Three centuries of destroying science fiction
September 19, 2014 5:58 AM   Subscribe

The most feminist moments in sci-fi history -- from 1905 Indian feminist proto-sf to the rescue of Star Trek by female fans and beyond.
posted by MartinWisse (15 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
I know Shelley got mentioned, but I was expecting a nod to The Last Man. Arguably more of a bona fide science fiction story than Frankenstein, and an interesting social critique.
posted by spaltavian at 6:29 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

So glad to see Joanna Russ and The Female Man on this list. It's one of my all-time favorite experimental novels and, forty years later, is still a brilliant, savagely smart mindfuck about gender and politics and parallel realities. The publication of The Female Man - not to mention its absurdly negative reception among some male scifi critics and fans in the mid-70s (much of it predicted word-for-word in the text of the novel) - was a major moment in the development of science fiction in general.

And, since this is a listicle, I have to complain about the absence of the revelation that James Tiptree, Jr., who'd been publishing stories for years as a man, was actually Alice Sheldon. "The Women Men Don't See" and "Houston, Houston Do You Read?" are essential moments in feminist science fiction, and Robert Silverberg's introduction to her story collection Warm Worlds and Otherwise, in which he called the writing "ineluctably masculine" and said suggestions Tiptree was a woman were absurd, is another key bit of history. He later added a postscript: "She fooled me beautifully, along with everyone else, and called into question the entire notion of what is 'masculine' or 'feminine' in fiction."
posted by mediareport at 6:44 AM on September 19, 2014 [10 favorites]

Huh. I always thought Bjo (Betty Jo Trimble) was just Swedish or something.
posted by Etrigan at 7:00 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's fine that they gave a shout-out to the role of women in Trek fandom (and, since Trek fandom invented a number of things that have since become standard for other shows, such as professionally-published fanfic and slash, all fandom), but they could have mentioned D.C. Fontana, whose role in the creation of the original series and TNG really can't be overstated. Plus, of course, the baffling omission of Tiptree/Sheldon.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:02 AM on September 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

That Brit Mandelo Tor post mentions "Helen Merrick’s indispensible book, The Secret Feminist Cabal" which I've just finished reading and they're right that it's indispensible and you should read it.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:07 AM on September 19, 2014

Yes to Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. I had no interest whatsoever in a big dumb robot movie starring Ahnuld, I think it was actually an accident that I went to see it at all, but the minute she showed up on screen I just sat there with my mouth hanging open, thinking "holy shit!" My only disappointment at the end was that she still needed Ahnuld's help. But up till that point, she was the most badass woman I'd ever seen on a movie screen (I was too young to see Alien when it came out).
posted by emjaybee at 7:42 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

but the 2004 reimagining of Starbuck...

holy cats it's been 10 years already!?
posted by HumanComplex at 8:00 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Time is an ever fleeting illusion. Attempts to comprehend it are futile.

Welcome to Night Vale.
posted by kmz at 8:11 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven is one of my top 10 favorite SF novels of all time.
posted by straight at 8:23 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

way too much film/video
posted by j_curiouser at 9:29 AM on September 19, 2014

I read "The Female Man" quite by accident when it first came out. It blew up my brain. I'd never read anything like it. I still have that paperback (with its tacky cover) on my bookshelf. It was then, and remains, an amazing work.
posted by cccorlew at 10:27 AM on September 19, 2014

Man, that quote from a contemporary reviewer of The Female Man in mediareport's link above could be lifted literally word for word from any comments section on any feminist issue today:
The hatred, the destructiveness that comes out in the story makes me sick for humanity and I have to remember, I have to tell myself that it isn’t humanity speaking—it’s just one bigot. Now I’ve just come from the West Indies, where I spent three years being hated merely because my skin was white—and for no other reason. Now I pick up A, DV [Again, Dangerous Visions] and find that I am hated for another reason—because Joanna Russ hasn’t got a prick. (65)
Plus ca change, plus ca meme fucking chose.
posted by KathrynT at 10:35 AM on September 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Good article generally, but I'm always bemused by people who put forward Star Trek as a good example of X in Sci Fi. I saw TOS reruns as a child, and even then found it much too dumb to take seriously, long on tropes and short on ideas, especially compared to written SF, even stuff I'm now slightly ashamed of like Asimov and Heinlein.
I guess casting a black woman in a secondary role was a big deal in US TV back in the '60s, but I still can't picture any otherwise thoughtful SF fan, like TFA's author, taking Star Trek seriously nowadays.
posted by signal at 2:02 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I guess a black woman refusing to move seats on a bus was a big deal back in the 50s but I can't imagine any civil rights people getting excited about seats on the bus nowadays.
posted by biffa at 4:22 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

As you're following MartinWeisse's rec for the secret feminist cabal, take a look at Julie Phillips' fascinating biography of ( Alice | Racoona Sheldon )/James Tiptree Jr's life.

Spanning the 20th century, Sheldon experienced colonialism, spying, Bohemianism, complicated sexual feelings as well as writing and finding publishers for some SF which shook many folks' world view. Page turner with pictures as well. Its exhausting title is James Tiptree Jr: the double life of Alice B Sheldon. Sheldon's story is full of contradiction and empty of received wisdom.
posted by Jesse the K at 8:02 PM on September 20, 2014

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