Queens of Sci-Fi: The ’80s, ’90s and Beyond

By 1980, science fiction was no longer the “niche” genre admired by “outcasts” and “dreamers”. With the success of films like Star Wars and Superman and the rise of Star Trek conventions, science fiction became mainstream. What also was once rare but now flourishing, was an abundance of women writers – many of whom were injecting more themes into their work: multiculturalism and homosexuality to name a few. Others were mixing their sci-fi with other genres: fantasy, romance and horror, while some attached themselves to the burgeoning cyberpunk genre and when cyberpunk evolved into steam and dieselpunk, women partook in those genres too.

Some worried that the “mainstreaming” of science fiction would distance itself further and further from it’s scientific origins. Whether this is true or not, no one can deny the diverse female voices of this era. While some of these women started their writing careers in the ’70s writing short stories, their big breaks came in the ’80s and ’90s.

And then some…

Margaret Atwood

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Thanks to Hulu’s successful adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s seminal 1985 dystopia, The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood has been hailed by TIME as “a reluctant prophet” (Ha!). Her futuristic vision of a theocratic United States where women have been stripped of their rights is her most famous SF (though she claims it’s more “dystopian”) novel. Her other SF novel, Oryx and Crake (2003), is a peculiar post-apocalyptic novel.

Joan D. Vinge 

Joan D. Vinge (Author of The Snow Queen)

At one time married to fellow author Vernor Vinge, Joan won the Hugo for her 1980 novel, The Snow Queen, a planetary romance take on Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of the same name. It was followed up by three sequels: World’s End (1984), The Summer Queen (1991) and Tangled Up in Blue (2000). Vinge has also written many movie tie-in novels from the Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Storybook (1983) to Cowboys and Aliens (2011).

Pat Cadigan

Pat Cadigan

Because Cadigan’s work explores the relationship between the human mind and technology, she’s often associated with the cyberpunk movement. Her first novel, Mindplayers (1987), was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award. Her second novel, Synners (1991), was awarded the Arthur C. Clarke Award and is considered one of the seminal novels of the cyberpunk genre. Tea From An Empty Cup (1998) is a post-apocalyptic noir detective novel set in a country popular to cyberpunks – Japan.

Lisa Tuttle

Lisa Tuttle on the Starshipsofa podcast / Boing Boing

Her first novel, a planetary romance called Windhaven (1981), won the Locus Award. Her other novel, Lost Futures (1992) – a story about a woman thrust into several alternate histories – was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke and James Tiptree Jr. Awards. In 1982 Tuttle refused to accept the Nebula Award for her story, “The Bone Flute” because she objected to another author sending his story to the SFWA for consideration. Although this is normal now, at the time it was unheard of and Tuttle didn’t show up at the awards ceremony to receive her award. However someone else went in her place and accepted it for her.

Joan Slonczewski

Joan Slonczewski (Author of A Door Into Ocean)

Our next entry is not only an SF author but a microbiologist! Her work in the field of microscopic lifeforms has informed her work, which often deals with this very subject. Her most well known novel, A Door Into Ocean (1986), is about a group of  pacifist women who inhabit a planet that’s all water. The Wall Around Eden (1989) is set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where a restless young woman yearns to learn more about the aliens that have taken over her planet…

She also came up with the concept of mitochondrial singularity, the idea that humans are gradually becoming the “mitochondria of our own machines”.

Lois McMaster Bujold

Lois McMaster Bujold - Wikiquote

A multiple award winner, Bujold’s most well known works is the Vorkosigan Saga (1986 – present), which comprises of 16 military SF novels centered on the protagonist Miles Vorkosigan and his life in the Barrayaran Navy. More info on the series can be found here.

Connie Willis

Connie Willis (Author of Doomsday Book)

Her short stories include “The Last of the Winnebagos”(1988) and “At the Rialto”(1989). “Even the Queen” (1992), a humorous take on menstruation, won the Hugo and Nebula. Her novels: Lincoln’s Dreams (1987) combines dreams, parapsychology and the Civil War and won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF novel. Doomsday Book (1992), winner of the Nebula and Hugo, is about time travel in fourteenth century England. To Say Nothing of the Dog (1997) is also about time travel, albeit of a more comic nature.

Linda Nagata

SFRevu Review

Hailed from Hawaii, Nagata often writes in the Nanopunk subgenre (where nanotechnology is the dominant technological force in society) with the Nanotech Succession series (1995 – present). Her novella, Goddesses, was the first online publication to win a Nebula Award.

Pat Murphy

Bio | Pat Murphy

With Karen Joy Fowler, Murphy created the James Tiptree Jr. Award, an annual literary prize given to works of SF and Fantasy that explored the topic of gender. She won the Nebula Award for “Rachel in Love”, a 1987 novelette about a chimpanzee who possesses the memories of a teenage girl. Her 1989 post apocalyptic novel, The City, Not Long After, was inspired by her work at the San Francisco Exploratorium.

She is a member of The Brazen Hussies.

Karen Joy Fowler

Karen Joy Fowler at the 2013 Texas Book Festival.

Although she’s most famous for the non-SF best-selling novel, The Jane Austen Book Club, her career has mostly been in science fiction. Her first story, “Recalling Cinderella” was included in the anthology, L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Vol. 1 (1985). Her first novel, 1991’s Sarah Canary, takes place in the 19th century, where a group of people experience a “first contact”. Among the group is the titular heroine, an extraterrestrial. Her other short story, “Game Night at the Fox and Goose” (1989) discusses alternate history. As I stated above, she co-founded The James Tiptree Jr. Award.

Lisa Goldstein

Locus Online: Lisa Goldstein interview

Part of the “Brazen Hussies” (see above), Goldstein is the first entry in our series to win the Sidewise Award, which recognizes work in the Alternate History subgenre, for her 2011 short story “Paradise is a Walled Garden”. In her 1990 story “Midnight News”, aliens choose an old woman to decide the fate of humanity.

Mary Gentle

Mary Gentle | Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Authors | WWEnd

More renowned for writing fantasy/Alternate History than sci-fi, Gentle’s most notable SF work (which learns more toward science fantasy) is the Orthe duology: Golden Witchbreed (1983) & Ancient Light (1987), in which a British envoy named Lynne de Lisle Christie visits the planet Orthe and learns about it’s inhabitants and their history.

Jayge Carr

Jayge Carr

The pen name of Margery Ruth Morgenstern Kruegey, her most well-known novel is Leviathan’s Deep (1979), in which humanoid female aliens from a matriarchal society meet a group of patriarchal Terrans. She contributed the story “The War of ’07” – where Hamilton’s assassin Aaron Burr becomes president of the United States – to the anthology Alternate Presidents (1992).

Rosaleen Love

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An Australian writer who wrote the humorous 1986 alternate history story “Alexia and Graham Bell”, “Evolution Annie” (1991) and her 2006 award-winning kaiju story “Once Giants Roamed The Earth” (from the anthology Daikaiju! Giant Monster Tales). She is the recipient of the Chandler Award for “Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction”.

She has also written non-fiction books about the Great Barrier Reef.

Sheila Finch

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British-born author who coined the phrase “xenolinguist” with her 1986 book Triad. Her short story (also published in the same year) “Reichs-Peace” is about – you guessed it – Nazis winning WW2. Her 2005 novel, Birds, is a NASA murder mystery/alien cover-up. No, really.

Nancy Kress

Kress in 2007

She won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for her 1993 novella Beggars In Spain, which examines genetic engineering, cold fusion and Objectivism. Her 1991 story, “And Wild For To Hold” concerns a time traveling Anne Boleyn. Her 2008 novel, Dogs, is a cross between Stephen King’s Cujo and James Patterson’s Zoo.

