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 in raising awareness, and promoting and prompting advocacy against VAW, doing much to break the silence.
From Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird 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 with their readers and fans via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social media channels.
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. Since then, the campaign has gone from strength to strength. To date, over 100 award-winning bestselling authors from genres as diverse as Science Fiction, Fantasy, Crime, Thrillers, Mystery, Chick Lit, Romance and Horror have participated in various Read For Pixels campaigns and initiatives, raising more than $58,000 for the cause to end VAW to date.
In this article, we honour 16 award-winning bestselling authors from our 2017 and 2018 Read For Pixels campaigns. They hail from many genres, including Comics, Horror, Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult, Urban Fantasy and Science Fiction. Many of them are global celebrities with strong fan followings, all are well respected in their countries or genres. Some 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 Google Hangout transcriptions by Bernardo Rosa Rodriguez, Denishia Rajendran, and Melissa Ruth Arul.
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: Alafair Burke
Alafair Burke is the New York Times bestselling author of eleven novels, including the standalone thrillers The Ex, Long Gone and If You Were Here, and the Ellie Hatcher series: All Day and a Night, Never Tell, 212, Angel’s Tip, and Dead Connection. She is also the co-author of the Under Suspicion series with Mary Higgins Clark. A former prosecutor, she is now a professor of criminal law and lives in Manhattan. When talking about the failure of the justice system to effectively address VAW, she said: “I have very conflicted ideas about this because what I want to say is that the system needs to listen more. Women know when they are in danger. The system should listen to them when they say ‘for you to prosecute this case is going to put me in danger or for me to get a restraining order is going to make things worse’. It’s an odd analogy to make but sometimes you know the way to get your job done is to smile and keep your head down. And sometimes somebody knows if ‘I get a restraining order or I sign that complaint, it’s going to be worse’ and the system needs to take that into account. The problem is when the system used to take that into account, women would get pressured not to prosecute and to not get a restraining order and the police would not respond and they would just treat it as a purely private matter.”
Authors Against VAW 2: Ann Aguirre
Ann Aguirre is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author; before she began writing full time, she was a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, and a saviour of stray kittens. She lives in sunny Mexico with her husband, children, and various pets. She writes all kinds of genre fiction for adults and teens. Ann is very outspoken about ending VAW and when talking about the role of parents in helping get rid of toxic masculinity and male violence, she said: “I think the most important thing is shifting the focus of rape culture because up till now it’s been teaching girls how to avoid getting raped and that is so backward. I mean when you think about it, you’re telling your ten-year-old that if anyone touches you inappropriately this is what you should do and don’t be afraid […] But really we should be having conversations with our sons and telling them that no matter how pretty you think she is, you absolutely do not have the right to touch her without permission. And you do not have the right to get angry if she doesn’t like you or she doesn’t respond when you flirt with her. What we need to be doing is educating our boys so as to eradicate the cult of toxic masculinity. I think it is terrible that little girls grow up in fear and boys are almost given a free pass.”
Authors Against VAW 3: Beth Cato
Nebula-nominated Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger duology and the new Blood of Earth trilogy from Harper Voyager. Her newest novel is Call of Fire. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband and son. When Beth joined the Read For Pixels campaign in 2018, she said: “I support The Pixel Project because this is a very personal topic. I’m a woman. I’m friends with many other women and I hate that we are still at a point where this still exists. I read many historical books as part of my research and I think “oh my goodness 100 years ago why did we treat people like that?” and think “at least 100 years have passed and we’ve evolved past that”. And then I go on Twitter and go “things haven’t changed”. Women are still abused and constrained. And it needs to stop. As an author I feel the responsibility to be part of that change and to write about women who are strong, and not in the stereotypical way.”
