Regardless of when you think science fiction started, and how far back you want to trace its origins (cough, Mary Shelley, cough, Verne and Wells, cough, Margaret Cavendish, cough, Lucian), the 20th century was undoubtedly a time of great development for science fiction as a recognisable genre. SF was in the pulp magazine, in the cinemas, on our radios and televisions, in novels and comics and artwork and fanzines and jewellery and action figures and glam rock.
And while 20th century science fiction is so often framed as a masculine genre, as a sexist genre, as a boys club, and as a hub of male geekery, male childhood, male second childhood and a world peopled by old white men, it was always a place where women existed, and worked, and played, and created wonderful things.
The history of women’s participation in science fiction is often troubling and problematic and difficult to talk about, and enraging, and inspiring, and so many other things. But most often, the history of women in science fiction is forgotten. (Too often, it ends up being a conversation about ‘where are the women in science fiction’ which is pretty insulting to those who were standing there in front of you all along, as Judith Tarr describes in her recent essay Where Have All The Women Gone?)
History is a living, dynamic thing, and we shape it as people when we decide what is important and what is not.
I think that the women who helped to shape science fiction over the 20th century are pretty damned important, so I’m going to blog about some of them over thea next few months. Actually, my plan is to blog about a lot of them, because it’s amazing how many women get dropped out of the conversation after a single female name has been acknowledged. It also means I won’t feel as much pressure to write massive, sprawling essays about the Important Women – I’d rather write a wide variety of shorter pieces which can include the fun, silly and downright interesting corners of science fiction where women have been involved along with the award-winning fiction and critical contributions and so on.
Blog posts are pretty terrible ways to convey an entire person’s life story or science fictional significance (I thought about writing a post about James Tiptree Jr and my head exploded, because that’s a book worth of information and Julie Phillips already wrote it), so I’m going to focus on a single piece of work, event or contribution.
If you have any suggestions of recommendations of particular women for me to talk about, I’d welcome the feedback, though I promise nothing. I’d particularly appreciate suggestions of women of colour, women from non-English speaking countries, for the sake of as much variety as possible.
Come back tomorrow to find out who I’ll be talking about first! (or, you know, guess in the comments)
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