Can Women Write Science Fiction?

Uh oh. It makes me cringe to think of how many people that title just offended. Honestly, it was meant to get you in here. Yes, I’m still going to talk about women writers in science fiction, but in a completely respectful way. Some of what I discuss might make you mad, but trust me, it makes me mad as well. I’m going to talk about the male slanted bias in science fiction and I’m going to be completely honest about what my thoughts are about women writers in the genre.

Until I opened up Destiny Allison’s book Pipe Dream, the only female science fiction author I recall reading was a Star Wars book by Christie Golden and Suzanne Collins. Honestly, I’m not sure I would have gotten Golden’s book if it wasn’t the next in a series that I had already started or Hunger Games if it wasn’t so popular. Why? Well, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I have had an unknown bias towards reading male authors in the science fiction genre. I didn’t even know it. Seriously, it never dawned on me that I hadn’t read anything by female authors, but I obviously subconsciously avoided them.

It wasn’t until I was sitting with my good friend, Dr. David Powers, that I even mentioned it. We were going about our usual pre-Bible study routine (talking about science fiction, super heroes, and other things religion usually doesn’t like) and I asked him if he could recall having read a sci-fi book written by a female. He couldn’t. Following up with him for this blog post he said, “I have personally never read a single novel that I can recall by a female science fiction author, unless of course you count the Hunger Games trilogy as such.”

Dr. Powers went on to say that he doesn’t have a bias against female sci-fi authors, just that he hasn’t come across any or know of any. He truly wants to read some from them and is open to recommendations. Some of you might call Dr. Powers and I stupid. Some of you know how many great female sci-fi authors there are out there, but it really is saying something that Dr. Powers has missed out on them. He owns what is probably the largest comic book collection in the South East and is one of the biggest sci-fi nuts I know.

Let’s face it, the genre has a male slant, if for no other reason than the time period it became popular. Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas, though certainly not the first to come up with many of their ideas, were the first to bring it to the forefront of popular culture. When these came out, particularly Star Trek, women were just beginning to push into the work force and get away from their male created shackles. Thank goodness for the progressive movement. So, while both Roddenberry and Lucas both tried (come on, a black and female bridge officer in the 60’s?! Gene be crazy!) they were writing and producing in a male dominated world.

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Science fiction pretty much stayed the course as far as portrayals were concerned. Males dominated with the occasional powerful female showing up. Even then, the females eventually became sex focused. Seven-of-Nine, as bad ass as she was, never wore anything but skin tight suits. Imagine Captain Janeway wearing that every episode (well, don’t imagine that). Heck even Star Trek: Into Darkness had the very unneeded scene of Dr. Carol Marcus stripping down in front of Kirk. Come on, she’s a doctor. I didn’t see Bones throwing off his clothes. And this is all coming from J.J. Abrams, a man known for wanting powerful female characters (Judging by the photos below, I’m guessing the next Star Trek movie will involve an NC-17 Rating?).

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So, why haven’t I read female science fiction material? I honestly don’t know. Okay, fine. I’ll admit it. I think I did purposely avoid female sci-fi authors. I didn’t think they could do it as good as males. I apologize. Really, I do. I debated not telling you, but there it is. I’ve amended my brain waves.

Is the genre still crawling out of its male centered culture? I don’t think so. In fact, attending the X-Con in Myrtle Beach, I honestly think I saw just as many females as males, so the perception and fan base has changed. It’s no longer just a boys club. Shows like Eureka, Warehouse 13, and Falling Skies all have great females in lead roles (though only one, WH13, has a female writer).

I’m willing to bet that female authors can do better with females characters. As hard as I try, I will never be able to tap into the emotion and mindset of the female characters that I write. I just don’t have the right body to understand the mindset of a female. No male does, no matter how much they think they do. Look at Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games. We fell in love with Katniss, a strong lead, female character. If those books had been written by a male, I really don’t think we would have gotten such great material. Katniss Everdeen made girls everywhere proud. There is no doubt that Katniss needs no male to get through her challenges and survive. She can make it on her own. If a male had written the character, Katniss would have eventually needed a male to live. Not once did I think, “Man, Katniss would have been better as a Korey.” Not sure Peeta or Gale could handle that anyway.

