This book began as a letter Simone wrote to her future self, with a list of ten steps to take to bring herself back from a state of panic, anxiety, depression, and hopelessness. Now it’s a book-length workbook that you can use and customize to suit your own needs. Bring yourself back from the brink with these expert coping skills that you can practice when you feel okay and use any time you need them. With an intro by the one and only Dr. Faith!
Microcosm offers nine paid internships every year, in the spring, fall, and winter. Interns get to work on meaningful projects and learn both practical skills and industry knowledge. Every class of interns, for all their many individual differences, has its own personality. I’d describe our Fall 2019 batch, Micaela, Grace, and Sam, as giving us a run for our money. They’re all three ready to act, learn, and build on what they’ve learned, and so efficient and smart that we need to hustle to stay a step ahead of them.
Fun fall intern fact: two of them were high school yearbook editors, and one went to a yearbook summer camp! That’s legit publishing experience.
Here’s a little more about each of them.
How would you describe yourself?
I am a quietly reliable story and linguistics nerd.
What brings you to Microcosm?
I love books and I want to work in a field that lets me be both creative and analytical.
Where are you from? What do you miss/not miss most?
I’m from West Linn, Oregon and I’m still living there now! I miss all my old friends who live in other parts of the state/country/world. I love being close to my family (and also within walking distance of the library).
What creative or empowering thing do you like to spend your time doing?
I write novels and I also paint and draw mandalas.
What’s your favorite thing to enjoy/watch/read/listen to on TV/the radio/in the world right now?
She/Her, Queer, Feminist, cat ‘n plant lady. I’m a total geek for anything comic/graphic novel related, animated shows/movies (especially ones with gay content), and huge book/movie buff. I like to make friends so we can all be a little less alone in this big spacey thing called life.
What brings you to Microcosm?
I graduated from PSU last year with a BA in English and a minor in Writing and I basically have three goals for myself in professional regards.
1. Be the published poet/author I want to be,
2. Work in the publishing world (specifically indie pub.) and maybe one day open up my own small press geared towards publishing zinesters/poets/playwrights
3. Teach college level writing courses (because I want to be in school forever, I miss it).
So working for Microcosm is basically fulfilling one of those dreams and goals for myself. I have been a long time customer of Microcosm, so it feels really good to be a part of the team and get to take part in such a lovely community of people who are actively creative and motivated to make this world a little more EVERYTHING.
Where are you from? What do you miss/not miss the most?
I’m from all over. I technically was born and raised in southern Oregon for about half of my childhood, but after that my family was relocated just about every year for the remainder of my youth. It was great to see all the new places we lived whether it was in the U.S or out of it, culture and diversity and change became a regular thing, but like everything else it had its cons. On the one hand you’re always the new kind on the block, but one the other hand you’re always the new kid on the block. A chance for reinvention and discovery within the freedoms of no one knows you and you can be whoever you want to me. I’m not sure there’s anything I miss about it in general though, as far as a “home” feeling is concerned. I’ve made a home in my chosen family and they are right here in Portland!
What creative or empowering thing do you like to spend your time doing?
Working on my writings and making it a priority is always empowering. Making sure I’m keeping on top of my never ending to read pile is also a wonderful thing to do and feel.
What’s your favorite thing to enjoy/watch/read/listen to on TV/the radio/in the world right now?
Steven Universe has my heart right now.
What’s your favorite or least favorite thing about Microcosm so far?
It is two answers but they are kind of two fold in the sense that it is the best worst thing. You get thrown into projects head on and are free to just figure it out. I’m used to more guided work. It’s scary but also thrilling.
What do you want to get out of your time here, now that you’ve seen the basics of what we do?
I love how willing and open the people of Microcosm are with giving away projects that mean something. It’s really true, everything is important, there’s no time for busy work. I will leave (or be hired on) with a sense of true understanding into the indie pub. business and community.
Do you have any pets?
Margot and Yolanda (my cats). Two of my exes have them now and we share custody. Gay I know.
