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Saturday, August 24, 2019 - 07:00

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 37d - Postcards from Worldcon - transcript

(Originally aired 2019/08/24 - listen here)

I just spent the last two weeks in Ireland for the World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, popularly known as Worldcon. It’s an annual gathering of science fiction and fantasy fans, authors, artists, and industry professionals. The convention travels every year and in recent years has been making good on the claim that it truly represents the world. This year it was in Dublin Ireland, last year in San Jose California, the year before in Helsinki Finland, and next year it will be in Wellington New Zealand.

Some podcasters attending Worldcon made plans to record live shows as panel discussions. I wasn’t that organized, but I decided to send my listeners a set of audio postcards from a few of the attendees. Some of these were recorded with more ambient background noise than is ideal, for which I apologize. I asked people to introduce themselves, maybe talk about what they were enjoying about Worldcon, and give out a shout to something they currently love that involves queer women in science fiction, fantasy, or history.

First up, we have Adri Joy from London.

Adri Joy: Hi, this is Adri Joy, reporting from Dublin Worldcon 2019. I’m from London in the UK. I’m also a writer for the fanzine Nerds of a Feather Flock Together. I’m having my first Worldcon at the moment. I’m having the most amazing time. I’ve met so many wonderful people. I’ve had lots of experiences. I’m learning about when to turn up to panels and what’s going to be full and what’s going to be busy and queues and all of those adventures that I’m sure anyone else who’s been to a Worldcon will also recognize. But what I’ve found is that whatever I end up doing, even if it’s not what I expected, has been really really wonderful. And I have a book recommendation for you for the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Podcast. I recently read The Ascent to Godhood by JY Yang, who is a queer author based in Singapore. This is the fourth in their Tensorate series and it focuses on a relationship between two women, one of whom happens to be the empress of the Protectorate, and her rise to power, and one of whom is kind of her handmaiden turned spy turned lover, who finds out that the relationship is not really what they expected. And who ends up playing quite a dramatic role in the sort of later historic events that happen. It’s really inspired by Southeast Asia and Singapore and Malaysian culture. It’s super queer in all forms and it’s got two amazing women at the center. So, thank you!

  • Nerds of a Feather Flock Together (website)
  • The Ascent to Godhood by JY Yang

HRJ: I was delighted to meet the three podcasters who host the Hugo-finalist show Be the Serpent, although I only got postcards from two of them. Here’s Freya Marske, from Australia with some favorite books.

Freya Marske: Hello, my name is Freya Marske. I’m a writer and podcaster from Australia. In terms of books that I have enjoyed recently that are about queer women, I want to shout out to Jeannelle Ferreira’s The Covert Captain, which is one of my favorite historical romances recently. And in terms of upcoming books, I am very very excited for Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth.

  • Be the Serpent (podcast)
  • The Covert Captain by Jeannelle M. Ferreira
  • Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

HRJ: There’s currently something of an explosion of SFF featuring queer characters and author Everina Maxwell is excited about that. Her novel Winter’s Orbit will be coming out from Tor in 2021.

Everina Maxwell: My name is Everina Maxwell. I’m a science fiction author and I think a really interesting thing about women in science fiction in particular is if you make a world where people are free to choose which of any gender identity they’re attracted to, maybe that choice means more, maybe that choice means less, but it gives a whole new perspective on it.

  • Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

HRJ: Irish SFF reviewer and classical historian Liz Bourke was featured in a book appreciation show on this podcast a while ago. She has a few new book recommendations. I was delighted to be able to attend her wedding during the week before the convention.

Liz Bourke: Hello! My name is Liz Bourke. I review books for Tor.com and Locus. I am a queer woman and I just got married! And...my wife is wonderful! (You don’t have to put that in your podcast.) [laughter] And I read an awful lot of queer science fiction and fantasy and the really really great thing about the last couple of years is how much more of it there is! Heather herself writes really good stuff, but, I mean, the one that I most recently read that’s really blowing up in a big way is This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. It is a novella and it is the most fantastic, dramatic, over-the-top time-traveling epistolary romance--queer romance--that you never knew you needed. And what I’m looking forward to...oh, I’m looking forward to Arkady Martine’s A Desolation Called Peace. I am promised that there’s queer kissing in it. Queer kissing and politics and interrogation of colonialism, but also the queer kissing. So you know, I’m there.

  • This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
  • A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine

HRJ: A second member of the Be the Serpent podcast team, Jennifer Mace, provided some cheerleading for a favorite historical figure.

Jennifer Mace: Hi, my name is Jennifer Mace and I am a podcaster and fantasy author, currently working on an f/f book involving Naples. And an interesting thing about f/f in science fiction and fantasy is...uh, let’s talk a little bit about the French spy Julie [d’Aubigny], who broke into a nunnery, made out with all of the nuns, and set it on fire on the way back out, who is frankly a role model for us all. And more people should read at least her Wikipedia article, because it is excellent. And I wish to be her when I grow up. [laughter] [echoing cheers of “Julie d’Aubigny!” from bystanders]

  • Be the Serpent (podcast)
  • Julie d’Aubigny (historic figure)

HRJ: Worldcon is a great place for meeting up with online friends in far-flung lands. This next postcard is from someone I’ve known a long time and see in person too rarely. I first met Sara Uckelman when she was a teenager and we were both in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Now she’s a university professor in England and has plunged enthusiastically into writing and reviewing SFF.

Sara Uckelman: Hello! I’m Sara Uckelman. This is my first Worldcon. So greetings from Worldcon from a Worldcon newbie! It has been a fabulous convention because I’ve gotten so many recommendations for books, for authors, for blogs, for podcasts, for people to follow on Twitter. What I have really enjoyed is seeing the diversity of queer women that are showing up in SFF, because it gives me a chance to see people that...maybe I didn’t know that there were women like me, because I didn’t know that there were...that women like me were a thing. And to see them reflected in literature and media is a really neat and exciting and kind of scary thing. But scary in a good way.