Rebecca Ore

Author Spotlight: Rebecca Ore - Lightspeed Magazine

Ms. Ore has received praise for her talent in writing stories from the perspective of aliens – and making them believable in the process. One such example is her 1993 story “Farming in Virginia” and her Becoming Alien Trilogy. Another notable work is the peculiar 1991 novel, The Illegal Rebirth of Billy the Kid, in which a CIA specialist creates a clone of William Bonney.

Maureen F. McHugh

Maureen McHugh in 2006.

She’s best known for her two most famous works, both award-winning: China Mountain Zhang (1992), which imagines a future where China rules the world, and the 1995 short story “The Lincoln Train”, an alternate history where former slave owners are sent into exile.

Today, the idea of a woman SF author no longer bats an eye. Some of them have even crossed SF with fantasy or horror. Some of them have published their works in another language and country. Some of them have even become major celebrities. If I was to list every female SF author that ever lived, this series would go on forever and that would be exhausting. So if you’re bothered that your favorite author wasn’t listed here, check out this very extensive list from Worlds Without End. Some the entries may surprise you.

However I have two more posts to make: one involving the women who’ve written Star Trek novels and the other involving women who’ve written for the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

Stay Tuned.

 

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Queens of Sci-Fi, Part 3: The ’60s and ’70s

As the 1950s morphed into the 1960s, science fiction became more diverse to reflect the changes society was going through. This era, often referred to as “the New Wave”, is a  little harder to describe, so I’m using excerpts from Pamela Sargent’s anthology, Women of Wonder: The Classic Years, to help me:

During the ’60s, several science fiction writers experimented with both subject matter and style. For them, science fiction had become too predictable and hidebound, and was ripe for change. These writers and others, loosely grouped together under the somewhat misleading term “New Wave”, rejected the elements of pulp fiction and often viewed technology and the future with pessimism.

The magazine New Worlds in England and Damon Knight’s Orbit series of anthologies and Harlan Ellison’s groundbreaking anthology Dangerous Visions (1967) in the U.S. contained stories in which writers aimed at a more literary and iconoclastic approach to the genre. In this atmosphere of change, women who wrote science fiction were likely to find a more receptive audience even if their stories violated some of the traditional canons.

During the 1970s, women in science fiction were no longer isolated examples or exceptions to the rule. There were more of them than ever. More women began to question the roles they played and the limitations on their lives, and science fiction, not surprisingly, reflected this development.

Within the field of science fiction, women writers were also coming to consider themselves a group. This is not to say that they shared the same views, were equally doctrinaire in their feminism, or were similar in their writing. But there was a growing sense that science fiction was a form in which the issues raised by feminism could be explored, in which writers could look beyond their own culture and create imaginative new possibilities.

These are some of the women writers who came to prominence in the ’60s and ’70s.

Kit Reed

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Her real name was Lillian Hyde Craig. The daughter of a schoolteacher and a US Naval officer, her first SF novel, Armed Camps (1969), possibly draws on her “navy brat” background, while her short story, “The Food Farm” (1966), concerns a teenage girl obsessed with food, technology and a pop star.

Marion Zimmer Bradley

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While more known for her fantasy novel The Mists of Avalon, she’s also known for her Darkover series which chronicles the history of the inhabitants of the planet Cottman IV, commonly referred to as Darkover. Sadly, longtime fans were shocked when they learned that Bradley was sexually abusive to her children and was married to Walter Breen, a sexual predator who preyed on boys. You can read her daughter’s eye-opening account here.

You may be wondering why I included this monster in my list of SF “queens”. Well, remember, in herstory, there have been good queens, evil queens and queens in between. The purpose of history/herstory is to study and learn from the past. The purpose of this series is to not to promote these women as heroes or role models, but to learn about the contributions they’ve made to science fiction. As for Ms. Moira Greyland (Bradley’s daughter), I’m happy to say, she’s gotten much love and support from the SF fandom for coming forward. I hope she travels to as many SF conventions as possible to meet fans and tell her story, raise awareness about child abuse, and maybe become an SF author in her own right. If she does, I wish her the best.

Pauline Ashwell

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The pen name of Pauline Whitby, this British author published her first story when she was only 14 years old (it was called “Invasion From Venus”). Although her first novel, Unwillingly to School, was published in 1958, its protagonist, a feisty young woman named Lysistrata “Lizzie” Lee, had her biggest adventure in its 1960 sequel, The Lost Kafoozalum, where she averts a nuclear holocaust.

Kate Wilhelm

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Married to fellow SF pioneer Damon Knight, Wihelm’s best known work are the 1976 novels Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (about a community of clones living in the Appalachians), The Clewiston Test (about the effect a scientific breakthrough has on a woman’s marriage), and The Infinity Box, a collection of short stories.

Rosel George Brown

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Among her most notable works are Galactic Sybil Sue Blue (1966) and its sequel, The Waters of Centaurus, (1970) chronicling the adventures of a tough female cop and her teenage daughter. Her other novel, Earthblood, (1966) tells the story of a boy on a quest to discover his Terran heritage. Sadly in 1967, her life was cut short at the age of 41 when she died from lymphoma.

Phyllis Gotlieb

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Her first and most famous novel, Sunburst, (1964) concerns the trials and tribulations of a group of ESP sensitive mutant children. The Sunburst Award is named for this book and is awarded annually to Canadian sci-fi authors.

Joanna Russ

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Russ is often credited with being one of the first writers to directly address feminist themes in her work. “When It Changed” (1972), is about an all female society that has to face the eventual reality of male colonialism. The award-winning novel, The Female Man  (1975) has four women from four different parallel worlds who meet and discuss the gender roles of their respective societies. Her 1977 novel, We Who Are About to Die, is a deconstruction of the Adam and Eve Plot.

Sonya Dorman Hess

Author Picture

She came to nationwide recognition with the inclusion of her short story “Go, Go, Go, Said the Bird” in the 1967’s Dangerous Visions Anthology. Her other short story “When I Was Miss Dow” looks into a shapeshifter’s relationship with a Terran colonist. In 1995 it was nominated for a Retrospective James Tiptree Jr. Award.

Fun fact: Hess bred akitas which is alluded to in “Miss Dow”.

Pamela Zoline

Though more of an artist and editor than an SF writer, she took the concept of entropy and applied it to the everyday life of a housewife, in the style of multiple dictionary entries, in her 1967 story, “The Heat Death of the Universe”.

Anne McCaffrey

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McCaffrey is renowned for her worldbuilding. Her Dragonriders of Pern series (23 books in all!) depicts a world where dragons and their human riders share a telepathic link. Her 1961 story “The Ship Who Sang” set up the “Brain and Brawn Ship” series, where those who are physically disabled but mentally competent can donate their minds to run ships. Dinosaur Planet (1978) is just that, a planet full of dinosaurs – and pirates! What more could you want? Well, you could also read Decision At Doona (1967) where human colonists learn to coexist with the feline species of Doona. And last but not least, there’s  stories (7 in all) about Acorna the unicorn girl (no she’s not a type of centaur, she’s a unicorn/human hybrid).

Ursula K. LeGuin

Ursula K. LeGuin, Children's Books Winner, 1973

No need for an introduction here. LeGuin shot to fame in 1968 and 1969 with her novels A Wizard of Earthsea and The Left Hand of Darkness, the latter novel famous for its exploration of androgyny, sexuality and gender roles. It’s always ranked as one of the greatest sci-fi works of all time. Her follow up books, The Dispossessed (1974) and The Word for World is Forrest (1976) have won Hugo and Nebula awards.

James Tiptree Jr.

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Tiptree, on the right, pictured with her husband, Huntington Sheldon in 1946. 