Last summer, as I was preparing the Kickstarter project for Bikes Not Rockets, my colleague Jeremy Withers, a professor of bicycle science fiction at Iowa State (sadly, I’m not 100% sure that’s his official job title), sent me an email about what may in fact be my arch-nemesis of books: Car Sinister, a long out-of-print, justifiably obscure 1979 anthology of reprinted sci fi stories from the previous two decades about cars. Every single one is written by a man. And they’re all about men, too! Or as the marketing copy on the back of the book reads, “Man and his machine … Machine and his man.”
“It has no bicycles in it,” Jeremy wrote, “but has some really imaginative depictions of cars, roads, traffic, etc. And as the title suggests, the book takes a pretty dim and dismissive view of the automobile. Most of the stories are 1960s and 1970s SF, with selections by some of the masters of that era (Roger Zelazny, Avram Davidson, Frank Herbert, Harlan Ellison, George R. R. Martin, etc.). Unfortunately, the book is also a proverbial sausage fest: no women writers!”
I expected this review to be a fairly easy mandate—no great nuanced reading would be necessary to find a feminist critique for these stories. And truly, I was not disappointed. Most of the stories in this book contain women as window dressing only. A meter maid, an old lady waving a sign, a girl standing in the crowd. The female characters given larger roles tend to be objects of contempt, attraction, or foils for the male lead’s grandiosity.
The stories that are least critical of cars are the ones steeped in the most toxic masculinity—like Roger Zelazny’s two contributions to the volume, each of which pits a stoical, solo man against against a machine. For instance, in the painfully overwritten “Auto-da-Fé,” women appear only as faceless parts of the crowd cheering on the automotive matador.
But in Zelazny’s other story, “Devil Car,” one of the two main characters is a woman, sort of. This is the very first story in the book, chosen by the volume’s three editors to set the tone and substance of the entire volume. It is the story of a man and his car, whose name is Jenny. Their conversation consists of Jenny nagging him to take care of himself and him snapping at her for it. Later, he apologizes. “‘That’s alright, Sam,’ said the delicate voice. ‘I am programmed to understand you.’”
Jenny is a sentient, state-of-the-art killing machine designed by Sam with the sole purpose of destroying the titular Devil Car. But when the moment comes, she intentionally misfires. She is simply “too emotional” to complete the job. The story ends with her human cargo patting her seat and reassuring her that, despite her faults, she’s “well-equipped” and still desirable.
Processing the experience of reading this story led me down a minor rabbit hole in which I learned that Zelazny is best known for a series in which a bunch of white characters colonize a planet where they lord over the other inhabitants in the guise of Hindu gods.
(See? This review writes itself.)
So maybe I’m feeling conspiratorial, but there is one other story in this volume in which a car is anthropomorphized as female—and it’s the book’s midway point and namesake, Gene Wolfe’s “Car Sinister.” A man takes his sports car into a shop for servicing. But due to a miscommunication, his car gets, um, stud service instead and the car becomes, as the mechanic puts it, “that way.” The man finds his car’s condition greatly inconvenient, expensive, and gross. No human woman appears for most of the story, until a passing mention in the end that after the birth, he drives the new car and gives the old, feminized, one to his wife.
Of course, you don’t need to turn your women characters into objects to strip them of their personhood. In Harry Harrison’s “The Greatest Car in the World,” an automotive engineer travels from Detroit to Italy to drop in uninvited on his childhood hero, a race car driver, now an ailing old man. After bullying his way through the front door, he’s greeted by a girl who asks him why he is intruding in “cold tones unsuited to the velvet warmth of her voice. At any other time, Haroway would have taken a greater interest in this delightful example of female construction, but” … he takes a paragraph to describe her tresses, her bosom, and her lips, and then replies rudely and dismissively. This is pretty standard for the majority of stories in this volume. When women appear, they primarily exist as story devices, coveted but contemptible objects for the male gaze.
