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The Geek Feminist Revolution is an essay collection by science fiction and fantasy author Kameron Hurley about feminism, geek culture, narrative and writing. Dedicated to Joanna Russ, the collection is an oftentimes personal inquiry into the genres we, as feminists, both love and hate. Like Russ, Hurley believes in the transformative and subversive potential of science fiction and fantasy, and, like Russ, she also investigates and calls out its many uglier sides. Above all, the collection deals with responsibility. Narrative has effect, Hurley states – the stories we tell, the stories that we let dominate our cultural landscape, and the way we tell them do work on us, as readers, fans, and people. “Normal is a story,” Hurley writes. And stories can be rewritten.
Most of what Hurley writes about in The Geek Feminist Revolution is not new, not to people already invested in feminist, anti-racist and queer critiques of SFF and fandom, at least (which, obviously, is the audience for this book). That is not a knock on Hurley – she herself frequently stresses how the revolution she talks about is a longstanding group effort, if nothing else. Rather, the collection is a comprehensive guide to those kinds of critiques and discussions and the battles being waged over the politics of SFF (it’s there whether you want to admit it or not, Puppies!), delivered by Hurley’s colorful, rage-fuelled and entertaining rhetoric.
The collection includes essays on everything from the hijacking of the Hugo Awards, to Mad Max: Fury Road and True Detective, online harassment and Strong Female Characters, and much more. Some of the material in the collection has been previously published elsewhere, which becomes obvious since the conclusions of many of the essays are essentially the same: normal is a story that needs to be rewritten and reworked into something more sustainable. It is not a bad point to bring home and definitely one that bears repeating again and again, but taken together like this, it reads as slightly formulaic.
Among the new stuff, my favorite essay is probably “What’s So Scary About Strong Female Protagonists, Anyway?” where Hurley delivers a much-needed gut punch to the idea that what she calls the “post-Buffy” heroine who kicks ass in hotpants is ultimately empowering to (all) women or that the main problem with her is that she’s ‘too masculine.’ “Why to we celebrate ‘girl power’ but sneer at ‘women power’?” is a line that should be shouted from the rooftops. It’s far from the only gem in the book, too – The Geek Feminist Revolution is dangerously quotable. I kind of want to paper my walls with it.