Sexism in Science Fiction

I’d heard the rumblings about sexism in SF around social media this morning and been warned about how heated the topic had gotten.

Why must it be so heated?

It’s the elephant in the room. Sexism in science fiction is the creepy uncle we all know about but are afraid to mention. We just avoid being cornered by him at family gatherings.

I like to think I’ve come to terms with the fact that “real” sci fi is a male-dominated field that denigrates any work, written by women, that contains an element of emotion.

But isn’t that what good writing is all about?

One of the first lessons I learned in writing fiction was that it was VITAL to evoke an emotional response in the reader. If sci-fi eschews emotional topics and subject matter, like something so primal as romance and love, isn’t the genre unnecessarily limiting itself to telling only half a story?

I had to check out Ann Aguire’s post on the subject. The tone of her blog post is furious and frustrated. I felt compelled to comment. I liked my comment so well, I posted it here because I felt compelled to offer *my* take on the subject to my readers.

It is a constant struggle for acceptance that science fiction romance writers have to deal with. We don’t like being pigeonholed as “science fiction romance” because it makes it easier to marginalize what we do and to denigrate the stories we tell. I prefer to bill my books as “space opera” and “character-driven” which I consider by definition a closer description to what I write.

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After struggling for over a decade to get a toe in the door of mainstream SF, I realized that it is indeed a male-dominated field. I had to endure the same derision you are talking about because my books are character-driven and focus on relationships set against the backdrop of space and adventure.

I realized early on if someone like HG Wells or Edgar Rice Burroughs had written books like mine, they would have received critical acclaim for exploring the human side of science fiction. That’s why I chose to write under my initials rather than my given name. JC could be male or female… a little trick I picked up from D.C. Fontana.

As a female fan of science fiction, I found that the women written by the male authors were unrealistic, two-dimensional, and borderline — if not outright — cartoonish. It’s obvious a writer cannot do justice to a subject for which one has nothing but contempt.

This is the reason I have no interest in membership in the SFWA. It is the original “old boy” network.

Science fiction is about pushing the boundaries and imagining the future, other worlds and societies. The urge to form pair bonds, the quest for love is universal among humans. Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs places sex on par with breathing, food and water with love and a sense of belonging coming in just behind safety. Mainstream science fiction that ignores the human need for love and companionship tells only half a story.

To say that romance and love have no place in serious fiction is to deny a formula that has worked since Homer’s time. The surest way to complicate an issue is to interject an element of love and romance into it. Homer understood this. The Iliad was not only about the Trojan War. It was about Helen ~ The Face That Launched A Thousand Ships ~ and the men who loved her, desired her, and wanted to control her. In the Odyssey, what was Odysseus battling overwhelming odds to return home to? A throne? A kingdom? Responsibility? More likely it was his wife Penelope, a formidable woman who held his kingdom intact, keeping her faith that he would return. Don’t even get me started on Shakespeare and the tales of chivalry! At the heart of the legend of King Arthur is a love story with an unhappy ending.

The misogynistic old relics of “real” sci-fi are welcome to their anachronistic old-boy society. However, I will warn them that the women of sci-fi are coming. We are writing. We do not require their approval or permission to speak or publish. We do not require their support. Whether they like it or not, the future of science fiction lies in embracing the human condition in all its messiness.

To the neanderthals who consider females feeble-minded and incapable of comprehending complex concepts of time and space, I say get out of the way. A future without love or sex may be their idea of Utopia, but it is implausible to anyone who understands basic psychology. Women like complex plots, characters and relationships. Male SF writers have for the most part demonstrated their… inadequacies… in that area.

If women sci fi writers are so inferior, what are the men so darn afraid of?

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What are your thoughts on sexism and science fiction? What can be done to change the status quo?

What Do Writers Read Over the Summer?

Did you ever wonder what writers read when they curl up with a good book? My friends have asked me to share my Summer Reading List with them. As a fan of SF (science fiction) and M (mystery), there is a lot of it on my list, most of it R (romance), but not all of it.

Last time I gave you the list of books on my Kindle for Summer Reading, this time, I give you books I’ve read and HIGHLY recommend. These are some of my favorite new releases and some old favorites I go back to again and again.

Click on the book title for the Amazon sales link:

KEIR by Pippa Jay (SFR)

THE LANCASTER RULE by TK Toppin (SFR)

AMBASADORA by Heidi Ruby Miller (SFR)

A ROSE IN WINTER by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss  (R)
(or SHANNA if you prefer something more tropical and summery)

HONOR’S SPLENDOR by Julie Garwood (R)
(really anything by Julie Garwood to be honest. LOVE HER!!)

A KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR by Jude Deveraux (R)
(Any Jude Deveraux book, really)

THE STAINLESS STEEL RAT by Harry Harrison (SF)

HITCHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams (SF)

THE GIRLS FROM ALCYONE by Cary Caffrey (SF)

THE CRYSTAL CAVE by Mary Stewart (F)

CASINO ROYALE by Ian Fleming (M)

THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler (M)

STAR SPANGLED MURDER by Leslie Meier (M)

DEATH ON DEMAND  by Carolyn Hart (M)

A NEW LEASH ON DEATH by Susan Conant (M)

REST YOU MERRY by Charlotte MacLeod (M)

What’s on YOUR Summer Reading List?