I won’t lie: Tiptree is my favorite woman SF author. The idea that this author was able to fool everyone, from fans to the SF community into thinking that her work was written by a man is genius even to this day. Her real name was Alice Hastings Bradley Sheldon and her first SF story, “Birth of a Salesman” was published in 1968. She took the name “James Tiptree Jr.” because, in her words, “A male name seemed like good camouflage. I had the feeling that a man would slip by less observed. I’ve had too many experiences in my life of being the first woman in some damned occupation.” It was also believed that Sheldon was trying to protect her professional reputation as an intelligence community official (Sheldon once worked for the CIA). While her work often addressed feminist themes, her stories were often told from the perspectives of male protagonists: “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” (1976) follows a group of (male) astronauts who discover a future Earth where men have been wiped out. The (male) protagonist in “The Women Men Don’t See” doesn’t understand why the two women he’s protecting would rather leave with some aliens. “The Screwfly Solution” bounces back and forth between a scientist couple observing a femicide pandemic. All these works can be found in the anthology Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. You can also read more about Tiptree in Julie Phillips biography: James Tiptree Jr.: the Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon. The James Tiptree Jr. Award honoring works of science fiction or fantasy that expand or explore our understanding of gender, was named in her honor.

C.J. Cherryh

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After she won the Hugo award for her short story “Cassandra” (1978), Cherryh (the “h” was added at the end because her agent thought it looked more science-fictiony) quit teaching to become a full-time writer and wrote a very intricate series of books that make up the Alliance/Union Universe, which consists of the novel Cyteen, the Faded Sun Trilogy, the Morgaine Cycle and Downbelow Station. Another series of note is the Finisterre Universe, a duology about the bonds human colonists and equine aliens on the planet Finisterre.

Fun fact: discovered in March 2001, Asteroid 77185 Cherryh is named in her honor.

Octavia E. Butler

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Despite growing up at a time when racism was prevalent, Butler still led a colorful life. Here’s a segment from Wikipedia:

From an early age, an almost paralyzing shyness made it difficult for Butler to socialize with other children. Her awkwardness, paired with a slight dyslexia that made schoolwork a torment, an easy target for bullies, and led her to believe that she was “ugly and stupid, clumsy, and socially hopeless”. As a result, she frequently passed the time reading at the Pasadena Central Library. She also wrote reams of pages in her “big pink notebook”. Hooked at first on fairy tales and horse stories, she quickly became interested in science fiction magazines, such as Amazing StoriesGalaxy Science Fiction, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. She began reading stories by John Brunner, Zenna Henderson, and Theodore Sturgeon.

At the age of 10, Butler begged her mother to buy her a Remington typewriter, on which she “pecked [her] stories two fingered”. At 12, she watched the televised version of the film Devil Girl from Mars (1954) and concluded that she could write a better story. She drafted what would later become the basis for her Patternist novels. Happily ignorant of the obstacles that a black female writer could encounter, she became unsure of herself for the first time at the age of 13, when her well-intentioned aunt Hazel said: “Honey … Negroes can’t be writers.” But Butler persevered in her desire to publish a story, and even asked her junior high school science teacher, Mr. Pfaff, to type the first manuscript she submitted to a science fiction magazine.

The Patternist series depicts the transformation of humanity into three genetic groups: the dominant Patternists, humans who have been bred with heightened telepathic powers; their enemies the Clayarks, disease-mutated animal-like superhumans; and the Mutes, ordinary humans bonded to the Patternists. The first book, Patternmaster was published in 1976, the last book, Clay’s Ark was published in 1984. Her “pregnant man” story “Bloodchild” depicts a somewhat symbiotic relationship between a colony of humans and a race of aliens called the Tlic – who use the humans as hosts for their eggs. In 2006 and 2019 two scholarships were established in her memory as well as an asteroid (7052 Octaviabutler) and a mountain on the moon Charon (Butler Mons).

Suzy McKee Charnas

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Her first two novels of The Holdfast Chronicles – Walk To The End of the World (1974) and Motherlines (1978) – depict two societies: one where men dominate women and another where women live free and independent of men. Motherlines caused controversy when Ballantine Books refused to publish it (despite publishing her first book) because there were no male characters in the book. It would go on to win the 1996 Retrospective James Tiptree Jr. Award. HA!

Naomi Mitchison

Naomi Mitchison - Wikipedia

Although born in 1897 her first true SF novel wouldn’t get published until she was 65 years old. Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962) is just that, a series of space “travelogues” depicting the biology and ecology of other planets as written by an astronaut telepath named Mary.

As the society rolled into the ’80s and ’90s science fiction would undergo some drastic changes. How did the women writers of this movement handle these changes and who were they? Stay tuned for part four.

 

 

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Queens of Sci-Fi, Part 2: The Golden Age

While women writers of the 19th century and early 1900s were predicting future utopias, none of them foresaw the carnage that was to come in 1914 – or the new roles women would perform in its aftermath. American women won the right to vote in 1920 and the corset – that traditional garment of feminine posture and beauty – went the way of the Edwardian era. Now that the idea of a future utopia was debatable, what was next for women writers in the sci-fi genre?

Pulp magazines, with their lurid, garish covers and their sensational stories, gave rise to science fiction titles like Astounding, Analog, Galaxy and Amazing Stories. Writers also launched their careers with these magazines. The stories in these magazines were often adventure stories set on a far off planet, not too different from the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs or H. Rider Haggard. But in the hands of these women writers, the stories were different in tone and often featured female protagonists.

By the time the prosperous 1950s rolled around, women’s roles had changed drastically and some writers’ works reflected reflected societal attitudes – but not without some subversions.

In this post, we’ll be celebrating the women SF writers of the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.

Clare Winger Harris

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She was the first woman to publish sci-fi stories under her own name in 1926. She published a total of 11 stories, most of them in Hugo Gernsback’s Amazing Stories. Her stories were adventures involving female protagonists at a time when most female characters mainly functioned as love interests for the hero. “The Fate of the Poseidonia” (1926) is a space opera about a group of Martians who steal the Earth’s water, while “The Ape Cycle” (1930) features an airplane pilot and mechanic named Sylvia. Harris’ work can be found in The Artificial Man and Other Stories and Away From the Here and Now, which are available at Amazon.

C.L. Moore

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The nom de plume of Catherine Lucille Moore (who went by her initials because she didn’t want the management of the bank she worked at know that she was writing for pulp magazines), best known for her “Northwest Smith” (an early influence on the character of Han Solo) stories and her “Jirel of Joiry” (a fierce warrior woman) sword and sorcery stories. She would later collaborate with her husband, Henry Kuttner, under the pseudonym “Lewis Padgett” and they’re work was often made into movies and TV shows. Another notable work is her 1944 novella, “No Woman Born”, where a cyborg actress slowly loses her humanity – and sanity. There are various anthologies of Moore’s work which can be found here.

Murray Constantine

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Under her pseudonym, Katherine Burdekin wrote the 1937 prescient novel, Swastika Night, depicting a future where the world is divided between the Nazis and the Japanese (sound familiar?) and a long dead Hitler is venerated as a god. A “cult of masculinity” has reduced the roles of women in society and placed them in concentration camps where they’re merely valued for their reproductive abilities. An earlier novel, Proud Man (1934) is a critique on gender roles from the perspective of a time traveling hermaphrodite. Swastika Night is now part of the SF Masterworks Collection.

Leigh Brackett

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Any Star Warrior will tell you that she wrote the first draft of the screenplay to The Empire Strikes Back, but did you know she also wrote screenplays for Rio Bravo and The Big Sleep? Like C.L. Moore, Brackett created her own space faring cowboy, Eric John Stark. Her other stories include “The Woman From Altair”, “Black Amazon of Mars”, “Lorelei of the Red Mist”, “Citadel of Lost Ships” and the novel The Long Tomorrow (1955). Her works can be found here.

