Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labelled: “This could change your life.” – Helen Exley
Violence against women (VAW) is a prevalent and entrenched part of countless societies around the world but it is still considered a taboo topic even, to a certain extent, in developed and first-world communities. Pop culture media, therefore is invaluable at raising awareness and promoting and prompting advocacy against VAW, doing much to break the silence.
The Pixel Project’s Read For Pixels campaign was first launched in September 2014 in recognition of the long-standing power of books to shape cultural ideas and influence the direction of history. From Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series to Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, popular authors and their stories have been instrumental in planting ideas, triggering thoughtful water-cooler discussions and providing food for thought for communities. And in the age of geek culture and social media, bestselling authors wield influence beyond just their books as they are able to directly communicate their readers and fans via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media channels.
Since then, the campaign has gone from strength to strength. To date, over 120 award-winning bestselling authors from genres as diverse as Science Fiction, Fantasy, Crime, Thrillers, Mystery, Romance and Horror have participated in various Read For Pixels campaigns and initiatives, raising more than $60,000 for the cause to end VAW to date.
In this article, we honour 16 award-winning bestselling authors from our 2018 and 2019 Read For Pixels campaigns. They write in various genres, including Horror, Romance, Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Fantasy and Science Fiction. Many of them are global celebrities with strong fan followings, others are well respected in their countries or genres. Still others are up-and-coming stars who have decided to use their talents for good. It is the movement to end VAW that unites and inspires them and we hope that all of them will continue to work with the movement in years to come.
To learn more about each author and their books, click on the author’s name.
To learn more about what each author has to say about violence against women, click on their quote to be taken to the YouTube video of their Read For Pixels Google Hangout or their blog articles.
Written and compiled by Regina Yau, with livestream transcriptions by Bernardo Rosa Rodriguez, Bridget Hudacs, Denishia Rajendran, Melissa Ruth Arul, and Susanna Lim.
NOTE: 25 new authors participated this year and those not featured in this year’s list will be featured in next year’s list.
Author Against VAW 1: A.M. Dellamonica
A.M. Dellamonica’s first novel Indigo Springs won the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her fourth, A Daughter of No Nation, won the 2016 Prix Aurora. They have over forty short stories in print and teaches writing at two universities while pursuing an MFA in creative writing at a third. When discussing why ending violence against women is important, Alyx, who was a crisis worker in a women’s shelter for a time, said: “We pretend that this is an intractable problem and yet 51% of the population could make it go away tomorrow by just cutting it the “f” out and I think we forget that sometimes, I think we imagine that people can’t not be violent but I manage it. I’m sometimes super mad and super frustrated with people and I don’t delude myself that I could get away with punching them and get what I want.”
Author Against VAW 2: Bradley P. Beaulieu
Bradley P. Beaulieu is the author of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, a sweeping, Arabian Nights-style tale about a young woman who rises up to challenge the cruel kings of the desert. Bradley’s novels have garnered many accolades, including over twenty “Best Books of the Year” for Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. When talking about how SFF authors and readers can help stop violence against women, Bradley suggested: “One of the best ways that books can get in other hands, are learned about and are picked up by other people is through word-of-mouth. If we can focus a bit on some of the books that we love that address these issues in positive ways, remember to just mention them to other people, pick up an extra copy, loan your copy to friends so that we can get them, so that we can affect change as time moves on.”
Author Against VAW 3: Daryl Gregory
Daryl Gregory writes genre-mixing novels, stories, and comics. His most recent novel is Spoonbenders, a Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award finalist. Other novels include Harrison Squared, Afterparty, Pandemonium, and the World Fantasy Award-winning short novel We Are All Completely Fine. His stories are collected in Unpossible and Other Stories. When asked why he supports ending violence against women, Daryl said: “Aliens visiting this planet would say ‘Wait a minute, you’re saying you have a charity organisation that is protesting violence against 51% of your population?’ And we’d have to say ‘Yeah, that’s a problem for us’. It’s crazy, from an SF point, that we even have to do this. But here in the real world, we have to do what we can. I think it’s a responsibility, just as a human being.”
