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 for raising awareness, 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 Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird 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 within communities. And in the age of geek culture and social media, bestselling authors wield influence beyond their books as they are able to directly communicate with 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 200 award-winning bestselling authors from a whole range of genres, including Science Fiction, Fantasy, Crime, Thrillers, Mystery, Romance and Horror, have participated in various Read For Pixels campaigns and initiatives, raising over $100,000 for the cause to end VAW to date.
In this article, we honour 16 award-winning bestselling authors from our 2022 Read For Pixels campaigns. They hail from genres as diverse as Horror, Romance, Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Fantasy and Science Fiction. Some are international bestsellers 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 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 interview transcriptions by Anushia Kandasivam, Crystal Smith, Juliana Spink Mills, Melissa Ruth Arul, Tan Shiow Chin, and Vani Bhardwaj.
Inspired to support The Pixel Project’s anti-violence against women work? Make a donation to us today OR buy our Shirley Jackson Award-nominated 1st charity anthology, Giving The Devil His Due. All donations and net proceeds from book and audiobook sales go towards supporting our campaigns, programmes, and initiatives.
Author Against VAW 1: Adiba Jaigirdar
Adiba Jaigirdar is the critically-acclaimed and bestselling author of The Henna Wars and Hani & Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating. A Bangladeshi/Irish writer and teacher, she has an MA in Postcolonial Studies from the University of Kent, England and a BA in English and History from UCD, Ireland. All of her writing is aided by tea and a healthy dose of Janelle Monáe and Hayley Kiyoko. When not writing, she is probably ranting about the ills of colonialism, playing video games, or expanding her overflowing lipstick collection. When talking about how authors can contribute to efforts to stop violence against women, she said: “I think it’s really about authors gaining awareness of what violence against women, what toxic and abusive relationships look like and actively working towards writing books that set healthy boundaries for the teens that are reading them.”
Authors Against VAW 2: Alan Baxter
Alan Baxter is a multi-award-winning author of horror, supernatural thrillers, and dark fantasy. He’s also a martial arts expert, a whisky-soaked swear monkey, and dog lover. He creates dark, weird stories among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia. When talking about sexism, misogyny, and violence against women during his Read For Pixels session, Alan pointed out that “We need more men to call out the other men who are the ones gatekeeping and making the women feel unwelcome. This is another example of ‘it’s not a women’s problem’. It’s a men’s problem and it’s up to the men to fix the problem.” He also noted that authors can help stop violence against women by “[setting] a better example in how we interact, the stories that we write. The world is a better place when there is less meanness and hatred and more inclusion and equality. It’s generally better for everybody.”
Authors Against VAW 3: Alastair Reynolds
Alastair Reynolds was born in Barry, South Wales, in 1966. He studied at Newcastle and St. Andrews Universities and has a Ph.D. in astronomy. He stopped working as an astrophysicist for the European Space Agency to become a full-time writer. Revelation Space and Pushing Ice were shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award; Revelation Space, Absolution Gap, Diamond Dogs, and Century Rain were shortlisted for the British Science Fiction Award, and Chasm City won the British Science Fiction Award. During his Read For Pixels session, Alastair talked about why having open conversations about violence against women is important: “One can just hope that by having these discussions and conversations that we get the word out a little bit and people start thinking, moderating their behaviour a little bit. And if writers like myself can just pop up and do a reading and just say we support the initiatives of this project, individually it’s not a huge thing but maybe, collectively, it’s just enough to make a little bit of difference over a period of time.”
Authors Against VAW 4: Anne Bishop
New York Times bestselling author Anne Bishop is a winner of the William L. Crawford Memorial Fantasy Award, presented by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, for The Black Jewels Trilogy. She is also the author of the Ephemera series, the Tir Alainn trilogy, the Novels of the Others, and the World of the Others novels—including Wild Country and Lake Silence. She lives in upstate New York. During her Read For Pixels session, she talked about the urgency of stopping violence against women: “I am a woman. And we are all at risk if we don’t pay attention, don’t try and make things change. I’ve heard too many survivors; I’ve heard too many people who have been assaulted one way or the other. We need to try and change that.” She also pointed out that authors can and should “write stories that include strong men that respect women. That is one of the ways that can help. If you show the potential of strong men who can be strong and not be brutal, other people can look at that and say yeah, I can do that too. And that’s what we are looking for. For all of us to be better.”
Authors Against VAW 5: Carol Goodman
Carol Goodman is the New York Times Bestselling author of twenty-four novels and winner of the Hammett Prize and two-time winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family and teaches literature and writing at The New School and SUNY New Paltz. Her latest novel is The Stranger Behind You. During her Read For Pixels session, Carol Goodman talked about the impact of her mother’s experience as a sexual assault survivor on her writing and said: “I support stopping violence against women because it does exist and it’s something we have to really challenge in our society […] I worked for three years at a hotline and […] one of the things I would hear so often is a woman saying, ‘I never thought this would happen to me….’ We should be aware that it is happening. We should be open to hearing it and then responding and helping and stopping it. I think anytime, when something stays hidden, then we can’t stop it, so bringing it to light and then demonstrating the ways that we can help stop it and help women in these situations who need to leave a violent or abusive situation.”
