Dear Science Fiction,
We need to talk.
Steampunk Week has come and gone. There were cogs and bolts and jewelry and costumes. There were novels and giveaways and craft books. Two brilliant female authors gave interviews about their Steampunk work and the beloved genre heroines they’ve created. Urban Fantasy Week is ahead of us and I’m sure there will be similar hoopla. Everyone will be talking about their favorite books and why they love Urban Fantasy and the strong, vital female characters who propel this enormously popular genre.
Unfortunately, Science Fiction Week won’t have as much luster as your cousins’ weeks have.
I love you, Science Fiction, but I don’t think you feel the same about me. Mostly, you’ve been more interested in men. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s left me feeling like you don’t really want me. It’s like you believe I can only be a one-note love interest or an emotionally distant scientist or maybe the unhinged villain. It hurts our relationship when you treat me this way, and it makes other women wonder what I see in you.
Steampunk and Urban Fantasy know that I’m strong and capable. They respect my intelligence, but they also understand that I’m an emotional creature. I feel strongly about things and those feelings impact my decisions and my relationships – I function differently from a man. I get the idea that you consider this a weakness or a flaw. I can get the job done, but I’m not a man and my methods may not be the methods a man would choose. Steampunk and Urban Fantasy are totally okay with that; in fact, they celebrate it. Why don’t you?
I know you’ve been associated with a few notable women in the past, mostly in television. We’ve talked about Samantha Carter. There’s Laura Roslin, certainly, and Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace, not to mention Zoe Washburne and Kaylee Frye. I’ll even link you with Amy Pond and various other female companions of the Doctor (even though he’s sort of his own genre now). Really, though, your women are notable because there are so few of them that are more than just a convenient foil to the men you court. By contrast, Urban Fantasy has pages and pages of great women it associates with – I mean, it has one hell of a list. Heck, Steampunk is just getting started and still has more female conquests than you have!
Science Fiction, I love you. I do. But I need more from you than you’ve been giving me. I want you to see me as a real person who is capable of doing vital things in the kind of settings that only you can give me. I need to be able to identify with you, to be able to point to specific examples and tell my friends, “See? This is why I love science fiction – and you will, too!” Right now, it’s really tough to talk to my girlfriends about you without them being put off.
Science Fiction Week should be just as full of female-friendly content as Steampunk Week was and as Urban Fantasy Week will be. But it won’t be this year, and that makes me sad. I hope by next year we will have made some progress and gotten closer to where we need to be in this relationship. I’m in this for the long haul and I believe in you. Steampunk is the glorified past and Urban Fantasy is the wish-fulfillment present. You are the beautiful (or terrible) future.
We’re meant to be together. Resistance is futile.