Author Against VAW 4: Jen Williams
Jen Williams is a fantasy author from London. Her Copper Cat and Winnowing Flame trilogies have picked up four British Fantasy Award nominations between them, and in 2018 The Ninth Rain won the Best Fantasy Novel award. She’s also partly responsible for the creation of the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club and is partial to mead, if you’re buying. When speaking during her Read For Pixels livestream session, she said: “Nobody should live in fear of violence, nobody should live with violence at all. Unfortunately, it’s still a really huge problem. And it’s incredibly sad to still be saying that in 2019. And we still have a lot of work to do. I think it’s extremely important that people do whatever they can if it helps in any small way. And as writers, in particular, it’s our job to introduce people to new ways of thinking.”
Author Against VAW 5: Jo Walton
Jo Walton is the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award winning author of thirteen novels, three poetry collections, one short story collection and two books of older SF. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are much better. Her next novel, Lent, will be out in May 2019. When speaking about how authors can help tackle the issue of violence against women, Jo said: “Authors can do various things – they can explore [the issue] in their work in different ways, which I have tried to do. You can just be aware of stuff and think about things in better, more positive ways. When you try to write about something in a more realistic and less cliché way, it’s a more interesting story. It’s a better story for not going down the well-worn groove. It might be harder work, but it’s a better story that you’re coming up with.”
Author Against VAW 6: Kristine Kathryn Rusch
New York Times bestseller Kristine Kathryn Rusch uses several pen names, including Kris Nelscott for mystery. The first (and so far only) female editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, she has written about women’s issues for more than thirty years. Her two most popular SF series, The Diving Universe and The Retrieval Artist are under option for TV; her Kris Nelscott Smokey Dalton series is in development for a major motion picture. During her Read For Pixels session, Kristine pointed out that an essential part of eradicating violence against women lies with men and male role models: “I think the more role models we give boys, the more good men that we show girls men can be, the more different ways we can show that people are (from) different cultures and people are different human beings, and that they can be strong without being nasty, without being mean, without being hurtful, the better off we are.”
Author Against VAW 7: Laura Anne Gilman
Laura Anne Gilman is the author of more than twenty novels, including the Nebula award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy. Her newest project is the Devil’s West series from Saga Press/ Simon & Schuster, beginning with 2015’s Endeavor award-nominated Locus-bestseller Silver on the Road, and continuing with 2017’s The Cold Eye. When speaking about what the geek community can do to address violence against women and make geek culture more welcoming for women and girls, Laura Anne said: “The first thing we need to do is fix all the broken stairs. When I was starting in the industry, there was a lot of “don’t go near that person” or “don’t do that”. And we passed this information on to each other but there was never any confrontation. And it absolutely has to be confronted right from the moment it starts, the moment it is observed, the moment somebody says or does something. Their peers have to say something – “dude, not cool, don’t do that”. We’re definitely getting better at that but a lot of people are still along the lines of “I didn’t want to be the one having to say anything” or “I didn’t think it was my place to say anything”. And the answer is that if it’s your friend, if it’s your co-worker, it’s absolutely your place to say something. It has to be. We have to step up and do that.”
Author Against VAW 8: Mary SanGiovanni
Mary SanGiovanni is the author of the The Hollower trilogy (the first of which was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award), Thrall, Chaos, Chills, Savage Woods, and the novellas For Emmy, Possessing Amy, The Fading Place, and No Songs For The Stars and the forthcoming A Quiet Place At World’s End, and numerous short stories. Mary, who is a domestic violence survivor herself, said during her Read For Pixels discussion: “Women now, with the #MeToo movement, are in a position where, possibly for the first time, people are actually listening to what we have to say. I think that’s a great responsibility that we work to educate and illuminate and rebalance things so that there’s equality without isolating the people who maybe don’t understand but want to. I think that if we have allies, we show that we support and appreciate the work that they do for us. I think that we need to support and encourage each other as women. It’s an important thing to recognise accomplishments and be there for other women if they’re scared and need someone to talk to.”
