Feminist Sci-Fi and Sci-Fi Feminism

I define “sci-fi feminism” as “Feminist activism based on science-fictional depictions of women and women’s actions, which takes into account women’s interaction with technology.” We live in a science fiction era, full stop. We might not have the spaceships, but we’re working on it. Information technology is already there – human beings interact with information with a speed, facility, and ubiquity unmatched in human history.

The earliest science fiction stories were written by women – most obviously Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. Frankenstein, first published in 1818, expressed the hope and fear that science would soon conquer Death itself and render human existence monstrous or at least unrecognizable. While we still have not reached the point of conquest of death, the ethical issues that Shelley raised in her book still ring today – what is the end of life? What happens when humans try to create our own order of existence? Can the world in fact be made just when it is so patently unjust? What debt do we owe our children?

The necessity of what I am calling sci-fi feminism – the analytical and political movement that must accompany feminist science fiction – is shown by the fact that the industry of publishing science fiction has been thoroughly dominated by men despite its history as a form of art created and primarily sustained by women.

Sci-fi feminism addresses questions of aesthetics. How do women interact with science fiction, both as fans and as thinkers? How does the unique voice that we have as women give rise to a science fictional view? How do we address it when women are portrayed unfairly, or not portrayed at all, within science fiction? How do we address visions of the future that portray, to paraphrase the Russian attitude toward the colonization of Mars, square-jawed white male heroes carrying women to the stars in their strong arms? And perhaps the most important question – and the least-asked question – how do we care for those who remain behind when humanity leaves her homeworld to take to the stars?

All of these are important questions – few of them, to date, have been answered or even broached in mainstream science fiction. I hope to address all of them, if not necessarily in the text of Independent Flight, at least through the entire arc of Aquarius Ascendant.

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