Friday, January 28, 2011

CFP: Femspec's Special Issue on Motherhood and Reproduction in the Speculative Imagination: Lived in Reality and As Created in Fiction and Other Genres

Are you a "strong" mom? Do you kick butt and take prisoners in real life or your imagination? Do you know of a strong mom in real life who would make a great character in sf, fantasy, magical realism, surrealism, myth, folklore, or other supernatural genres? Can't think of any but wish you could?

These are the types of questions that led a group to discuss the idea of the "Kick *ss Mom" at WisCon, which is a feminist-centered, science fiction and fantasy convention held in Madison, WI every year. At WisCon 33, amongst a number of interesting panels was one that addressed a specific, focused issue:

Most female characters in SF, fantasy, and other supernatural genres don't seem to have children. Those who do are often relegated to a peripheral role until the children are grown. However, characters who balance raising a child and saving the world can be fascinating. Why aren't there more of them?

What we discovered during the panel, however, is that many could think of a number of female characters who seem to belong to the category, if the definition of a "Kick *ss Mom" is modified to include women who are strong in ways that don't always include carrying a sword while swaddling a baby.

The more interesting questions, beyond identifying individual characters, became "what/who is a mom" and "what does it mean to 'kick *ss'"? For instance, is Buffy a mom to Dawn? Do the women in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland kick butt? Can a planet be a mom in this discussion? Are all strong moms also strong role models? If so, where do we place "evil" female characters in this discussion if they have given birth? Does giving birth automatically make someone a mom or is emotional commitment more important than biology?

As you can probably tell, the discussion became very animated during our panel discussion, and it seems like the sort of discussion that ought to continue. To that end, Femspec is interested in producing a special issue centering on issues such as those mentioned and any others pertinent to the general focus of women, motherhood and reproduction in the speculative imagination.

We are looking for works which go beyond the stereotype of the mom who will protect her "cubs" to the death and aim to investigate mothering at multiple levels of the child's development, how mothers who continue to be adventurers deal with the issues related to mothering, moms of adventurers, and how they "fit" in the genres mentioned (Molly Weasley comes easily to mind but there are so many others), and the "disappearing baby" syndrome that is used so often to put a woman in jeopardy, where her baby vanishes in some mystical fashion and returns as an adolescent or adult later in the story, having been absent for all of the "mothering" portion of his/her/its young life.

Do you have a story to tell? A poem to share? A piece of art that could be reproduced in print? An author to interview? An area on this topic on which you could develop an annotated bibliography? Do you want to critically analyze the differences between moms in myth and contemporary fiction or look at the unique ways that fantasy film portrays mothers and mothering? Do you know women who have parented children in unusual ways, going beyond the norm to create modern mythic prototypes of new ways of living, for example, by challenging gender by how they raised their kids in community? Do you have an idea not mentioned? Propose it and let's see what sort of a celebration of mothering we can produce together!!


Here are the details:

Submissions should be mailed to Batya Weinbaum at:
1610 Rydalmount
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

We need two copies, and a subscription, as all submitters must be subscribers from the onset and all the way through to publication.

Submissions must *exclude* any indication of your name on them so that your piece may be read anonymously.

Include a separate sheet with the title and genre of your piece, your name, address, email, phone and a two sentence abstract.

Also, include a disc with your document in Word and .rtf format.

All submissions should conform to MLA standards, as found in the latest edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. MLA guidelines can also be found online at:

Any submission that does not come in with sufficient copies will not be sent through the review process.

We will accept submissions through June 15, 2011.

Please note AGAIN that only subscribers may submit to Femspec. To subscribe, go to Reduced rates for special categories (student, retired, disabled, un or underemployed, household member of another subscriber) available for $30 but must be mailed by check with your submission.

Add $10 to all outside of the US submissions.

E-mail editorial enquiries should go to Batya Weinbaum at:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

If you have to make up silver jewerly, try Taxco

For years I have been dreaming and trying to get ancient goddesses I have collected from historical research made into pendants. I dropped the images off in Bali, and in Varanassi, to no avail. But in just one week, I left withover 60 pendants and a better understanding of the business, with all intents to go back. Plus I have on-going relations with suppliers, and an invitation to study with one of the talleres (workshops) to learn the process myself. Every day I string another goddess along a string of gorgeous glass, stone and wooden beads. So, try Taxco.

