the best way to avoid getting involved in debates about any book you have written -- which surely is harmful to your emotional wellbeing, and gets nowhere -- is simply not to respond to negative reviews, and try to forget them.


message 11: by Rachel Adiyah (new)

Rachel Adiyah | 37 comments Welwyn wrote: "I think the best way to avoid getting involved in debates about any book you have written -- which surely is harmful to your emotional wellbeing, and gets nowhere -- is simply not to respond to neg..."

See, I can't let it go. I remember, before I transferred to the women's college from which I graduated, I was somewhere else, and my Creative Writing professor once told me, "There are all the boys in the class, like a pack of mangy wolves, and then there's you, and you can't stop tangling with them." I've learned the hard way in life that you don't back down, YOU HIT FIRST.


message 12: by Lynn (new)

Lynn (officerripley) | 32 comments I know what you mean, Rachel; it's so hard to back down sometimes when what you're hearing is such vicious, stupid, hateful crap, oh, it's hard. (Speaking of "vicious, stupid, hateful": gotta go; gonna go back to that argument I'm having with a gun nut over on YouTube.)


message 13: by Mary J Starry (new)

Mary J Starry | 4 comments Rachel - Totally understand how hard it is to let something go!! Men I know hate to discuss anything with me, even my husband!!


message 14: by Rachel Adiyah (last edited May 28, 2018 03:24PM) (new)

Rachel Adiyah | 37 comments Mary J Starry wrote: "Rachel - Totally understand how hard it is to let something go!! Men I know hate to discuss anything with me, even my husband!!"

I used to be part of a brunch group that would meet every Sunday in Center City Philadelphia around 11am. Once there was a new couple there, and the man ended up sitting across from me. The regulars cracked up laughing, and when he asked why they were laughing at him, one of the organizers said, "You're sitting across from Rachel Adiyah. Good luck, man!"

And late in the brunch this man started talking about the end of WWI, but what he was saying was not true at all. So I told him that he was wrong, and I explained why. He started to laugh and told me that I was wrong. So I said, "I have a Bachelor's degree in History. I studied WWI as part of my coursework. Where is your information from?"

So he said, "Where is my information from?" Pause. "I've studied it."

"So you've read non-fiction history about WWI?" He couldn't answer. So I said, "Did you watch documentaries about it?"

Happily, he said, "Yes, I did."

And I said, "Were they on the History Chanel?"

And suddenly nervous, he said, "Yes, I watched them on the History Chanel."

So I countered, "I have a degree in History and you've watched shows on the History Chanel, and you're trying to tell me what is history and what isn't?"

Suddenly uncomfortable, he said, "Well..."

So I said, "Alright. If you know your stuff, how did your version of WWI end?"

He asked, "My version?"

"Yes. In your version of WWI, how did it end?" (This is not actually as smart ass as you might think, because history students talk about various scenarios in history all the time.)

He cried out, "In MY VERSION OF WWI?!"

I said, "Yep." This man looked like he was about to explode, and then he quickly left the table, never to return, leaving his baffled wife sitting there until she realized that he wasn't coming back.

Not all men are like this; I have found some men who are great to talk to about my interests, which I share more with men than women, sadly. (Just think of the crap the guys talk about on the Big Bang Theory.) But there are a lot of men who expect to say something, no matter how bullshit it is, and have it accepted because they're a MAN WHO SAID SOMETHING. And sadly for them, to quote a favorite Tom Petty song of mine, "You can stand me up at the gates of hell and I won't back down; gonna' stand my ground."


message 15: by Jessica (new)

Jessica O'Toole (jayotee) Rachel Adiyah wrote: "Note: I tried posting this to a feminist board for discussion but no one was interested in discussing it. Maybe this belongs in a discussion about science fiction, instead.

Last night I was checki..."


I think you need to remember one thing. You, or anyone else, does not have a right not to be criticised for anything you produce and present for public consumption. It doesn't matter what genre, what theme or the sex of the writer, if you offer your ideas to the world, expect the world to offer theirs to you.

I imagine some people don't really care about MENSA or self-perceived level of intelligence. That has no bearing over yours or another writer's ideas - very self-perceived smart people produce drastically illogical ideas to a lot of other people. If a reader thinks what they read publicly is deserving of criticism or praise then they should be allowed to offer it. If someone disagrees with another it isn't actually always an issue of sex, it might just be they really don't assign their own beliefs or moral standing with what is being said.

