SEXY ROBOT WRAP-UP: An Interview

web special

Dear Broads,

What a month.

In late June, Heather and T.R. and I were busily prepping for the release of our summer 2015 issue, themed SCI-FI AND THE SPECULATIVE. It had everything: apocalyptic lesbian romance. Revolts brewing in the bellies of classist starships. Bus stop gods and tables filled with Beyoncé.

And yet. And yet. When one of our readers expressed, “I hope there will be sexy robots!”, dear Broads, we realized we had failed you.

Fortunately, that reader turned into a Broad! writer, and sent us the first story in what became the month-long web special on sexy robots. To celebrate an incredible Sexy Robot Month, I (virtually) sat down with SRM writers Elise, Heather, Kate and Julia to talk about the wildly diverse approaches they took to the theme of sexbots, and about sex, gender and technology more generally.

Enjoy! We did. (Glass of wine not included.)

xxo,
Kendra


The writers:

Elise R.: “Sexy Robot A-Go-Go 5000, or Safe Sex”
Heather Lefebvre: “Voudrais”
Kate Jonuska: “Desire Designed”
Julia Dixon Evans: “Autoclave”


Kendra: Thank you all so much for coming. I’d love to start out this conversation with Elise, author of “Sexy Robot A-Go-Go 5000,” or “Safe Sex.” Elise is the best kind of trouble-maker—she instigated Sexy Robot Month by expressing hope that there would be lots of sexy robot stories in Broad’s (then) upcoming Sci-Fi issue. Look what you started!

Elise: I’ve been calling myself the birthmother of sexy robot genre revival. I’m very proud.

Heather: You should be!

Kendra: Elise, I love that “sci-fi” triggered “sexy robots” for you. Tell us about that association–what do you think of when you think of sexy robots, and what inspired “Sexy Robot A-Go-Go?”

Elise: Great question! I love sci-fi, but I really love trashy sci-fi that doesn’t take itself too seriously and has boobs. So really I was hoping for sexy sci-fi anything! And robots was the first thing that came to mind.

Julia: Boob sci-fi. Is it a genre yet?

Kate: If it’s not a genre, it should be!

Elise: I don’t even like robots. I think they are frightening, which hopefully my piece illustrated.
It should be all boob sci-fi! So yeah, anyway it was a joke. But then I had to put my money where my mouth was/is.
But ironically, I think I wrote the least sexy story. It was a real boner killer.

Kendra: What don’t you like about robots?

Elise: Well, maybe I’m biased but robots have a real representation problem in “the arts.” They’re pretty much all evil, right?

Julia: I agree, and the exceptions are all kind of sad characters – sad and weak? I’m no expert, just thinking of, like, children’s movies.

Kendra: Marvin the Paranoid Android… he’s questionably sexy, though.

Elise: Well when I think of most sci-fi portrayal of robots they seem to be warning stories for the most part.

Heather: They usually are set up to be perceived as “evil” or “bad” to an extent, even when they’re fleshed-out (pardon the pun––thinking of Ex Machina here).

Elise: Except sexy robots, which tend to be more about the fantasy of not needing consent.

Kate: Consent is a huge thing with sexy robots. Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse series, for instance. Though the women aren’t robots, they’re programmed to match their “dates.” It was soooooo creepy.

Heather: Oh yeah, their personalities were rebooted or something, right?

Julia: YES, Dollhouse! And the themes of second class citizenship––like a slave class. I think there are undertones of that in almost every sex-bot story.

Heather: What’s the difference between a human being and a machine at that point? On Dollhouse?

Kendra: I think that was what Whedon was getting at––that really icky gray area where sex robots are so realistic that they basically are humans. What do we do with that?

Elise: I guess in thinking about my story I found it hilarious that this fantasy of submission and dismissal of consent is attached to like… a killer robot.

Kendra: It WAS really funny. I was just thinking about that––all of these stories were so diverse, and Elise’s is by far the most out there on the campiness spectrum. “Sex things, Jim,” makes me laugh even now.

Kate: It was very funny, Elise, rest assured. ☺

Heather: Yeah, and I loved that. The humor was so refreshing.

Elise: Aww, thanks guys!

Kate: I’ve been stuck with the idea of beating someone with their own arm.

Elise: What a way to go, huh?

Kate: In some people’s cases, it’s a happy fantasy.

