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 longstanding power of books to shape cultural ideas and influence the direction of history. From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to 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 to 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 170 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 almost $100,000 to date for the cause to end VAW .
In this article, we honour 16 award-winning bestselling authors from our recent Read For Pixels campaigns. They hail from various genres, including Horror, Romance, Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Fantasy and Science Fiction. Many of them are global celebrities with strong fandoms, 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 YouTube session.
Written and compiled by Regina Yau, with livestream transcriptions by Su-Ann Cheng.
Inspired to support The Pixel Project’s anti-violence against women work? Make a donation to us today OR buy our 1st charity anthology, Giving The Devil His Due. All donations and net proceeds from book sales go towards supporting our campaigns, programmes, and initiatives.
Author Against VAW 1: Alaya Dawn Johnson
Alaya Dawn Johnson is a Nebula award-winning short story writer and the author of seven novels for adults and young adults. Her most recent adult novel Trouble the Saints is out from Tor books. Her debut YA novel The Summer Prince was longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, and the follow-up Love Is the Drug was awarded the Andre Norton Award. Her short stories have appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including Asimov’s, F&SF and A Phoenix First Must Burn. She lives in Oaxaca, Mexico. When talking about why she supports stopping violence against women, she said that it is “a plague on our society and it affects everybody, not just women. And women being fifty percent of our society, that’s kind of intense. It is something that just has to be dealt with in order for any kind of major social progress to be achieved.”
Authors Against VAW 2: Alisha Rai
Alisha Rai writes award-winning emotionally complex contemporary romance novels and is frequently sought as a speaker on a range of topics covering romance and media. Her books have been named Best Books of the Year by NPR, Washington Post, Vulture, Entertainment Weekly, Amazon, Kirkus, Bustle and Cosmopolitan Magazine and her novels have won the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for erotic and contemporary romance. When talking about the issue of consent in relationships and romance during her Read For Pixels session, Alisha pointed out that the conversation about consent “has been going on for a while and it is really important to me. It should be important to everyone. I think part of it is because I do have a lot of siblings so I learned from an early age that you ask for what you want. You don’t just take things. And that’s like a playground rule that we don’t think is weird or silly. And suddenly when it gets to women and men and in the bedroom or romantic relationships, it becomes like a grey area. It is strange that that happens.”
Authors Against VAW 3: Brian McClellan
Brian McClellan is an American epic fantasy author from Cleveland, Ohio. Brian’s novels include the Powder Mage Trilogy, Gods of Blood and Powder, and the Valkyrie Collections. Brian now lives on the side of a mountain in Utah with his wife, Michele, where he writes books and nurses a crippling video game addiction. During his Read For Pixels session, Brian talked about how fiction can play a role in shaping a better world in terms of treating women and girls with respect. He said: “I really like the idea of normalising gender parity through fiction like having characters in any role, whether it’s politicians or assassins, be of any gender (and) normalising the world being open to anyone.”
Authors Against VAW 4: Brigid Kemmerer
Brigid Kemmerer is the New York Times bestselling author of dark and alluring Young Adult novels like A Curse So Dark and Lonely, More Than We Can Tell, and Letters to the Lost, as well as paranormal YA stories like The Elemental Series and Thicker Than Water. A full time writer, Brigid lives in the Baltimore area with her husband, her boys, her dog, and her cat. When she’s not writing or being a mother, you can usually find her with her hands wrapped around a barbell. When asked why she supports stopping violence against women, Brigid said: “I absolutely support ending violence against women just because I don’t think there’s any need for it. I feel violence against women is completely uncalled for and I do think everyone worldwide should work towards eradicating it. And from writers, I think we can create characters that show women overcoming insurmountable odds. I think we can create male characters both supporting women and also allowing themselves to show moments of vulnerability.”
Authors Against VAW 5: Derek Landy
Derek Landy is the author of the award-winning Skulduggery Pleasant series and a bunch of Marvel comics. He lives in Ireland, where he collects movie props and various cats. Also a particularly stupid dog. During his Read For Pixels session, he talks about how writers can use fiction to show examples of healthy masculinity as well as address issues such as sexism, misogyny and violence against women. He spoke about the importance of positive role modelling in helping combat toxic masculinity and creating a better world for women and girls. He also discussed his own efforts to write mindfully about such themes in his books and stories because of his young audience, saying: “I try as much as possible when I’m writing these books because I’m very aware of who reads them. The idea that I can in some way, not even call out, but kind of lead by example.”
