Being Marleen S. Barr/writing Oy Pioneer!: How to Succeed in Creating Jewish Humorous Feminist Science Fiction without Really Trying to Be Influenced by Literary "Tradition, Tradition"
Barr, Marleen S., Extrapolation
Marleen Barr is in one of her incarnations the rediscovered and refurbished girl child of her critical essays, in which she pursues the image of the girl not yet crippled by sex roles and punishments, willful and self-determined. This girl child Marleen stands outside the elaborate imitation Gothic edifices of academic criticism and says, But Why and How Come and Why Not and Who Says So and Phooey. She keeps asking, but how come you leave out all the fun and really inventive stuff. --Marge Piercy, "Marleen Barr's Lost and Found" Members of SFRA know Marleen Barr as a pioneering feminist critic of science fiction and fantasy and winner of the 1997 Pilgrim Award. Now she has pioneered in fiction as well with her first novel [Oy Pioneer!], which shows the same originality, humor, and chutzpah we have come to expect in her criticism. --Andrew Gordon, SFRA Review
Why? Who says that I can't write an essay about a novel I authored? Why leave out all the fun and really inventive stuff pertaining to how my life and my novel relate to feminist science fiction in particular and literary tradition in general? Articulating a big Phooey to all naysayers, without further ado I present a chutzpah sodden text which juxtaposes real and imaginary worlds. (1)
So, a funny thing happened on my way to becoming a feminist science fiction scholar who won the Pilgrim Award. "Get a life," commands a cliche. I had a life: once upon a time, I wrote ground breaking feminist science fiction criticism, embarked upon an around the world academic conference circuit husband hunting safari, and imagined that I was a Jedi knight wielding a laser sword while battling a department head who thought that science fiction is crap. I remember telling science fiction theorist par excellence Darko Suvin that I could turn my life into a novel. "Shut up and start writing," said Suvin in his inimitable direct Eastern European accented way. Since I did not even in my wildest imagination dare to think about not heeding the words of someone as brilliant as Suvin, my first novel Oy Pioneer! was born.
From my current standpoint in which I have broken feminist science fiction critical ground, mounted a picture of my husband on the wall, and managed to work for a science fiction loving department head who is himself a science fiction writer, I wish to comment upon being a science fiction scholar who has belatedly turned to writing fiction. With my signature "originality, humor, and chutzpah" running rampant, I will offer comparative commentary on other works of feminist science fiction and describe how my interactions with famous feminist fiction writers impact upon my creative process. In the first section, I place Oy Pioneer! and the facts of my life which inform its creation in the context of literary and cultural terrains. In the second section, I ensconce feminist writers within fantastic scenarios. I willfully offer a critical essay written in an unusual voice which blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction, scholarship and story. Last but not least, I include such fun and really inventive stuff as literary world gossip and references to the James Frey scandal, which (like Frey's A Million Little Pieces) may or may not be true. (2)
I. I, Protagonist: Juxtaposing Real and Literary Worlds
A feminist science fiction critic who belatedly turns to writing fiction is something unique under the academic sun. I differ from James Gunn who has gained renown both as a science fiction writer and as a science fiction scholar. Nor am I similar to Joanna Russ and Gwyneth Jones, stellar feminist science fiction writers who sometimes author criticism. Perhaps my new attention to fiction writing is most analogous to the experience of Merritt Abrash. After devoting his career to utopian literature scholarship, he published the futuristic parallel world novel Mindful of Utopia. Abrash is most certainly not a Jewish feminist, however. …