Kendra: LOVE TAKES MANY FORMS, IT IS THE FUTURE NOW.
On that note, let’s loop Heather’s piece into the conversation. Her piece, “Voudrais,” is presented partially from the POV of the sex robot. Which implies all sorts of things––robotic agency, desire. The robot even has feelings, though she wonders what programmer put them there.

Heather: I started with the POV of the sexbot, actually. I had tried to write a sexbot/robot (it kept becoming a sexy robot) story for a few years. I had chunks of the robot’s POV in one Google doc, and a little while later I wrote some of Aaron’s POV in a separate google doc. They weren’t meant to connect/be in the same piece at the time. This was a few years ago? I just find sex dolls, and their consumers––the culture that surrounds them, generally––super fascinating, and it seems like the logical extension of that trend would be robots for sexual purposes.
What’s better than a Real Doll? One that can speak to you, or has vibrators in her hands, or whatnot.

Elise: Heh! Vibrator hands!

Kate: It’s what we do with all new technology. See how we can make it gratify us sexually.
When we invent time travel, we’ll go back and watch Roman orgies. I just know it.

Elise: Heather, I thought your story had super interesting ideas about thought. Like, the robot is experiencing, processing and evaluating, but is that thinking? Or does true thought require an emotional evaluation component? And if so, does she have that experience as well? I dunno!

Julia: Right, and what distinguishes a processing, robot-brain from a human who thinks similarly.

Heather: Right. And what would it be like to realize that all your thoughts, observations, or actions are pre-programmed and you’re just putting them together in different combinations? But then again, how different is that from how the human brain works? There’s little such thing as truly original thought.

Kendra: I feel like these stories (and the whole concept of sex robots) makes me return again and again to that question Heather asked–“how different is that from how the human brain works?” Or how the human ______ does anything?
Sex robots make us stare uncomfortably into a funhouse mirror in which the question of consent is entirely removed.

Kate: I loved the memory of the customer who would tie her up, lay atop her, ask what makes her tick. As if the robot herself had the same question.
Heather: Yeah, Sonya is great. She makes the robot feel like she has agency.
I imagined the robot as a Pinocchio figure, where she just wants to be a “real” person, but the humans around her aren’t doing things of their own will all the time either.

Elise: I felt bad for the boy too, though.

Kate: Yeah, there are some interesting ideas about the culture of masculinity there. In the boy, I mean.

Elise: Yeah, like that the kid’s dad thought a sex robot is like “the dream.”

Heather: The dad strikes me as a well-meaning but ultimately sucky dad, in the vein of “drink in the house,” but for sexual exploration.

Elise: But it kind of glorifies detachment from emotion b/c you are designing an experience for only one emotion.

Heather: Right. And it brings in a question of individuality, since the robot can be customized to fit anything a customer (in this case male) wants. Like a Real Doll. They’re toooootally customizable.

Kate: Yes. Women – agency = sexbot.

Kendra: That intersection of design and desire was at the heart of Kate’s piece, “Desire Designed” is all about customizable desire—which obviously (to us, in nonfictionland) comes with enormous pitfalls.

Heather: Kate, your piece was so wonderful! It felt like you created a whole world.

Kate: Thank you! I had fun with it.

Kendra: I totally second Heather—this piece and its world-building were totally gorgeous. What led you to write it?

Kate: First of all, I wanted to explore the idea of a woman interacting with a sex robot, because it’s always men, isn’t it? The robot is female, the customer male. Yet women are more and more comfortable and encouraged to express their sexuality.
It spun out from there. Once I had the woman interacting with the sexbot, I realized that despite all the talk of sexual liberation, it’s not that simple. Women are valued for their sexiness and for the sexual acts they perform. Other women are competition. It becomes comparison.

Heather: Yeah, I love that aspect. Their relationship dynamic gets so tangled in desire and envy and self-image.

Kate: Hence comparing the perfect body to the real one. Like, here’s a creature that’s everything the world wants me to be, and it makes me feel like an object, too.

Heather: And the idealized, repetitive performativity of sex with the robot seemed to play into that, maybe. (?)

Kate: Sure. That perhaps stems from me thinking, hey, aren’t vibrators the real first sex robot? Why do men want all these bells and whistles and “reality”? Would a woman see the tool beneath the doll?

Elise: I liked the exploration of what a sex robot would mean in a committed relationship. Because it’s a fantasy that just, like, sticks around… it was such a cool idea.

Heather: The idea that a robotic third would be a safe option, when it isn’t, is it?

Kate: Sex ain’t never simple, is it?