  • SFF Reviews (website)

HRJ: Two years ago Worldcon was in Finland and the Finns had so much fun they are highly represented among the fans at Dublin. I met Katri when she came to my reading and she was kind enough to contribute a postcard.

Katri: Hi! I’m Katri. I’m from Finland. This is my second Worldcon. I really like that there’s more and more queer women in SFF in lots of different times and places. Also, I’m just really happy when there’s women interacting with each other and having relationships with one another--whether it’s romantic or not. Some of my favorite books...I’m really fond of the Alpennia books. And another I read recently was Alice Payne Arrives, which is time travel with lesbians and all kinds of adventures. I still need to read the second part, but it was really good.

  • Alpennia Series by Heather Rose Jones
  • Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield

HRJ: One of the things I really love about my online community is being able to introduce people to each other and see new friendships develop. I met @fromankyra through twitter several years ago, finally met her in person when Worldcon was in Helsinki, and have been delighted to introduce her to other SFF fans who have now become fast friends.

@fromankyra: Hi! I’m @fromankyra and I am an SFF fan and a fan of Heather’s books. I love just all the queer women that we’ve been having in SFF lately, and just how they’ve been in so many different places. The thing that comes to mind is This is How You Lose the Time War. But also...well, Floodtide, which is coming out in November. And it feels like we’re putting the queer women back from the places they’ve been erased. Back into those areas. And it just feels so comforting.

  • This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
  • Floodtide by Heather Rose Jones

HRJ: I’ve strayed a bit from my historical mandate for this show, but in the realm of genre fiction featuring queer women, there’s a lot of overlap between historicals, fantasy, and science fiction, as I hope the recommendations have shown. Conventions are also a great place for me to pick up new interview subjects and I have a couple of people tentatively scheduled to do shows in the next year that I think you’ll find as interesting as I do. These have been your Dublin Worldcon audio postcards. Having a great time. Wish you were here.

Links

Major category: 
LHMP
Wednesday, August 21, 2019 - 07:39

When last we saw our SFF adventurer (i.e., me), it was Sunday late afternoon and I was getting a post in before figuring out what to do for a pre-Hugo dinner. Given the timing, I decided not to try to coordinate with anyone else and had a solo-but-not-exactly-alone dinner at a small sushi place on the river bank between my hotel and the convention center. I'd been eyeing it speculatively for several days and can now confirm that you can find excellent sushi in Dublin (J2 Sushi & Grill). (I note that the menu said "American-style sushi" with I suspect referred to the prominence of complex rolls on the menu as opposed to a focus on nigiri and single-ingredient rolls.) I went for the chirashi bowl with some unagi nigiri on the side. The scallops were quite good (I don't usually like raw scallops) and the salmon was excellent (as one might expect).

I texted back and forth with @fromankyra to coordinate meeting up with her and her father to get seated and we found space toward the back of the main level, right next to the tech booth. The ceremony was great and full of passion and excellent award results. (I won't give a recap -- you can find full results and videos online.) Dublin certainly set a high bar for the non-award entertainment between groups, and co-MC Afua Richardson set what is probably an unmatchable standard for MC talent when (in addition to the artwork that led to her being named a featured artist) she sang and played the flute in some of the musical numbers.

After the ceremony, I joined a small group of friends hanging out in the back of the convention bar/lounge where we discussed and analyzed the award results for an hour or two before heading to bed.

I had thought about participating in the final business meeting, but wanted to go listen to the live podcast recording for Breaking the Glass Slipper, and since the latter was in the main convention center I couldn't do both. Maybe some day my podcast will have enough established presence in the SFF community to do a live show at a Worldcon. It would be a lot of fun.

My last program item was my reading at 1:30. I was gratified to find several friends hanging out in the lobby waiting to join me for it, but even more gratified to have about 10 people in the audience, most of whom were not close personal friends. I read my favorite "performance selection" from "The Language of Roses" (yep, I still love it lots) and then gave the audience a choice between a Flooditde excerpt about fortune-telling and one about laundry charms. They picked laundry charms and I was happily surprised that they even found parts funny!

I was able to snag several people who had been at the reading to record audio postcards for the podcast and have enough for a respectable (if short) show. It's more meant as a "concept" episode than a "content" one. Today's non-work time will be spent editing the postcards and drafting some connecting text.

I went to the official closing ceremonies, which as usual are mostly thank you speeches, some organizational attaboy awards, and the official handing off of the gavel to the next year's committee. It's a nice way to feel closure.

After that I had dinner at the Harbourmaster restaurant with Jen Zink and Shaun Duke from the Skiffy and Fanty podcast (they were both on the podcast panel I moderated) where I completed my "lamb tour of Dublin" with a meltingly-braised lamb shank and some great conversation. Jen has been working on transcriptions for some of my interview shows and it was great to meet her in person.

After dinner I went back to the convention center for the "dead dog" party in the convention bar/lounge and--with the instigation of @fromankyra--participated in a group twitter art project of cartoons of Welsh-speaking Patagonian sheep that we then tweeted at Ursula Vernon (because that's what one does with random sheep). The inspiration was an offhand joke by Hugo Awards co-host Michael Scott (during the ceremony) that no one wanted to hear him talk about Welsh-speaking Patagonian sheep farmers. I mean, with a prompt like that, what else could we have done?

My only adventures on Tuesday were the discovery that two and a half hours were nowhere nearly enough to get through airline security/customs with any comfort margin. The Dublin airport has a deal with US Immigration/Customs that they pre-process US-bound people in Dublin. So you get the standard Dublin security queue, the US-specific security queue, and then the US Customs queue, all with Disneylandesque levels of "turn the corner and discover that you're nowhere near the end of the line yet." And on top of that, there was some issue with my ticket when I tried to use the automated kiosk and I had to wait in line half an hour to talk to a human agent. Fortunately, the airlines were sufficiently aware of the overall delays that I didn't actually have to have run from Customs to the gate (which was doing "last call for boarding") since they were still boarding late-comers half an hour later. It did mean that I didn't dare stop at any point in the airport to pick up some last-minue edible souvenirs for the office. So I must now face them without the traditional post-vacation gifts. But I'm home and got a reasonably proper night's sleep. (Only woke up at 3am.) Onward to face the day!

