Thursday, 3 January 2008

About Femspec

A brief history of our organization

The editorial group grew as an outgrowth of the Science Fiction/Fantasy Area of the American/Popular Culture Association. We came together at a conference in San Antonio in April of 1997, discussed our experiences of non-feminist editorial practices by SF journals that were male-dominated, and the bias towards realism in journals that published feminist literary criticism or creative works. A group of us decided to found our own journal, the first issue of which appeared in September 1999; in the process of which, our organization grew. Our impetus came from the collectively perceived lack of attention to science fiction, fantasy, magical realism and supernatural works in feminist journals and audiences; the lack of consistently developed levels of feminism in science fiction criticism; and the inadequacy of magical realist publishing outlets and forums in the United States. The first issue was well-received and sold out in three months. Since then, a total of six more, bringing our in-print issues to seven, have appeared. In the fall of 1998, the founding editor in chief, Batya Weinbaum, was offered a position teaching Multicultural Literature at Cleveland State University, where the journal was housed for five years.

How our organization encourages diverse groups of women to work together

The journal has a multicultural focus, with an upcoming theme issues on speculative works by African American women, and another on race and culture. We have already published 2.2, the first collection of Native women's speculative art and writing. We have collected and printed articles on Asian American women's writing, Latina magical realism, Jewish women's magical realism, and now intend to create a specifically Jewish women's work. Our special girls' issue is "under construction," with contracts already mailed to authors and returned, and final editing being completed. This is the same status as an upcoming issue on film.

The editing group is diverse in terms of race, ethnicity and age, including emeritus scholars, SF fans, creative writers and critics in various fields at an array of universities in the US and internationally. We advertise through MELUS, the Journal of the Society of Multiethnic Literature of the United States; Journal of Research on Mothering; Meridians' SF Studies; Extrapolation; Foundation; and other venues to attract diverse groups of women who otherwise would not come into contact with each other.

The first issue of our bi-annual publication included the writings of two African Americans, and we have a regular girls' feature where we publish writings about girls' literature or writing by girls. Girls' art also appeared in the first issue. We also have salons and readings at bookstores, and at conferences such as National Women's Studies, Popular/American Culture, and International Association for Fantasy in the Arts. On particular issues, such as the Native issue, we work with women from special constituencies such as Rachael Whitehawk Day of the North American Cultural Center.

The current activities of our organization

We are currently involved in a subscription sales campaign to reach the goal of 100 library in the interest of getting picked up by a university publisher to expand the distribution of our work. We process manuscripts on a regular basis, having received over 500 submissions and having accepted about 5%, with an additional 15% after revision. We arrange postings on listservs, distribution of flyers and brochures at conferences, review of the issue in library and small press journals, production and sales of promotional products such as posters and mugs, sessions at national conferences, bookstore readings, exchange ads with other publications and journals, manuscript review, and a promotional webpage. We are also in the process of getting posted on GenderWatch, a database held in libraries. We review books received, conduct a readers forum, excerpt historical documents, conduct cover art competition, and offer on campus apprentice/internships for women and other students who volunteer to work on the project.

How our organization is structured

The founding editor and editor in chief works with an Advisory Board with artists and scholars such as Florence Howe, Octavia Butler, Suzy Charnas, Joanna Russ, Pamela Sargeant and Diane Skafte. In addition, contributing editors Marleen Barr, Samuel Delany, Darko Suvin, and Gloria Orenstein are quite active as well as an editorial board of people who primarily act as reviewers that currently stands at about 10. Furthermore, local editorial consultants are involved with the Journal from Cleveland State University as well as Case Western Reserve University. Some students volunteer or work each semester, with student involvement averaging about 12 a year. In addition, there are special editors in charge of developing their own issues who may or may not be on the Board.

How policy and decisions are made

The Femspec Local Advisory Committee meets once a month as a formal body, with smaller meetings between the monthly dates. These are announced and open meeting that involve all people interested in or engaged at any level of the project. Otherwise decisions are made in consultation with consultants, board, and advisory members as well as contributing editors. Sometimes that happens through our editorial listerv.

