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 Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird to to 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, Tumblr, and other social media channels.
Since then, the campaign has gone from strength to strength. To date, 60 award-winning bestselling authors from genres as diverse as Science Fiction, Fantasy, Crime, Thrillers, and Horror have participated in various Read For Pixels campaigns and initiatives, raising more than $33,500 for the cause to end VAW to date.
In this article, we honour 16 of this year’s bestselling authors from our 2015 and 2016 Read For Pixels campaigns. They hail from genres as diverse as Comics, Horror, Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult, Urban 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 Anushia Kandasivam
Alexandra Sokoloff is the bestselling, Thriller Award-winning and Bram Stoker and Anthony Award-nominated author of eleven supernatural, paranormal and crime thrillers. When asked why she supports the cause to end violence against women, she said, “Violence against women is an atrocity that no civilised person should allow to happen. Ending it should be everybody’s cause. Any deep inequality like that…should be ended. The people who don’t see anything wrong happening [have] an amazing blindness that I don’t understand.”
Christopher Golden is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of such novels as Snowblind, Tin Men, Dead Ringers, and Of Saints and Shadows. His original novels have been published in more than fifteen languages in countries around the world. Christopher has been speaking out against harassment at conventions and when asked how geek culture can be more welcoming towards women and girls during his Google Hangout, he said: “I think that it’s a combination of elements. I absolutely think the situation…has been dramatically improving over the last few years. The reason [for this] as far as I can tell is the voices – creators and fans standing up and speaking against the ridiculous misogyny. The trolls will always be there and the problem [with them] is that their voices are so loud. We need to have loud voices in response to them and band together, whether you’re online or at a convention. I posted a blog where I talked about wanting to be a wingman – if I’m at a convention and you’re there and you feel unsafe in some way and need somebody to get you through a circumstance, I’ll be happy to do that. I encourage fans and creators at conventions to make the same kind of statements publicly, to get out there and…help create a safe space. These are the ways we can make a difference so that the trolls’ voices aren’t quite so loud.”
Claudia Gray has worked as a lawyer, a journalist, a disc jockey, and an extremely poor waitress. Claudia is super excited to be the author of a new Star Wars novel Bloodline: New Republic, which came out in March 2016. When asked about speaking out against VAW, she said: “You have to be open to finding those opportunities and not be afraid to speak out. There have been so many writers who have helped bring this topic forward and helped young readers recognise this for what it is. There are so many disguises hung over this kind of abuse, to make it look like something other than it is. I think you have to work honestly and look for the opportunities to pitch in where you can, whether it’s donating time or books, or talking to readers in different contexts about this. I think that’s where you have to begin.”
Colleen Gleason is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author who has written everything from vampire hunters and dystopian romance to steampunk, historical romance and mysteries with a supernatural flair. All of Colleen’s books feature strong heroines experiencing fast-paced adventures, danger, mystery, and of course, romance. Speaking about how authors can kick off social change to end VAW, she said: “Whenever we have a forum to talk about this, and authors do have a platform through our stories or social media, we should. Authors can do that by writing characters who show respect towards women whether they agree with them [or not]. I think it’s important to show that you can disagree with someone or even not like someone but still have respect for them. I think that can come through all our platforms. Respecting people for who they are and not asserting control over everyone. We can also show characters without respect and then how other men or women are able to combat that character who is disrespectful or violent. If there is violence or disrespect, both genders need to respond to it.”
Dan Wells is the author of the Partials series and the John Cleaver series. His newest book Bluescreen is the first book in the Mirador series. He has been nominated for a Hugo, a Whitney, and a Campbell Award and has won two Parsec Awards for his podcast Writing Excuses, as well as a Hugo award for his writing. Dan strongly believes that men and boys must be engaged to end VAW. When asked why he supports The Pixel Project and the cause to end VAW, he said: “It feels like the most obvious thing. VAW is so common and accepted that it’s almost become white noise in our culture. We tend to not notice it. I support the Read For Pixels campaign in particular because I love the Celebrity Male Role Model aspect of it. If there’s a segment of the population that is sick and tired of listening to women tell them to stop beating women, if the only way to reach them is to get men to do it, then let’s do it. We need to talk to men directly. Yes, women need to be aware [of danger and how to protect themselves] and where they can turn when problems arise, but first and foremost VAW is a male problem, not a female problem, because it is men who are doing it. We as men need to stand up and…be role models for other men and boys. I love the Read For Pixels campaign precisely because it has such a strong focus on teaching men from childhood how to…be good and make the world a better place.”