Author Against VAW 9: Nicholas Eames
Nicholas Eames was born in Ontario, Canada, and is the author of Kings of the Wyld and Bloody Rose. He loves black coffee, neat whisky, the month of October, and video games. He lives in Kingston, Ontario, and is probably writing at this very moment. When talking about how authors can use their stories to map out a better and more gender-equitable world, Nicholas said of his own efforts: “I think ultimately just not holding them (characters) to a certain standard based on their gender. I’m trying to make a world, at least in my books, where people are treated a lot more equally, whether it’s their gender or sexuality. It’s just a matter of not making gender their defining characteristic; it’s their character itself, their personality, what they want out of life. What someone wants out of life in an equal and fair world doesn’t depend on anything else but themselves.”
Author Against VAW 10: Nicky Drayden
Nicky Drayden is a systems analyst from Austin, Texas, and when she’s not debugging code she’s detangling plot lines and mixing metaphors. Her acclaimed debut novel The Prey of Gods is set in a futuristic South Africa brimming with demigods, robots, and hallucinogenic hijinks. When discussing violence against women during her Read For Pixels livestream session, Nicky said: “I think it’s really important to ask the question of why we have violence against women, and to take this question even further – why are we having violence against black trans women; why is there so much violence, including medical, against black mothers. All these types of violence are structural things we should start looking at and examining, and start to deconstruct them one at a time.”
Author Against VAW 11: R.F. Kuang
R.F. Kuang resides in the UK, where she is pursuing an MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies at the University of Cambridge on a Marshall Scholarship. Her debut fantasy epic The Poppy War is a Crawford Award winner and a Nebula, Goodreads Choice, and Compton Crook finalist. During her Read For Pixels YouTube livestream, Rebecca spoke extensively about writing violence against women in books and made a particular point about the portrayal of victims and trauma: “There is no correct response to something that bad being done to you. Some want to talk about it, some don’t want to talk about it, some clam up and shut down, and some keep going and want to fight, and some fall in love with their abuser. There is such a myriad of experiences and responses and that complexity and nuance is important to portray so that we’re not left with one story of the “perfect” rape victim. Not everyone responds to violence in the same way and it’s detrimental to expect them to.”
Author Against VAW 12: Rebecca Roanhorse
Rebecca Roanhorse is a Nebula and Hugo Award-winning speculative fiction writer and the recipient of the 2018 Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her short fiction has also been a finalist for the Sturgeon, Locus and World Fantasy awards. Her novel Trail of Lightning (Book 1 in the Sixth World Series) was selected as an Amazon, B&N, Library Journal, and NPR’s Best Books of 2018, among others, and is a Nebula, Hugo, and Locus award finalist for 2019. Book 2 in the Sixth World Series, Storm of Locusts, has received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist. During her Read For Pixels YouTube Livesteam session, Rebecca said: “I think that people would be shocked about how many women in their lives, their girlfriends, their wives, their mothers, their sisters, have been victims of violence. […] We’re taught not to talk about those things and we’re taught that it is our fault and that they’re shameful. And I think that needs to change and I think that it is changing. And I think that there are women who are leading that forefront and are brave and are making that change. […] A lot of my resistance comes from writing stories and writing the sort of women we want to see. These are characters that are powerful and in certain ways can inspire.”