Authors Against VAW 4: Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson’s novels include the Mistborn books, The Stormlight Archive — which includes his most recent instant bestseller Oathbringer — The Rithmatist and Steelheart, among others. He completed the final volumes of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and is published in 35 languages. Brandon also teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University. Brandon had a lot to say about VAW and teaching boys and young men to respect women. When chatting about the latter, he pointed out: “When someone expresses their opinion and their emotions and the experience they’ve had, your response is not to say “no”. You can say “well my experience has been this” and that furthers the conversation. But to say “no, you’re wrong about your own experience”? I think that this is something that we all as a culture need to start teaching people to pay attention to.” He also unequivocally had this to say about using VAW as a trope in writing: “Using VAW specifically because they are women as a main plot in your stories is not just creating bad stereotypes, it is oftentimes lazy writing.”
Author Against VAW 5: Carrie Vaughn
Carrie Vaughn is the New York Time Bestselling author of more than twenty novels and over eighty short stories. She’s best known for the Kitty Norville urban fantasy series about a werewolf who hosts a talk radio advice show for supernatural beings — the series includes fourteen novels and a collection of short stories — and the superhero novels in the Golden Age saga. She has been nominated for a Hugo Award, various RT Reviewer Choice Awards — winning for Best First Mystery for Kitty and The Midnight Hour — and won the 2011 WSFA Small Press award for best short story for Amaryllis. Carrie joined the Read For Pixels campaign in March 2018 to speak out about violence against women. She said: “I think so much of the issue is raising awareness. If people don’t know that the issue is there, it’s an easy topic to ignore. It’s easy to think that we’ve already overcome this and it’s not our problem. [We can change things by] talking about it and raising awareness that this is a thing that happens and that this is something that we need to change… and providing tools ford how to stop it, and specially how to prevent it, I think that’s going to be the thing as well.”
Authors Against VAW 6: Dana Cameron
Whether writing SF/F/H, noir, historical fiction, thriller, or traditional mystery, Dana Cameron draws from her expertise in archaeology. Her work has won multiple Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Awards and earned an Edgar Award nomination. Her Emma Fielding mysteries was optioned by Muse Entertainment; Site Unseen debuted in 2017 (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel). When chatting with The Pixel Project about stopping violence against women, Dana said: “Even when violence against women is not legal or not upheld by society and religious practices, it can still happen and it’s often hidden. And I think that the more we speak out about it, as women, as writers, as creative people, the more we can expose it. Because when women thrive, families do better and when families do better, the communities are stronger. And it’s such a simple mathematical thing. If you’re able to curtail and eventually stop violence against women, it’s going to make the whole world better, it’s going to make the communities better and it’s just going to feed off from that. By using the voices we have, as writers, as public people, to bring it to people’s attention, that’s the best way we have to start the conversation that will change things.”
Authors Against VAW 7: David D. Levine
David D. Levine is the author of Andre Norton Award winning novel Arabella of Mars (Tor 2016), sequel Arabella and the Battle of Venus (Tor 2017), and over fifty SF and fantasy stories. His story Tk’Tk’Tk won a Hugo, and he has been shortlisted for awards including the Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, and Sturgeon. His Stories have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction Analog Science Fiction, F&SF, Tor.com, numerous Year’s Best anthologies, and his own award-winning collection Space Magic. When discussing the issue of consent with The Pixel Project, David said: “As a society we have a done a terrible job of educating our young about consent. Only within the past 5-10 years have we really started talking especially to young men about what consent really means. It isn’t this legalistic thing of having to get a signed release before you can kiss someone. […] If everybody involved in a sexual situation is a truly willing participant who goes in with their eyes open and doesn’t do anything he or she doesn’t want to, it’s a lot sexier and a lot more fun. I wish we could go back and unteach all the terrible lessons that all of us have learned.”
Author Against VAW 8: Fonda Lee
Fonda Lee is the author of Jade City, which was a Nebula Award Finalist and named a Best Book of 2017 by NPR, Barnes & Noble, Syfy Wire, and others. Her award-winning young adult science fiction novels include Zeroboxer, Exo and Cross Fire. Fonda is a recovering corporate strategist, black belt martial artist, and an action movie aficionado living in Portland, Oregon. When chatting to The Pixel Project about how parents can help stop VAW, Fonda said: “I run into this a lot: YA books that can’t go through the school market because they have sexual content because there are definitely parents who would rather just shelter kids from all mention of sex altogether and that doesn’t do anyone any favours because the reality is kids are online these days and they can have access to anything. So I’ve heard teachers say that they have situations where no one talks to young men about sexual consent and their education is basically looking up porn on the internet which is like a completely unrealistic and wrong way to learn about anything. The fact that kids have so much access to stuff online these days, they’re going to find out, they hear from their friends, they find it online, and parents kind of have to get in ahead of that and be willing to have those conversations.”