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Darynda Jones has won numerous awards for her work including a prestigious RITA, a Golden Heart, and a Daphne du Maurier. When asked why she supports the cause to end VAW, she said: “It’s a basic human right that women should not ever have to live in fear or worry that they are going to get hit or live through the day. Women should never be controlled. Violence is not just physical, it’s just as much mental and verbal. It’s just not OK. Women need to know that there’s help out there and they can change things and they have power. They are powerful and strong and do have power to change things. Until they seek that help and figure out…how to break that cycle, it’s important to know there is help out there.”
Gregg Hurwitz is the New York Times bestselling author of 15 thrillers, most recently, Orphan X. His novels have been shortlisted for numerous literary awards, graced top ten lists, and have been translated into 27 languages. He is also a New York Times Bestselling comic book writer, having penned stories for Marvel (Wolverine, Punisher) and DC (Batman, Penguin). Gregg is turning character stereotypes on their heads by writing traditionally hypermasculine characters, such as assassins and spies, as respectful and empathetic people. Speaking about how a popular work of fiction can push forward the conversation on male violence against women in a constructive manner, he said: “One of the things I’m always very careful to do is to write women and their circumstances that are well rounded. It’s a fine line between writing a scene where a woman is being molested and your hero swings in and white knights his way through and where the women aren’t fully formed characters but merely there as a foil for the male character. One of the things important to me in this conversation is to have characters who are really fully formed. One of the ways you move forward any genre is making sure there are no straw women, that you’re not creating character that only serve as a foil and contrast to the male characters but are fully formed. And the more powerful the women are around a man, I feel it reflects better on the man. Both genders need to move apiece if you want to start to address these issues.”
Keri Arthur, the New York Times bestselling author of the Outcast, Souls of Fire, Dark Angels, and Riley Jenson Guardian series, has written more than thirty books. She’s been nominated in the Best Contemporary Paranormal category of the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Awards and has won a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for urban fantasy. When talking about realistic portrayals of assault or abuse in fiction, and what authors can do to bring more awareness to VAW, she said: “I think you can’t gloss over it, you’ve got to address the consequences to the characters to make it more realistic, and have characters seeking help through friends or family or anything else. [Authors can help] by supporting organisations like The Pixel Project and speaking out against VAW – talking about it. Telling the right stories and having strong female characters who won’t back down and stand strong is very important too.”
Lauren Beukes is the author of The Shining Girls, Broken Monsters, Zoo City and Moxyland. Her books have been translated into 26 languages, won major literary, horror, science fiction and mystery prizes and been optioned for film adaptations. She also writes comics, screenplays and journalism. Lauren believes that though there are many keyboard warriors out there, supporters of the cause to end VAW should put their money (or time) where their mouth is. Speaking about how it takes the efforts of the whole community to change prevailing attitudes towards women, she said: “The problem is this idea that women are less than human – women are belongings, sex objects, subservient to men, that we’re not people. That the real danger and that where you have to put the education in. It starts with raising your voices…against it all the time. You need to intervene. It’s about stepping up if you think someone is being harassed, about calling someone out on it. […] We need to be active and engaged in our own lives, find an organisation that works in these areas and volunteer or donate.”
Laurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of 22 novels and other works, including the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes stories (from The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, named one of the 20th century’s best crime novels by the IMBA, to 2015’s Dreaming Spies). She has won or been nominated for an alphabet of prizes from Agatha to Wolfe, been chosen as guest of honour at several crime conventions, and is probably the only writer to have both an Edgar and an honorary doctorate in theology. On the role men can play in stopping VAW and who she counts as a role model in this context, she said: “Anyone who says ‘no’ [is a role model]. There’s a lot of talk on college campuses in the US about the problems of getting young men to not feel that they’re betraying their maleness by standing up for someone. If you have someone whose sense of self is enough that they say to a male friend of theirs ‘No, that’s not right’, that I think is the kind of deep everyday heroic act that I’d really like to see. There’s a fair amount of it around but I think we need to have each young man out there see that this is what they should be striving towards.”
