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A collaborative blog by Locus editors, contributors, and other invited guests. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine or Locus Online.

(Earlier posts end here in April 2010)




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knitting the future?

In one of my other lives, I write about knitting. Which means that I spend a lot of time thinking about said craft. Which may or may not be a good thing. But that is another post.

Knitting fiction — I’d define it as when the knitting itself takes on more of a role (like Madame Defarge‘s work in A Tale of Two Cities) than simply as an aside about a character’s habit — has been flung onto the bestseller lists by Kate Jacob’s The Friday Night Knitting Club. Knitting has made its move into genre, too. There are knitting romances, like Rachel Herron’s How to Knit a Love Song and Christie Ridgway’s Dirty Sexy Knitting. There are knitting mysteries, like Anna Canadeo’s While My Pretty One Knits and Maggie Sefton’s Skein of the Crime.*

These titles are making money, by all accounts. So why hasn’t our genre cast on to the knitting subgenre yet?**

Which prompts the question: where is the knitting in science fiction and fantasy? Will folks not knit in the future? Is this a gendered issue? Or does SF/F not lend itself to talking about handwork? Will it not exist in the future? What would SF/F knitting fiction look like?***

Your thoughts?


* Not anywhere near a complete list. Merely a sample.

**I can think of very few examples of knitting in SF/F, much less books in which it is a major component. A Wrinkle in Timeis all that leaps to mind, frankly.

*** If a fiction writer wants to take this idea and run with it, please do.


Comment from Russell Letson
Time June 28, 2010 at 6:31 pm

SF doesn’t exhibit quite the same fad behavior that the mystery field does–thus our lack of recipe SF, B&B SF, antique-dealer SF, bibelot-shoppe SF, &c. Fantasy may have some capacity for producing a pussycat subgenre, but I haven’t seen it yet (despite singletons such as “Space-Time for Springers”).

This may be a gender thing–after all, there’s no cozy SF, either, though I suspect a case could be made that military SF is a boy-stuff analogue. And there’s all that gaming influence. Maybe I’m looking for the leisure-activity content in the wrong places.

Comment from Elaine
Time June 29, 2010 at 8:25 am

If knitting isn’t in SF/F, it really should be. If you are on Ravelry, you probably already know that there are an insane number of SF/F fans among knitters. I am a fairly new knitter but a SF/F fan pretty much from birth, and I’d love to see knitting turn up in things I read in the genre.

Oh, and if you aren’t on Ravelry, you probably should be. :)


Comment from Johann
Time June 29, 2010 at 11:59 am

Knitting does appear in fantasy, at least. I’s a little harder to think of examples in SF, but they’re there.

We should distinguish between knits that appear and the character says he/she made them, and showing knitting as an activity.

In the Harry Potter books, Mrs. Weasley’s knits appear as Christmas presents for the main characters, and it’s shown that she can knit via magic. Hermione knits hats for house elves as a political protest, too, and she does it manually and via magic.

On Pushing Daisies, Emerson Cod is my favorite knitting detective, and we actually SEE him knit.

I’m currently reading the Magic Thief series, and one character, Benet, knits Conn a sweater in the first book, and the fact that he’s knitting is mentioned in many places. I haven’t gotten to the third book yet, but there’s a knitting pattern for a scarf in the back of the book.

I read a fantasy book a loooong while ago where the protagonist knits a scarf, and although she doesn’t realize it at first, near the end she finds she’s been knitting the story as it unfolds. It’s been so long ago, and I can’t remember the book’s name, although I’ve looked everywhere for it and haven’t been able to find it.

And let’s not forget the fates in myths: Clotho, the spinner; Lachisis, the weaver (OK, not knitting, but fiberarts); and Atropos, the old woman who cuts the threads.

On Tom Baker episodes of Doctor Who, the doctor knows the gauge of the knitting in his scarf, and in some episodes, uses the scarf to measure things.

In the Demolition Man movie, Sly Stallone supposedly knits a sweater for Sandra Bullock, but we don’t see him knit it. The writers obviously knew nothing about fiberarts because they show him taking a perfectly good center pull ball of yarn and winding it into a skein, which is the exact opposite of what he’d want to do!

There must be more! I challenge all of you to think of other examples!

Comment from Trish
Time June 29, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Based on the number of SF-oriented groups on Ravelry (and their membership numbers), there has to be a market here.

Comment from JEG
Time June 30, 2010 at 11:35 am

Ted Sturgeon wrote a story called “Granny Won’t Nnit”–maybe that’s the reason.

Comment from Pat
Time June 30, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Patricia McKillip has used knitting, sewing and crocheting as the basis of magic in at least a couple of her works — the novel Solstice Wood and the short story “The Witches of Junket” are two examples, and I think there may be others.

In John Crowley’s Little Big, Mrs. Underhill is often knitting a long striped scarf when other characters encounter her — and she turns out to be a sort of combination of the Fates and Mother Nature, so that scarf is pretty clearly meant to be read as a version of “the tale” that’s central to the novel. In the same book, Smoky Barnable’s own three daughters are also versions of the Fates, and they knit and embroider while discussing the lives of those around them.

Comment from HDB
Time July 1, 2010 at 3:24 pm

If memory serves, Heinlein had at least a couple of knitting characters, but more a as descriptive embroidery than any deep metaphor or anything central to the story. One was in Gulf, another in Friday. Both were villainous women . . . hmmm. Aiming for a Madame Defarge vibe?

Comment from Judes
Time July 7, 2010 at 10:49 am

On the SF front there’s also Joan Vinge’s “Catspaw,” in which a character with some sort of telepathic powers that let him mentally interface with computer networks is also an obsessive knitter. (I believe he was also able to spontaneously generate yarn, an ability that I seriously covet.) For that character, knitting was a social justice action—everything he knit, he gave away to those in need (that series has a vision of the future in which the economic divide only gets wider).

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