Authors Against VAW 6: Daniel H. Wilson
Daniel H. Wilson is a Cherokee citizen and author of the New York Times bestselling Robopocalypse and its sequel Robogenesis, as well as The Andromeda Evolution, The Clockwork Dynasty, and Amped. He earned a PhD in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as master’s degrees in Machine Learning and Robotics. Wilson lives in Portland, Oregon. During his Read For Pixels session, Daniel talked about what artists and creators can do to help stop violence against women: “Violence against women is wrong, and as people who are creating media that goes out there and stories that are invoked in people’s heads, it’s important to start there. The stories we tell in our culture reflect our values, and I think it’s great to have people that are creating movies, books, TV, everything out there, just be aware of this and be able to contribute their voice to the cause if they can.”
Authors Against VAW 7: Eugen Bacon
Eugen Bacon, MA, MSc, PhD, is African Australian, a computer graduate mentally re-engineered into creative writing. Her novella Ivory’s Story was shortlisted in the 2020 British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards. Her work has won, been shortlisted, longlisted or commended in national and international awards, including the Horror Writers Association Diversity Grant, Australian Shadows Awards, Ditmar Awards and Nommo Awards for Speculative Fiction by Africans. Bacon’s work has appeared in literary and speculative fiction publications worldwide, including BSFA, Fantasy Magazine, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Bloomsbury and The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction. When speaking about how stories can become a tool for helping stop violence against women, she said: “The more we write about [violence against women], the more we raise that awareness. I think that really helps. We need to capture some of the stories. And that’s why, you say sometimes you depict the violence and violent aspects in my stories, because that’s the best way that I can reflect it, the best way that I can reflect the pain or the anger, the outrage that I feel about it, to put it in my writing.”
Authors Against VAW 8: Jeffe Kennedy
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include novels, non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction. She has won the prestigious RITA® Award from Romance Writers of America (RWA), has been a finalist twice, been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). When asked why she supports stopping violence against women, Jeffe said: “There’s no reason why there should be the kind of violence against women and girls that we see in our culture. […] I think that by writing different kinds of worlds by writing both male and female characters who… don’t automatically default to this idea of that women must endure simply because they’re female that I think that’s how we start to change ideas and attitudes.”
Author Against VAW 9: Jenn Lyons
Jenn Lyons was a graphic artist and illustrator for 20 years before working as a video game producer on projects ranging from indie and slot-machine games to AAA titles for EA. In 2020, she was nominated for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Her five-book Chorus of Dragons fantasy series began with The Ruin of Kings. During her Read For Pixels session, Jenn talked about why she supports ending violence against women: “I grew up in a household that was abusive. I suffered it myself. I had to deal with my mother being subjected to it. […] And that is a haunting thing. Myself and all my siblings will always be dealing with that. There is no getting over it, just coping. Why would I want anyone else to go through that?” She also talked about the misogyny and violence of male geeks towards women and girls, saying: “We need to make it very fundamentally clear that this kind of behavior isn’t going to be tolerated. You have a whole community of people that want to think that this is their thing, and that they don’t have to share. Sorry guys, it’s not true. Women—we’ve always been here.”
Authors Against VAW 10: Juliet Marillier
Juliet Marillier is an award-winning writer of historical fantasy. She was born in Aotearoa (New Zealand), and now lives in Australia. Among her works are the Sevenwaters, Blackthorn & Grim, and Warrior Bards series. Part hedge druid, part crazy dog lady, Juliet loves mythology, folklore and strong, complex characters. During her Read For Pixels session, Juliet talked very frankly about why men need to step up to join the battle to end violence against women and girls: “I’ve observed some terrible things happening to women all over the world. Women being subjugated, hurt and manipulated via threats to their children, and terrible things I can’t even talk about. I think women and men need to stand up together and keep working hard to try to reduce the level of violence and ideally to eliminate violence against women and children. Violence against women is not just an issue for women but an issue for men as well. Men need to get involved in campaigns like this because often men will listen to other men instead of us women telling them they’re doing the wrong thing.
Authors Against VAW 11: Namina Forna
Namina Forna is a young adult novelist based in Los Angeles, and the author of the epic fantasy YA novel The Gilded Ones. Originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa, she moved to the US when she was nine and has been traveling back and forth ever since. Namina loves building fantastical worlds and telling stories with fierce female leads. During her Read For Pixels session where she talked extensively about the intersections that need attention when addressing the intertwined issues of sexism, misogyny, toxic masculinity, and violence against women, Namina pointed out: “If we’re trying to create a better world for women, one of the ways we have to do it is we have to create a better world for men, specifically little boys. Because it’s that path from extracting their emotions that we get men who are misogynists. So we have to keep little boys’ hearts open and keep encouraging them and feeding that emotion as they get older so that they can connect.”