Judith Merril

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One of the earliest pioneers of SF fandom, Merrill was a member of the Futurians, co-founder of the Hydra Club and an editor of one of the first fanzines. She argued that science fiction was just as good a literary genre as any other and deserves to be mainstream. Her most well-known short story is “That Only a Mother”, which describes a day in the life of a new mom living on a nuclear testing site (1948). She also wrote The Tomorrow People (1960) a novel about a lone survivor of a Mars mission. In 2002, her granddaughter published a biography about her titled Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril.

Katherine MacLean

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MacLean, who died in 2019, was a Nebula Award winner for her novella The Missing Man, a story about a man with telepathic powers, who helps New York’s Rescue Squad with finding missing people. She also wrote the 1950 short story “Contagion”, a study of an alien virus, identity and how it ties in with physical appearance. Another short story, “The Snowball Effect” (1952) is a satire about a ladies’ knitting circle’s rise to power in US politics. She has two short story collections: The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy and The Trouble with You Earth People.

Margaret St. Clair

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Also writing under the name Idris Seabright and Wilton Hazzard, St. Clair’s stories often spoofed the 1950s housewife culture that was prevalent at the time (in a futuristic setting of course). Her 1950 short story, “The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes” is exactly what it says in the title, with horrific results. Her three collections are Three Worlds of Futurity, Change the Sky and Other Stories and The Best of Margaret St. Clair.

Zenna Henderson

Zenna Henderson c.1953

A writer who once taught at a Japanese internment camp during WW2, Henderson’s works often centered around children, teachers, older women and their relationships to aliens. In “The Anything Box”, a teacher interacts with a student who possesses a very special box. In “Subcommittee” a general’s wife befriends an alien mother and child. Henderson has been unfairly accused of being “too sentimental” in her work, but at a time when other SF writers were using aggression as a solution to alien interaction, Henderson’s suggestion of peaceful resolution as an alternative is a breath of fresh air. Her collection of stories about “The People”- a group of humanoid aliens settled in the American Southwest – has been collected in an anthology: Ingathering: The Complete People Stories.

Andre Norton

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You might’ve seen her books on your local school library shelves when you were a kid. You might’ve seen the 1982 film The Beastmaster or the 1999 series BeastMaster. Chances are you’ve been touched by the golden hand of one Andre Norton, who published over 130 works in her lifetime. She holds the distinction of being the first woman to be SFWA Grand Master and the first woman to be inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. Her works include Catseye, Witch World, Star Rangers, Sioux Spaceman, Judgement On Janus and the aforementioned The Beast Master. The Andre Norton Award was created in her honor.

Mildred Clingerman

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In 2014 she was posthumously awarded the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. In 2017 a collection of her stories was published as The Clingerman Files which included her most well-known story, “Minister Without Portfolio”, about a clueless little old lady, whom, unbeknownst to her, has convinced aliens not to invade Earth because of her kindness.

Stay tuned for Part 3. Also check out Pamela Sargent’s anthology, Women of Wonder: The Classic Years, which contains stories by the women in this post and an extensive introduction detailing the history of women’s role in the sci-fi genre.

 

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Queens of Sci-Fi: The Early Years

Browsing through Twitter one day, I came across this tweet by Antonia @Flayminhaystack listing the many inventions by women we take for granted. I knew a woman invented windshield wipers, but I had no idea women invented paper bags, foot pedal trash bins, Monopoly and the circular saw. Antonia bemoans that these industrious ladies never got the credit for what they invented and are almost forgotten today. “Never forget these women”, she warns.

This gave me an idea.

In the world of science fiction and fantasy, we the fans tend to focus on fictitious female characters and the actresses that portray them, but very little lip service is given to the women who write sci-fi and fantasy. Oh yes, J.K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood and Stephanie Meyer are super rich and super famous but there are so many others – living and dead – who remain uncredited, unknown and forgotten. In this post, I’ll list the writers whose work was published in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Future posts will cover later time periods.

Margaret Lucas Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Margaret wrote The Description of the New World,  Called The Blazing World, which was published in 1666. It is one of the earliest works of “utopian fiction”.

Mary Shelley

Half-length portrait of a woman wearing a black dress sitting on a red sofa. Her dress is off the shoulder, exposing her shoulders. The brush strokes are broad.

The daughter of feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, her immortal novel, Frankenstein (1818), continues to haunt us. But did you know she wrote a second sci-fi novel? The Last Man (1826) depicts the titular protagonist surviving a plague that wipes out humanity.

Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain

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A Bengali feminist who wrote “Sultana’s Dream”(1905), imagining a world of reverse purdah: where women run society and men are secluded.

Mary E. Bradley Lane

Wrote the 1880 novel Mizora: A Prophecy, which depicts a society where power-hungry men have wiped themselves out, and the surviving women take over, reproducing by parthenogenesis.

Annie Denton Cridge

In 1870, she published Man’s Rights, a story about a woman who wakes up on Mars, where men perform the stereotypical roles assigned to women (applying makeup and elaborate hairstyles, staying “in the kitchen”) and women are the lawmakers and politicians.

Francis Stevens/Gertrude Barrows Bennett

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Known as “the woman who invented dark fantasy”, Bennett often published works under a pseudonym: Francis Stevens. Her best known works are The Heads of Cerberus, one of the first parallel universe novels, and Friend Island, which imagines a 22nd Century ruled by women.

Mary Griffith

Mary Griffith

Her only known science fiction novel is Three Hundred Years Hence, the first known utopian novel written by an American woman. It’s famous for being the first story to imagine a utopia in the far future. It was published in 1836.

Alice W. Fuller

First published in 1895, A Wife Manufactured to Order is Fuller’s satire on marriage via the “robot story”. You can read the story here.

Alice Ilgenfriz Jones and Ella Merchant

These two women wrote Unveiling a Parallel (1893), one of the earliest novels to address parallel dimensions. It also discussed the idea that gender is taught instead of innate.

Winnifred Harper Cooley

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The daughter of suffragist Ida Harper, she wrote the 1902 novel, A Dream of the Twenty-First Century.

Anna Bowman Dodd

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She wrote one of the earliest dystopian novels, The Republic of the Future (1887), a conservative response to the liberal movements of the time.

Elizabeth Burgoyne Corbett

Imagined a post apocalyptic matriarchal society ruled by 7 foot tall ageless Amazons in New Amazonia, published in 1889.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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One of THE most prolific feminist writers of the early 20th century, Gilman wrote the influential Herland (1915), which has had a far reaching influence on future writers from Margaret Atwood to Pamela Sargent to Katie Lucas.

Have I overlooked anyone? Let me know in the comments. You can find some of these stories in the Amazon Kindle anthology Feminist Sci-Fi by Osie Turner.

Stay tuned for part 2!

 

 

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Filed under science fiction, speculative fiction, Uncategorized

4 Thoughts On: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”

 

When I first saw Blade Runner (and I think it was the Director’s Cut instead of the theatrical cut) it was in my college Mythology Course. I found the film so interesting I decided to read the 1968 Philip K. Dick novel it was based on: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. I was so blown away by the book that when I decided watch Blade Runner again (same Director’s Cut) – I found it to be a total snoozefest.

Now I’m not the kind of person who thinks that the book is always better than the movie. Sometimes the movie is better than the book (my choices include The Princess Diaries, The Wizard of Oz and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), sometimes the book and the movie are equally good (The Day the Earth Stood Still, Planet of the Apes and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and sometimes the book and the movie are equally horrible (The Lovely Bones, John Carpenter’s The Thing – there I said it).