I was especially curious to read George R.R. Martin’s entry in this volume. The introduction to his story touts him as “one of sf’s brightest young stars and whose nickname is ‘Railroad.'” This sent me off on an image search for “young George R.R. Martin,” which I discovered many of on the web page he keeps about the conventions he’s been to over the years. It contains lots of photos of him, including this collection (truncated so as to include the text, which speaks a thousand pictures) of himself posing with various ladies who, unlike the people appearing in the other pre-selfie photos on this page, are unnamed:
But much as Mr. Martin seems to appreciate women, his story in this book, “The Exit to San Breta,” detailing a crash with a ghost car, is the only one in the book that contains no women at all; not even as window dressing or a passing aside. The copyright page tells us this story was written in 1971, so I guess that’s before he discovered our existence.
The other still-pretty-famous author represented here is Frank Herbert, whose Dune series tackled gender in big ways that attempted to break free from sexist stereotypes, even if it didn’t always work. Not here, though! His story is called a promisingly feminine “The Mary Celeste Move” but the only female character is secretary who appears briefly. We don’t know her name, but we do learn that she’s a “well-endowed brunette.”
Not all the stories are dehumanizing or dismissive to women. Kenneth Bulmer’s “Station HR972” is an opaquely written description of a day in the life of a futuristic service station on a high-speed (250mph) highway.
I was bemused by this passage on page one: “Libby, the torso technician for whose sake he walked the extra hundred yards for coffee, played it cool, daily less shy, daily more inclined to talk about her own handling of units and less to listen to his accounts of rapid crane manipulations.”
Libby turns out to be a skilled surgeon dedicated to rapidly putting humans back together after the inevitable high speed car crashes. She might be the most (only?) empowered woman in this book. Certainly, she’s the only one with a non-secretarial job.
There are a couple of women in whom we glimpse a more complicated humanity. In H. Chandler Elliott’s cartoonishly colloquial “A Day on Death Highway,” a nuclear family flees a planet with strict automotive safety laws to try out life in a different dimension where the dad can fully indulge his road rage and his belief that no rules should apply to him. The story’s notable because dad’s buffoonery isn’t glorified; the family dysfunction is deftly painted, and while Mom and sister Judy aren’t given a lot of ink, they clearly have their own agency and motives.
(Contrast this with the final story in the book, Harlan Ellison’s “Along the Scenic Route” which depicts in gory detail a road-rage fueled duel in which the driver’s wife cowers in the passenger seat as he escalates a violent encounter to its fatal climax … but she is the one to comfort him after they survive. “You did what you had to,” she croons. Side note, he calls another driver a “beaver-sucker,” an insult now burned into my brain.)
Perhaps best of the lot (in terms of representation… not in writing style) was Robert F. Young’s very long and unpromisingly titled “Romance in a Twenty-first Century Used-Car Lot.” Lone among all these stories, the main character is a woman! At first, we think she’s an anthropomorphized car, but then we discover this is a society where cars must be worn like clothes at all times, even indoors, or you’ll be exiled to a “nudist reservation.” Our heroine Arabella Grille lives in a sexist society, but she’s a complicated person with insecurities and strengths that we get to see played out in the story. Her appearance is equated with her value and her intellectual bent is bemoaned by her abusive family, her image-conscious workplace, and her fascist-consumerist society.
In this story, we see the impact of the behavior and attitudes demonstrated in the other stories. When a car-clad stranger, attracted to Arabella’s new car-dress, bullies her into a date to the drive-in movie, she feels validated. When he tries to assault her (grabbing her headlights and grinding his chassis against hers), she knows everyone will blame her for the crumpled fender that resulted from fighting him off. A 24 hour mechanic helps her fix it, and asks her out more kindly. They fall in love over the course of a few dates, but her attacker finds out and calls the police; they intervene and it turns out that her new love is a secret nudist! After she weathers her family’s reaction, she decides to run away to the nudist reservation, too, where no cars are allowed, and they live happily ever after in a single-family detached home with a swimming pool.