Like I said, it took only one week. I arrived on Monday at 2 pm thinking I would give myself a day to relax after getting off the DF bus. But once I had a room, I was out hiking the cobblestone streets in search of a laundry. On the way back, I popped my head into a little store in the side of a woman's garage and asked if she knew where I could have some designs made up. She pointed across the street to Jaimes.

I carefully crossed the slanting cobblestone street. After all, at the laundry a woman had fallen and hurt herself. I did not want to be traveling through some foreign country on crutches again!

Across from the store were three or four steps and I climbed and entered. I gave the man who came to the counter (about 35, has been working in the trade since he was 7) a copy of a picture of a friend of mine Athena wearing a t-shirt she had bought from me at Fishing Creek Reunion in October.

The image was my rendition of an image of an ancient Israeli goddess from the Tanach period, about which I had learned at a workshop a Starwood last summer (2010). The presenter had distributed a xerox from an archaelogical journal. Apparently, her existence questions the monotheistic roots of Judaism. She holds the world in her arms, so maybe she is the original creator, the mother of the world. A la the Virgin of Guadalupe here.

By the next day I had a sample. The young man had xeroxed the image, reduced the picture to the size I wanted, glued her on a block of silver, and carved her face, body and details out laboriously with a series of hand and mechanical tools. The next day I ordered ten. By Thursday I had all of these, each different, as he altered them through conversations--no, she needs toes; no, this is a crown and this hair; no, no eye on what she is holding because she holds the world not a child; she is in a coffin so the edge needs to be straight; and that circle? it represents a vagina and has to be higher...and wonderful conversations and experiences. We discussed what these images meant, how they related to the ancient goddesses in Mexico, the relationship between the Egyptians and the long the maestros had been studying, and many other images. The son of the founder of the shop tried his hand at one, as did the master craftsman in his seventies who had taught the younger man his trade and art.

Here are a few more. Below you will see the mermaids (sirenitas) which are from an ancient coin discovered in India. The Buffalo Woman (mujer y buffalo) is a woman celebrating herself by jumping up and down on the back of a buffalo, a fertility symbol as well. Also an ancient coin from India, according to my research.

I plan to have a long term working relationship with Jaimes. Each of these pendants can be purchased. You can pay through the paypal make a donation page on the journal ( which supports our operations. Thanks so much.

Hebrew Goddess--$130
Mujer y buffalo--$150

You can also market these on commission for us, and if you like, send me images you would like to have reproduced. I can work them up for you.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Special Issue Process

1. Editor proposes idea to Femspec.
2. Editor drafts call paper and sends to Femspec to circulate to board.
3. Board returns to special issue editor with input.
4. Once the cfp is approved, the editor is required to subscribe.
5. The editor is requested to look at other special issues of Femspec as orientation.
6. Editor circulates cfp and informs Femspec of where and how the issue is advertised.
7. Editor works from here on in with Special Issue coordinator who ensures that:

a. Femspec is kept informed of who is submitting.
b. Editor understands how to carry out a peer review process, including that it is her responsibility to line up independent readers specializing in the area of the special issue.
c. Editor understands responsibility to collect book reviews, as well as only previously unpublished work in English since Femspec will own copyright on all texts published (fiction or non-fiction).
d. Editor has informed all submitters of the necessity to subscribe and to keep a subscription current throughout the process.
e. Editor may have input on cover art and design.
f. Editor will be asked to assist in funding production of the issue with grant funds from her institution.