I’m also the kind of person who knows that what may work on the page may not translate as well to the big screen. Sometimes liberties need to be taken. However, there are 4 aspects of DADOES I wished had been included in the film. Such as:

1. Animals Are The Most Precious Commodity

In post-apocalyptic San Francisco, we learn that World War 3 has wiped out most animal species on Earth. So to compensate, companies that specialize in robotics make lifelike robot animals that you can care for like the real deal. And if your “pet” malfunctions, you can take it to a “vet” who’ll repair it. However there are biological animals that survived the war – and buying one can cost a year’s wages (they’re sold in catalogs). In the beginning of the book, Rick Deckard and his wife Iran, own a sheep (electrical) but the couple badly want a real animal and after Deckard kills his latest bounty (he’s never called a “Blade Runner” in the book, just a bounty hunter), he uses his earnings to buy a real goat. Even the local religion has a ritual involving animals (more on that later). Now there have been SF books where spice, water, even dust were viewed as more precious than gold but Electric Sheep is the only SF novel I know of that makes the animal kingdom the gross national product.

2. Deckard Loves Opera

It’s regrettable that the film had a female android (Joanna Cassidy) working as some naked “snake charmer” (whom, after her act, dons a “bikini”, stiletto boots and some type of see through plastic jacket) when in the book we have Deckard assigned to “retire” Luba Luft, an android posing as an opera singer – and a very good one at that. Here’s an excerpt from chapter 9:

In the enormous whale-belly of steel and stone carved out to form the long-enduring old opera house, Rick Deckard found an echoing, noisy, slightly miscontrived rehearsal taking place. As he entered he recognized the music: Mozart’s The Magic Flute

What a pleasure; he loved The Magic Flute. He seated himself in a dress circle seat and made himself comfortable. Now Papageno in his fantastic pelt of bird feathers had joined Pamina to sing words which always brought tears to Rick’s eyes, when and if he happened to think about it.

Here’s an excerpt from chapter 13:

She was really a superb singer, he said to himself…I don’t get it; how can a talent like that be a liability to our society?

Can you imagine a scene showing Harrison Ford attending a futuristic opera house and enjoying a performance of Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen, then showing up in Miss Luft’s dressing room and using his knowledge of opera to arrest her? If The Fifth Element could pull it if off, then why couldn’t Blade Runner?

And speaking Luba Luft…

3. She’s the Only Sympathetic Android In the Whole Book

While Rick spends the entire book conflicted over the moral dilemma of killing androids, Dick shows us that the android characters – Rachel Rosen, Irmgard and Roy Baty – lack any kind of empathy. Ironically the one character to bring this out is Luba herself. From chapter 12, pages 123 – 124, Rick and his partner, Phil Resch (who might be an android himself), catch up with Luba at an art museum and Rick decides to buy her an art book from the gift shop – even though she’s under arrest. Then we get this:

“Listen,” she said to Rick. Buy me a reproduction of that picture I was looking at when you found me. The one of the girl sitting on the bed.”

After a pause Rick said to the clerk, a heavy-jowled, middle-aged woman with netted gray hair, “Do you have a print of Munch’s Puberty?”

Only this book of his collected work,” the clerk said, lifting down a handsome glossy volume. “Twenty-five dollars.”

“I’ll take it.” He reached for his wallet.

“It’s very nice of you,” Luba said as they entered the elevator. There’s something very strange and touching about humans. An android would never have done that.” She glanced icily at Phil Resch. “It wouldn’t have occurred to him; as he said, never in a million years.” She continued to gaze at Resch, now with manifold hostility and aversion. “I really don’t like androids. Ever since I got here from Mars my life has consisted of imitating the human, doing what she would do, acting as if I had the thoughts and impulses a human would have.”

Now compare Luba to the other aforementioned androids and she’s right – they have no redeeming qualities. Phil kills Luba without administering the Boneli test (a legal requirement to measure an android’s empathy), Rachel and Irmgard torture a spider by cutting off four of its legs (remember what I said about animals being a precious commodity?). And androids have no problem killing and stealing a person’s identity.

4. Mercerism

Blade Runner had a lot of unicorn imagery to represent Deckard’s identity. But oh how much more interesting it would’ve been to show some references to Mercerism, the state religion/philosophy.

Named for a man named Wilbur Mercer, every home contains a device called an empathy box, which recipients can look into and reenact a particular scene from Mercer’s life where Mercer is pelted with stones as he’s climbing a mountain, then falls into a graveyard of animal bones, causing the animals to come back to life. It’s a reminder to the characters on the importance of empathy (remember, empathy is “your pain in my heart”). Later, a popular radio station called Buster Friendly and Friends debunks Mercerism as a fraud but that doesn’t stop some of the characters from still putting faith in its philosophy.

So that’s my four thoughts on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? What are yours? Have you read the novel? Do you think it’s better than Blade Runner or not? Could there be a more faithful adaptation in the future (say as a mini-series)? Discuss.

 

 

 

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Filed under 5 Thoughts, Philip K. Dick

“Looking For Leia” In All The Wrong Places

 

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Analise Ophelian’s docuseries, Looking For Leia, is a look into the female fandom of Star Wars and what the saga means to them.  If your curious about it, you can head on over to SyFy.com or SyFyWire at YouTube. I, on the other hand, have no interest in watching it.

Now I know some male anti-Disney Star Warriors will predictably boycott it for being “man-exclusionary” but that’s a stupid reason. Let’s face it boys, in the Star Wars franchise, the male to female ratio is uneven, even if you count characters from the EU and the CW. It wouldn’t hurt to have some books, articles and documentaries on the women of Star Wars. In fact, I think if there was a Women of the Galaxy book or a “Sisters of the Force” fashion line pre-2012, you boys would have no problem with it. That’s because the roster would include awesome characters like Juno Eclipse, Kea Moll, Cindel Towani and of course, Mara Jade Skywalker, instead of duds like Rose Tico, Admiral Holdo and Rey.

No, my reason for boycotting Looking for Leia is that it falls into the gender identity trap. Back when the director was sending out invites for fan interviews, her description was for any woman that’s “feminine-leaning”, “masculine-leaning” and other gender terminology gobbledygook. What does it matter whether the woman acts “masculine” or “feminine” – THEY’RE STILL WOMEN!!!

Now here’s the description of the film:

LOOKING FOR LEIA is a seven part docu-series about women as well as non-binary fans who found identity, connection, and purpose in their love of the galaxy far, far away.

Non-binary. They said the same thing with the Women of the Galaxy book. Why do they always have to throw in the non-binary crowd with women? Can’t the non-binary people have their own documentaries and books? Besides, there’s no such thing as non-binary, there are only two sexes: male and female. Gender is psychological and social and differs from era to era and culture to culture but biological sex is immutable. Here’s an explanation:

Sex is – “this baby has a vagina”,

Gender is – “so we’ll wrap her in a pink blanket”.

Any woman who loves Star Wars is fighting gender roles because for the longest time, society believed that science fiction was for boys.

Oh and here’s how the Team describes themselves. From their official website:

Annalise Ophelian, Psy.D. She’s a white, queer, cis woman

“Queer” and “cis”. What’s with the use of the word “queer”? Queer means strange or odd and to spoil or ruin something. For the longest time “queer” was a slur in the gay community. It’s also too vague. Is she lesbian? Bisexual? Or does she just like to wear mismatched socks. There was a time when homosexual women were called “lesbians”, yet that word seems to be disappearing from the English language. And who cares if she’s white? It wouldn’t matter in the galaxy far, far away so why would it matter in this galaxy?

Kayla Martin. A pansexual cis woman

She and Lando can bond over their fetish for cookingware.

Emilia Quinton. She is proudly mixed race and transgender.

Translation: she’s really a delusional man.

Gwen Park. Gwen is a past Executive of the San Francisco Trans March’s Board of Directors, and is frequently found documenting arts events and public demonstrations for the San Francisco trans and queer community.

I’m guessing this is another man.

StormMiguel Florez. A trans Latinx multi-media producer and editor.  StormMiguel and Annalise are a husbynd and wyfe team.