Authors Against VAW 9: Jay Kristoff
Jay Kristoff is a #1 international, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of LIFEL1K3, The Nevernight Chronicles and The Illunimae Files. He is the winner of five Aurealis Awards, an ABIA, has over half a million books in print and is published in over thirty-five countries, most of which he has never visited. He is as surprised about all of this as you are. He is 6’7 and has approximately 12,000 days to live. When talking about toxic masculinity and male violence, Jay said: “Violence is the last refuge of cowardice. I was raised in a house where that kind of thinking, that kind of attitude was simply unacceptable. My father taught me that that was never okay. It’s an abhorrence. Violence of any sort it’s an abhorrence. Anything we can do to end any kind of violence against any kind of person is important. […] particularly a kind a violence that is so extraordinarily prevalent and has been normalised for so many years. […] Anything I can do to lead by example, I will.”
Authors Against VAW 10: Kristen Britain
Kristen Britain is the author of the New York Times-bestselling Green Rider series. She lives in an adobe house in the high desert of the American Southwest beneath the big sky and among lizards, hummingbirds and tumbleweeds. When asked about why she supports efforts to stop VAW, she said: “Fifty percent of the people of this planet are female and they need to be treated as human beings and that it would be a great start if the other half would treat the female population as human beings and… as human beings, women should be entitled to live without fear so they can excel the best they can and contribute to society. Because females should be able to walk down the street without being harassed. They should be able to fulfill a career without being confronted with misogyny.”
Authors Against VAW 11: Lynn Flewelling
Once upon a time in the magical wilds of Maine there was a little girl — who would someday be known as Lynn Flewelling — who would not, could not stop pretending. When she grew up she pretended her way into the Nightrunner series and The Tamír Triad, and all was well. Lynn’s work appears in a dozen languages. Born in northern Maine, Lynn is happily transplanted in Redlands, California, with her husband and too many animals. Lynn chatted to The Pixel Project in March 2018 about gender equality and its role in eradicating violence against women. She said: “Those with power don’t want to relinquish that power. They may recognise you as an equal but they will still want all the toys. So I think the fight continues. But I think gender equity would go a long way to help with that. But I think women to be treated as equals would mean there was an evolution of consciousness going on in the patriarchy and so that change has to start there.”
Authors Against VAW 12: Marie Brennan
Marie Brennan is the World Fantasy and Hugo Award-nominated author of several fantasy series, including the Memoirs of Lady Trent, the Onyx Court, the Wilders series, the Doppelganger duology, and the Varekai novellas, as well as more than fifty short stories. During her Read For Pixels Google Hangout, Marie said: “People hurting other people its not a good thing. We would all be happier if we were never subjected to it. But that change can’t work if we pretend that its being done equally in all corners and to all people because then we’re not actually looking at what’s in front of us. So we want to stop violence against women because it is disproportionately directed at women and women are disproportionately not supported when they are the victims of it. We need to focus on that because that’s the place where we can really make a big difference and push toward a better society for everybody in the long run. But it starts with women.”
Authors Against VAW 13: Richard K. Morgan
Richard K. Morgan is the award-winning author of The Dark Defiles, The Cold Commands, The Steel Remains, Black Man, Woken Furies, Market Forces, Broken Angels, and Altered Carbon, a New York Times Notable Book that won the Philip K. Dick Award in 2003. Altered Carbon is now a Netflix series. Market Forces was also optioned and won the John W. Campbell Award in 2005. When chatting with The Pixel Project about women’s human rights and VAW, he observed: “I don’t get anti-feminism. There are a number of people who said it better than me but if you genuinely say that you are not a feminist then what it means is that you do not value the fact that women can vote, the fact that women have access to decent healthcare, the fact that women can get a job without the permission of their father or their husband, the fact that women can get divorced if they’re in a position of being brutalised and can still manage to live their lives, the fact that women can have a refuge from violence against them. All those things you’re basically saying: “I could live without that”. All those things are the gains of feminism at some time or other in the past. It’s feminism that has brought that along.”