Authors Against VAW 6: Elizabeth Lim
Elizabeth Lim grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she was raised on a hearty diet of fairy tales, myths and songs. Before becoming an author, Elizabeth was a professional film and video game composer, and she still tends to come up with her best book ideas when writing near a piano. An alumna of Harvard College and the Juilliard School, she now lives in New York City with her husband and her daughter. Spin the Dawn (book 1 in the Blood of Stars duology) was her first original novel. During her Read For Pixels session, Elizabeth talked about male violence and what it would take to stop violence against women: “I think a lot of it has to do with how men are portrayed in media and how we teach our children to treat others. I think that if more people become more compassionate to those around them, then we can teach future generations not to behave that way and hopefully it will go away and violence against women will hopefully be a thing of the past.”
Authors Against VAW 7: Evan Winter
Evan Winter is a Barnes & Nobles, Amazon, and Locus best selling speculative fiction writer whose current series opener, The Rage of Dragons, is one of TIME magazine’s 100 Best Fantasy Books Of All Time. When asked about why he supports ending violence against women, he responded: “The biggest issues that we almost always seem to have historically speaking, come from us othering one another. When you don’t offer somebody equal humanity, that’s when the bad things happen. Obviously, with 50% of the population and still the issues that we see…that’s an incredibly important thing that needs solving and attention. It seems critical to me to see the absolute complete humanity in each other because that leads to a better world.”
Author Against VAW 8: Jennifer Estep
Jennifer Estep is a New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author who prowls the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea. Last Strand, book #19 in her Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series, will be released March 16. Jennifer is also the author of the Crown of Shards, Section 47, Gargoyle Queen, Bigtime, and other fantasy series. She has written more than 40 books, along with numerous novellas and stories. During her Read For Pixels session, Jennifer discussed everything from dealing with sexism through her fictional worlds to what conventions can do to prevent sexual harassment. When asked why she supports ending violence against women, she said: “Like every other woman, I have dealt with a lot of sexism in my life, both professionally and even sadly from some family members. That’s one of the reasons I think it’s so important. We really need to change these sexist attitudes because a lot of them do lead to violence against women.”
Author Against VAW 9: Julia Quinn
Julia Quinn is the author of eighteen consecutive New York Times bestsellers, including Mr. Cavendish, I Presume, which reached #1 on the mass market paperback fiction list. She is a graduate of Harvard & Radcliffe Colleges and briefly attended Yale School of Medicine before deciding to pursue a full-time writing career. She sold her first book, Splendid, at the age of 24 and has been working with the same editor and publishing house for her entire career. Her books have been translated into 32 languages and her most popular series, The Bridgertons, is being produced by Shondaland as a popular Netflix series with the first book, The Duke and I, released as the first season of the series on Christmas day 2020. When discussing healthy relationships and consent in books and real life, Julia pointed out: “Why is it unrealistic for us to expect men to treat women decently? It should not be unrealistic for us to be treated with respect. And hopefully that is something authors are modeling in their books now.”
Authors Against VAW 10: Leanna Renee Hieber
Award-winning, bestselling author Leanna Renee Hieber writes historical fantasy novels for Tor and Kensington Books such as the Strangely Beautiful saga, The Eterna Files trilogy and The Spectral City series. A classically trained actress featured in film and television, Leanna created and tours a one-woman show portraying nineteenth-century designer Clara Driscoll. During her Read For Pixels session, Leanna talking about the importance of harassment policies for conventions and how fiction can teach people empathy, leading to reduced violence against women. She also noted: “I’m certainly passionate about ending violence against women because as a woman, it is an issue that is quite critical to the survival of myself and loved ones around the world and just people in general. We are over half of the population. The fact that there is still such a global issue of VAW, it is frankly unacceptable and so I’m somebody who wants to live a humane life. And I want that for myself and others.”
Authors Against VAW 11: Marshall Ryan Maresca
Marshall Ryan Maresca is the fantasy and science-fiction writer author of the Maradaine Saga – four parallel series set amid the bustling streets and crime-ridden districts of the exotic city called Maradaine. This includes The Thorn of Dentonhill, A Murder of Mages, The Holver Alley Crew and The Way of the Shield. His work has also appeared in Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction and Rick Klaw’s anthology Rayguns Over Texas. He also has had several short plays produced. During his Read For Pixels session, Marshall talked about the role of parenting in helping prevent violence against women. He said: “Train your children to see women as people and to not see violence against them as appropriate. Providing that example (and) showing clearly that you find violence against women and girls unacceptable and instil those values. That’s the core of it.”