Author Against VAW 13: S.A. Chakraborty
S.A. Chakraborty is a speculative fiction writer from New York City. Her debut, The City of Brass, is the first book in The Daevabad Trilogy and has been short-listed for the Locus, British Fantasy and World Fantasy awards. When not buried in books about Mughal miniatures and Abbasid political intrigue, she enjoys hiking, knitting, and recreating unnecessarily complicated medieval meals for her family. When discussing what parents can do to help stop violence against women, Shannon said: “It’s about not putting the onus just on girls. We’ve been teaching girls for generations how to keep themselves safe and what to do, often in ways that are incredibly restrictive and offensive and curtailing their lives so that they don’t distract boys. I think the onus needs to be on boys and what we can teach our sons to do.”
Author Against VAW 14: Sarah MacLean
Sarah MacLean is the New York Times, Washington Post & USA Today bestselling author of historical romance novels that have been translated into more than twenty languages, and a monthly columnist for the Washington Post. She is a leading advocate for the romance genre, and her support of romance and the women who read it earned her a place on Jezebel.com’s Sheroes list of 2014 and led Entertainment Weekly to call her “gracefully furious.” During her Read For Pixels YouTube livestream session, she said: “Why do I support ending violence against women? Women are humans, which seems to be the cornerstone of that issue – the view that somehow women are subhuman. And also, I believe violence against women is a symptom of a much larger problem, and if you can cut that out, it’s one step toward equality. It’s a massive step toward equality.”
Author Against VAW 15: Stephen Graham Jones
Stephen Graham Jones is the author of seventeen novels and six story collections. Stephen’s been an NEA recipient, has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction, the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, a Bram Stoker Award, and four This is Horror Awards. His next novels up are The Only Good Indians and Night of the Mannequins. Stephen lives in Boulder, Colorado. During his Read For Pixels campaign, Stephen talked about the methods authors can use to subvert sexist and misogynist tropes and stereotyping in Horror when it comes to tackling violence against women. He said: “Within the horror genre, women characters can often be written more as seam dressing rather than as people with agency and rights. And so, if I do resist this trope on the page, I do it simply by attempting to make every person who is important to the story a real person with an exterior, interior, depth, history, past, intentions, longings, fears, regrets, all of it. Once they’ve become a real person, they cease being an object to the reader or hopefully it becomes more difficult for people to objectify them.”
Author Against VAW 16: Victoria Dahl
Victoria Dahl is the USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty-five romance novels and the winner of the prestigious American Library Association 2016 Reading List Award for outstanding genre fiction. She currently writes suspense as #1 Amazon bestseller Victoria Helen Stone. When asked about what authors can do to help stop violence against women, Victoria said: “I think authors can stop writing about ‘the perfect victim’, start writing about women who are real victims who may not have lived perfect lives but still deserve our love and support and justice. We need to be sure to include characters who are not the same colour as us, not the same sexuality as us, not the same gender as us, because readers need to see characters like those as lovable, sympathetic victims who also deserve justice. I think the change you want to see in the world and the justice that you need to see in the world needs to be put into your own work.”
- A.M. Dellamonica – Courtesy of A.M. Dellamonica
- Bradley P. Beaulieu – Courtesy of Bradley P. Beaulieu
- Daryl Gregory – Courtesy of Daryl Gregory
- Jen Williams – Courtesy of Jen Williams
- Jo Walton – Courtesy of Jo Walton
- Kristine Kathryn Rusch – Courtesy of Kristine Kathryn Rusch
- Laura Anne Gilman – Courtesy of Laura Anne Gilman
- Mary SanGiovanni – Courtesy of Mary SanGiovanni
- Nicholas Eames – Courtesy of Nicholas Eames
- Nicky Drayden – Courtesy of Nicky Drayden
- R.F. Kuang – Courtesy of R.F. Kuang
- Rebecca Roanhorse – Courtesy of Rebecca Roanhorse
- S. A. Chakraborty – Courtesy of S.A. Chakraborty
- Sarah MacLean – Courtesy of Sarah MacLean
- Stephen Graham Jones – Courtesy of Stephen Graham Jones
- Victoria Dahl – Courtesy of Victoria Dahl