8. Once manuscripts have been collected, editor sends them out for anonymous review, collects comments, sends them to authors, collects revisions and assembles a project with appropriate introduction and cover.
9. This is submitted in duplicate in hard copy to the editor with one copy completely free of any names or identifying information. All art must be in Jpeg 350. All permissions must be held or obtained by the editor. No additions to the project are accepted after this initial submission.
10. Femspec reads this, and sends one copy to a reviewer. All comments are returned to the editor who is responsible for getting authors to revise in a timely process.
11. Authors and editor are responsible for copy editing and bringing completely into MLA style.
12. The revised manuscript is returned to Femspec again in duplicate hard copy, with one version again completely free of any identification of author. The other copy must have all art completely and properly labeled with name, title and date. The editor must also provide a complete response to all items requested in the revision, with a point by point explanation of how the requests were met.
13. Femspec sends the revised copy to the same or a new reviewer. If accepted, the issue moves to production. At that point, bios are also submitted electronically.
14. All files are sent to the line editor, and then to the set up person. The set up person forms an issue. The file is sent to the editor for proofreading. This usually takes two rounds and it is up to the editor whether she or he wishes to send individual files to authors.
15. After the issue goes to the printer, the editor works with the web person to set up the abstracts, table of contents and special features announcing the material on the web page.
16. Next the special issue editor works with the publicity people to do outreach to the public about the existence of the issue--getting it reviewed, announced on lists and at conferences.
17. The editor is then asked to be part of the special issue advisory committee working with the special issue coordinator to help troubleshoot and advise future issues.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

If you have to stay on Isla Mujeres...

Casa Espana. Avenida Francisco y Madera.

Get off the boat Turn left. Take the first right. It is on your left.If you are looking for the real thing and want authentic experience, try this.

Hotel owner Antonio Rios Chale is a direct descendent of the Magana family. Senor Magana used to sit in a white suit and determine all transactions on the island, according to island lore. Any problem or disagreement, everyone came straight to him. According to his utterances, the participants in the feud would act. And that was that. This was before paved roads and street lights.

I first came to know Antonio when he was still working in private practice as a dentist. I had a four year old with bad teeth at the time, and probably needed some dental work myself as well. Also some letters indicating to the government that due to the necessity of emergency dental work, our tourist visas of already several months had to be extended… things like that. I remember screaming in the chair I was going to come back in my next life as a chicken, because he told me chicken had no teeth as I slunk away from his hypodermic needle in his overstuffed chair.

Thus Antonio came to be a friend, and a go-to person for me, the longer I lived on the island. I believe once I read his palms. I know that I read the palms of at least one of the women who worked for him, who I last saw dancing in the square right up in front of the knock-out band from Merida (also in white suits) with her son in a dashing hat on New Year’s Eve.

Antonio has the habit of ending any conversation with, if you need anything let me know. I used to take him up on this frequently, without realizing this was part of the direct lineage of the ruling family tradition. And thus, quite possibly merely part of his social conditioning rather than anything personally indicating that he thought of me as a friend.

The latter realization clicked one morning this time back when I ran into Antonio at one of those outdoor tables of the restaurants where he can be found on Café Hidalgo, the main drag, regular according to schedule. He breakfasts every mmorning over the newspapers with a couple of his brothers. But to protect his privacy, I will keep his hours out of this post and let you figure out for yourself when you get down here just when that is.

I think in this particular instance, I wanted to know how to put a restraining order on one of my neighbors who kept calling me a slut (ramera, in Spanish--I had gone to ask him the word to better explain the situation to my landlord). He said yes that could be done here, and the problem was probably she was Canadian. And I needed her full name.

I answered, funny, my landlord had said the same Canadian thing, and I would have to get the full name from him,

Antonio, inquisitive and supportive person that he is, inquired as to who my landlord was. Javier, I answered. Oh, Javier Ravell? My primo. . . he was a professor, and a Maganua as well, descended from the man in the white suit and thus also everything clicked…both he and Antonio in the manner in which they conducted themselves definitely carried on the family line.

So if you want a nice place to stay, with a big mirror on the way out so you can see how your tan is progressing and how you look in that new dress or shirt, small and intimate with about 13 rooms, tourists of all types from all countries, an inner courtyard with many plants and tables under palapas to eat off of, roosters that crow, frequent warbling of other birds, internet that most of the time actually works, a small pool and a PAN official in the gobierno in case anything goes wrong (he now works in public health),and a refuge from aggressive neighbors, Antonio’s place is your place, and Antonio is your man as well.