Major category: 
Conventions
Tuesday, August 20, 2019 - 07:00

I confess it: I love playing a long game in planting foreshadowing and setting things up. The failure mode is having some readers complain that I stick in random events and people as if they were meaningful and then drop the thread unresolved. You can't take every single reader aside personally and assure them, "Trust me, it's going to be relevant. Just hang on."

In The Mystic Marriage, Iulien Fulpi gives Margerit a notebook to read...and Margerit sets it aside and misplaces it. It drops out of sight--both literally and figuratively--and the thread isn't picked up again until Mother of Souls, when an anonymous novel is published that contains some clear, though coded, implications about Margerit and Barbara's relationship. The joke is that Iuli didn't understand the truth of what she wrote. She just felt that two people who were so clearly in love as those two were, by rights ought to be characters in a romantic adventure novel.

The book becomes the catalyst for some unfortunate events, but is also the door for Iuli to be let into their secret. It shouldn't be any surprise that Iuli accepted their relationship joyfully. After all, she'd already concluded that they ought to be married. At least in their fictional guises.

But The Lost Duke of Lautencourt isn't done with being a catalyst for character awareness. It might feel like Roz is being hopelessly naive at not realizing that Maisetra Sovitre and the baroness were a couple. But that is because we're looking at her not only with the knowledge that they are, but with modern people's assumptions and understandings about domestic arrangements. And this is where it's tricky to lead readers into thinking like an early 19th century working class girl.

There were class-based differences in assumptions about women's emotional relationships with each other. European society in general was going through several century-long swings between assuming that all women were capable of erotic feelings for other women, and assuming that erotic desire in women (regardless of object) was inherently lower class. Within that context, it's perfectly plausible for a housemaid who is quite aware of her own desire for women to assume that middle and upper class women "wouldn't do that sort of thing," that their affection for each other is purely platonic.

So Roz is in for a bit of a revelation when she happens upon Iulien's own copy of The Lost Duke of Lautencourt in the wake of the news of the attack on Barbara, when she recognizes Iulien's characteristic writing style, and when she understands who the characters are meant to be.

This is a bit of a long excerpt, but since it's all about the novel it isn't giving away much in terms of spoilers for Floodtide.

* * *

I don’t have much time for reading. We’d take turns passing around tattered books, bought cheap at the bookstall because they’d been discarded. Charsintek didn’t like them but she never forbade it. Sometimes Celeste and I would take turns reading from the fashion journals while we worked. But now reading was something to keep me awake while I watched over Maisetra Iulien.

If it had been a hard book, I don’t think I would have kept at it, but it was the sort that put pictures in your head. The words were fancy in a pretty sort of way, like the ones Maisetra Iulien used when she was telling me stories. In fact, the more I read, the more I could hear the story in Maisetra Iulien’s voice and I was more and more certain it was one of her stories. I mostly skipped through looking for the name Lautencourt but sometimes it would pull me in and I’d read pages at a time.

It was exactly the sort of adventure Maisetra Iulien loved, about a beautiful woman who inherited a fortune, and a bad man who wanted to marry her for the money. She was an orphan and her guardian wanted her to marry the bad man because he was going to be the Duke of Lautencourt. That didn’t make sense from what Maisetra Iulien had said before. The Duke of Lautencourt was supposed to be the hero. But he wasn’t the duke yet. There was another man who might be the old duke’s heir but no one knew where he was. The woman refused to marry the bad man and her guardian set it up so he would kidnap her.

You didn’t need kings and castles to put that sort of thing in a story. Women got forced to marry men they didn’t like all the time. It didn’t need kidnapping, just being caught alone with him so that you had to say you were betrothed or you were ruined for life. That’s one thing armins were for, after all: to guard a girl’s reputation. It was why Maisetra Iulien wasn’t supposed to go anywhere without me or Maistir Brandel or both of us. It was why she was never ever supposed to be alone with someone like Mesner Aukustin, because he’d never be allowed to marry someone like her who wasn’t noble. She’d just be ruined with nothing to gain from it.

The rich girl in the story didn’t have an armin, but just as the bad man was about to carry her off, another man showed up and rescued her and begged her to let him serve as her armin. That’s not how it works at all. You don’t hire someone with no name and no reputation—that’s no better than being with a stranger in the first place. And it was clear that he loved her. There was this place in the story where he says, “I would die for you. You mean more to me than my life and my salvation. I would go to the ends of the earth to bring you your heart’s desire.”

I think I would have melted if someone said that to me. If it was someone I loved, that is. I read that bit over and over until I could say it by heart. And the girl loved the armin too, but she knew they’d never let her marry a nobody.

I skipped through a lot of the story that was about balls and clothes and such nonsense. I suppose it might be fun to read if you thought you might have such things, but I wanted to know what happened to the girl and the mysterious stranger and I wasn’t sure how much time I’d have to find out.

So I went to the end and read bits backward to figure out what happened. I still didn’t know what the Duke of Lautencourt had to do with the maisetra and the baroness. Then everything fell into a pattern. It was a pattern I hadn’t even imagined. I should have guessed how the story would end because fairy stories like this always ended that way. The mysterious armin was really the lost heir, and he fought a duel with the bad man for the sake of the lady’s honor, and killed him, and then everyone found out who he was. So the armin became a duke and married the lady and they were happy together for the rest of their lives.

I’d gotten so tied up in the story that I’d almost forgotten why I was reading it. When I remembered, my stomach knotted up all sick-like. Because if Baroness Saveze was the Duke of Lautencourt… Baroness Saveze had been the maisetra’s armin before she found out who she really was and became a baroness. That meant that the maisetra must be the rich lady in the story. And it made sense because she was rich. The maisetra and the baroness lived together in the same house and even slept in the same bedroom. I’d never thought anything of it because people did that, you know? Maisetra Fillert’s daughters shared a bedroom with their cousins when they came visiting. I’d never had a bed to myself until here at Tiporsel House and that was because Charsintek didn’t want me getting in trouble. But Maisetra Iulien had said, “The Duke of Lautencourt saves his true love and they live happily ever after.” And the baroness was the Duke of Lautencourt. And Maisetra Sovitre was her true love. And they were supposed to get married and live happily ever after.