Kendra: Yeah––especially in the way the husband starts logging time with the robot without telling his wife. It’s like cheating, but it technically isn’t, because they codesigned the robot––but in the end, the desire’s asymmetrical.
The fact that the wife was bothered by the soulless perfection of the robotic sex but the husband wasn’t also seemed super bittersweet. I loved this piece. The whole thing tied my heart in knots.

Heather: And I loved how deep you went in imagining the robot’s body: the “powdered” sperm, etc. The stakes and the people felt tactile.

Kate: Honestly, this was a great break for me. I haven’t written short in a while because my first try at a novel is eating my soul. Solution: SEXY ROBOTS!

Heather: I wonder how the advent of amateur porn would affect sexbot consumer culture.

Kendra: How so?

Heather: Re: the robotic gasps and whatnot.

Elise: Like, would people make porn with their robots?

Kate: Of course they would/will.

Elise: They totally would.

Kendra: I wonder… would porn be as appealing to viewers if they knew the actors were robots?

Heather: Oh, no, I mean like, how robots would be programmed or packaged in relation to the rise in popularity for “amateur” porn.

Kate: So you could program in your lover’s gasps to your robot for when they’re out of town?

Julia: Right, and would it be alarming/a turn-off, to see porn with a robot with the same settings/sounds as… yours?

Heather: Ha ha, probably.

Elise: I would say: alarming.

Heather: I feel like some people would find robosex hot. But likely not all.

Kate: It’s definitely auto-erotic.

(At this point, the participants all fell on the floor, laughing so hard that they burst blood vessels. “YES”es were shouted. “OMG”s were typed. Kate Jonuska, everyone.)

Kate: Thank you, thank you. I’ll be here all week.

Kendra, the militant discussion facilitator, steers us back to solid ground: That’s the question at the heart of this story, too––is sex (less) attractive if you know it’s with a robot? (I’m thinking of the wincing gasp that Heather’s sexbot is programmed to utter each time it’s initially penetrated in “Voudrais.”)
Actually, all of our stories ask this––most nakedly, maybe, Julia’s “Autoclave.” Let’s keep this rolling but bring in that heartbreaking Antarctic sex robot.

Elise: YES!
Can I just say I loved that it was a REGULAR COMPUTER?

Heather: I dug that you took the “robot” prompt and interpreted that to mean “standard tool/machine.” Loved it.

Kate: I adored that it was an autoclave, too. Doing something so dirty with something meant to clean things.

Julia: I think that technological realism is the only way to go for me, to be honest.
Like I said in my (now-public) cover letter, reading Heather’s piece made me instantly grab my phone and text my writing buddy. He has an amazing (AMAZING) novel that hinges upon sexbots, and I had just finished editing it for him.
So I was all: Um. Look.
And that prompted his comment about being territorial about sexbots, which, is almost comical given that he is a very generous and supportive writer. But it made me think about the writing thing that I am territorial about, irrationally. Antarctica.

Heather: So you’ve written about Antarctica before?

Julia: I’d had a story published by Hobart about a year ago, set in Antarctica. It’s about an “imaginary” friend: http://www.hobartpulp.com/web_features/leona-never-happened
To me, Antarctica is the epitome of loneliness and isolation. It’s just, like the cliche of it.

Kendra: God, that came through like a punch to the gut. It was so devastating.

Julia: So when my friend Ryan said the thing about territorialism, I was like Antarctica! SEXBOT IN ANTARCTICA.

Kendra: Have you been?

Julia: No! I’ve never been. I have friends who are marine biologists and have, but that story (the Hobart one) was actually a distillation of a (terrible) emo novel that I did a lot of OCD research for.
SO yes, a little obsessed with Antarctica in a very cliche way.

Kate: If you’re telling stories from your unique POV, it won’t be cliche! This one wasn’t. ☺

Kendra: You mentioned that the technological realism felt inevitable to you–why is that?

Julia: Quite literally, I have such little experience with sci-fi. There’s Dollhouse, and my friend’s novel, and… Heather’s story. And to me, something that you could actually DO right now is more disturbing. I could technically find a penguin-handling glove and duct tape it to a vintage autoclave. Those sort of beautifully life-like sexy robots are so far beyond our current societal comprehension that it’s easy to feel separate from it.

Kendra: I agree. The realism really deepens the poignancy of the piece for me. Real Dolls aside, to my mind, sexbots belong in the flashy, campy, Austin Powers/sci-fi universe of complete fantasy. “Autoclave” made me ache because it felt very real and very possible. It reminded me that loneliness is extraordinarily close. This story took me in its teeth and shouted, CRIPPLING LONELINESS IS HERE AND NOW AND YOU CANNOT GET AWAY FROM IT.