I’m reading a great book right now. Pipe Dreams, by Destiny Allison, is turning out to be fantastic. Now that I am consciously reading a female science fiction author, I keep catching myself thinking about whether or not I would write the same things she does. As a female author, she brings a different perspective to every scene (She will also be a featured guest poster on this blog tomorrow, so be sure to check it out). That’s what we need in the genre. A new perspective. We can still have our male heroes, but instead of it being the sexy, obligatory female with them, they can have a true partner that is just as capable of saving the day. I think the best way to get there, and to gain complete respect for female sci-fi characters, is to have more female sci-fi creators. 

Guys, if you are still on the fence about picking up a sci-fi book written by a female, then do it for your relationships. If you are as big of a science fiction nerd as I am, then you have probably had a hard time balancing your love life with your love for the genre. Science fiction controls us, but it’s not our fault. Use the genre to your advantage. Read female authors, learn this new mysterious perspective on sci-fi life, and you will begin to connect better with your partner. Maybe you can convince her that, hey, maybe this science fiction thing can be super cool for girls, too! Good luck!

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Reconciling Science Fiction and My Faith

Dr. David Powers, who I mention in this post, is continuing the other half of this discussion on his blog. Here is the link to his page. Dr. David Powers – http://coffeescholar.wordpress.com/

I’m a sci-fi nut. Seriously, if I didn’t have to ever work again, I would likely spend my time watching sci-fi on TV, reading sci-fi, and writing more sci-fi novels. I’d be lucky to get out of bed. Why do I love science fiction? We all have our reasons, but I love that it envisions something other than what is here. I have a degree in political science. Talk about a quick way to get depressed about reality. Turn on CNN or Fox News and you get pounded with stories about how bad everything is and how its the fault of one political party or another. Sure, I recognize there are important things we have to take care of, but sometimes I want to transport somewhere else. That’s what science fiction does for me. It allows me to read and write about things that help others forget, if only for a little while, about the mess here on Earth.

Before I delve into a potentially explosive theological issue, I should disclose that I am by no means qualified to write about anything religious. It has taken me years to open my heart to Christ and it has been a recent development. I essentially know nothing.

So, what do we have to talk about? When I was teaching, religion was a touchy subject. In the public school system, the topic becomes the third rail in which you just don’t touch. I’m fine with that, but I know many that aren’t. I did get to talk to some students that were worried about their biology class. They worried because the concepts and issues that they had to learn contradicted their beliefs. Since this blog rotates around writing, I won’t get into my views on science more than saying that I was actually a science major in school for two years (before I realized how much I hated physical oceanography). I mention the science and religion issues because I think there are some parallels to religion and science fiction.

Look at the major themes in science fiction: space, aliens, time travel, habitable planets, warp speed, the afterlife, etc. Every science fiction show I have watched has some element that is contradictory to any number of religious beliefs.

Let’s look at some questions that are meant to make you uncomfortable, no matter which God you worship. My love of science fiction almost demands that these questions be asked when facing my Christianity (Please don’t take these questions as my challenging your religion(s). I am challenging myself more than anything).

  1. The galaxy is bigger than any of us can begin to comprehend, so how could we possibly be the only planet with life?
  1. If there is other life out there, which every statistical probability would say there is, who put it there? If God did, is it the same one that you believe in?
  1. So you believe in Genesis, huh? If God created the Earth and everything on it in six days, does that make us gods for writing about terraforming on other planets? (Looking at you Trekkies and Whovians)
  1. On that note, how many days did it take God to create those other planets? Do you even believe there are other planets out there? (I ask because many people don’t believe the dinosaur fossils are real)
  1. If God created us in his image, who’s image are Klingons created after? Wookies? Vulcans? The Q Continuum? (Now there’s a loaded one)
  1. If we leave the planet and expand, as so much of sci-fi portrays, then will Revelation only affect Earth?

Those are just some of the many questions I have though of. I’m positive you have some of your own.

If you are a fan of any series of sci-fi shows, you will have noticed that each of them undoubtedly brushes the ideas of religion. Try as they might to not slander any religion, they almost have to question the beliefs without saying that’s what they are doing.

