Author Archives: kmcveety

Thanks for a great term, everyone :)

I thought you’d enjoy this!

Protected: “SF is the only place where I can write what I want to.”[1]

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Dearest Vonda

Dearest Vonda,

This weekend I attended a party for the first time in months.  I hardly knew anyone there, and no one talked to me except one guy who walked up, exposed his abs, and asked me about their sex appeal.  My response of “all bodies are good bodies” did not deter him, and I ended up leaving early.  A while ago, you said that you hoped things would be different by now (see Quintin’s last blog post).  We’ve come a long way thanks to awesome ladies like you, but I feel I still struggle against sexism on the daily.  Does that disappoint you?  Or, since you’ve lived the years in-between, seen the challenges women have faced, do you know why we seem stuck?  It’s an uphill battle, of course, that will not be easily won.

I have many other questions for you, about everything from your favorite color, to why you left genetics, to what you think about Doctor Who, to your favorite breakfast food, to your childhood in the Netherlands.  My research through your letters and books and Internet comments has led me to believe all your answers would be witty and eccentric.  I can save those for later, but I’d love it if you answered just this one: what are you reading right now?  I’m always looking for suggestions.

Watching you learn and grow through your letters has been fascinating, as I’m in a similar period of growth and tumult.  It’s partially comforting, to know most people experience something like this.  It’s also eerie, to read over your words regarding isolation from my empty studio apartment, experiencing the joys of introversion, tainted by the sting of unexpected loneliness, that I imagine you may have felt.

Like a bridge across time, your words to Joanna Russ have connected me to a person I have never met – Vonda of 1972.  While I regret not getting the chance to meet her, I can’t imagine how freaking cool Vonda N. McIntyre of 2013 will be.  Thank you for everything you’ve done for sci-fi, for women, and for this class.

Warm regards,


Burqa Avenger

She is a school teacher who dons a burqa to protect her secret identity, as she nocturnally fights for ‘Justice, Peace and Education for All.’ Her weapons? Books and pens.


Apparently it’s also an iphone game?

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Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre


WHEN (this was published)

Dreamsnake, written by Vonda N. McIntyre, was published in 1978 by Houghton Mifflin Company.  McIntyre based the novel on her novelette, “Of Mist, Grass, and Sand,” for which she received the Nebula in 1973, and a Hugo nomination in 1974.  In the 70s, McIntyre witnessed both the women’s liberation movement and the rapid development of genetic knowledge and technology.  To write a story with a dynamic heroine, systematic gender equality, nonexistent rape culture, uninhibited casual sex, homosexuality, and polygamy, was and still is an incredible feat.  McIntyre was recognized for her efforts, as Dreamsnake won the Hugo in 1978, and the Nebula in 1979.  Dreamsnake was only the third book featuring a female protagonist to earn the Hugo.  However, the book fell out of favor and has not been in print for over a decade.

WHO (should read these 277 pages)

Anyone with a healthy sense of adventure, a fondness for reptiles, or an interest in the medical field would find Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre enthralling.  I would recommend it to high schoolers and adults prepared for strong liberal sexual undertones, focused on values of consent, equality, and safety.  But really, if you have Ophidiophobia, don’t read Dreamsnake unless you’re serious about confronting your fear.


WHAT (happens between the pages)

A young woman named Snake sets out through the treacherous landscape of post-apocalyptic Earth to develop and utilize her skills as a healer.  One of the most useful tools for a healer is the snake, ranging from average sand vipers, to albino cobras that can catalyze medicines and vaccinations, to alien hallucinogenic dreamsnakes.  The death of Snake’s dreamsnake, Grass, sets off a chain of events that sends our heroine on a perilous journey to the technological walled city of Center and beyond.  Along the way she heals the sick, battles for the weak, and meets many fascinating individuals, like Merideth, an ambiguously gendered polygamist jeweler, Melissa, a scarred twelve-year-old horse tender, and Arevin, who is not the expected knight-in-shining armor love interest.  The vivid and diverse set of characters, the believable yet imaginative biological extrapolation, and the dynamic, inspiring, protagonist carry the reader through a memorable adventure in pursuit of knowledge, compassion, and dreamsnakes.