Julia: Loneliness is my catnip.

Heather: I agree. “Autoclave” hit home so hard.

Elise: Julia, do you think Elizabeth and the POV character are gonna make it long-term?

Julia: I’m thinking he left on the boat.

Kate: Indeed. She had to stay lonely in the end and he got to go back to be among other people.

Julia: But I’m not sure I need that kind of closure. Would you?

Elise: Love finds a way.

Heather: I didn’t think he got on the boat, but I like that it’s ambiguous.

Kate: Nah. I like the ending ambiguous, too.

Julia: Would you stare down total isolation (and freezing temps) for a machine?

Heather: I mean, not I. But I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth.

Kendra: I feel like he walked away and will never look back on that time again except in dark and secret moments and with shame.

Julia: I’m pretty sure I would get on the boat, only because I’d be aware that I was in a state of insanity.

Elise: I just have a good feeling about those two.

Julia: But yes! Elizabeth. I think my favorite part is when he asked her about the lentils. Seemed so domestic, so beyond vibrations + penis.

Heather: Yes, I loved the domesticity of their “partnership” too. Do you think he might think of Elizabeth when he’s in future relationships? Like, compare living women to her?

Julia: I wonder – that’s a good question. I mean, if you find love with something non-human, how can you switch back into a very flawed relationship with a very flawed being? Elizabeth has no agency, she is only what he invents her to be (which is always such a theme in my more weird writing).

Elise: But Elizabeth wasn’t perfect, she was covered in old penguin shit.

Kendra: I think, as a reader of these stories, I have to assume that humans ultimately crave and love the flaws, or else the future just looks incredibly bleak.

Julia: Assume = hope? ☺

Heather: And how can you disclose that part of your history to your partner, if you do later get a partner?

Kate: “BTW, honey, I have penguin chlamydia.”

Julia: lol! I give you official rights to write the sequel.

Heather: I’d love to see that fight.

Julia: I think that (for me) writing this story was a little bit more about existential stuff than robots.

Heather: I agree. That’s what rung true to me about “Autoclave,” even more than the fact that Elizabeth is a literal machine: she’s whatever he wants her to be. Imagining her face, for example, and being unable to produce it––what a great detail.

Kendra: Do you guys think we’ll hit a point where sexbots are commonplace realities in our culture?

Julia: I think it’s inevitable, however distant in the future.

Elise: I’ve been thinking about that (more about relationship/sex bots) and I’m kind of torn. I think it will happen, but it may be a valid alternative later on?

Kate: I don’t know if sexbots will ever be something we brag about/show off, any more than we currently do our sex toys. They’ll be there, though, if we learn to make them.

Heather: There are tech companies working on it, for sure. And it might be somewhat beneficial, if they supplant the current sex industry (where human women are abused, etc). But I don’t think it will happen in my lifetime.

Kendra: There already is one! She (it) is called Roxxxy.
I was interested in Kate’s assertion earlier about how we bend all tech to serve our sexual desires––Roxxxy’s creator was originally planning to make robots that emulated dead friends and loved ones, but realized that the money was in sexbots instead.

Julia: Wow, that’s just… insane.
On so many levels.

Elise: What a massive bummer. Also, Jesus Christ, who wants a dead friend robot?!

Julia: I have to wonder about the types of ethics conversations we’ll have, as a culture.

Kate: Like what about evil people who will buy robots in order to kill them? Hunters, maybe. There’s another horrible (awesome) story premise.

Elise: I’ve been thinking about people who interpersonally can’t make a relationship work, maybe a robot would be great!

Kate: Great idea.

Kendra: Elise––I’ve been thinking about that, too! It seems like a blessing and a curse. People who lack the social skills to interact with others could easily acquire robot lovers––but in doing so, they’d dodge any external pressure to be sociable, and to acquire the social skills needed to make a human relationship work. So is it actually a trap? Or does it ultimately free them from a pressure to be something they can’t?

Heather: I have a friend who was in a sex shop with her partner once, and a salesman made a hard push to sell her (male) partner a rubber female pelvis. He said that if you put the pelvis in a warm bath for ten minutes, it took on the same temperature as a human. I remember she told me that he kept saying “It’s EXACTLY the same as a woman. Believe me, I’ve tried both. EXACTLY the same.”

