Women Can’t Write Science Fiction

gaius baltar sexy, sexy science fiction, women in sci-fi

Can women write great science fiction? I think we need to look at what great science fiction is and the underlying assumptions people have if we’re going to get a clear answer.

Do women even like science fiction?

I didn’t. I didn’t like it until my husband convinced me to play Mass Effect 1. (Yes, sci-fi. Has a nice snap to it.) I fell in love with the Mass Effect world and storyline… and Kaidan Alenko. 😉

We were soulmates. *sniff*

We were soulmates. *sniff*

After that, I went on a sci-fi media binge. I’ve had a hard time connecting with science fiction literature in the same way, but I’m still reading it and still actively searching for books to love. I just started the first book in the Grimspace series by Ann Aguirre and so far, I’m loving it. It isn’t like other science fiction books I’ve read.

I’ve also had some good luck with YA sci-fi, most of it by female authors. And I love dystopian stories. (Wool kept me up reading all night. Hadn’t done that in years.)

I think the problem may be that a lot of science fiction relies heavily on the science and doesn’t spend enough time on the characters and story.  (Well, duh, you say.  Science fiction.)

gaius baltar sexy, sexy science fiction, women in sci-fi

Gaius Baltar = AllTheReasons.

Well, no, young Jedi.  Humans like to imagine themselves in stories, or at least feel what the characters are going through. A wall of techno babble stops a story dead.

I think the focus on tech, weaponry, and laboratories is why many women don’t want to read sci-fi. I can’t get half my girl friends to even watch Battlestar Galactica… it’s the title that throws them.

When I do get them to watch it, they’re hooked for the same reasons I was. And those reasons have nothing to do with space battles…and everything to do with Gaius Baltar.

Ha. Ha. (I’m only kind of joking.)

It’s the relationships, the political intrigue, the betrayal, the hopes and dreams of every person in that fleet… that’s what makes BSG a story well-told. Those things are what make most stories good. Sure, the Cylon tech is cool and the space battles provide some suspense… but they aren’t why you care what happens to the characters.

“Women Can’t Write Science Fiction? Define Science Fiction.”

farscape, science fiction romance, women in sci-fi

Those yucky feelings in Farscape were the best freaking part.

The thing I probably hate most about the sexism debate (which I’ve been reading about for months), is the underlying assumption that the way women enjoy their stories is somehow inferior to the way men enjoy their stories.

Holy fuck.

I cringe every time a woman defends what she likes as being “real” science fiction, because the stories she likes are laden with tech terms, battles, and none of those yucky feelings.  The same underlying assumption shows up when well-meaning men defend female authors who create “real” science fiction.

As if stories that focus on relationships are “lesser”… as if the exclusion of long paragraphs about technology renders the book “fantasy” instead of science fiction.

I don’t need to explain (bore you with?) every detail of how all the tech in my world works to prove to you that it works (or that it’s based on science.)  If you want to research, buy a textbook. Or I can just e-mail you my research. Hours of entertainment, there.

I get that some people might enjoy it- but enjoying a physics lesson doesn’t make you more intelligent than someone who enjoys romance with their dystopian fleet.

And saying science fiction isn’t “real” science fiction because people kiss in it? That just makes you look sad. Sad and lonely. Lonely enough to dream every night of D’Anna and Caprica Six fighting over you. You can pretend it’s all about the promise of a Cylon ménage à trois, but I know the truth.

The next time someone brings up what is and “isn’t” science fiction, look where they’re standing. Chances are, it’s on a rickety foundation.

 

It’s Okay, I’ll Just Trick Sexist Readers with a Pen Name…

 

Legacy-Code-website

Other authors advised me to publish Legacy Code under a gender-neutral name. Science fiction readers are less likely to read a book by a woman, they said.

There’s a lot of controversy about sexism and the portrayal of women in science fiction and fantasy right now.  So I originally planned to publish Legacy Code under the pen name A. E. Kalquist.

But, you know, lately this controversy has really been activating my  mental middle finger in a big way. (It lives in the twelve-year-old sector of my brain.)

So I said “Fuck it.”

I’m a woman and I won’t apologize for it or hide it.

Are you someone who thinks women can’t write great science fiction? Wonderful! You’ve self-selected out of a series you’ll probably hate.  We’re not meant for each other.