How we measure the success of our organization

Success of Femspec is gauged as follows. By the positive response of people involved over the first years; by the expressed positive experience of women and minority students who have volunteered, interned or worked on the journal and ask for extended participation for more credit or more hours in subsequent semesters; by the success in fundraising from other universities and individuals who have contributed to the journal including University of Southern California, University of Texas at Dallas, Oakland University, State University of New York at Stonybrook; by the increased number of submissions; by the willingness of esteemed scholars to give us their work; by the willingness of authors and publishers to send us review copies; by authors' willingness to revise and resubmit according to our production schedule; by the volunteered time of scholars even in their sabbatical year to work on fundraising and grants; by the interest of local bookstores in hosting events; by the positive media coverage we got, for example, in the Cleveland paper the Plain Dealer, The Free Times, Magazines for Libraries, and in campus newspapers such as On Campus, The Vindicator, and The Cleveland Stater; and by some of the following responses: "The first issue of Femspec… exceeded my expectations! It is gorgeous and excellent." Oregon Writer; "A striking first issue of an exciting new journal." Karen Schneider, Western Kentucky Univ.; "Lively." John Crawford, West End Press; "What an artifact." Carol Stevens, Society for Utopian Studies; "An amazing thing here." Marleen S. Barr, Sci-fi Critic;"I absolutely LOVE it!!!" Patricia Melzer, Clark University; "Refreshing-finally making a place in academia for such things." Theresa Carter; "The issue looks beautiful!" Christina Springer, Philadelphia Performance Poet.

More About Femspec

1. We are recommended on Here’s an excerpt from their glowing review: “The editorial board includes some of feminism’s most radical, visionary, and critical thinkers and writers… Overall, this journal covers an important area of literature and thought often overlooked in feminist scholarship… FEMSPEC is definitely worth the attentions of those who look to these genres for feminist vision.”

2. We are part of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Database, an on-line, searchable compilation by topic and author. The Database is an inclusive tool, designed to cover all aspects of science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural, and weird fiction. Check out their site at

3. We are listed in Magazines for Libraries, edited by Katz & Katz under “Women: Feminist and Special Interest” in the 10th edition.

4. Based upon the recommendation of Magazines for Libraries, beginning in January 2004 we will be included in Humanities Full Text, Humanities Abstracts and Humanities Index. Humanities Full Text is cited as “the most comprehensive resource available in its field.” It supplies readers with the full text of articles plus abstracts and bibliographic indexing of scholarly sources.

5. Our table of contents is listed in Feminist Periodicals: A Current Listing of Contents, published by The University of Wisconsin System.

6. Femspec’s calls for submissions are prominently listed in various locations such as the University of Pennsylvania’s “History Journal News,” University of Maryland’s “Diversity Database,” the Network of East-West Women, the University of Minnesota’s “Voices from the Gap: Women Writers of Color,” Bucknell College’s ListProc, the University of Toronto Cquest, Rutgers University’s “Howz Updates,” Michigan State University’s Jewish Studies newsletter, Callihoo’s newsletter (a weekly writers’ group in Salt Lake City), Queer-E (an electronic message board),, “News Notes: E-Publication for the Society for the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States,” “Chora: A Community for Emerging Feminist Scholars,”University of Dundee, Narrative Alchemy (a newsletter in Finnish), and

7. Femspec’s web page is linked from numerous sites, including,, Association for Research on Pop Culture,, “N. Paradoxa” (an international feminist art journal),, the German women’s network “Frauennetzwerk” as well as the German-language sites and, Council of Editors of Learned Journals, Extrapolation (a SF journal based at Kent State University),, (Society for the Furtherance and Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy), the International Center for Women Playwrights, the Cleveland Women’s On-line Calendar, and Women’s Print Periodicals on the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press.

8. We have exhibited at conferences such as Pop Culture and National Women’s Studies, and served on panels with other editors and publishers including from Greenwood, Feminist Teacher, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and NWSAJournal.

9. Our advertisements have appeared in Extrapolation, Journal of Popular Culture, Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering, MELUS, Frontiers, Science Fiction Studies, Paradoxa, and the American Educational Studies Association.

10. We are listed as a resource on numerous Women’s Studies web pages such as Clark University, the University of York, University of Wisconsin, DePauw University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

11. We have signed a contract to appear in Gender Watch database, which will bring the journal on line as a Women’s Studies resource at over 100 libraries.

12. We were chosen as the Website of the week at

13. Femspec is available at a reduced rate for members of the Science Fiction Research Association (

No comments: