Why I Like Science Fiction, by A Woman

This weekend, a Tumblr post appeared on my dash, about the 2009 Star Trek movie. Apparently, during the initial planning meetings, the writers asked themselves how to get women to go see this movie.

Wrong.

Women don’t like sci-fi, get it?

I read this and, understandably, got angry. Why, in 2013, do people still labor under the idea that women don’t like sci-fi? That sci-fi is something for only men to enjoy? That men must somehow trick women into seeing sci-fi movies by inserting story elements that appeal to them?

This is a famous science fiction writer saying this, by the way, not some Joe Schmoe nobody’s ever heard of. Go Google Damon Lindelof if you don’t know who he is. I’ll wait. Now that you know his credentials, one would think that he’s been around long enough not to fall into that old “women don’t like sci-fi” trap, right?

Apparently not.

Here’s the thing. I like things that are considered by some people to be traditionally feminine, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I like shopping. I like chick lit books. I like romance. I like dumb reality shows on MTV. I like puppies and rainbows.

I also love science fiction. I love Star Wars. I love The X-Files. I love space opera novels. I love space exploration and NASA and all the amazing stuff that goes on there.

Are you sick of hearing me talk about Mageworlds yet? No? Well good, because here I go again. Spoilers: Each of the seven books involves a romantic relationship of varying degree. Is that why I loved the series? No! I loved the series because of the setting and the characters and world-building and magic system and everything that you associate with space opera. I loved one romance in particular because the characters involved are extremely compelling and compliment each other so well, and I loved that consummating the relationship involved no angst and didn’t drag down the story. It just was. Similarly, I loved the relationship between that same female character and her father. The point of this paragraph? I like interesting relationships between interesting characters, whether they be familial or friendly or romantic. What was my favorite part of the Fate of the Jedi series? Surprise, it was everything with Luke and Ben, because I love their father/son relationship. Ben’s teenage romance with Vestara? Meh.

Male creators need to stop asking “how do we get women to buy our stuff?” and instead focus on telling a good story. Because when you start asking “how do we get women to buy our stuff?”, you only end up condescending to women. (You know how to get women to buy your stuff, male creators? Stop perpetuating the myth that women don’t like sci-fi.)

Another thing that might make women buy your stuff, male creators? Perhaps including more female characters in your stories. And not just men with boobs, or a walking womb: a woman who actually does important things in the story. See: Princess Leia, Uhura holding her own with Kirk in the new Star Trek movie (you should be familiar with that, Lindelof!), and the majority of the cast of Once Upon a Time. (Talk about a show that can pass the Bechdel test several times over.)

You don’t need to include a scene of a woman giving birth to make women invest themselves in your story. That first scene in Star Trek didn’t appeal to me because it featured a birth; it appealed to me because it was well-acted, compelling, full of high-stakes drama, and set the stage for the rest of the story.

Finally, if male creators are truly concerned about their projects appealing to women, perhaps they should ask a woman’s opinion, instead of just assuming what women like. That never works, because not all women like the same things

I could go on forever explaining why it’s bad to assume that women don’t like sci-fi, and that you have to trick us into liking it. Instead, I took to Twitter and asked my female followers why they enjoy sci-fi. Their answers, to no surprise at all, are basically the same as mine, and have very little to do with gender.

Enjoy.

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16 thoughts on “Why I Like Science Fiction, by A Woman

    • Think of it sort of as a well-meaning writer missing the mark on what people mean when they ask for "strong, female characters." Instead of writing a female character with depth, they write a traditionally masculine male character and assign it a female name.

      • Often I've heard women say something to the effect of "Writing good women isn't hard. Just write what you normally would for a man, then change the gender."

        Obviously this is a bit of an oversimplification, but are "Men with Boobs" as you've defined it a common problem? Would you mind citing some examples to help me understand this better?

        • This is probably the absolute best article I've ever read on the subject of missing the mark with female characters:

          http://www.overthinkingit.com/2008/08/18/why-strong-female-characters-are-bad-for-women/

          I link to this so much I might as well put it on the sidebar.

          • Without reading the article in its entirety, it looks as though this deals with the "Strong Female Character" trope. The one where women are sexually objectified, and that objectification is masked by adding a bunch of "strong" character traits.

            That's something I understand.

            Specifically I'm curious about "Men with boobs," though. (If this article does address that issue and I just didn't see it, I'll give it a closer look when I'm off work. But I didn't want to wait a few hours only to find out this didn't answer my question).

            Thanks for your help in this matter!

  1. An explanation via the ever helpful TV Tropes! http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/posts.php?discussion=12971205520A16140100&page=0

  2. God, I don't want to watch a birth!! Nor a chick-flick!!! I just like a good sci-fi with a good story line.

  3. Not all women like the same thing? I am shocked. I am floored. Next you will tell me that this is the real reason my mother doesn't build Gundam models with me.

    Seriously though, I think that's the biggest, most basic concept every entertainment industry needs to understand to engage more women. Or, heck, replace "women" with any group what so ever and so many issues will be well on their ways to solutions. Thank you for this article. These things need to be addressed more often.

    Also: Yay, Mageworlds! 😀

  4. Man, they've been tricking me for so long! All the Star Trek series I watched! Those DVDs I bought! All the previous Star Trek movies I went to see. How did they trick me into seeing those without showing a woman giving birth in them all? And it's not just me! How did they trick all those women fans into writing the letters that kept the show from being cancelled back in the 1960s? And obviously they totally tricked Bjo Trimble into running that letter-writing campaign.

    Sheesh. I like Damon Lindelof's work, but he needs to learn a little something of the history of the franchise he's writing now.

    One of the reasons I've always liked science fiction is that it can be the only place to find female characters doing something interesting. (Of course it can fail epically on that score too!)

  5. Great article! As another woman who grew up with sci fi and loves it, its tiring to see that some people are still ignorant about being human. It's not like every single man loves sci fi! It is silly to assume that woman are all just one unit to be sucked into a movie by a birth scene. Hopefully these issues will improve...

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