After my last rant about the lack of female friendly science fiction, I’ve started looking around to see what I can find that might appeal to the average female looking to get into science fiction. After reading a positive recommendation from Charlie Jane Anders over at io9.com I picked up Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks, the first book of his Culture series.
Nope. Not it. Not even a fairly hardened sci-fi reader like myself could swallow that one easily. It was everything you think of when you think, “Gack, hard sci fi.” And I mean that in both a good way and a bad way. However, one thing really struck me about this book and its sequels: The sex.
I read a great post by Nicola Griffith recently about the utter reluctance of hard sci-fi to embrace any sort of physical pleasure or descriptions of body-to-body contact. At the time, I sort of pictured that hokey ‘sex’ in Demolition Man where Sandra Bullock and Sly Stallone put on silly helmets and sort of have virtual brain sex. But now I totally get it. In Consider Phlebas, the sex was referred to clinically, and with all the emotion you might use for turning off the bathroom light. In the next book, The Player of Games, the sex the main character has is similarly referred to – it’s just a perfunctory act. The third book, Use of Weapons, has our female protagonist matter-of-factly asking a man she just met if he would like to f*ck. And that’s all she has to say about that.
Could these scenes have been written differently? Definitely. However, there’s the sense that if they’d gotten into icky things like feelings and enjoyment, the books would lose their hard sci-fi edge and be… soft. You know, like girls. And everyone knows that girls have cooties. It says, right there on the sign, that they must KEEP OUT.
So, where can I find a science fiction book where the main character has sex, enjoys it, and actively seeks it out? Where she has a full understanding of the meaning and consequences of complex sexual relationships and faces them unafraid? I’m looking for something where being female doesn’t mean being soft. Where she can have actual feelings about things and people, and still do whatever it is that comprises her story – the way we all do every day.
What do you suggest, dear reader?