I’m a woman. I write about things I care about. I want to write stories set in the future that are full of the things I love most in all the sci-fi shows I’ve watched and the games I’ve played.

I write stories full of the things that matter to me– the kinds of things that make stories stick with me, make me want to read them again and again.

And I have a strong feeling I’m not alone in wanting the kind of stories I’m writing.

—-

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. And if you know of some great sci-fi books, shows, or games- I’d love to hear about them, too.  😉

What did you think?

6 Comments

  • Michael

    Reply Reply July 1, 2014

    ” is the underlying assumption that the way women enjoy their stories is somehow inferior to the way men enjoy their stories.”

    I have always wondered why female sci-fi writers and feminine sci-fi never seems to do as well as more male oriented sci-fi does. This is a way I have never looked at it before and it adequately, albeit sadly, describes it very well. That being said, you go. My girlfriend is getting into sci-fi, and while your book doesn’t particularly interest me, I’ll see if its something she would like to try. Good luck –sci-fi has been stuck in a rut anyway and needed something to kick its ass!

    • Autumn Kalquist

      Reply Reply July 2, 2014

      Thank you! That’s good to hear.
      I have a lot of female readers now (I think because of the pregnancy plot in book one), but I also have quite a few male readers who have read and enjoyed the book. I hope lots of people continue to find the Legacy Code series and give it a try. 😉

  • J Thunder

    Reply Reply August 19, 2014

    As a female myself I feel completely different about science fiction- not that women can’t write it, I just find your views on the subject to be very similar to what every misogynistic male sci-fi writer complains about. I can’t find a more polite way to say it so I hope you don’t take it personally. I’ve not read your work and I don’t know you so my understanding is based on this article alone.

    I like science fiction; the techno babble, the spaceships, the new things/tech, the effort of the characters to achieve an end, the “what if”‘s. Those “what if”‘s, the possibilities are the cornerstone of science fiction. That’s what makes it science fiction and not merely fantasy. The idea that women don’t care for the science but instead need an emotional connection a) reinforces the idea that women should learn to raise a family instead of learning math and science and b) makes me wonder why you like sci-fi at all (versus traditional romance).

    Your comment on YA novels also bothers me. Women are not children. I understand that you were not trying to imply otherwise but a recommendation of a dumbed down story in hopes that women might better enjoy it really does suggest that women are incapable of understanding and/or enjoying the complexities of a more adult based science fiction story. I find YA books to be watery, lacking substance. I like having to think to understand, to use my imagination, to have to work to wrap my mind around something. It makes the story feel that much more rewarding when I’ve finished it.

    I don’t mean to suggest that what you prefer in a story is inferior to what I prefer in a story, only that they are different. What you seem to enjoy is storytelling where character interactions and emotions are central to the plot. What I enjoy is a story with events and things being the most important aspect. I hate the idea of gender roles and I don’t understand why we, as people still cling to traditions that serve little purpose in modern society. Why is my preference (stereotypically) considered masculine while yours is considered feminine? We’re not cavemen anymore; I am not a breeding machine and most men don’t have to hunt for food, yet we don’t seem to have risen above our primal instincts. Then again, not all women are emotionally centered and not all men are object centered. It all comes down to personal preference but I digress.

    I won’t say women can’t write great sci-fi and I absolutely adore great female characters in sci-fi (I dislike Sherlock and Supernatural because of the lack of engaging female characters) but if the story is 90% romance/emotion and 10% science/technology I’m not going to read it and neither is anyone who enjoys sci-fi for the aspects that I’ve mentioned.

    I hope I didn’t offend you, it was not my intention. My social skills are a little lacking (big surprise, I know) and I can’t always tell if I’m being impolite. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to respond and I will at the very least take a look at your books.

    • Autumn Kalquist

      Reply Reply August 24, 2014

      Hey! Thanks for the reply. I wrote this post before Legacy Code was published, so let me see if I can work through your points. 😉

      I like science fiction; the techno babble, the spaceships, the new things/tech, the effort of the characters to achieve an end, the “what if”‘s. Those “what if”‘s, the possibilities are the cornerstone of science fiction. That’s what makes it science fiction and not merely fantasy. The idea that women don’t care for the science but instead need an emotional connection a) reinforces the idea that women should learn to raise a family instead of learning math and science and b) makes me wonder why you like sci-fi at all (versus traditional romance).

      a.) Learning math and science and raising a family are not mutually exclusive options. You can love science, tech, AND love a little romance in your stories.
      b.) Because I love the tech and science, but I also like intrigue, betrayal, romance, friendships, all the dirty, messy stuff the social sciences usually deal with.