“Husbynd” and “wyfe”. Not only did they spell it wrong, StormMiguel sounds like someone who isn’t happy with herself so she mutilated her body. If her marriage to Annalise fails, it won’t surprise me.

Maria Breaux. Her focus is on marginalized characters in unique predicaments. Her work includes Funcle and Socorro (both premiering at the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival).

Oh and here’s two of the interviewees, both of them men (Charlie Jane Anders used to work for the prequel hating i09).

Don’t even get me started on the whiny “representation” complaints.

When I was a teenager, I used to imagine filming a documentary about the female fans (regardless of color, age, class, religion or sexual orientation) of Star Wars and how the franchise inspired and empowered them. I would’ve called it Women of the Force. I believed – and still do – that girls aspired to become writers, scientists, feminists and scholars because of Star Wars.

And while we’re on the subject of women and fandom…

Dear Fandom Menace, These Feminists You Criticize Aren’t Feminists

From time to time, certain members of the Fandom Menace like to retweet certain feminists and criticize them for being SJW/misandrists. Curiosity got the best of me and I did a little investigating. These women and men are not feminists.

This woman was recently retweeted by Fandom Menace Girl for her man bashing tweet. Her cousin was recently murdered by her boyfriend and she’s raising awareness for domestic violence. At first I felt sorry for her and was mad at Fandom Menace Girl for being so cold. Then I came across the above tweet and that’s when any sympathy I had for her went out the window. Here’s another lovely thing she had to say to a woman:

“Rights aren’t up for debate”? So what if her cousin had to find refuge in a DV shelter and her abusive boyfriend decided to identify as a woman to gain access to that shelter because the shelter acknowledged gender identity instead of biological sex? What if the staff of said shelter told her that her “rights aren’t up for debate?” This is actually happening in a lot of women’s shelters across North America.

Moving on to the next tweet and it involves The Mandalorian.

Non-male?

Honey, the opposite of male is FEMALE!

Next.

Two tweets, one idiot, who likes to take potshots at anti-Disney fans:

Oh I doubt that very much.

Larry and Andy Wachowski as they were once known, were born in 1965 and 1967 respectively. By the time they released The Matrix, they’re breakout hit, they were in their early ’30s. By the time both came out as transgender (in the mid new-tens), they were in their mid-to-late 40s. So both had lived the majority of their lives as men and “transitioned” into women without undergoing all the trials and tribulations of puberty that are typical of girls becoming women. They’ll never know what it’s like to menstruate, have cramps, get pregnant, give birth or go through menopause.

And for awhile the brothers were given the title of the highest-grossing female filmmakers. Ironic considering that most of their films (with the exception of Jupiter Rising), center on male protagonists.

At least George Lucas isn’t living as a woman.

No honey, these aren’t “two lesbians”. One is an actual woman and the other is a man pretending to be a woman. A lesbian is – wait for it – a female homosexual. A man pretending to be a woman is still a man and lesbians aren’t attracted to men. Sexual orientation is about being attracted to members of the opposite or same sex. Not gender. Get it? Oh and it’s lesbians who are mad at the Guardian.

Now we have a “male feminist” (also called out by Fandom Menace Girl).

In case your wondering, TERF stands for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist”. It’s a slur against any woman who questions or criticizes gender identity. This guy thinks “TERFs” “deserve” to be attacked. So in another words: direct violence at a woman for refusing to believe that men can be women. This sentiment is terrifyingly common.

I know this post will be my most controversial. I’ll be labeled a bigot, a transphobe, a TERF and every other name under the sun. I might even lose followers. I don’t care. I’d rather be honest than popular.

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Filed under fandom, female characters, feminism, Star Wars, Uncategorized

Your “Alita” Article Sucks

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I finally got around to seeing Alita: Battle Angel, the 2019 Robert Rodriguez/James Cameron adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s manga Gunnm (also known as Battle Angel Alita) and loved it. It’s visually stunning. It has a charming protagonist and a moral compass. It’s the best female-led graphic novel adaptation since Wonder Woman.

Too bad the critics and the media didn’t feel the same way.

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The film scored a 61% on RT. Not rotten, but not fresh when compared to Captain Marvel (78% Certified Fresh).

And then there’s this article by Anne Cohen from Refinery 29: Alita: Battle Angel Is a Man’s Fantasy of a Powerful Woman. 

You won’t read it? Well I don’t blame you so I’m going to break down this article and give some rebuttals.

I wish Alita: Battle Angel had been made by a woman.

Um, it was co-written by Laeta Kalogridis, the woman who also wrote Shutter Island, Alexander and The House With a Clock In It’s Walls. She was also executive producer for Avatar and Altered Carbon.  Women directors are important but women screenwriters are just as important because the real strength of a film or TV show is in the writing and for too long we’ve had films about women written from a male perspective.

But alas — Robert Rodriguez directed James Cameron’s pet project, and instead of a complex, vibrant female character, Alita (Rosa Salazar) is reduced to a wide-eyed young woman (literally, her CGI-avatar eyes are huge) who feels more like a male fantasy than a woman’s idea of a hero.

Do you mean the same charming, wide-eyed Alita who drinks in the sights of Iron Town the moment she steps into its streets?

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The same Alita who wants to go to Zalum the moment she sees it? The same young woman who hugs Dr. Ido enthusiastically when she learns her name? Who immediately develops an interest in motorball? Who loves oranges and chocolate?

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Who befriends a stray dog? That Alita? Yeah what a bore. And you knew that Alita: Battle Angel was based on a Japanese manga, so why are you shocked at her “wide-eyes”? Maybe you should phone Japan and tell them to stop drawing their characters with wide eyes, so you won’t get creeped out by a live action adaptation.

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The fact that a man gives this “insignificant girl” (her words) an identity is your first hint that this might not be the empowering movie it’s being marketed as.

Well she was tossed into a junk heap with her memory wiped. If that doesn’t make you feel insignificant, nothing will. And isn’t it appropriate to our culture renowned for making teenage girls believe they’re insignificant? I sure think so.

I counted four women with speaking parts, defined extremely loosely: Alita; Ido’s ex-wife Chiren and fellow doctor/machine wizard (Jennifer Connelly), who’s now involved with Iron City top gangster Vector; Nyssiana (Eiza González), a killer cyborg and bounty hunter who threatens Alita; and Koyomi (Lana Condor), a friend of Alita’s love interest Hugo (Keean Johnson), who has exactly one line. Because these women barely speak to each other, the film does not pass The Bechdel Test.

You only counted four? What about Alita’s mentor, Gelda (Michelle Rodriguez) or Dr. Ido’s assistant, Nurse Gerhad (Idara Victor) or hunter-warrior Screwhead (Elle LaMont) and last but not least the original Alita (Emma Lindsey) who’s memory motivates Dr. Ido on his “quest for peace”? These women may not have a lot of speaking lines but their presence speaks volumes. And yes, this film does pass the Bechdel Test: Gerhad talks to Alita; Chiren talks to Alita, twice; Koyomi gives Alita the thumbs up when she reveals her new body (I’ll also take a moment to point out that Koyomi averts the role of Territorial Smurfette – unlike some other films *cough, Thor: The Dark World, cough*). And last, but not least, Alita has flashbacks to her past life where she fought and trained under Gelda. Was Ms. Cohen even paying attention to the movie?

This brings to mind Shannon McRandle’s (Mara Jade Skywalker) thoughts on female characters:

“Instead of having more women, we got to have women with great stories. I’d rather have one Princess Leia or one Mara Jade than 15 women who’s characters I don’t care about because as a fan I want to fall in love with the character. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality.”

Now what is the Bechdel Test you ask? It was named after writer/artist Alison Bechdel, from her graphic novel Dykes to Watch Out For, in which a character tells another that she only watches movies that follow three rules: 1. do they show two women 2. talking to each other 3. about something besides men.

