Women and Science Fiction

Aliens Sigourney Weaver

Growing up, this was the poster I had on my wall.

I’m a science fiction fan and a woman. There! I said it. Phew! It feels like such a load off my back. Okay, seriously, I had my doubts about writing an article on women and science fiction, after all scifi doesn’t still have these weird, male connotations, does it? These days it’s cool to be a girl and a geek.

But after thinking about my own experiences and reading blogs of other female scifi fans, I thought otherwise. I was particular fired up for this article after reading Annalee Newitz’s report on io9 that the Sci Fi channel’s advertising for Battlestar Galactica had scaled back the spaceships, in order to bring in more female viewers. Is this also the reason why the new Galactica series, Caprica is being described by its creators as a “Dynasty in Space”? Well, I for one would prefer less Melrose Space type drama in Galactica, and more story arc episodes that actually push the plot forward in a meaningful way.

I was raised on a healthy diet of science fiction, thanks in large part to my wonderfully geeky older sister. The idea that science fiction and women don’t go together just seems plain wrong to me. My earliest science fiction viewing was V, which, while admittedly a little corny, had the brilliant Faye Grant as both scientist and *leader* of the resistance, Juliet Parish, and Jane Badler as Diana, who let’s face it, was essentially the one calling the shots, on those Visitor mother ships.

I grew up with Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton as role models, who not only could get out there and play with the boys, but also outlive the boys. Not to mention the many other women I could give shout outs to such as Claudia Christian in Babylon 5 and Nana Visitor and Terry Farrell in Deep Space Nine– all of which have played characters that have helped influence who I am today. And this is all before Joss Whedon came along to bring us a series about a certain vampire slayer.

So clearly there are many images of strong women associated with science fiction. This is not even including the numerous female writers out there such as Ursula K. Le Guin, Joan D. Vinge and Elizabeth Moon, who have all managed to conquer the science fiction genre. And I can’t tell you how many quality genre shows former BBC Controller Julie Gardner has helped to bring about.
Terminator 2 T2 Linda Hamilton Sarah Connor

Science fiction as a genre has truly shown me what women are capable of. Women can be fighters as well as mothers; they can be world leaders (although growing up in Thatcherism, that one wasn’t as much of a shocker); they can be intellectuals; they can be superheroes.

So why do some women steer away from science fiction? Not all women, mind you, but there’s definitely a lot out there who only want to talk about Sex and the City, and have trouble accepting that a show like Lost is remotely in the same genre as Star Wars. You tell them you like scifi and they look at you funny.

For a long time, I wrote for a fashion magazine, so my inner geek was like my alter-ego. It left me hesitant to tell certain people what I was into. Luckily, writing for IGP and trying to get IGP out there to the world has certainly helped me deal with that hesitancy. And the truth is, admitting I like scifi will either show me someone I can bond with on multiple levels, or not, so why not just admit it? As for my reaction from guys… it ranges from becoming firm friends because we like the same shows, to “wow, I thought you were into the Sound of Music”. Go figure!

So, yes, tell everyone you know, because as it turns out, women and science fiction do go together. You don’t have to pander to get women to like the world you’ve created. The fact is: quality writing will draw people in. Throwing dynasty-type antics into a series isn’t going to draw female viewers in (that’s what soap operas are for) and is as blatantly obvious a stunt as creating a female sexbot just to draw male viewers in. But create characters that are interesting (male or female) with equally riveting storylines and trust me, your female viewers will follow.