If you need to revert to victimising yourself on the basis of sex then maybe you are just looking for issues where there are none, and gendering an issue that is just a discussion. There may be reasons men (or women for that matter) get annoyed at women who persistently claim they are smarter and superior to them: much of the time it isn't true, and arrogance is generally looked down upon. This is especially the case with British people, which I mention due to your specifying an issue above with some British men (though I assure you, it is not just British men who find this distasteful), as assigning your own level of intelligence and parading it about as the only source of correctness is seen as fairly poor taste and generally denotes a lack of solid argument.

Interestingly enough, having a bachelor's degree in history is not and all-encompassing pedestal of intellect. If you were a professor of WWI history, people may pay more attention - though professors are still perfectly capable of being challenged. Where did you get this degree? What history did it focus on? Which primary source material did you study? Which extant sites have you visited and studied? Has your dissertation made extraordinary ground for its subject matter? I can imagine your bachelor's is extremely different to another's in a totally different locality and cultural history. Your version may be just as wrong and biased to someone else.

The point of this is you cannot just create objection to someone objecting as if that is an end-all suppression of their argument. They have a right, just like you do, to raise them. However, if your objection reverts to ad hominems towards the author of those objections then your argument may not be as strong as you think.

Books are a space for ideas. Ideas are always to be questioned and challenged. Always, with no exceptions. The opposite to this idea is genuine authoritarianism.


message 16: by Rachel Adiyah (new)

Rachel Adiyah | 37 comments Jessica wrote: "Rachel Adiyah wrote: "Note: I tried posting this to a feminist board for discussion but no one was interested in discussing it. Maybe this belongs in a discussion about science fiction, instead.

L..."


I disagree with everything, literally everything, that you've said. Since we're all entitled to our opinions, my opinion is that everything you've put down is anti-feminist, anti-intellectual, and far too subjective to be of any use to me.

Based on the British people I've met in my life and/or encountered online, your opinion is pretty consistent with all of them. If that's your culture, and you want to be a part of that, then that is your choice. I'm an American, and what you believe is largely irrelevant to me.

Not trying to be arrogant, not trying to put you down, but I just don't find anything that you've said to be of value to my life and daily experience.

If you don't like what I have to say, no one is holding a gun to your head to read it or reply to it. But I profoundly disagree with you, and that is my position.


message 17: by SamSpayedPI (last edited Jun 04, 2018 06:25AM) (new)

SamSpayedPI | 8 comments Jessica wrote: "You, or anyone else, does not have a right not to be criticised for anything you produce and present for public consumption."

That's true enough. But surely you believe that one's work should be criticized on its merits, not on the basis of the sex of the author.

If someone in a review demands "'ladies' to 'go no further' because they didn't really produce 'authentic' space opera," he or she needs to back that up with specific examples of how each story was inauthentic or inferior, and why the criticism should be applied universally to women, not just this specific title. It could just be a bad book. If a man writes a bad book, no one says "men shouldn't be writing science fiction."

"It's by a woman, so it can't be good science fiction" is not literary criticism, it's just sexism.

It's all BS, anyway. One of the first science fiction novels ever written (The Blazing World, and the first modern science fiction novel (Frankenstein) were written by women. Even the "first great space opera," The Skylark of Space, was co-written by a woman, Lee Hawkins Garby. Anyone who says women don't belong in science fiction can stuff it; women virtually invented it.


message 18: by R.S. (new)

R.S. Merritt | 2 comments Is this really even up for discussion? I could care less about the sex of an author when I select a book to read. Although thinking about it I do believe that women are underrepresented in the book arena. No idea why. I just know that I can think of a few dozen male writers off the top of my head but only maybe like 5 women. Who's the woman Stephen King? (Don't say Tabitha! U know what I mean!) Do other people care about the sex of the author? Does it influence the number of people who buy the book? I know a lot of my first books were women authors (thinking back to the Dragonlance series) A lot of dragon type novels popping in my head for some reason. That's my early morning just finished my coffee random thoughts. I hope that I have left you all wondering why women mostly write about dragons. I've invented a new stereotype!


message 19: by Rachel Adiyah (new)

Rachel Adiyah | 37 comments R.S. wrote: "Is this really even up for discussion? I could care less about the sex of an author when I select a book to read. Although thinking about it I do believe that women are underrepresented in the book..."

I don't mean to throw a match onto dry tinder, not trying to piss off anyone, please nobody take this the wrong way because it's only my opinion, that's it, and nothing more. But I do have a response.

I actually do care about the sex of the author. Although I have read and will continue to read books written by men, I prefer books written by women and about women. Very often, female characters written by men tend to be unauthentic; I'm speaking specifically about sci-fi because that's what this board is about.