Over the years he has helped me translate articles about to go to press that needed to be rescued from the GOOGLE translator program, providing more information about altars and such than I had ever been privy to before; filled me in on the back stories of land take overs, who goes to jail and why and how PRI helps them get out when it serves their own interests, and the growth of PAN opposition for the benefit of the artesanos when PAN had complete control; pointed out the progress of the lives of the people when all I could see was the glut of the development of higher priced tourism; offered to get fireworks approvals for my daughter’s birthday celebration, and just been a good friend all around. You can rent weekly or monthly or by the night, and if you are about to lose one housing and haven’t yet negotiated the next, he will get you some room on an interim rate as well at the drop of a hat.

Six caracols if you need a place to stay in Isla Mujeres. In my book, if you want a real feel for the island, the absolute best.

Monday, January 10, 2011

if the palmist says you have green hands, you may end up on Isla Mujeres

If you have to eat on Isla Mujeres…one place not to miss in Diane and Victor’s Le Bistro Francais. Established in December of 1995, decorated with bright and vibrant colored tiles from Cancun, the restaurant was one of the first to point towards the future of the hike upwards in level of income of the average Island tourist. I remember going to Le Bistro Francais, with the excitement of the French restaurant opening years ago, for the baked potatoes. Diane was the first to serve them on the island. This year I popped in on Dec.26 right after my cold set in craving her delicious French onion soup, served with as many plates of fresh cooked hot rolls as the waiters can bring. For the budget traveler, definitely a meal in itself.
The trick to a good restaurant, Diane explains, is not the food, but the person waiting tables. She reports that many people have come to Le Bistro Francais over the years due to the charms of her husband Victor, who is also the chef. He learned everything from his wife, Diane, who had studied French cooking since she was seven years old. The people like Victor’s work and his food. According to Diane, lots of people come every year to see Victor. He always comes to the table to greet them with a smile and friendly words. This year my daughter wanted Diane’s French toast for our special New Years brunch. I had the delicious bagel with cream cheese, green pepper and garlic spread.
Le Bistro Francais has been written up in the New York Times (Jan. 21,2007, Patrick O’Gilfoil Healy)—the only restaurant covered in this NYT visit, according to the Minister of Tourists in Cancun who came over to congratulate her for being one of the two restaurants chosen to be written up in all of Quintanaroo. Her dreams right now include selling the restaurant with a mini three-apartment hotel upstairs so she can retire and write her cookbook. Years ago, a palmist read her fortune and said she had green hands and would live by the sea surrounded by water, so you bet she did.
Lonely Planet, the French tourist book Routeur, four stars in the Brooklyn Journal of Food for both breakfast and dinner—many experts have noticed this pleasant vibrant hideaway at Avenida Matamoros 29, catty cornered off the hustle and bustle of Calle Hidalgo’s nightclubs.
And no wonder. The food is always fresh and the vegetables always disinfected. You can come for the very popular breakfast from 8 am to noon, when the restaurant is always crowded in wintertime, customers even forming lines, according to Diane, waiting for the restaurant to open at 6 am, and for dinner from 6 to 10 pm. The unique fare includes flamed filet mignon, the garlic bread, the portabello salad. All has original sauce, such as the very popular mix of lemon and caper dripping on fish and the Caesar salad, which I tasted myself. Ditto the coq au vin, the special French cooked chicken, the recipe for which came from a famous French chef. You can find the most fresh lobster and shrimp brought by the same man who buys direct  from the fisherman every day at the best price on the island.
Victor’s art on the menu, walls and ceilings shows he hails from Merida, with the primitivistic colors shapes—lobsters and fish look at you from the walls. He has been on the island since he was 16, when he came here in the Navy. Diane preferred his art to that of the professional she hired at first.  Diane is French Canadian; they both know three languages.
Come to see for yourself and check out the affordable prices. You will not be disappointed. The unusual drink list is a draw too—imported French and Chilean wine, brandy, cognac, kahlua. Try the crepe suzettes, pastas and ravioli too.  .                Five caracols…the highest.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

if you have to eat on isla mujeres...