There have been plenty of science fiction authors and creators that have dabbled in what is obviously a faith based concept. Lost, one of the most popular shows in the last decade, made it abundantly clear that the whole show revolved around spirituality.

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There are a few routes that I think science fiction fans can take regarding this topic.

  1. Don’t worry about your religious beliefs while you are watching and reading the material. It is, by definition, fiction and you are allowed to treat it as such.
  2. Pose the same questions above to yourself and (uh oh) to your spiritual confidant. Let’s face it, if is hard to watch and enjoy the genre without wondering if what they present could be true. By doing so, the next logical step it to face your beliefs.
  3. Pull out your Bible (Torah, Koran) and try to wipe your mind of all science fiction. Ask for forgiveness for ever enjoying such things. Turn on Touched by an Angel reruns.

My great friend and mentor, Dr. David Powers, is also a sci-fi crazy. Seriously, check out his blog here. He owns one of the largest private collections of comic books on the East Coast. He eats, sleeps, and breaths all things sci-fi. Here is the kicker – he is also my pastor. On the surface, this may not seem to be a contradiction, but the way I see it, it certainly could be. He is not one to shy away from potential contradictions. Somewhere you will find a photo of him at the Myrtle Beach Xcon convention leading the Sunday service in the middle of the floor. Click this sentence to check out his response and, as I see it, a continuation of the discussion (There is also a link to his blog at the top).

The title of this blog post tells you where I am on the topic. I am trying to reconcile my Christian beliefs (which are infantile and growing) with my love of this genre. I want nothing more than to jump on a colonial ship and head out of the galaxy to explore, but I wonder if just wanting such things makes me less of a Christian. What if I run into an alien with a different god?

Please join in the discussion in the comments section. I would love to know what some of you think about this. (Be respectful…I don’t feel like putting my comments on moderation)

Science Fiction is Screwed

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I love science fiction. Seriously, even bad science fiction. I love it so much that I’ve decided to publish my own science fiction book (lol, we’ll see). Lately though, I have been thinking about how screwed modern science fiction creators are.

Star Wars gave birth to the modern science fiction era. I know, Star Trek came first by more than a decade, but it lost its popularity and didn’t become mainstream until Star Wars smashed the world with its dominance. Then we had these two major star epics, able to maintain themselves despite one another because of their differences. They both created and maintain HUGE fan bases. I’m a big fan of both (say whaaaat? That’s not legal).

So I walk up and down the science fiction sections of my local chain book stores and I see huge sections dedicated to Star Wars and Star Trek. Their popularity is not going away. With the rebooting of Trek and the upcoming Star Wars movies, they will probably gain new, younger fans. They have both entrenched themselves as science fiction kings (and they both somehow managed to get the same king to direct them – J.J. Abrams).

So where does that leave the rest of the science fiction world? Screwed. Nothing has reached the popularity of those two giants, and I doubt anything will. The best anyone else can do is hope to avoid comparison to one or the other. Unfortunately, almost all space science fiction will draw those comparisons. It takes something truly different to break out in science fiction, and even then, it is tough.

I love Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series and the movie based on it is coming out on November 1st (barring any controversial holdup). Unfortunately, it is going to suffer comparisons to the star greats. It will also be compared to Hunger Games. Speaking of Hunger Games it seems like that Suzanne Collins hit the right trend in sci-fi.

It seems like dystopian sci-fi is what is really working now. Maybe that’s because so many people are unhappy with the current state of global affairs. It sure does sell books! Of course this is nothing new. I loved 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451. Those books were great successes, but really only as books. Maybe we’ll see some of them become movies soon, but that seems to be where books like the Hunger Games come in. They have capitalized on dystopian sci-fi.

Hugh Howey’s Wool is an awesome work of science fiction and I could connect with it. I also never thought of comparing in to the major sci-fi greats because it is so different. Again, it is a dystopian sci-fi adventure, so it is getting in on the current trend.

So, when I say science fiction is screwed, I really mean space-based sci-fi. The kings of that genre are already in place and anyone that wants success will really have to lower the bar of what they consider a win. Successful sci-fi will have to reinvent itself.

For the record, my sci-fi thriller is on Earth, then space, then back into a dystopian-like Earth. Maybe I’ll get lucky.