Kate: EXACTLY like it. Just without the legs and torso and brain!

Heather: Yeah, and she was standing right next to him!

Julia: I’m laughing at “believe me, I’ve tried both.” OH HAVE YOU.

Elise: Other thought: Could sex robots be helpful for adults who are unable to consent to sex but have sexual desires (i.e. people with dementia, cognitive disabilities etc?)

Heather: Oh wow, what a question. I don’t see why they couldn’t be.

Kendra: My gut instinct is to say “definitely.” I’m kind of troubled by how my sympathy switches there, though, because it seems so subjective. With able-bodied/minded human partners, I feel the sexbot is being exploited, somehow.

Heather: Yeah, mine too. Suddenly it seems like a medical tool.

Kendra: Right. Once I view it as a medical tool, my sympathy is entirely with the human user.

Elise: Yeah, I mean, so many adults who are institutionalized are denied access to sex b/c of the consent/being taken advantage of issue.

Kate: I don’t think they’re a bad idea for teenagers, too, actually. Sounds weird, but hear me out. “Voudrais” touches on this. When our hormones are raging and we’re so inexperienced with emotional relationships, it might help to have a practice partner who you know won’t laugh at you or break your heart or show your sexted pictures to all his friends.

Kendra: Oh, that’s a tempting thought––humans should not be allowed to unleash themselves on other humans until they know how to not be dicks. (Although sex with a robot likely won’t help that.)

Julia: Right. Wouldn’t sex with a robot just perpetuate that? When I posted to my writing group about this story, someone said it made them think of a Twilight Zone episode––Season 1, Episode 7, “The Lonely.” About a convict, isolated to a meteor somewhere. A sympathetic supplier drops off a female sexbot.

Heather: I haven’t seen that one. I’ll have to look it up.

Kendra: On that note, can I bring up something that’s maybe almost too obvious to ask? The gender question.
All of these stories were so diverse, but every single one featured a female sexbot. What’s with that? Why do we (as this very distinct group of writers, or as a culture generally) assume sexbots are female?

Elise: That’s a great question! I think there is something so female about being objectified maybe?

Heather: Yeah. The only example of a male sexbot I can think of in popular culture is Jude Law in A.I.

Kendra: There are male “dolls” in Dollhouse. But that’s all I’ve got, too.

Julia: GAH I can’t wait for my friend’s novel to get published so you can read it.

Kendra: Me neither! It sounds awesome.

Kate: When I made my protag a woman, I wondered about which sex to make the robot. Again, it made me think about vibrators, though. A woman’s like, I have my tool, I’m good? But a man wants the whole package with all the icing.

Kendra: And yet, rubber lady pelvises….

Kate: True.

Heather: Right. I’m frankly having a hard time picturing a male sexbot, what that would be like.

Elise: Kate: that’s so interesting because it defies stereotypes like the American Pie “any orifice/pastry will do” mentality.

Kate: If they marketed a male sexbot as also helpful around the house for doing dishes and watching the kids, I will throw up.

Elise: uggghhhhh

Julia: OMG
I believe you may have just solved world peace.

Heather: Haha!

Kendra: I took this great course on human sexuality this summer, and the professor was vocally skeptical of the notion that men have higher sex drives than women. But then where are the male sexbots? Are (straight) women just looking for something different?

Elise: “He’ll notice your new hairdo, ladies!”

Heather: Male sexbots probably would be marketed as multitaskers (not just sexually), tbh

Julia: I am relatively sheltered, too, but the majority of the battery-operated sex toy market is women-driven, right?
WE are the ones seeking out the buzzing things.

Heather: Women and couples, I think. Though the first male vibrator just came out.

Elise: I think female sex-bots have more to do with power than sex drive.

Kendra: Seconding Elise.

Heather: Thirding Elise!

Elise: I feel so supported. AND POWERFUL.

Julia: Elise, are you a robot??

Elise: Maybe….

Kate: I think men, stereotypically, are intimidated by emotional intimacy with a real woman. Especially modern women who aren’t predictable, where there’s no traditional script.

Heather: When there seems to be a thin line between coming on too strong and being stuck in the quote-unquote “friendzone.”

Elise: Yeah. And I think a lot of men perceive that women have sexual power. So sex robots are like a way to “even it out.”

Kate: Women are socialized to use sex to get what we want, be that affection or security or marriage. In that lens, what do you really GET from having sex with a male robot?