      Your comment on YA novels also bothers me. Women are not children. I understand that you were not trying to imply otherwise but a recommendation of a dumbed down story in hopes that women might better enjoy it really does suggest that women are incapable of understanding and/or enjoying the complexities of a more adult based science fiction story. I find YA books to be watery, lacking substance. I like having to think to understand, to use my imagination, to have to work to wrap my mind around something. It makes the story feel that much more rewarding when I’ve finished it.

      That’s okay. I don’t think YA books are only for children. I think people of all ages can enjoy books of all kinds. Some YA books are watered down and lack substance, but some have a lot of depth. The same goes for adult books. There are plenty of “light” adult books that people read and love. Sometimes I want a deep story full of plot twists and character growth, and sometimes life gets me down, and I just want to watch TV or read a light, funny romance with a happy ending.

      What you seem to enjoy is storytelling where character interactions and emotions are central to the plot. What I enjoy is a story with events and things being the most important aspect.

      I want to see both in my stories. I’ve read many great books with intriguing plots and settings that also featured strong character arcs. I tend to feel dissatisfied if both sides aren’t shown. That’s what I was talking about when I wrote this post. I wanted more. I want both. If a new recruit bombs and alien ship, I want to feel whatever he feels. I don’t want it glossed over. I like emotional honesty in my fiction.

      I hate the idea of gender roles and I don’t understand why we, as people still cling to traditions that serve little purpose in modern society. Why is my preference (stereotypically) considered masculine while yours is considered feminine? We’re not cavemen anymore; I am not a breeding machine and most men don’t have to hunt for food, yet we don’t seem to have risen above our primal instincts. Then again, not all women are emotionally centered and not all men are object centered. It all comes down to personal preference but I digress.

      Fully agree with that. I have lots of female friends who like to read and write science fiction. But the vast majority of my female friends don’t. And that’s what I meant here. Just my personal experience.

      I won’t say women can’t write great sci-fi and I absolutely adore great female characters in sci-fi (I dislike Sherlock and Supernatural because of the lack of engaging female characters) but if the story is 90% romance/emotion and 10% science/technology I’m not going to read it and neither is anyone who enjoys sci-fi for the aspects that I’ve mentioned.

      Well, there is such a thing as sci-fi romance, and in that category, it’s a romance with a sci-fi setting. I want books that have a rich sci-fi setting and interesting, twisty plot–but that also have strong, intriguing real characters. In some plot-driven genres (like sci-fi), the characters don’t feel real to me. I want to see them reacting to events, not just doing what they need to do to get to the end of the plot. Instead of a 90/10 or 10/90, I’m seeking more of a 50/50 split, and that’s what I haven’t found a lot of. It’s either mostly romance with a little tech, or all tech and not much in the relationship department. So that’s what I strive to write–something balanced.

      I hope I didn’t offend you, it was not my intention. My social skills are a little lacking (big surprise, I know) and I can’t always tell if I’m being impolite. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to respond and I will at the very least take a look at your books.

      Nope! Not offended. 😉 Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my post!

  • sunlight

    Reply Reply April 24, 2015

    Well this is quite an old post. But wow you’ve inspired. Thank you so much for writing this and for existing. I will be checking out your books. I am still in the writing process of my science fiction book, and it terrifies me all the nuisances that my book won’t sell if I use my real name or whatnot. That I do not have enough male characters in my book to keep the male audience reading my books and so on. It is amazing isn’t it? I bet you male writers do not care that they have like one female character in an entire book and female readers still read these books. But since I have a main heroine, I am worried that this in itself will be a turn off for most readers. I don’t know. We shall see. Thank you, you are brave and inspirational.

    Goddess Bless! 🙂

    • Autumn Kalquist

      Reply Reply April 28, 2015

      Thanks! I’m all about just writing the stories I need to tell. 🙂 Good luck with your book!

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