When Senator Elizabeth Warren protested attorney general Jeff Sessions’ nomination and was silenced, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell brushed off complaints with a terse but strangely literary explanation: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” And thus a feminist slogan was born.
These three sentences are at the heart of every story in “Nevertheless, She Persisted,” a free flash fiction anthology from 11 female science fiction and fantasy authors. It’s being published throughout International Women’s Day on Tor.com and boasts entries from some of SFF’s most celebrated writers, including Jo Walton, author of the Nebula Award-winning novel Among Others; Kameron Hurley, whose influential essay “We Have Always Fought” won a Hugo in 2014; and Catherynne M. Valente, the prolific author who won — among other honors — the James Tiptree Jr. Literary Award for her book In the Night Garden.
“They can have happy endings of their own making, and sad ones too.”
Tor.com editor Diana Pho writes that the anthology was created to “share unique visions of women inventing, playing, loving, surviving, and — of course — dreaming of themselves beyond their circumstances.” In Hurley’s “Our Faces, Radiant Sisters, Our Faces Full of Light!,” women persist in fighting monsters outside a gated city. In Carrie Vaughn’s “Alchemy,” they persist in seeking the secrets of the universe. And in Alyssa Wong’s “The God Project,” they persist in trying to prove their own worth.
While McConnell’s words have mostly been used as a rallying cry online, the anthology’s tone isn’t monolithically inspirational or triumphant. “I allowed our contributors to interpret the phrase in various ways. There are a lot of positive and uplifting responses to the original hashtag,” Pho tells The Verge. “Yet I also think fiction should treat women as fully-realized people, foibles and all. Women can be heroes, but they can also be villains. They can make mistakes. They can have happy endings of their own making, and sad ones too.”
Like all kinds of science fiction and fantasy, feminist SFF covers both ideal societies and strikingly dark visions, from Charlotte Perkens Gilman’s 1915 utopia Herland to the totalitarian society of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. “We need a spectrum of utopian and dystopian qualities,” says Pho. “Utopian stories put ideas into action, and the best ones still contain conflicts between characters as they puzzle out these ideas.” One example of this, she says, is Ursula K. LeGuin’s speculative novel The Dispossessed. “I think readers who response more strongly to dystopias are also looking for ways to survive through them, whether consciously or not, and that's still a hopeful motivation.”
For now, there are no plans to expand the anthology beyond today’s stories. But Pho says that she’d like to do more short fiction series. For now, you can enjoy the whole collection here on Tor.com.