WHERE (we can fit this book into our understanding of the world)

Heavily influenced by women’s lib movements and discussions she was having about gender, reproduction, equality, McIntyre created a feminist utopia in the world of Dreamsnake.  This influence is felt in the systemic gender equality that pervades the setting, as all individuals can own property, participate in neutral casual sex, and enter into fluid polygamous partnerships.  Due to the biological ability to control fertility (biocontrol), men and women share the burden of prophylactics, and consent precedes all sex.  Sexual assault is abhorred in society; it is unclear if they even have a word for rape.  Things function supposedly so people “can all be as free as possible most of the time, instead of some [sic] being free all the time,” though slavery persists in isolated areas (McIntyre, 61).

McIntyre also issued statements on science with her passages on genetic manipulation and cloning.  People who live in the advanced city of Center hold fear and disgust for practices of cloning and mutation, whereas the healers genetically manipulate organisms and manage to maintain balanced, caring relationships with them.  McIntyre humanized science a bit there, showing individuals as the driving force behind discovery and having the power to affect the implications of their work for the better.  She also demonstrated science’s effectiveness at bringing people together with her description of the healers’ community as a place for gathering to further peace and knowledge.

This healers’ community is shown to have faults, however, in its isolationism.  In fact, almost all groups in Dreamsnake share this fault, most likely developed as a coping strategy for the lack of interpersonal trust in harsh post-apocalyptic conditions.  Arevin’s clan, for example, had a practice of withholding their given names until an intimate connection is created.  In another case, isolation from the healers’ knowledge led to the death of Snake’s dreamsnake.  Center is also isolated, which created an ignorant population, vulnerable outside the walls of their city.  As McIntyre reminds us, “[Snake’s] people, like all the other people on earth, were too self-centered, too introspective.  Perhaps that was inevitable, for their isolation was well enforced.  But as a result the healers had been too shortsighted” (255).  McIntyre illustrated how people are shaped by forces outside their control, and can only make choices within environment boundaries.  But in this case, choices led to isolation of knowledge and technology, which inhibited the growth of humanity.  This proved a detriment to Snake’s society, and many were hurt because of a stubborn refusal to share.


WHY (you should read this)

Mostly because it’s magnificent, but also to prove this reviewer wrong:

 “Why do female science fiction authors write like female science fiction authors? Do they have to be so stereotypical? Their ability to write characters is shit, which is extra annoying because women are supposed to be so fucking empathetic. “Dreamsnake” is written like some sort of personal fantasy of a science fiction high school loner. In it, the female heroine is a healer in a post-nuclear warfare Earth. She goes from place to place, helping people, but none of the places and events are interesting. In it, there is a muscled hero with him acting all chivalrous and completely in love with her, that…just fuck. You know what, in my personal project of reading every Hugo winner, I have realized that every science fiction book awarded to a female author has been shit and I can only rationalize it with the fact that the judges were probably huge nerds that probably felt that by giving high points to the female authors, they might get to fuck them. Even if the female authors looked like science fiction aliens…” —

HOW (you can read this book)

Dreamsnake is available as an e-book:

McIntyre, Vonda N. Dreamsnake. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1979.

Abedi, Mohammad Ali “Dreamsnake.” Goodreads. Goodreads Inc., 1 Aug. 2013.

Hyperbole and a Half

Hyperbole and a Half

This is the blog Quintin and I were discussing at the beginning of the class.  The author, Allie Brosh, lives in Bend and just completed a book in the style of her blog on depression, anxiety, and hilarity.  Check it out!  Quintin and I were interested in asking her to visit the honors college as a celebrated author.  What do you think?

Ada Test Site

For experiments!

Otherwise Award

"Best way to teach flying is to fly." - Joanna Russ

Queer Geek Theory

"Best way to teach flying is to fly." - Joanna Russ

Comments for SF Signal

"Best way to teach flying is to fly." - Joanna Russ


"Best way to teach flying is to fly." - Joanna Russ

Ursula K. Le Guin: New on the Website

"Best way to teach flying is to fly." - Joanna Russ