That's not to say that Millennium's Louise Baltimore wasn't awesome, but then John Varley blew it trying to describe a trans-woman in Steel Beach and The Ophiuchi Hotline's female protagonist was a disaster on wheels. I mean, Here, There, and Everywhere, was written by a man about a girl/woman, and it was amazing. But that's not so common. Look at Podkayne of Mars! That book did not speak to me at all. (Just FYI, not a big fan of Heinlein.)

Tanith Lee did an amazing job with future women in Don't Bite the Sun and Electric Forest. I used to love the SHOMI books before they canned them. Even though Daughters of a Coral Dawn was a bit cheesy it was still a fun read. Diane Carey's two Star Trek novels, "Dreadnought" and "Battlestations", were amazing to me when I read them at age fourteen because for the first time I saw an alpha female succeed in that universe. Woman on the Edge of Time was both gut-wrenching and immensely powerful to me. And the Women of Wonder anthologies were all incredible. But the generation of adult, female sci-fi readers who want to see reflections of themselves has not yet come of age.

Sadly, there are a lot of female sci fi writers in the YA genre who write amazing female characters, like Trella in Inside Out, and the protagonist of the dystopian XVI, but they're not writing to an adult audience. Maybe when this generation gets older they'll demand the same kind of association with main characters that they had as adolescents, and we'll see massive change. But I'm posting on a list for women who were born in a certain decade, and I'm the only one adding science fiction! There's something horribly wrong with that.

We need more women in sci-fi: authors, characters, and readers.


message 20: by K.E. (new)

K.E. Lanning (kelanning) | 14 comments Science fiction is a huge genre, encompassing a lot of books that skid toward YA as to character development even if they're 'adult' novels. My writing is what I prefer to term as speculative science fiction (the original Robert Heinlein definition from his essay), set in the near future. The three books in my Melt Trilogy specifically have an eco-fiction/cli-fi leaning. My novels have a thread of social commentary and so are more in the Margaret Atwood end of the spectrum, but I get ripped in reviews for creating flawed, but realistic characters doing what people do instead of superhero men and women.

For reader's sake, I wish the term speculative sci-fi would get wider use so they know before they pick up that book whether it is pure science fiction or fantasy, or a more adult/literary style of novel.


message 21: by Rachel Adiyah (new)

Rachel Adiyah | 37 comments K.E. wrote: "Science fiction is a huge genre, encompassing a lot of books that skid toward YA as to character development even if they're 'adult' novels. My writing is what I prefer to term as speculative scien..."

Ironically, had you written about super-hero women and men, they would still have ripped you in the reviews, this time for creating a bunch of Mary-Sue's! People preach all over the internet about creating realistic characters, and then they damn you for it! So to hell with those idiots! I write, and only writers understand what we go through when we're world building, character building, and trying to maintain an interesting plot to boot. Those people have no idea how hard you probably worked on your book, so - as far as I'm concerned - feel entirely free to dismiss their opinions.

As far as terms go, "Science-Fiction" or "Sci-Fi" used to be a wide umbrella term that covered everything that was not general fiction, romance, mystery, thriller, western, or fantasy. But today people are getting quite picky. I've heard people say that Science Fiction should only cover fiction directly related to science or technology, and that everything else should be called Speculative Fiction. I've heard some people say that "social science fiction" isn't "real" "science fiction".

Now there's alternate history, "weird fiction", "bizarro fiction", and about a million sub-genres of science fiction/speculative fiction. Honestly? I haven't a clue how everything should be categorized. I do know that some books, like The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead The Underground Railroad, are Alternative History but do not meet the requirements of the genre in that they ARE Speculative. This book won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in Science Fiction in 2017, and it is a powerful novel written by an incredible author. But would I have called the book "science fiction"? Just personally, no; however, it is exploring a concept, regardless of historical era, rather than fleshing out an alternative historical world, so it is definitely Speculative Fiction.

I think that you call your work whatever you want and stick with it regardless of what everyone else says. You created it, you have that right.


message 22: by SamSpayedPI (last edited Jun 05, 2018 08:00PM) (new)

SamSpayedPI | 8 comments Rachel Adiyah wrote: "But today people are getting quite picky."
No, they were always quite picky. I remember seeing a girl in summer camp (in maybe 1977) reading a book with a spaceship on the cover, and telling her "I like science fiction too," only to be informed on no uncertain terms that she didn't read science fiction, she only read space fiction. @@


message 23: by Rachel Adiyah (new)

Rachel Adiyah | 37 comments Sam wrote: "Rachel Adiyah wrote: "But today people are getting quite picky."
No, they were always quite picky. I remember seeing a girl in summer camp (in maybe 1977) reading a book with a spaceship on the cov..."