I knew the maisetra and the baroness were friends who loved each other, but I’d never thought about them being in love. Not like me and Nan. I never imagined them lying in the big fancy bed they shared doing the things a man and woman who were married did. The things Nan and I had done. Maybe it should have made me feel glad to think the maisetra and I were alike that way, but instead I was frightened. It was one of those secrets Tavit warned me about. The kind that were dangerous to know and even more dangerous for people to know you knew. I thought about how the maisetra had hired me, even knowing why I’d lost my last place. Maybe that had been a part of it—thinking that we were just a little bit alike—but it wouldn’t go any further than that.

Major category: 
Teasers
Publications: 
Floodtide
Monday, August 19, 2019 - 07:00

This is my favorite article out of the entire collection, at least in terms of usefulness for research into potential character data. Not only does it review the data and attitudes about never-married women in 16-17th century England, but it goes in depth into an economic strategy that was differentially more available to single women than to wives. I’m tucking this tidbit away in my file of “strategies for independent female characters”.

Major category: 
LHMP
Full citation: 

Spicksley, Judith M. 2003. “To Be or Not to Be Married: SIngle Women, Money-lending, and the Question of Choice in Late Tudor and Stuart England” in The Single Woman in Medieval and Early Modern England: Her Life and Representation, ed. by Laurel Amtower and Dorothea Kehler. Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Tempe. ISBN 0-06698-306-6

Publication summary: 

A collection of articles on the general topic of how single women are represented in history and literature in medieval and early modern England. Not all of the articles are clearly relevant to the LHMP but I have included all the contents.

This is a fairly extensive research paper in two parts. The first looks at the demographics of singlewomen in Late Tudor and Stuart England, along with some of the social forces that affected women’s inclination and ability to avoid marriage. The second part looks specifically at the occupation of money-lender as an option for women to support themselves or to supplement other forms of income.

Demographic studies indicate that the percentage of never-married women in England during the period in question ranged from 10% (the cohort born in 1566) to 22% (the cohort born in 1641). Contemporary literature indicates anxiety about a “man shortage” as a contributing cause. Society was structured around the expectation of monogamous heterosexual marriage, but increasingly there was a perception that marriage was in decline. This perception was of particular concern in the context of considering an increase of population as a desirable goal. Marriage was, in theory, an expected life stage for all women, and male-authored literature depicted women as strongly desiring marriage and aiming to achieve it at a relatively young age.

Because of these attitudes, female singlehood was viewed as being due to a situational lack of opportunity, e.g., as a result of male mortality during the English Civil War, due to greater male participation in emigration, and due to plague. Other concerns focused on male choice not to marry and blamed that, in turn, on women’s behavior. The atmosphere of sexual license in the Restoration court was felt to encourage men to decline marriage in favor of less formal arrangements. This perception led to legal measures to encourage marriage with special taxes on bachelors and childless widowers. There was little discussion at the time of women who were single by choice, although some hint of this concern appears in satirical attacks on spinsters.

But moral literature around marriage also recognized that not all people were suited to marriage, especially those who were not able or disinclined to procreate. Some individuals were advised (or chose) not to marry due to not being suited to the physical and emotional demands of marriage. In other cases, an individual might remain single to to being unable to convince their family of the suitability of their chosen partner.

The most widely accepted reason for not marrying was financial. The north-western European marriage pattern involved formation of a new, independent household on marriage. This required an accumulation of goods and capital, as well as stable employment. A woman’s “marriage portion” was considered an essential contribution for the economic success of the match.

Women of the lower classes acquired this portion from work, legacies, gifts, or charity. Such women generally worked outside the home from their mid-teens until marriage. But work opportunities were contracting in the 17th century. Charity offered to women often took the form of money or goods to enable marriage. Legal regulation of marriage often targeted foreigners or internal migrants who were felt to be “competing” with local women for marriage opportunities. Other statutes were aimed at delaying marriage, such as apprenticeship regulations that required an unmarried state.

Overall, the result was a significant population of mobile, unmarried poor. For example, rural servants were highly mobile. Gender-related differences in migration patterns also affected marriage opportunities. Curiously, disease also contributed to a “surplus” of unmarried women, with men being twice as likely to contract the plague and five times as likely to die from it, though the data is not entirely clear on this point. Similarly, emigration strongly favored men. The next part of the article focuses on an overlooked demographic: women who remained single by choice. [Note: the author identifies them as women who remained “celibate” by choice, but that’s a different question.]

What factors drove this? The 17th century saw increased freedom of choice in marriage partners. There was a general shift from a focus on marriage as a community-oriented action to marriage as an individual action, with an emphasis on personal autonomy and individual happiness. That individual happiness was not necessarily tied up in marriage. For example, Blanche Perry, a maid to Queen Elizabeth I, chose to remain single in order to devote herself to Elizabeth’s service. In other cases, women related their chosen singlehood to the inability to marry a specific preferred partner. In other cases, they ascribed singlehood to “God’s will.”

Popular literature of the day often humorously debated the joys of a single life as contrasted with marriage. This was more typically focused on men, but in the later 17th century the debate was engaged in more seriously by women who were focused on religious celibacy both within formal ecclesiastical institutions and as lay women. Women writers such as Margaret Cavendish, Aphra Behn, and Jane Barker wrote of “single” life in the context of female friendship or as a positive state in the face of negative attitudes toward “spinsters.”

The choice to remain single required financial stability. Demographic data from the middle ages shows a link between women’s marriage rates and economic autonomy. The labor shortages of the late 14th and early 15th centuries were paralleled by an expansion of unmarried women working outside their household of birth, especially in towns. This included a sharp increase in the rate of never-married women. Even for those who married, marriage might be delayed later in life.