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However just because a film passes the Bechdel Test doesn’t automatically make it a feminist film.

The thing about criteria such as the Bechdel Test is that they can so easily move from exasperated challenge to the status quo to fig leaf that helps preserve the existing order. If all the entertainment industry has to do to pass the Bechdel Test is to slap a few lines of dialogue onto a hundred-and-forty-minute compilation of CGI explosions, then I’m done accepting Bechdel Test results as proof of anything other than Hollywood’s desire to wring as much profit out of feminism with as little effort as possible. 

– Alyssa Rosenberg

Case in point: The Kill Bill movies pass the Test with flying colors yet they’ve been accusedof being misogynistic, whereas Man of Steel shows two women talking about a man in non-romantic context.

And speaking of Hugo — why does Alita need a love interest? He just slows her down. And from the moment they first meet — comically, he’s framed as her savior, even if she can technically crush him with her pinkie — he becomes her driving motivator.

Oh I dunno, maybe because there was a character in the manga named Hugo who also happened to be Alita’s love interest. And he saved her from that big crushing robot because she was just standing there and he had no clue (as neither did she) that she was a warrior. Plus it’s a very human reaction to step in and save someone when their life is in danger. I mean, why did they even bother to be faithful to the manga? Maybe they should’ve just followed in the footsteps of the people who made Dragonball: Evolution and ignore the source material. What could possibly go wrong?

Now that you mentioned it, why did Diana have a love interest? Steve just slowed her down. He saved her from the Germans – even if she can technically crush him with her pinkie. Didn’t he become her driving motivator? I mean, he told her about the war and he had to teach her to fit in in Man’s World. Why didn’t Patty Jenkins and co. just ignore 75 years of published comics?

Plot aside, there’s also an unsettling sexualization of Alita throughout the film, from the way the camera pans up her teenage cyborg body, to a truly ridiculous moment where she grows large breasts because it’s “reconfigured to her imagined image.” This is fairly on-brand for Rodriguez, whose body of work (Sin CityPlanet Terror, and Death Proof, among others) has pretty much coined the genre of “badass fighter women who are also objectified hotties subject to men’s whims.” At some point, Alita is actually described as having “the face of an angel and a body built for battle.”

Large breasts? What large breasts? All I see is the body of a typical teenage girl.

When Alita sees her cyborg body for the first time, she touches her face. She wiggles her fingers. She even practices a few fighting moves in front of the mirror. When she gets her berserker body attached, she performs some gymnastics. She never runs her hands all over her body in a suggestive manner.

You wanna see some examples of “objectified badass warrior women”? Here’s three:

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Alita doesn’t even come close to this.

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Through a series of flashbacks, Alita slowly figures out the key to her identity. But even that is more sad than fulfilling — the woman she used to be appears more free and focused on her own agenda than the woman she’s become.

So you’re saying her past life as a soldier was more free and focused than her new life as a teenage girl with friends, family, a love for chocolate and a will to fight evil? This brings to mind Natalie Portman’s statement about female characters:

“I want [female characters] to be allowed to be weak and strong and happy and sad – human, basically. The fallacy in Hollywood is that if you’re making a ‘feminist’ story, the woman kicks ass and wins. That’s not feminist, that’s macho. A movie about a weak, vulnerable woman can be feminist if it shows a real person that we can empathize with.”

You know what I think Ms. Cohen. I don’t think you wrote this piece as a feminist critique. I think you wrote this because you’re a journalist who’s been brainwashed by the Mouse to eliminate any competition that stood in the way of Captain Marvel. Well it appears you’ve won the battle – Captain Marvel made more money. But only time will tell if you’ve won the war – and I hope in the near future, Alita will win that war.

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Filed under female characters, feminism, Uncategorized

Honestly EU Fans, What’s With All the Clone Wars Hate?

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I just need some answers.

Saw this on Twitter recently.

Oh and here was one response:

Restore the Republic and RebeLibrarian are anti-Disney, pro-EU fans. So am I. But they also like to throw shade at The Clone Wars (but not Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars) once and awhile, with the same venom as they do the Disney sequels. I don’t (one wonders what would happen if they did the same thing to The Mandalorian or Rogue One). The question is, why? What is it about The Clone Wars that offends them so much? Does it really contradict canon? Have they even bothered to watch the show?

Then there’s this article on Expanded Universe.com:

The 2003-2005 Clone Wars microseries was brilliant. The 2008 television series The Clone Wars was a mixed bag, in the view of many fans. Chief among concerns are the numerous contradictions the new show introduced into the EU continuity, writing over parts of the existing clone wars timeline seen in the microseries, books, and comics.

“A mixed bag”? Then how do you explain that lengthy fan campaign to “Save The Clone Wars” when it was abruptly canceled by Disney? And what were these contradictions introduced into the EU continuity? I’ll admit I loved the 2003 CW show and was puzzled when Lucasfilm announced they were doing another one. I also read CW novels like The Cestus Deception and Shatterpoint and Yoda: Dark Rendezvous, so yes at one time I was a 2008 CW doubter. But eventually I watched the show and loved it and I view Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars as the bookends to Filoni’s Clone Wars (let’s also not forget that when it came to the EU, George often put limitations on what authors could and couldn’t write in their stories – and the Clone Wars era was no exception). I just don’t see the contradiction between the two. Also Filoni’s CW often drew inspiration from the EU and  in interviews, Filoni was always respectful of the EU.

… Not to mention TCW Darth Maul getting cybernetic legs was an idea from an Infinities story…which was never part of EU canon anyway (Infinities was more of a “what-if” timeline) but now is thanks to, not Dave Filoni, but George Lucas – who created The Clone Wars. It was his idea to bring back Darth Maul, even though he’d been killed off, and in Joe Schreiber’s 2014 novel Maul: Lockdown, its revealed that Zabraks possess two hearts which explains why Maul survived Kenobi’s bisecting. The Clone Wars also reintroduced the Nightsisters, who were first introduced in Ewoks: The Battle For Endor in the character of Charal, then expanded upon in Dave Wolverton’s novel The Courtship of Princess Leia and The Young Jedi Knights series (of which I’m currently reading). Then it was the Star Wars: Roleplaying Game: The Dark Side Sourcebook  that had a picture of a “sith witch”, which was taken from Ian McCaig’s “rejected” concept art for Darth Maul, which later became the inspiration for Mother Talzin.

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Star Wars always recycles and expands but never confuses.

But if there’s one thing the 2008 Clone Wars avoided was making what came before obsolete. Unlike Disney, Lucasfilm never released a statement saying that the novels and comics prior to 2008 were obsolete or “renamed” as Legends and fans still had the opportunity to enjoy what came before – and after. I’m not one of those people who argue that the EU “was never canon” but I do believe that Lucas has the right to override or retcon the EU as he pleases. There’s so much EU going back to 1978, it’d be very hard to stay consistent with what came before. Here’s a snippet from Star Wars: Panel to Panel (2004):

Much was made of Fett’s association with “Mandalorian Commandos” in the Expanded Universe before George Lucas revealed the truth of his origins in Attack of the Clones. Fans (and comic book editors) are still trying to sort it out.

I’m also not arguing that all Star Warriors have to like the 2008 CW. But if you’re going to be critical, please be specific as to why you don’t like it and don’t lump it in with Disney’s timeline. This show was created and produced by Lucas. If you make fun of it, you’re making fun of Lucas and that’s not cool. Even though it’s declared “canon”, the Mouse has treated it just as poorly as the PT and the EU (it got cancelled abruptly after all). This will not make fans sympathize with the EU movement. We’re all in the same boat now and something tells me we’re going to need each other.

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And if you’re going to be critical, get it right.