If you have to eat on Isla Mujeres…
Where have all the editors gone? Not to the MLA although that is where I usually am at this time of year to be on Chat with an Editor and various CELJ panels (Council of Editors of Learned Journals). This  year I am  back on Isla Mujeres off the coast of Cancun  instead, since they changed the time of the conference, and also because it was time to organize my daughter’s diezyochoiera.
Ours was a hybrid tradition, since we were not even here for her 15th, and she wanted to be in Mexico on the island where she was born for her liberation, or the year of becoming  no longer a minor. I had promised the Mayan midwife who had worked with me at my daughter’s birth to do an oral history, as a continuation of my dissertation fieldwork (see Islands of Women and Amazons: Representations and Realities) so in addition to laboring away over 11.1 in internet cafes, putting in to WisCon for our awards celebration party, here I am attempting to also engage in some field work.
First thing you notice when you come back to Isla after two and a half years is that the island has become a Tower of Babel. Coming in on the ferry you see high rises, and walking down the streets of down town, you really begin to wonder, are you even in Mexico? Israeli restaurants, Italian cafes, Asian and Thai restaurants, Argentinian  steakhouses, a French Bistro…even a Chabad House with a Chanukah menorah street lighting party.  Many of the old places are gone, both restaurants and hotels, replaced by establishments catering to the higher priced tourist. No longer a romantic place where you come lose yourself and discover who you are again, but a place where you come and stay on target with your cell phones and your wifid directories where you look up on the internet where to eat and where to go. In the internet cafes, you can overhear people skyping with their stockbrokers, or even walking down the streets past the market as they buy and cell stock via cellphone. The island has become a destination place for travelers from Australia, Norway, Japan. The old-timers struggle to connect behind the scenes at expat fundraising parties for one charity event after another—HIV AIDS prevention, the English school.
But if you have to eat, the best place to do it is a little hole in the wall across the street from the hospital called Pita Amore. Ricky the owner is from Merida and brings the pita in direct from the old Lebanese baker who doesn’t even speak English. Ricky, who studied cooking in NYC, says there have been 20% Lebanese in Merida since WWII. He serves up four kinds of sandwiches in the pitas, each for under 40 pesos which is remarkable on an island where breakfast now costs seven bucks. What has happened here seems to have been the impact of NAFTA that broke down protectionism and let foreigners have businesses, so the little family establishments with murals on their walls and open hearts have been driven out. But also, as in Bali when the terrorist explosion of the nightclub drove tourism down, those who were there had to pay and pay. The old licuado shop for years on the side of the centro is closed, but we have three high priced Italian helado shops. Perla de Caribe on the Sea Wall is shut down, but a new high rise hotel towers over and eclipses the cemetery. And those who want to stay open charge even eighty pesos for French toast…since tourism is thin, the prices go up for those that still come or remain. Why is tourism thin? Well first of all, the Mexican president told everyone not to come when the Swine Flu was happening. Then there are all those travel advisories against the killings and deaths and shootouts in Cancun. Little things like that. And the cost of the ferry is now 70 pesos each way,what with the second line opening, each line had to raise the price to stay afloat.Ricky reports the prices doubled overnight in one day, from 35 to 70 on July 25, 2009, really hitting folks without local residence cards.  All the fish in the vicinity have been plucked and the cost of gas to go far enough out to get fresh fish has gone up so high that even in Las Lomitas the economical fishing restaurant, you get charged 100 pesos for fresh fish. One of the major fishing cooperative closed, leaving only four. The cooperatives' store went out of business.  If you want to find fish to cook yourself, better have personal contacts. Or a lot of time to search out fish on the beach.
Need I go on? But Ricky’s offers a counter to all this. His place is small but he caters to the budget traveler who comes in and orders a take out to take back to Pocna, the hostel for international travelers, that now costs ten dollars a night (up from four). And to the local regulars like George who tried to open a bar next door that didn’t work who comes in almost every night with his dog, Sadie. And if you need to do some internet, Ricky will even let you use his computer.  His attitude is he is nothing without you, and he makes you feel loved. Customers can sign his wall, like a graffiti project. The chipotle and cream sauce on the pita either with meat or with chicken or purely vegetarian (the latter is what drew me there when trying to find a restaurant for my daughter’s party) is very hot and spicy. But good. And the attitude is good, and the heart.
So if you have to eat, it’s a start. .