That's hilarious! To quote one of my favorite country songs (I'm not really into country music but my mom is so I like some of it): "G-d is great, beer is good, and people are crazy."

Note: I'm not trying to force my belief in G-d on anyone else. So if you are non-religious, this comment is applicable only to me. I really don't want to offend anyone.


message 24: by Lynn (new)

Lynn (officerripley) | 32 comments R.S. said, "I can think of a few dozen male writers off the top of my head but only maybe like 5 women. Who's the woman Stephen King? (Don't say Tabitha! U know what I mean!)"

Fine with me that there's maybe no "woman Stephen King" since he's not a favorite of mine; I don't think he writes woman characters worth a damn. And yes, I've read a whole bunch of his books--too many but kept thinking "they're gonna make a movie out of this, well maybe it gets better" but nope, only good thing he ever wrote was "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" (which didn't pass the Bechdel test though since it really *didn't even have any female characters*). So gimme Octavia Butler, Sheri Tepper, James Tiptree, Jr. (real name Alice Sheldon), Helene Wecker, Meg Elison, and Nicola Griffith any day. And I'm of course open to any other female authors of fantasy/speculative/science fiction; so chime in with any I haven't mentioned, gals; I'm always looking for new female authors!

Have a good rest of the weekend, every1!


message 25: by Michelle (new)

Michelle (bookwormmichelled) | 1 comments So gimme Octavia Butler, Sheri Tepper, James Tiptree, Jr. (real name Alice Sheldon), Helene Wecker, Meg Elison, and Nicola Griffith any day. And I'm of course open to any other female authors of fantasy/speculative/science fiction; so chime in with any I haven't mentioned,'
HEAR HEAR! How about also Ursula Le Guin Becky Chambers N.K. Jemisin Nnedi Okorafor Connie Willis Ann Leckie Kameron Hurley Charlie Jane Anders Seanan McGuire Malka Older Martha Wells Claire North Emma Newman Jodi Taylor Jo Walton C.A. Higgins S.A. Chakraborty Sandra Newman, and THEN there are all the great ladies who write "literary fiction" that is speculative, and THEN there are all the YA writers!


message 26: by Lynn (new)

Lynn (officerripley) | 32 comments Oh, yeah, great authors too, Michelle, thanks! Got a new fantasy author--new to me anyway--I'm going to try: The Tree People by Naomi M. Stokes, Native American fantasy; anybody else read it or anything else by her?


message 27: by Lizzie (new)

Lizzie | 21 comments My first exposure to science fiction at age 12 in the early 70s was Andre Norton. I accidentally grabbed the next book by Norton when I had been reading a female mystery writer's series, not paying attention to the first name. Post-apocolypse, telepathy, intelligent cats - I was hooked. Star Trek came into my field of vision at the same time. Anne McCaffrey (yes, Dragons) and I wasn't sure if that was science fiction, but the author said it was.

I have a lot of older stuff like Asimov, Alan Dean Foster, F.M. Busby, and Heinlein, but a good portion of my collection of printed books are women authors - Elizabeth Moon, Bujold, Andre Norton, Anne Mccaffrey, Sarah Hoyt, Margaret Weis, Melissa Scott. A lot of the male authors have women as their lead characters. The best ST Voyager books were written by a female author - Kirsten Beyer.

I have noticed that in some series, such as M..D. Cooper's Aeon 14 Universe, I much prefer the books that were written by female authors. I don't pick those books in Star Trek or Aeon 14 that were written by women; I read them all and have only notice recently after having read so many how often my ratings for the ones written by women are higher. Both of these series star a female lead character and I suspect that the characters feel more real when written my women.

In regards to who is writing in these male created universes and in science fiction and space opera, they are female authors with their own series, most often geared towards a YA level. Amy DuBoff, Zen DiPietro, Jade Kerrion and Lindsay Buroker are among my favorites.


message 28: by Lynn (new)

Lynn (officerripley) | 32 comments I loved, loved, loved Eliz. Moon's Remnant Population Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon !


message 29: by Susan (new)

Susan Frances | 6 comments Hello Sci fi lovers,
I'm new to the group, My first sci fi book just hit the market "A Glimpse Beyond the Aether" I also love Star Trek (all captains but Janeway was my favorite and Seven of Nine the best character)

My book is sci fi / romance. It's about a future world that knows absolutely what happens to us when we die. And it's TMI !!
My heroine is strong and iconic and the most pivotal character in the story,

Has anybody read "A Glimpse Beyond The Aether" Would love to discuss, and I would love to read your sci fi book too.


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