The Feministing Five: Gay Partington Terry

Gay Partington Terry is a writer from West Virginia. She writes short stories, mixing science fiction, fantasy and real life. Her stories have been published in e-zines, anthologies, and small fantasy magazines. Her story, The Toxic Avenger, was even made into a movie! This year, Terry released her first book, Meeting the Dog Girls. It’s a collection of short stories blending the best of fantasy, magical realism, science fiction, and parody.

Aside from her writing work, she’s worked as a waitress, factory worker, and welfare worker in northern Appalachia. She’s catalogued tribal arts for Sotheby’s and worked in Margaret Mead’s office before she died. When she’s not hard at work, she studies Tai Chi Ch’uan, Qi Gong, and yoga. She currently lives in Harlem with her husband. (And if you’re interested in finding out more about Terry, make sure you check out this interview of her on WBAI’s Hour of the Wolf.)

And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Gay Partington Terry.

Anna Sterling: Your stories are a mix of science fiction, fantasy and your own life. What brought you to these genres?

Gay Partington Terry: It was impressed upon me, early in life, that I don’t have a firm grasp of what others think of as “reality.” I’m constantly amazed by the world. I feel magic all around me, mystery and miracles. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that my dad was a stage magician, or that my Manx grandmother acknowledged the elusive “little people” who look out for us. Perhaps it was growing up in a small isolated valley town where people routinely told outlandish stories and the mountain loomed over you with its secrets.

AS: Where’s your favorite place and time of day to write?

GPT: I’m a morning person and an insomniac, so though I prefer early hours, I do have those middle-of-the-night musings. We used to live in Brooklyn and my favorite place in the world to write is Greenwood Cemetery. It’s the most beautiful park in the city. It’s quiet, there are plenty of characters to choose from and they can’t complain about what you say about them. I have a nice space in my house to write, but it’s inspiring to write in different places–under a tree at a beach, the dentist’s waiting room, the F train. I used to go to Tai Chi class early and sit in Madison Square park. There are lots of potential characters there.

AS: Where do you see feminism and sci-fi/fantasy connecting?

GPT: Sci-fi/fantasy is definitely working its way out of the “junior-high-school-boy” and “fairy-princess-looking-for-prince-charming” image. There are lots of strong women characters and writers: Carol Emshwiller, Ursula LuGuin and others. Although my stories fall into this category, I read a lot of other stuff so I’m not the one to give you an extensive list.

AS: Who are your favorite feminist writers?

GPT: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, W.G Sebald, Steven Milhauser, Flanery O’Connor, Angela Carter, Carol Emshwiller, Jeanette Winterson, Patricia Eakins. I loved the “Poisonwood Bible,” “Perfume” and the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” books. Who didn’t? I’m also a big fan of Ricky Jay’s non-fiction books. I hope they’re all feminists.

AS: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?

GPT: I’m very attached to my own Dog Girls. They’re strong, capable, wise and, of course, a breed of their own. In terms of who I’d like to be, it would be one of the characters Michelle Yeoh plays in the movies, Mrs. Peel in the TV adaptation of Avengers or Ripley in the “Alien” series. I have no problem identifying with male heroes in books or films too.

In real life, my heroines are mostly friends, my daughter and daughter-in-law, women you wouldn’t know, but inspire and encourage me every day. The writers Carol Emshwiller and Patricia Eakins are friends and definitely heroes. Amelia Earhardt, there’s a hero. Tina Fey–she can be a little mean, but definitely awesome. I greatly admire Patti Smith and Michelle Obama too.

AS: You’re going to a desert island and get to take one food, one
drink, and one feminist. What do you pick?

GPT: I’d like to take ice cream but I suppose I should choose something that would sustain me so peanut-butter. Red wine and, gee, as much as I like my friends and admire some others, I think I’d want a man. My husband is a pretty good feminist. If I had to have a woman, I think Whoopi Goldberg would be a lot of fun.

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