Heather: That’s a great point, Kate. What is he doing for us? He better have some kind of sprayer mechanism in his hands so he can wash the dishes.

Kate: I suppose if all I’m going to get is the orgasm, why a sexbot when there are things of the buzzing variety? Or, um, so some women think.

Heather: Oh man, I can see the romcom now. It’s The Wedding Date, but instead of a prostitute Debra Messing gets a bot.

Kendra: I do think women (traditionally) gain a lot of social security from sex. There’s no social benefit of sleeping with a sexbot, though.

Heather: Agreed. That may just grant you some slut-shaming and a “loser” or “desperate” label.

Kendra: Maybe it does come back to power, then––men don’t obtain social security and stability from sex the way women do (generally), so the ‘bot is a sexy way to get off without the commitment and loss of freedoms.

Julia: And I don’t think this is a pure gender divide, either. It’s almost like, are our robots going to have to be tuned into our love languages?

Elise: Eww, love languages! Get that out of my sexy times!

Heather: How do we program them to know our love languages?

(Director’s cut notes: Kendra is into her third glass of wine and also doesn’t know what love languages are.) (She also hasn’t read Lean In.)

Julia: lol, I know – love languages is such a new age-y sham BUT, it’s better than just thinking women want X, men want Y.

Kate: Yeah, it’s broad generalizations we’re talking about there. Men and women do not think monolithically.

Elise: BUT, isn’t that kind of accurate when talking about how sex is marketed and what kind of consumption is normalized? I don’t think there’s a way to talk about it without being gender essentialist even if it doesn’t accurately reflect true gender.

Kendra: That’s true. We’re marketed to as monolithic gender archetypes, and so much of our psychology (especially in our formative years) is shaped by marketing.

Julia: Absolutely true.

Heather: I mean, I think it’s valid to use gendered archetypes if we’re discussing how the culture views (cis) men and women.

Elise: I think what’s so insidious about broad generalization is how easily it’s internalized.

Kate: We’re talking social cues and conditioning, of course. Men and women, we are encouraged toward stereotypes. There’s value to the debate — as long as we remember it is just that.

(A moment all around as we genuinely appreciate one another’s eloquence/brilliance/spirit of intellectual open-mindedness in this discussion of… sexbots.)

(And then we get maudlin. This is some real Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants stuff. I’m sorry.)

(I’m not sorry.)

Heather: Thanks for setting this up, Kendra. A+ prose editor.

Julia: This is like the smartest thing I’ve done in a while.

Elise: Bah! Agreed

Kendra: You guys are ALL the A-pluses!

Heather: I feel the same also. This was really cool and smart and engaging.

Kate: Thanks to all of you and for the fun writing prompt.

Heather: Thank Elise! She started it ☺

Elise: I AM THE BIRTH MOTHER OF SEX ROBOTS

Julia: YES! Such a cool and fun project, it could have been very whimsical and superficial but look how deep you guys are.

Kendra: I can’t believe what great work you guys sent in. Seriously, I love everything we do at Broad, but this issue blew my socks clean off.

Elise: Yay, thanks so much! It was awesome to be a part of it. ☺

Julia: I love Broad!

…so say we all.


Elise R. writes about ’90s era Christian romance novels with her sister at http://undertherjg.blogspot.com. It gets pretty weird. Follow her on Twitter at @im_not_it.

Heather Lefebvre is the founder and EIC of Broad!. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Story|Houston, Sycamore Review, The Rumpus Readers’ Report, and others. Heather is currently pursuing an MFA in fiction at Texas State University, where she serves as a managing editor of Front Porch. When she’s not working on her novel, she likes to bake bread. Find her here or @lefavor.

Kate Jonuska is a freelance writer based in Boulder, CO. Her features have been published in the Denver Post, the Boulder Daily Camera, The Colorado Springs Gazette, Boulder Magazine and more, and she’s currently working on her first novel. On Twitter at @kjonuska.

Julia Dixon Evans is a writer living in San Diego. Her work can be found (or is forthcoming) in Hobart, Monkeybicycle, Noble / Gas Qtrly, Black Candies, Swarm, and elsewhere. Find her at www.juliadixonevans.com or on Twitter @juliadixonevans.

Kendra Fortmeyer is some nerd on the internet. She edits prose for Broad! and also writes her own sometimes. Today she wrote flash nonfiction about how she used to have nightmares about dialing 911 and having the operator ignore her until one day she said, “Shut up and listen; this is important,” and they did. (Website, @kendraffe.)

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