Authors Against VAW 12: Nghi Vo
Nghi Vo is the author of the novels Siren Queen and The Chosen and the Beautiful, as well as the acclaimed novellas When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain and The Empress of Salt and Fortune, a Locus and Ignyte Award finalist and the winner of the Crawford Award and the Hugo Award. Born in Illinois, she now lives on the shores of Lake Michigan. Her next novella in the Singing Hills Cycle, Into the Riverlands will be out this fall from Tor.com Publishing. During her Read For Pixels session, she talked about how authors (and everyone else) can help stop violence against women, saying: “Understand what it looks like. Understand the symptoms. Call it out when they see it, and realise that if they think something is wrong, there are a lot of people around them that feel the same way.” She also talked frankly about surviving trauma and violence, pointing out that “there’s no one way to deal with violence, there’s no one way to deal with trauma, and the big priority is always going to be survive first. Nothing happens unless you survive, and there is no shame for how you survive.”
Authors Against VAW 13: Romina Garber
Romina Garber is a New York Times and international bestselling author whose books include Lobizona & the Zodiac series. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and raised in Miami, Florida, Romina landed her first writing gig as a teen — College She Wrote, a weekly Sunday column for the Miami Herald that was later picked up for national syndication — and she hasn’t stopped writing since. She is a graduate of Harvard College. During her Read For Pixels session, Romina said: “Violence against women is one of the things that makes my blood boil the most. And you know in Argentina, there are a lot of issues with femicido – femicide. As far as what we can do to get more involved is more things like these (Read for Pixels) and writing more stories that are representative and reflective of what really goes on – giving voice to these women. One of the things that drove me the most to write this (Lobizona) was I remember hearing about women in some of these detention centres being forcibly sterilised by male doctors and that was something that… it was really hard to fathom. And so a lot of these things I think we need to shed light on, and not let men get away with this stuff.”
Authors Against VAW 14: Sujata Massey
Sujata Massey is an internationally best-selling mystery and historical fiction writer. Her most recent novel, The Bombay Prince, features Perveen Mistry, a woman lawyer working for justice for women in 1920s India. Sujata’s mystery fiction has won the Agatha, Macavity, Mary Higgins Clark and Bruce M. Alexander awards and is published in 20 countries. When talking about why she supports stopping violence against women, Sujata said: ‘There’s a lot of shame about it, so the more women know […] that there are hands out there to help, the more they know their lives can change.” She also discussed what authors can do to aid efforts to end violence against women: “In real life connecting with younger people is a good start. […] If we can do writing workshops, if we can mentor these girls to get through that difficult period and start to think about themselves as more than a collection of body parts that could potentially be good.
Author Against VAW 15: Talia Hibbert
Talia Hibbert is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author who lives in a bedroom full of books. Supposedly, there is a world beyond that room, but she has yet to drum up enough interest to investigate. She writes steamy, diverse romance because she believes that people of marginalised identities need honest and positive representation. During her Read For Pixels session, Talia 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: “I believe and I know first-hand the world is a better place […] when women can breathe freely and exist as people and doing what they want to do and need to do without this constant fear or threat of violence and so that I believe that the only way for the planet to move forward is for violence against women to end.”
Authors Against VAW 16: Tim Lebbon
Tim Lebbon is a New York Times-bestselling writer from South Wales. He’s had over forty novels published to date, as well as hundreds of novellas and short stories. His latest novels are the eco-horrors Eden and The Last Storm. He has won several awards, and his work has been adapted for the big screen. In his Read For Pixels session, he spoke about addressing misogyny and VAW in Horror, saying: “I think you challenge toxic masculinity and stuff like that by confronting it and not ignoring it. So, sometimes, uncomfortable though it is, you do have to write about women being subject to such abuse as that… I think any writer has a real responsibility to confront social issues if they are choosing to tell stories in that realm.” He also said: “If you’re a published writer like me […] you do also have a responsibility to make sure what you’re putting out there is sensitive and responsible. You do want to be making sure you’re not sending wrong messages to readers who could be influenced by what they read in your books.”
- Adiba Jaigirdar – Courtesy of Adiba Jaigirdar
- Alan Baxter – Courtesy of Alan Baxter
- Alastair Reynolds – Courtesy of Orbit Books (USA); Portrait by Barbara Bello
- Anne Bishop – Courtesy of DAW Books; Portrait by Blair Boone
- Carol Goodman – Courtesy of Carol Goodman; Portrait by Franco Vogt Photography
- Daniel H. Wilson – Courtesy of Daniel H. Wilson
- Eugen Bacon – Courtesy of Eugen Bacon
- Jeffe Kennedy – Courtesy of Jeffe Kennedy; Portrait by Pritschow Photography
- Jenn Lyons – Courtesy of Tor Books (USA)
- Juliet Marillier – Courtesy of Juliet Marillier; Portrait by Mike Beltrametti Photography
- Namina Forna – Courtesy of Random House Children’s Books; Portrait by Melanie D’Andrea
- Nghi Vo – Courtesy of Tor Books (USA); Portrait by CJ Foeckler
- Romina Garber – Courtesy of Romina Garber; Portrait by Drew Bordeaux
- Sujata Massey – Courtesy of Sujata Massey
- Talia Hibbert – Courtesy of Talia Hibbert; Portrait by Ed Chappell
- Tim Lebbon – Courtesy of Tim Lebbon