What Do Writers Read Over the Summer?

Did you ever wonder what writers read when they curl up with a good book? My friends have asked me to share my Summer Reading List with them. As a fan of SF (science fiction) and M (mystery), there is a lot of it on my list, most of it R (romance), but not all of it. I have to admit that all of the books on my TBR list are by authors I’m acquainted with and owe reviews to. Some of them are so talented they make me want to give up writing altogether!

Here are only some of the books I haven’t read or finished yet, but are on my list of summer reading. It is an incomplete list, but these are the books I hope to have finished before Labor Day. I am looking forward to reading every one of them. Click on the book title for the Amazon sales link:

THE WHISPERING TOMBS:  A Quality Times Novella by Gayle Ramage (SF-humor)
In ‘The Whispering Tombs’, Quality and Tim are residing at the luxurious Baala Haven Resort, on an unpronounceable planet, when they’re invited on a quest to find ancient hidden treasure by a wealthy alien archaeologist. Reaching the caves of Azrokaran, however, loyalties are tested to the very limits as those within the group reveal their true colours. 

EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE by Liana Brooks (SFR)
A super villain at the top of his game must choose between the world he wants and the woman he loves. 

PARADIGM SHIFT by Misa Buckley (SFR)
Observatory tour guide Megan Shaw has always had stars in her eyes, so when she all but runs down the otherworldly Raul, she barely blinks. It doesn’t hurt that Raul is hot – whether in his human form or his natural one – and that there’s an immediate mutual attraction. But Raul is on the run from his alien overlords and soon Megan finds herself fighting against a foothold situation with nothing more than a couple of cattle prods and Muse for soundtrack. However Earth is not the only planet at risk and with his species desperate to escape generations of oppression, will Raul’s loyalties shift as easily as his physical appearance?

KICKING ASHE by Pauline Baird Jones (SFR)
Seems Time has a new hobby: kicking Ashe (and shame on It for doing it when she’s down). 

Not that she plans to stay down. Or give up the guy.

DEAD MAN’S FORGE AND OTHER ADVENTURES by TM Hunter (SF)
(the entire Aston West series actually)
Everybody’s favorite Space Pirate.

ALONE ON THE EDGE by Patrick Stutzman (SF)
After accepting a job as a robotic engineer that sends her to a mining station at the edge of explored space, Anna Foster finds that her position is not what she expects and must adjust to life as the only living being aboard, struggling to keep her humanity while a relentless computer lords over her existence. But, the discovery of a secret could prove to be the key to her freedom.

No LimitsNO LIMITS by Jenna McCormick (SFR-E)
All Genevieve Luzon wants is to be loved by one man, a seemingly impossible task in New York City – though she can buy sex as easily as she can order pizza on a Friday night. Needing a job and sick of being alone, Gen enlists as a pleasure companion at a premium escort service…During Gen’s first training session, she meets Rhys. He is an empath, a man with the extraordinary ability to fulfil her most secret desires. His dangerous mission might claim his life, but Gen is not about to let something she’s wanted for so long get away now that she knows how good it feels…
You can read all about it here in an earlier post when Jenna was my guest!
https://jccassels.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/jenna-mccormick-no-limits-guest-blogger/

GREENSHIFT by Heidi Ruby Miller (SFR)
(Prequel to Ambasadora)
David Anlow, a former captain who was betrayed by both the fleet and his ex-lover, now spends his lonely days shuttling around a group of scientists for hire.
Boston Maribu, Mari to her friends, is one of his passengers, a young botanist who is as beautiful as she is naïve and innocent. 
When Mari asks David to teach her about more than just piloting the Bard, nights on their ship heat up and their feelings for each other mature into a relationship neither expects. But a suspicious new client shows up with wicked plans for Mari, and the soldier inside David comes alive, ready to fight for the young woman who stole his heart.

THE DEVIL AND PRESTON BLACK by Jason Jack Miller
(not sure how to categorize this one, it’s billed as Appalachian Gothic)
Preston Black has a nasty habit of falling in love with the wrong type of woman. But girls who don’t play nice are the least of his problems. This handsome bar band guitarist isn’t washed-up, but he’s about to be. He’s broke, he’s tired of playing covers and he’s obsessed with the Curse of 27.
He’s about to add ‘deal with the devil’ to his list.
Lucky for Preston, he has help. Like the angelic beauty who picks him up when he’s down. And the university professor who helps him sort through old Appalachian hexes and curses to find the song that may be his only shot at redemption. And when things get real bad, he has the ghost of John Lennon to remind him that “nothing is real.”

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Next week, I’ll put together a list of books I’ve already read and highly recommend!

What’s on YOUR Summer Reading List?