science fiction and fantasy book reviewsThe Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron HurleyThe Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

The Geek Feminist Revolution is a collection of writing by Kameron Hurley, much of which was originally published online. And at the risk of sounding curmudgeonly and persnickety, from my viewpoint the problem was they read that way. Some of that I think is in the nature of the writing, and some of that probably is my own issue in the expectations I come with when a book is subtitled “Essays” (and there’s that “persnickety” part).

The collection is made up of nearly 40 essays divided into four sections, though as one would expect, there’s a fair amount of overlap in their subject matter. The sections are: Level Up (dealing with the craft and business of writing), Geek (media criticism), Let’s Get Personal (these are, well, more personal), and Revolution (a call for changing the system).

I noted above that I come to a piece described as “essays” with a certain expectation, and while I get that this is a bit problematic (the author writes the book she writes, not the one I want her to write), it’s best to be honest about that. So what are those expectations? A certain level of depth, a rich vocabulary, ideas that are either original in themselves or in the manner of presentation/linkages, a sense of startlement — perhaps from language, from metaphor, from structure or odd connections — and an end result that will have me lingering over the essay or calling it back days, weeks, or even years later. Conversely, I don’t expect much of that from online writing (though it’s nice to get any of it), assuming that the author is working on deadline or is more having a conversation than carefully crafting a literary creation (feel free to get upset at my assumptions here).

So my major issue with The Geek Feminist Revolution is that I didn’t get any of that from any of these. The pieces certainly aren’t badly written, but there just wasn’t enough there for me, whether in terms of style or content. Often, the thrust of the piece wasn’t all that fresh. What does it take to succeed in writing? Persistence. How does one succeed? One has to be willing to fail. Women are horribly trolled on the net. Writers have a responsibility to consider the impact of how they present their worlds and the people who inhabit them, etc.

Now, I don’t have an issue with covering territory that has been covered extensively for a long time or, in the case of more contemporaneous issues, has been covered extensively elsewhere (well, maybe I have a little issue). But if you’re going to present me content I’ve seen lots of other places or have been reading for some time, then you need to do something else for me. When I talk to my students in creative writing I call this the “so what” issue with non-fiction. You have to give the reader a reason to keep reading something they’ve seen before. Maybe it’s the beauty of the language, maybe it’s the stimulating structure. But something.

With regard to structure, the essays in The Geek Feminist Revolution are almost strictly linear and mostly singularly focused. As for language, it’s adequate for communicating the ideas, but rarely rises above that. It’s conversational, passionate, but nothing will have you linger over the phrasing or is particularly dense with meaning. And at times it’s simply repetitive. In the sub-300 pages for instance Hurley uses “shit” or “bullshit” roughly 80 times and “fuck” nearly a hundred (i.e. every three pages). It isn’t the language I object to, but the repetition, and the easy choice of how to show passion or anger. In other words, it doesn’t feel that Hurley stretched herself in these pieces and therefore the reader isn’t stretched either, which makes for a less than stimulating read. And looking at the whole rather than the parts, despite the rough categorization and ordering, there wasn’t much of a sense of direction or unity to the pieces, beyond the base of looking at things through a feminist prism.

I suppose if one hasn’t read much on these topics — Gamergate, internet trolling, the portrayal or non-portrayal — these pieces may seem more fresh. And if one isn’t looking for a more challenging read than the typical blog post, issues of style or structure won’t be much of a problem. Plus, there’s no doubt that Hurley has a distinctive voice, that she’s passionate in her views, and that much of what she says is important and valuable. But for me, The Geek Feminist Revolution just didn’t offer much to recommend it.

Publication date: May 31, 2016. A powerful collection of essays on feminism, geek culture, and a writer’s journey, from one of the most important new voices in genre. The Geek Feminist Revolution is a collection of essays by double Hugo Award-winning essayist and science fiction and fantasy novelist Kameron Hurley. The book collects dozens of Hurley’s essays on feminism, geek culture, and her experiences and insights as a genre writer, including “We Have Always Fought,” which won the 2014 Hugo for Best Related Work. The Geek Feminist Revolution will also feature several entirely new essays written specifically for this volume. Unapologetically outspoken, Hurley has contributed essays to The Atlantic, Locus Magazine,,and elsewhere on the rise of women in genre, her passion for SF/F, and the diversification of publishing.


  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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