Authors Against VAW 14: Sara Raasch
Sara Raasch has known she was destined for bookish things since the age of five, when her friends had a lemonade stand and she tagged along to sell her hand-drawn picture books too. Not much has changed since then — her friends still cock concerned eyebrows when she attempts to draw things and her enthusiasm for the written word still drives her to extreme measures. Her New York Times bestselling Snow Like Ashes trilogy is available now from HarperCollins. It does not feature her hand-drawn pictures. When talking about the role of parents in bringing up the next generation of boys to not be violent, she said: “I actually have a son so this is something I have thought a lot about. I’m going to raise him to be a decent human being since obviously the goal of every parent is to make sure their child does not become a terrible person. I think a lot of it is to make sure that he is aware of other people, aware of how other people feel. That what he does affects others, not just women but just other people in general.”
Authors Against VAW 15: Tananarive Due
Tananarive Due is an author, educator and screenwriter who has won an American Book Award, a British Fantasy Award and an NAACP Image Award. She teaches Afrofuturism and Black Horror at UCLA and in the creative writing MFA program at Antioch University Los Angeles. She has received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Congress. In her Google Hangout with The Pixel Project, Tananarive said: “We’ve seen […] so many women and men but especially women recalling their stories of abuse their sexual abuse and sexual assault, it’s so clear that it has a lasting traumatic impact and that traumatic impact has an impact on our children. So even though we might not tell a child the details of something violent that happened to us, they know in our behaviour they know in our silences and in that way a stranger’s act or a bad partner’s act from generations ago can still be rolling down your family tree. […] We have to break ourselves out of the cycles of letting people get away with violence, letting men get away with violence, letting parents get away with violence. We just have to break out of these cycles because it has such a lasting damage.”
Authors Against VAW 16: Vicki Pettersson
Vicki Pettersson is a New York Times Bestselling author of the Signs of the Zodiac and Celestial Blues paranormal series, and the straight psychological thriller, Swerve. She has a passion for writing women who defy the odds, who refuse to be silenced or stopped, and who won’t be written off. When asked why she supports the cause to end violence against women, she said: “I’m a chick and I’m gonna be a chick for a long time. I would like to move around the world in a safe way. I don’t know about anybody else but I’m tired of the alternative – it’s dirty and it’s unacceptable […]” She also said that authors should approach the topic of VAW “head on […] talk about it overtly. This is not something that should be hidden. It’s a problem and so we should address it.”
- Alafair Burke – Courtesy of Alafair Burke; Photographer: Deborah Kopaken Kogan
- Ann Aguirre – Courtesy of Ann Aguirre
- Beth Cato – Courtesy of Beth Cato; Photographer: Corey Ralston Photography
- Brandon Sanderson – Courtesy of Brandon Sanderson
- Carrie Vaughn – Courtesy of Carrie Vaughn
- Dana Cameron – Courtesy of Dana Cameron
- David D. Levine – Courtesy of David D. Levine; Photographer: John Scalzi
- Fonda Lee – Courtesy of Fonda Lee
- Jay Kristoff – Courtesy of Jay Kristoff; Photographer: Christopher Tovo
- Kristen Britain – Courtesy of Kristen Britain; Photographer: Diana Whiting
- Lynn Flewelling – Courtesy of Lynn Flewelling
- Marie Brennan – Courtesy of Marie Brennan
- Richard K. Morgan – Courtesy of Richard K. Morgan
- Sara Raasch – Courtesy of Sara Raasch
- Tananarive Due – Courtesy of Tananarive Due
- Vicki Pettersson – Courtesy of Vicki Pettersson; Photographer: Jeferson Applegate