While women’s labor was often marginal and badly paid, the article now focuses on one economic opportunity available to some women: the profession of money-lending.

In England, lending money for interest (with a statutory rate of 10%) was legalized in 1571 (though it occurred on a less regulated basis earlier). It was part of a complex system of many types of financial arrangements, making details hard to track. Female moneylenders are also often not mentioned in the historic records of the time, therefore the field is researched primarily in the context of a small number of prominent and wealthy women. This article expands that data to a wider demographic by use of probate inventories that note lending arrangements that were outstanding at the time of death. While these records show that 40% of all persons were engaged in lending, singlewomen were over-represented with 50-60% engaging in moneylending. This holds across all income levels. Income from loan interest often supplemented other income sources available to singlewomen, such as spinning.

The interest return on a sum equivalent to a woman’s typical marriage portion was roughly similar to the typical wages for the same economic class, although wages were generally supplemented by room and board. But lending did not preclude other economic activities. The singlewomen in this study also engaged in farming, renting out animals, dairying, textile production and processing, along with more poorly paid manual labor. It’s unclear to what extent singlewomen chose this path deliberately, but if chosen, it was a sustainable lifestyle. Most loans were within their own community and class, and served as a communal financial resource against economic fluctuations.

Women whose fathers had died had legal control of their inherited marriage portion either at marriage or at majority. And with marriage typically occurring after the age of majority and a higher male death rate, this meant that many singlewomen were in a position to control their assets. Wills typically left cash to daughters more often than to sons (sons being more likely to get real estate and goods). [Note: but see Staples 2011 for counter-evidence to the claim that sons were more likely than daughters to get real estate.]

As married women’s property came under the legal control of her husband (unless there was a special provision in the marriage contract -- a case only typical for widows), singlewomen had more ability to serve as lenders than married women did. This legal situation also provided a motivation to remain single if they wanted to keep control of their property.

The economic independence of moneylending may have given singlewomen more control over the timing and choice of marriage, or as a way to avoid marriage entirely. Women also sometimes viewed moneylending as a type of charitable activity.

Time period: 
Place: 
Sunday, August 18, 2019 - 09:39

Let's see, where was I? Ah yes, up to dinner time on Friday with no definite plans. I was reminded at that point that I had a loose date to meet people for ice cream at Murphy's after dinner-ish, so I got a bite of something more substantial at a cafe across the street from the ice cream shop then joined an amorphously shifting group in the back of Murphy's for chatting and ice cream. I was thinking about heading back to the convention center afterwards and seeing if my noise levels were up to hanging out in the official con bar for a bit, but I ended up walking back that way with Sarah Pinsker who was going to wait at the bar at Spencer's Hotel for a companion to finish paneling and when we went in there I bumped into Chaz and Karen which resulted in one of those introductions-by-first-names-followed-by-delayed-oh-that-Sarah/Chaz/Karen. I got introduced to a couple of Chaz's friend's but the noise level was high enough that I bugged out fairly soon.

Saturday I was thinking about trying to make one of the 10am panels but then was reminded that my hotel room came with a complimentary breakfast buffet so by the time I'd finished and got to the center, it was too late for that. There was also no point in trying to get down to The Point for the main WSFS business meeting session since I had to be back and the convention center to be on a noon panel, so I did some additional wandering around the dealer's room and displays. The noon panel was Building the SFF Community Online which was a lively discussion of the logistics and realities of trying to create vibrant, inclusive community spaces in different types of online social venues.

Bumped into @fromankyra on my way to find an ATM and made the trek together and decided to put together a small Hugo-watching group for Sunday (including identifying who would be the line-stander to get our crowd control wrist-bands). Stood on line for the panel Into the Woods, partly because it was about forests in fiction and partly because the set of panelists guaranteed an entertaining time. Herewith I reproduce my stream-of-consciousess twitter notes:

Everyone who is not at the Into the Woods panel is missing a hilarious discussion of how nature will kill us. Also: cat-sized preying mantises. Now we are moving from flaming eucalyptus tress to the tarantula migration of Mt. Diablo. Moving on from truth to fiction: forests as a setting for fictoin, the "dangerous forets", woods as a source of cultural mateirals, and what does the forest thing about this? Cultural differences: the forest as refuge ad nurturing safe haven Forest as part of Nature as Other. Hedgerows as domesticated mini-forests. Supposedly "wild" forests as cultivated resources. How differences between European and American forests affected transferred forest myths in folklore. Aggressive houseplants (i.e., aggressive to each other). Why do roses have thorns? To climb on top of other plants and out-compete them. Panel asked about favorit plants in fiction. Triffids. Naomi Novik's Uprooted. Edelwood (sp?) trees in Over the Garden Wall. Winnie the Pooh's Hundred Acre Wood. Little Shop of Horrors. Now we're on to mushrooms and debates over the scope of the panel. Are mushrooms forest plants? Mushroom hyphae networks transporting nutrients over miles. The ethics of carnivorous plants. What type of plant would each of the panelists be? Moss (Sarah Gailey), Yew Tree (Jennifer Mace), Oak tree (Sue Burke), alien plant invasion (Seanan McGuire), Fig tree (Navah Wolfe). The explanations are more entertaining than the bare list, but too hard to write down. And that's all!

The File 770 dinner was next. Large-group dinner parties in loud echoey restaurants aren't my favorite thing (especially because there's no guarantee that you'll have conversational interests in common with your neighbors) but I enjoy being part of "the group".

After that, back to the convention center for  two more panels, neither of which required waiting in lines. Authors and Social Media: Friends or Foes? (Fairly basic ettiquette guidelines.) Then, Send in the Crones: Older Women in SFF. Interesting cultural differences in that it was primarily British panelists and I recognized very few of the recommended examples. I hope someone tracked all the recommendations, but I couldn't have kept up.