Towards the end of the story, Arabella has a revelation about her would-be rapist. “He hates me because he betrayed to me what he really is, and in his heart, he despises what he really is!” This nugget of wisdom is a contender for the highlight of the book, matched only by the machine-gun wielding old lady pedestrian who manages to take out several passengers in the car that intentionally runs her down in the excerpt from the chronicles of the Car vs Feet wars that is Fritz Leiber’s “X Marks the Pedwalk.”
Car Sinister was easy to critique but hard to read. The stories are fantastical, but reading it today, most of them feel cartoonishly old fashioned, especially in the depictions of characters’ families, work, and expectations. In most of these stories, women are either background noise, helpmeets, coveted objects, or overly emotional obstacles our heroes must overcome. The attitudes towards cars and highways—ranging from worshipful and entitled to skeptical and pessimistic—feel contemporary, perhaps because our current climate crisis resonates with the oil crisis of the late 70s.
But even if the editors couldn’t find any car-oriented stories by the many women writing in that era to reprint, the attitudes toward gender, which are unremarked on in the book’s editorial notes, are what truly date these stories and show why most of these writers are truly no longer relevant. Science fiction authors whose work has held up over the years, like Octavia Butler or Ursula K. Leguin, have stayed readable in part because their capacity for complex cultural imagination transcends the “what if it were like now but the cars did cooler stuff and there were bigger guns” style of worldbuilding reflected in the stories in Car Sinister (and the bulk of their genre). But in part, too, they hold up because they treat all their characters as fully human, whole people. Most of the stories in this book, and in this genre over the years, fail to do this, and as a result they fail all the readers, not just us emotional womanfolk.
If there ever were a time for magical resistance, it’s now!
We believe that every bit of energy we put out into the world is our power—our magic—and what we work to manifest often comes back to us in ways we never expected. Our books and zines are all about owning your power and putting it forth with intention.
This season we’re thinking a lot about the crossroads between social justice, self-care, and magic. The things we believe, and say, and do all create the world around us, and the only way to make positive changes in that world is to put real effort into getting there.
Here is a list of books, zines, stickers, and patches that meet somewhere in that crossroads, each meant to build your personal power and help you change the world.
Books we publish about owning your power:
The Practical Witch’s Almanac 2020: Walking Your Path: Witches come from all walks of life and spiritual beliefs. No matter what your path may be, this almanac has all the goodies you are looking for. Special worksheets and articles are included to help you achieve your goals and discover your inner power. Lessons include divination, herbalism, and using stones, crystals, and minerals. Grow your witchy skills to combat our toxic society no matter your current level of expertise.
No Apocalypse: Punk, Politics, and the Great American Weirdness: This vast collection of work includes writing from various publications such as Punk Planet, HeartattaCk, the Skeleton, and much more. We all agree that the world is going to shit. People are corrupt and then they die, corrupt and then die. War is war, but rock n’ roll is rock n’ roll and punk is punk, so let’s fucking change, let’s do something about it. Let’s use our collaborative efforts, knowledge, spells and let’s get amped, get inspired. This world could use more of our power and our ability to change the world, to make it a better place in space.
Our Bodies, Our Bikes:An homage to the classic Our Bodies, Ourselves, this compilation of essays, resources and advice about gender and bicycling covers a lot of ground—bold meditations on body parts, stories about recovery from illness and injury, biking to the birth center, and loud and proud declarations of physical and emotional freedom. Find a place to settle in the various expressions of gender, age, ability, sexuality, menstruation, abortion, and reproductive rights, and ride along with us to a better future.
Teenage Rebels: Stories of Successful High School Activists From the Little Rock 9 to the Class of Tomorrow: Take a glimpse into the laws, policies, and political struggles that have shaped the lives of American high school students. Through dozens of case studies, recount the strikes, marches, and picket lines of teens all over the U.S. as they demand better textbooks, start recycling programs, and protest the censorship of student newspapers. Fighting and speaking for ourselves can begin at any age and this book is for anyone who has ever challenged the rules, or wanted to, and wished for a better world.