P.S., Thoughts on The Rise of Skywalker

Recently I was asked by a reader about my thoughts on the “final chapter” of the Skywalker saga and I’ve decided to take this opportunity to say…

I haven’t seen it. I’m not going to see it. I’ve read the spoilers and I’m disgusted that the Skywalker/Solo bloodline has been eradicated (Luke and Leia have no living descendants) and the galaxy is back in the hands of a Palpatine. Let that sink in for awhile.

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“Galaxy Quest” At 20 and “Gentlemen Broncos” At 10

Before I became a Trekkie I was a Questerian. In case you don’t know, that’s someone who’s a fan of the 1999 sci-fi comedy Galaxy Quest which is commemorating its 20th anniversary with a documentary.

I never watched the film in theaters but I remember seeing the commercials on TV and renting it on VHS. I immediately became a fan. I once told my mother that if this show really existed, I would’ve been a “questerian” as they say in the movie. I had no clue that this film was inspired by Star Trek and its fandom, but now it’s considered by many Trek alumni to be the best “Star Trek movie” ever made. I love what Patrick Stewart about his viewing experience:

I had originally not wanted to see Galaxy Quest because I heard that it was making fun of Star Trek, and then Jonathan Frakes rang me up and said “You must not miss this movie! See it on a Saturday night in a full theatre.” And I did, and of course I found it was brilliant. Brilliant. No one laughed louder or longer in the cinema than I did, but the idea that the ship was saved and all of our heroes in that movie were saved simply by the fact that there were fans who did understand the scientific principles on which the ship worked was absolutely wonderful. And it was both funny and also touching in that it paid tribute to the dedication of these fans.

The film went on to develop a devoted fan base that became evident when Alan Rickman passed away from cancer, by posting tributes to his character, Dr. Lazarus.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for Gentlemen Broncos, which is turning 10 this year.

Written and directed by Jared and Jerusha Hess, the same husband and wife team that brought you Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, this film is a love letter of sorts to sci-fi publishing, as demonstrated by its memorable opening credits, done to the tune of “In the Year 2525” by Yeager and Evans.

The film was scheduled to be released nationwide but due to extremely poor reviews (it got a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes), it was immediately pulled from theaters and marked a career derailment for the Hesses, which is a pity because I found the film to be very unique and far funnier than some of the more slicker, mainstream comedy films in distribution at the time or since. Heck, I’d rather watch this film than more critically acclaimed “nerd” shows like The Big Bang Theory or Community.

So you may be wondering why I’m dedicating a post to two films that couldn’t be any more different from each other (after all you’ve heard of Galaxy Quest, but you can be forgiven for never having heard of Gentlemen Broncos). Well, both are love letters to different SF mediums: GQ is a spoof of SF TV, while GB is a spoof of SF literature.

And they both star Sam Rockwell, who (almost) steals the show.

Another trait both have in common is despite being spoofs of science fiction, these films avoid falling into the trap of portraying science fiction fans as losers and instead depict them as every day, relatable people. While there are quirky characters in the main casts that are written to make audiences laugh, most of the humor comes from the situations thrown at the characters. The “crew” of the NSEA Protector has to deal with fading careers, product placement and aliens that don’t know the difference between fantasy and reality. Teenager Benjamin Purvis has to deal with the realization that the SF author he idolizes is stuck up, stole his story about a space traveling hero and receives all the credit for it, while two nutty independent filmmakers also stole his story ideas.

Another trait they have in common is their use of the “show within a show” trope. Throughout Galaxy Quest, footage of the titular show is used as a reference, while sequences from Benjamin’s and Dr. Chevalier’s stories are interspersed throughout Gentlemen Broncos‘ narrative.

Another one of the subjects both films address is the need for a comeback albeit of a positive/negative dichotomy. After defeating Sarris and saving the Thermians, the cast of Galaxy Quest make a triumphant comeback when their hit show is renewed, while Dr. Chevalier briefly enjoys a comeback with his “novel” Brutus and Balzac after his publishers reject his previous manuscript. Of course once it’s found out that Chevalier plagiarized Benjamin’s work, then Gentlemen Broncos ends up becoming a success story for Benjamin. But whatever the outcome for the characters, I hope that one day Gentlemen Broncos will receive more widespread appreciation like Galaxy Quest did. So in a combination of both films I leave you with these quotes:

“Remember who you are and what you stand for.”

“Never give up, never surrender.”

Have you seen Galaxy Quest or Gentlemen Broncos? What did you think of them? Do you notice any other similarities between the two or am I just imagining things? Let me know in the comments.

Oh and I’m also leaving you with some “advice” from Dr. Chevalier and this E! mockumentary about the “history” of Galaxy Quest.

 

 

 

 

 

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The “Wonder Woman 1984” Trailer Is Here!

It’s here! It’s finally here! The highly anticipated trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 made its debut at Sao Paulo Comic Con Sunday and Entertainment Tonight aired it on its official YouTube channel. After feeling underwhelmed by the Black Widow, Birds of Prey (although Margot Robbie looks like she’s having the most fun) and Mulan trailers, this trailer, like its predecessor, looks exciting and is leaving me with a lot of thoughts and questions.

Thoughts:

  • While the story takes place in the ’80s, it seems to avoid going the Lisa Frank route (despite what you see on the posters). The color palette is still similar to the first film albeit a little “cleaner” which makes sense because it’s not wartime but it looks like the film will still deal with historical issues.
  • Diana’s classic red and blue armor is brighter and shinier this time. Like a candy apple.
  • Diana’s Eagle Armor makes its debut and that’s good.
  • I’m happy to see the Amazons again.
  • “It’s all art. That’s just a trash can” will be the new meme of 2020.
  • Diana can swing from freaking lightning bolts! Which makes sense because she’s the daughter of Zeus.

And now for the questions and you know I have plenty.

  • How does Steve Trevor get resurrected? Is it by magic? Cloning? Time Travel? I’m ruling out the look-a-like relative theory because he doesn’t recognize modern trash cans.
  • Why 1984 and not, say, 1964 or 1974? Is this partly an homage to George Orwell’s classic book of the same name. We see a lot of scenes with surveillance cameras, including Diana destroying some in a shopping mall. (Update: Patty Jenkins explains here.)
  • What historical events will Diana and her enemies get involved in? I don’t remember what happened in 1984 as I was just a newborn at the time but there are scenes where Diana destroys some trucks and what looks to be a wall. Hmmmm.
  • What role does Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and Barbara Minerva (Kristin Wiig) play in all this? We already know that’s she’s going to be the Cheetah just based on her leopard print dress, but how will she become the Cheetah? Does she have some relationship to Lord or is she acting alone?
  • One brief clip of a young Diana racing the Amazons is obviously a flashback but what about the second clip? Will Diana return to Paradise Island for a brief stay?
  • Will Lynda Carter make a cameo?
  • Who will be Diana’s allies this time? In WW1 she had Etta, Charlie, Chief Napi and Sameer. Will Julia and Vanessa Kapatelis make an appearance like their comic counterparts?
  • Will the film draw most of its inspiration from George Perez’s 1987 Wonder Woman which reimagined the character for a new era?
  • Is Diana fighting in the White House?

Now I’ve heard all the negative press about those early test screenings and at first it had me worried that Patty and co. may let us down. Then I shrugged it off because 1.) good sequels aren’t easy to make and even good sequels have to live in the shadows of their predecessors, 2.) Jenkins is talented, loves the character and wants to do her justice. Heck, even if she makes a “bad” Wonder Woman movie, it’ll be miles better than the other supershero movies (not naming names) and 3.) At least we still have the first WW movie, Lynda Carter’s classic TV show and Justice League Unlimited. And of course the comics.

But I’m looking forward to this. Are you? What are your thoughts on the trailer? Here’s Mama Bear’s tweet:

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