Authors Against VAW 12: SJ Rozan
SJ Rozan is the author of eighteen novels and over seventy short stories, and editor of two anthologies. She has won multiple awards, including the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Nero, Macavity; Japanese Maltese Falcon; and the Private Eye Writers of America Life Achievement Award. SJ discussed sexism, misogyny, and violence against women in the Crime and Mystery genre. She also pointed out: “Any woman who doesn’t [support the fight against violence against women] is a suspect in my opinion. Women are half the people on this planet. The fact that violence against women is even still an issue is just appalling. The roots of violence against women go back to the education of girls and boys, and really needs to the fought at every level. There can’t be a free world if women don’t feel free to walk around alone safely.”
Authors Against VAW 13: SL Huang
SL Huang is a Hugo-winning and Amazon-bestselling author who justifies an MIT degree by using it to write eccentric mathematical superhero fiction. The author of the Cas Russell novels from Tor Books as well as the new fantasy Burning Roses, Huang is also a short fiction writer, with stories in Analog, F&SF, Nature, and numerous best-of anthologies. When not writing, Huang is a Hollywood stunt performer and firearms expert. During their Read For Pixels session, SL noted the importance of being mindful when navigating gender stereotypes and portraying issues such as consent: “I try to be thoughtful and making sure we’re not falling into stereotypes or having these portrayals of women that are destructive. Teaching young men in particular and normalising consent and respecting boundaries are all great things that the media can have a big impact on.”
Authors Against VAW 14: Sam Hawke
Sam Hawke is a lawyer by day, Jujitsu instructor by night, and full-time wrangler of two (no longer tiny) ninjas. Her debut epic fantasy City of Lies won the 2018 Aurealis Award (Best Fantasy Novel), the Ditmar Award (Best Novel), and the Norma K Hemming Award (long form) and its sequel, Hollow Empire, was released in December 2020. She lives in Canberra, Australia. When talking about why violence against women has to end, Sam said: “Violence against women, particularly domestic and intimate partner violence, is an absolute scourge. It’s so prevalent and so awful. It’s a horrible black stain on modern society. It’s hopefully something future societies are going to look back and say: why was this acceptable?”
Authors Against VAW 15: Tasha Alexander
Tasha Alexander is the daughter of two philosophy professors, growing up surrounded by books. She was convinced from an early age that she was born in the wrong century and spent much of her childhood under the dining room table pretending it was a covered wagon. Her first novel And Only to Deceive was published in 2005. She is the author of the long-running Lady Emily series as well as the novel Elizabeth: The Golden Age. She is currently in love with the Japanese editions of the Emily books. During her Read For Pixels session, Tasha discussed how pop culture can either help or hinder efforts to end violence against women and girls: “Violence against women is so normalised in so many forms of popular entertainment. There’s so many difficult things that go on in your head if you’re being subjected to that, and you start to believe your abuser. So the more authors can show people a better way, the more you do it on two prongs: you get the men internalising (on how to behave) and you get the women saying ‘I have more agency and I can say that’, and maybe see their situation in a way that gives them some strength to get out of it.”
Authors Against VAW 16: Tori Eldridge
Tori Eldridge is the multi-awards nominated author of The Ninja Daughter, The Ninja’s Blade and The Ninja Betrayed. Her shorter works appear in anthologies and the inaugural reboot of Weird Tales. She’s a Nicholl Fellowship semi-finalist screenwriter and fifth-degree black belt ninja. Tori has performed on Broadway, television, and film. During her Read For Pixels session, Tori expressed her firm belief that authors can help with smashing sexism and violence against women through their writing because books and fiction has an impact on the real world. She said: “Write real people, real women – real, complex, multi-layered, individual women who have agency. Even if they are in a predicament where they are a victim in something, we still have a degree of agency. And we have complex issues. So, you want to help? Write real women.”
- Alaya Dawn Johnson – Courtesy of Alaya Dawn Johnson
- Alisha Rai – Courtesy of Alisha Rai
- Brian McClellan – Courtesy of Brian McClellan
- Brigid Kemmerer – Courtesy of Brigid Kemmerer
- Derek Landy – Courtesy of Derek Landy
- Elizabeth Lim – Courtesy of Elizabeth Lim
- Evan Winter – Courtesy of Evan Winter
- Jennifer Estep – Courtesy of Jennifer Estep
- Julia Quinn – Courtesy of Julia Quinn
- Leanna Renee Hieber – Courtesy of Leanna Renee Hieber
- Marshall Ryan Maresca – Courtesy of Marshall Ryan Maresca
- SJ Rozan – Courtesy of SJ Rozan
- SL Huang – Courtesy of SL Huang
- Sam Hawke – Courtesy of Sam Hawke
- Tasha Alexander – Courtesy of Tasha Alexander
- Tori Eldridge – Courtesy of Tori Eldridge