Zines we publish about owning your power:
The Sketchy Life of a Fly: Not afraid to take risks, this zine is for anyone who has ever questioned the world around them and seeks to thwart the patriarchy. Through famous speeches and collaborated illustrations it reminds us that we will not be buried by our burdens!
How to Boycott: From Chick-Fil-A to the Boston Tea Party, boycotts have been an instrumental way to change the world. This zine tells you how to craft effective coalitions. Take the wild ride of history and learn tips about how to be the change, from those who were successful!
Speak Out!: A Zine Exploring Gendered Violence: A collection of art, stories, and articles focused on gendered violence. This zine raises consciousness, gives voice to those who have experienced gendered violence, and works as a platform for education. We are badass witches, don’t mess with us.
Plants Against the Patriarchy: Invoking the Magical Allyship of Plants: Delve into your herbal witchy side and learn the power of our plants and the way they can help deal with our capitalist society’s toxic masculinity-driven culture. It includes simple yet beautiful art to put your mind at peace in trying times. Whether to brighten your day or give you the power to cast the medicinal remedy for those douche-bags down the street, this is the zine for you.
How to Plan for Action: A Protest Prep:After practicing your spells to kick injustice’s ass, take a few minutes to read this zine before getting out there! Get ready to stand your ground by learning how to do so legally and wisely. Learn the basics of safety prep, how to deal with the police, what to expect if you’re arrested, and, most importantly, how to be intentional and respectful as a member of a protesting community.
Books we are proud to distribute that help you witch up your life:
Witches, Sluts, and Feminists: Grab hold of your broom-handles, nasty women! Witches, Sluts, Feminists is a brilliant journey through witchy feminist herstory. Featuring gorgeous illustrations, this book is a celebration of powerful women.
Witchcraft Activism: A Toolkit for Magical Resistance: Give your activism a powerful kick with this book! Learn how to incorporate your witchcraft into your activism, adding much-needed power to your protests while also teaching you to protect yourself from those who would do you harm. Hexing the Patriarchy: This ABCs of witchcraft offers 26 options for tearing down the patriarchy with potions, spells, elixirs and other magic. Learn about essential oils, justice jars and herbalism and more, and learn to harness their power. This book is perfect for any feminist witch who is out to make a difference in the world!
Slingshot planners: A spiral-bound calendar and day planner. It includes space to write your contact information, a contact list of radical leftist groups around the globe, menstrual calendar, and extra note pages to record all your important revolutionary ideas. It also lists popular activist and alternative cultural holidays. Another highlight is a guide to saying key phrases in multiple languages. As if this weren’t enough, it also serves as a fund-raiser for the Berkeley radical newspaper, SLINGSHOT. Get yourself organized, make moves, take action and look cool doing it.
Get ready to dive deep with this workbook companion to Dr. Faith’s Unfuck Your Boundaries. Examine your personal history with boundaries and consent, figure out which relationships in your life need attention, do a “wheel of consent” exercise, and †
Dr. Faith takes on the vital topics of boundaries and consent, offering her trademark combination of brain science, trauma-informed therapy, and funny, no-BS approach. How do you maintain a respectful, trusting, non-harmful relationships with anyone, be they an intimate partner or the person in line in front of you at the grocery store? What are relationship red flags you need to be aware of? How do you make sure you’re respecting the boundaries of everyone around you, and make amends when you haven’t? All these and many more questions answered in this necessary book.
Eloisa Aquino’s gorgeous illustrated homage to people who’ve defined gender stereotypes around the world, from a century ago to today. Find some new queer heroes and reflect on their lives and accomplishments in these colorful pages.
25% of adults in the US don’t have a single person they feel they can confide in. Gina Handley Schmitt gently walks you through the ins and outs of making and maintaining close friendships as an adult. Includes scripts and instructions for identifying potential friends, asking them to hang out, setting healthy boundaries, staying in touch when life pulls you in different directions, and, when need be, ending friendships.