Sunday I did the breakfast buffet again with my roommate Mary Kay Kare then headed over way too early for my 10am signing session. First thing Sunday morning isn't exactly a prime time for traffic for that sort of thing and I think a couple of the authors didn't have anyone come by. I had three or four people, which might not seem like much, but I sold 5 of the 6 Alpennia books I'd brought, gave away a copy of "The Mazarinette and the Musketeer", and recorded my first "audio post card" for  the podcast. So, not bad.

I was even able to make a panel in the next session: Fantasy: Beyond Europe -- which resulted in adding a new book to my TBR while sitting there in the audience. (The hazards of the ease of buying ebooks!) After the panel I bumped into Liz Burke in the midst of a small group of prime opportunities for my audio post card project, including most of the cast of the Be the Serpent podcast. I now have enough recordings for a short episode, with a few more promised, so I can relax about collecting more. I dropped by the end of Aliette de Bodard's kaffee klatsch (which I hadn't been able to get on the list for) and was able to get my copy of her newest book signed. (I had to buy a hard copy because it isn't out in the USA yet, so I might as well get it signed!) Picked up some lunch in the cafe and bumped into Liz again. Then it was time to trek out to The Point so I could be there (ahead of schedule) for moderating Fan Podcasts, with Jonathan Strahan (Coode St Podcast), Alexandra Rowland (Be the Serpent), and Shaun Duke & Jen Zink (Skiffy and Fanty). We had a smallish audience but a great discussion.

And now I'm back in my hotel room to drop off my backpack, update the blog, and figure out what I'm doing for dinner since it's two hours before my seating group gets let into the auditorium for the Hugo event. Once more, I'm not too worried about not having fixed plans even if it means eating alone somewhere. I'm getting in quite a delightful amount of socializing and haven't had a single episode of "oh poor pitiful me all alone at the con." I even have tentative dinner plans for tomorrow evening. I am, however, starting to feel the cumulative con-exhaustion and can even be happy looking forward to going home again. But not yet.

Major category: 
Conventions
Saturday, August 17, 2019 - 07:00

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 37c - Bosom Sex (reprise) - transcript

(Originally aired 2019/08/17 - listen here)

[This podcast was originally broadcast as episode 4 on 2016/11/26]

For scheduling reasons, I wanted to fill this week's show with a reprise of one of my early podcasts. And when I thought about it, the perfect choice was this show about two Civil War era black women that I mentioned during the interview with Penny Mickelbury last week.

If you've never listened to it before, I hope you enjoy it. And if you've been a follower of the podcast since those very first episodes, I hope you like it as much this time as you did the first time.

* * *

[Note: Spelling follows the original in all direct quotations from the correspondence.]

It’s rare to have access to the internal emotional lives of women in history. Personal correspondence can give us a glimpse of the complex and often contradictory thoughts of women whose lives diverged from expected paths. But it’s not uncommon for such correspondence to be lost after their deaths. Letters may simply be discarded as trash. Or family members may destroy them in order to protect the reputations of the dead. In American history, there is a similar difficulty in finding the self-told stories of the African-American community in its early years. So the correspondence of Addie Brown and Rebecca Primus is doubly valuable for the story it tells.

Addie and Rebecca were black women, both born in the mid 19th century as free women in Connecticut. Their correspondence comes from a time shortly after the end of the Civil War when Rebecca often spent time away. It was Rebecca’s family who preserved the letters, so the collection includes Addie’s letters to her and Rebecca’s letters to her family, but the content of what Rebecca wrote back to Addie needs to be interpolated.

Rebecca's family was solidly middle class and had lived in Connecticut for several generations. She trained as a schoolteacher. And because of that and her missionary enthusiasm, she traveled to the South after the Civil War was over to help establish a school for ex-slaves. She experienced (and wrote home about) serious racial hostility, both because of her vocation and in response to her personal behavior because she saw no reason to automatically defer to white people if they didn’t respect her back.

Addie was an orphan without Rebecca's extensive network of family ties and support. Her correspondence is less literate but full of enthusiasm, passion, and sensuality. She was an avid reader, had a forceful personality, and tended to be judgmental of others. She, too, lived in Connecticut, which was probably where the two met. She made a living in a number of different jobs: as a seamstress, as a domestic worker, in various factory jobs. Shortly before her early death at age 29, she worked as a teamster driving wagons. She was intolerant of racism and segregation and was unafraid to speak her mind to her white employers. This might possibly have something to do with the number of times she changed jobs during the course of the correspondence.

The romantic relationship between Addie and Rebecca appears in their letters in a number of ways. There were regular protestations of love and devotion, but they also spoke of passionate kisses and caressing each other’s breasts. The letters also give clear indications that their relationship was felt to be in competition with potential heterosexual relationships.

The mid 19th century is typically thought of as a time of “romantic friendships” and Boston Marriages. And much of the language that Addie and Rebecca use is similar in flavor. In fact, they discuss the white literary depiction of romantic friendship in their letters, comparing their devotion to that described in Grace Aguilar’s novel Women’s Friendships. Some historians such as Lillian Faderman take the position that these relationships were romantic but not physically erotic. Women might kiss, they might embrace, they might even share a bed without it being considered sexually improper or incompatible with heterosexuality.

Addie and Rebecca give us a closer look--one that may have been a more silent part of other romantic friendships. After all, if we didn’t have these letters, we wouldn’t know it was a part of theirs. In one letter, when Addie mentions that she shares a bed with another woman, she reassures Rebecca, “If you think that is my bosom that captivated the girl that made her want to sleep with me, she got sadly disapointed injoying it, for I had my back towards all night and my night dress was butten up so she could not get to my bosom." And she continues with a protestation that her bosom is reserved for Rebecca.

Rebecca must have regularly expressed jealousy of women that Addie shared living space with. Addie writes that she has no desire to be kissed by anyone else, saying, "No kisses is like youres." She also says, "I imprint several kisses upon your lips and give you a fond imbrace." And later: "I wish that I was going to sleep in your fond arms to night."