Max Gladstone has been nominated twice for the John W Campbell Best New Writer Award. Tor Books published Four Roads Cross, the fifth novel in Max’s Craft Sequence (preceded by Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, Full Fathom Five, and Last First Snow) in July 2016. Max’s game Choice Of The Deathless was nominated for a 2013 XYZZY Award, and his short fiction has appeared on Tor.com and in Uncanny Magazine. On the reason he supports the cause to end VAW, he said: “I just think violence against women is terribly wrong. We live in a culture that’s profoundly and systematically misogynistic […] You need to understand the way your culture fits together and then you need to make it better. It’s your responsibility to not just continue blindly on the path that has been set for you but to look around and try to fix things so that the next person has a little bit better of a place to try to fix than you inherited. That’s our responsibility and that’s why I support the cause of ending violence against women.”
Meg Cabot’s books for both adults and tweens/teens have included multiple #1 New York Times bestsellers, selling well over 25 million copies worldwide. Her Princess Diaries series has been published in more than 38 countries and was made into two hit films by Disney. Meg’s numerous other award-winning books include the Mediator series and the Heather Wells mystery series. When asked why she supports The Pixel Project and the cause to end VAW, she said: The Pixel Project has been really awesome. I’ve been aware of the campaign for a long time and I really wanted to hang out with you. I think ending violence against women is a really important cause to support because it is unfortunately so common and people don’t speak out against it enough. It’s one of those secret things that goes on in every neighbourhood, in every income bracket in every part of the world. I think if we can talk about it more it’s something we can all help combat.
Nalini Singh is the New York Times bestselling author of the Psy-Changeling, Guild Hunter and Rock Kiss series. Nalini believes that talking about VAW is key to awareness and change, saying: “It’s important to talk about it because it’s something that people get uncomfortable about and so it doesn’t get talked about. At the same time, the people who need the help are some of the most vulnerable people so those of us who can talk about it should talk about it so that it’s visible and people feel that they can approach someone and say they need help. As a writer, I can talk about it, discuss it, I can help in that way. It’s my small contribution to The Pixel Project as well to help fundraise and help the discussion keep going.”
Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series, including The Crippled God, Dust of Dreams, Toll the Hounds and Reaper’s Gale, have met with widespread international acclaim and established him as a major voice in the world of fantasy fiction. On what parents and influential male role models can do to prevent VAW in future generations and get boys involved, he said: “I think to remove the stigma of empathy. A lot of what is presented as the male approach to living in the world is quite confrontational these days and involves a lot of implicit aggression. My argument to anyone in almost any circumstance is ‘What would it be like standing in that person’s shoes?’ As a writer, that’s part of my job – to stand in the shoes of people in very different circumstances and then find some element of commonality that invites the reader to identify with that person’s point of view. I’ve often described the Malazan series as a three million word plea for compassion, and that’s what the series is about. I think that level of empathy offered would have an effect on how people treat each other regardless of gender. But now we seem to be fighting a battle against hostility towards that notion of empathy.”
Based in Syracuse NY, Tamora Pierce is the New York Times bestselling writer of over 28 books of fantasy, most with girl heroes. She has also published short stories, articles, and comics. The first book of her next Tortall series will be published in Summer of 2017, followed by The Spy’s Guide to Tortall: From the Desk of George Cooper in fall of the same year. During her Google Hangout, Tamora read an excerpt from her book Page that centered around an incident of assault and bystander intervention, and she also recounted an incident where she witnessed a man assaulting his wife on a busy public street and joined a group of women to help stop the assault and call the police. Speaking about what people can do about bystander intervention and reporting, she said: “Call for help. You can get more with a group of people than just one person by yourself. At the very least, you can call out ‘Stop that, let her alone.’ If he thinks more people are watching, he may break off. There’s always a risk, and if you feel too afraid, don’t beat yourself up for that. Not all of us are heroes; I certainly am not. You have to measure your fears and your strength. Report what you can always, and take notes of what the man and woman looked like. Do what you can and don’t blame yourself.”
Victoria (V.E.) Schwab is the author of eleven novels, including the #1 New York Times bestselling This Savage Song, the New York Times & USA Today bestselling A Darker Shade of Magic series, Vicious, and The Archived. Speaking about powerful women in fiction, how they are portrayed and what we can learn from them, she said: “Powerful women take many forms. Take Agent Carter and Miss Fisher – these are two extraordinarily powerful women with immense agency who are also hyperfeminine. I think we went through this period where to be powerful you have to be masculine and I don’t think masculinity is a key for female empowerment. I think it’s agency – you know what you want and you’re willing to take action to get it. I think it’s active over reactive – you don’t wait for somebody else to come up with the plan. It’s never a lack of fear…but rather a refusal to let fear stop them. I think that’s what makes a strong character.“