Interestingly, Rebecca’s family and their community appear to have recognized and supported the special nature of their relationship, although sometimes with ambivalence. On one occasion, when Addie visited Rebecca’s family while Rebecca was away in the south, she reports that Rebecca’s mother told another visitor that “if either one of us was a gent, we would marry.” Addie was quite happy to hear that. Addie felt comfortable talking about her physical longing for Rebecca to friends and family and that she wished for her embrace and her return.

Both women were also courted by men, and that provides a chance to see how they thought of the parallels with their own relationship. Addie writes, "O Rebecca, it seems I can see you now, casting those loving eyes at me. If you was a man, what would things come to? They would after come to something very quick." and later "What a pleasure it would be to me to address you My Husband." When Addie mentions a male suitor, she notes that although she loves him, it’s not passionately. On other occasions, when she mentions attractions to men, she always compares her feelings to those she has for Rebecca. At times, these mentions seem intended to provoke jealousy. Addie seems to have had fewer occasions to experience jealousy of Rebecca’s other connections, though she once writes, that she dreamed of seeing Rebecca caress another woman, and spoke of how bad it made her feel not to be the object of those caresses.

When Addie wrote more seriously about contemplating marriage to a man, it was in the context of economic security. On one occasion when asking Rebecca how she would feel about marriage for that reasons, she says, "Rebecca, if I could live with you or even be with you some parts of the day, I would never marry." But this was at a time when Rebecca was living elsewhere and the two were unlikely to be able to set up a household together.

Over the course of their correspondence, the language gradually shifted to calling themselves sisters, but even this is ambiguous. Addie sometimes signed her name using Rebecca’s surname. Addie did marry a man eventually, after flip-flopping several times, but died of tuberculoses two years later at the age of 29. At some point after that, Rebecca married. She married one of her co-workers at the school where she was teaching in Maryland. She survived to the age of 95.

Major category: 
LHMP
Friday, August 16, 2019 - 10:20

Let's see, where were we? Thursday was the first full day of the convention. I picked up my participant's packet and wandered around orienting myself to all the locations it would be useful to know about. (Since the numbering on the function rooms is cometimes ambiguous, this was not an idle task.) My first panel was "Dragons and Debutantes" on the topic of Regency fantasy (moderated by Mary Robinette Kowal, with me, Zen Cho, and Susan de Guardiola). The theory is that panel participants all meet up in the green room (actually just a part of the 5th floor lobby) to check in and confirm panel protocols. This is more often the exception than the rule, in my experience, but we all showed up then went off to the panel room together--where we had to get past a couple layers of staff trying to tell us that the panel was full and we couldn't go in. (It seems like Worldcons are more and more shifting into "queue for programming" mode. They're doing their best to organize and mitigate crowd control, but I know people find it disappointing when -- even on top of having to choose between competing program items -- they find they can't get into the ones they most wanted to see.) We had a lively discussion and only covered a fraction of the topics proposed for coverage. I need to takes some notes on unused topics for future suggestion.

I went to Kari Sperring's reading (having failed to do more than wave to her in passing at last year's Worldcon) and also signed up for her Kaffeeklatch today (Friday). Next up was the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) reception where I worked through my cocktail party anxiety by alternately buttonholing people about possible interviews on my podcast and identifying people who looked like they were having an even harder time socializing than me and chatting with them. Dinner arrangements were the opposite of anxiety-provoking since I'd been invited into a group going off to The Winding Stair, including people I already knew (e.g., Sarah Pinsker), and people who evidently knew me, and the rest people I now know. Always the best mix!

Dinner party

I finished off the evening with a small scotch tasting-and-conversation party with D. Libris, Mari Ness, and someone whose name is currently escaping me who has the most lovely azure hair.

Friday (today) started with Kari's Kaffeeklatch, nicely timed for a late breakfast. I've lost track of most of what we chatted about except for some bits of Arthurian fiction. Then I rushed over to the other con location (The Point) to participate in the first WSFS Business Meeting session. I've been trying to participate in the business meetings when I can, but I'm not going to be able to fit in the main business meeting tomorrow. Due to the distance, the offset scheduling, and the need to queue for programming, I decided to stay at The Point for the rest of the day and took in the art show as well as two panel discussions with the coincidentally intersecting theme of fiction based on European traditions. The first was on "Vikings" and the use of Norse traditions in fantasy. Lots of discussion of how popular perception is shaped by processed and second-hand versions of the source material, as well as issues of appropriation for political purposes (of various sorts) and Norse mythological roots as living traditions.

The second panel was "Refreshing European Epic Fantasy Tropes" which is a pretty broad topic. Discussion of the panelists' favorite and unfavorite tropes, how to inject novel themes into epic fantasy, why people gravitate to the same set of tropes time and again (both for historic reasons and psychological reasons).

And that brings me up to the present. I've been carrying around my little dictaphone recorder in hopes of getting up the nerve to see if I can get some "audio snapshots" from people for a Worldcon podcast, but it requires bumping into the right poeple in the right context (with the right acoustics) and so far it hasn't happened. I put out a tweet encouraging people to come to my signing and soliciting audio contributions there. It's possible that will be the best context, since presumably everyone who drops by will have opinions on relevant topics.

It's a little after 6pm and I don't have dinner plans lined up for tonight but I'm not stressing about it. I'm planning to draw up my moderator's notes for the panel I'm modding on Sunday (just so I have it done and out of the way) and then I'll figure out what to do.

Major category: 
Conventions
Thursday, August 15, 2019 - 01:45

Wednesday was all about moving from vacation mode to Worldcon mode. Breakfast in my room, working on various computer housekeeping things, then the hike down three floors of stairs with my luggage to check out. By pure coincidence, I got to the Hilton check-in desk just as my roommate arrived from the airport. As expected we couldn't get into the room yet, but after dumping luggage we went over to the convention center to register. I then spent entirely too much time and wandering between venues to get my transit pass for the second half of the week. (In theory, you can add time to the one-week pass, but to do that I'd have had to wait until it was actually expired, so instead I bought a second one-week pass.) I'm probably not getting my money's worth out of the unlimited ride pass, but it's worth it to know I can just hop on and off the tram and not worry about fares.

By then, the room was availble. In getting settled in, I missed the message from my dinner companions (fromankyra and her father) that they were quite ready for food in advance of our scheduled time, so by the time I had the message and joined them they were hanging in a pub with Sara Uckelman. After a bit, we adjourned for a pub with dinner options up by Trinity College (location for reasons that ended up being not relevant) and spent about three hours chatting about linguistics, multilingualism, living in countries not your own, academia, SCA, and all sorts of other things that subsets of us had in common. I distributed presents of the Produce of My Estates and received (as pre-arranged) a box of genuine Turkish lokum in return.

After I got back to the hotel I decided to hang out in the lobby lounge on general principles and was soon joined by Carl Cipra and a friend of his. With the prompt, "So I picked up this book I want to send you--have you ever heard of Anne Lister?" I was off in full geek mode and we chatted about queer history and the difficulties of research for quite some time.

And now here it is: Thursday and the start of the convention. My first panel (Dragons and Debutantes, about Regency fantasy). Since I have a full evening social schedule, don't expect another update until tomorrow. (Whatever "tomorrow" means in the negotiation of timezones between us.)

Major category: 
Conventions
Wednesday, August 14, 2019 - 02:17

Last time I was in Dublin, two years ago, I spent a very intensive day in the archaeology museum, taking lots of photos and careful notes on things of interest. This time I simply did a casual walk-through, enjoying the flow of the layout and organization. The individual item labels do well enough, and there are a small number of larger "context" explanations, but it would be great if they could do some mid-level interpretation. For example, when you have a display of textile tools, something the discusses overall use, how the different tools are used for different parts of the process, conjectural explanations of types of artifacts you'd expect as part of that process that are not among the finds for whatever reason. Another thing they do well is talk about the context of how, when, and where objects were found and the effects of prevaling attitudes toward historic artifacts (and toward history itself) on how the material was treated.

I never did bump into the other people I know who were planning to take in the archaeology museum yesterday, but given that it's an experience where you spend a lot of time in hyper-focus on only what's in front of you, that isn't entirely surprising.

The other item on my schedule was a trip up north of the city to Balbriggan for a pre-convention social gathering at Liz and Charlotte's house. A delightful evening with food, chatting, and comparing notes on sightseeing (and different attitudes towards what vacations were all about). It's a delightful house and now I can envision it when I see Liz posting things.

Today (Wednesday) is Transition Day. Time to leave the tiny hotel room in the Temple Bar district and move over to the Hilton Garden Inn near the convention center. Time to stand in line for an unknown period of time to register for the convention. Time to make sure I have notes gathered for my panel discussions. Time to make sure I've identified suitable excerpts for my readings. And the first of my set of Dinners With Internet Friends that have been filling up my calendar. I will proabably also endeavor to identify the congenial-to-me evening gathering place(s).

Worldcon is about to start in earnest!

Major category: 
Conventions
Tuesday, August 13, 2019 - 07:00

Although it's a motif that needs to be used sparingly, I enjoy the times when I can show the same event or interaction from different points of view. In Mother of Souls we see Serafina shopping for a small statue of Saint Mauriz to give Celeste as a parting gift. It's an expensive keepsake: more than Serafina can afford to spend and more valuable than anything else Celeste owns (though this aspect is only hinted at). From Serafina's viewpoint, we see her trading the pearl necklace she was given as a parting gift from a lover for the intricate carving that she gives in turn as a parting gift to her...student? Friend? Surrogate daughter? They're still working out what they mean to each other when Serafina feels she has no other options than to return to Rome. We see only the briefest glimpse of Celeste's response.

In Floodtide we are allowed to see that other side.

* * *

I’d thought to find Celeste lying in bed, so when I didn’t see her there I wondered if she’d slipped out during the morning while we were working. Then I heard a catch of breath and saw she was sitting on the floor up against the wall next to the erteskir where she kept her candles and charms.

She was holding something in her lap. I couldn’t quite make it out in the dim light until she set it gently on top of the erteskir and scrambled to her feet. It was a little carved statue of Saint Mauriz. A fancy one—the sort you might expect to see on a table at Tiporsel House. Maisetra Sovitre had a lovely statue of her name saint in her bedroom, along with a gilt crucifix and a Madonna painting.

“That’s beautiful!” I said, touching the base to turn it so I could see better. The saint was carved out of some sort of dark wood—darker even than Mefro Dominique’s skin—and his halo shone like it was real gold. I wondered where Celeste had gotten something that nice. The answer came when she threw her arms around me and wept.

“She’s gone. She’s gone to Rome and she’s never coming back.”

So I knew Maisetra Talarico had been here and given her the saint as a farewell present. I don’t think I’d ever seen Celeste cry before. I’d seen her mad or sad, but not like this. She’d dried enough of my tears over the last year, so I held her as tight as I could without saying anything. At last she moved a bit and we sat on the edge of the bed, side by side.

“Why did she have to go?” I asked.

“I don’t know.” There was still a little catch in Celeste’s voice. “It doesn’t matter. There’s nothing I could have done.”

I thought about putting my arm around her shoulders again and got a funny feeling in my stomach, but that moment had passed, so I pointed at the little statue on the table of the erteskir. “You’ll have that to remember her.”

She leaned over and picked the statue up and handed it to me. I was real careful, holding it only by the base. I could see the details now even though the lamps weren’t lit during the day. Ebony, I thought, because in Maisetra Iulien’s stories things were always carved from ebony. You could see the features of Saint Mauriz’s face and the tiny tight curls of his hair. Bits of it were painted, but his armor was laid over the wood in thin metal plates. I couldn’t guess whether it was tin or silver, but I decided it should be silver. And the halo was real gold—or at least silver-gilt, like in the stories. It was much too fine a thing for a dressmaker’s shop. It wasn’t the sort of gift you gave someone you were just friends with.

Major category: 
Teasers
Publications: 
Floodtide

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