pageok
pageok
pageok
Women and Science Fiction:

Megan McArdle has an interesting post on how to get women interested in science fiction. Some of her suggestions seem plausible. For example, she notes that the closely related fantasy genre is more popular with women than SF (although even fantasy probably has fewer female fans than male ones). However, overall I'm somewhat skeptical. Casual empiricism suggests that most people with a strong interest in science fiction or fantasy literature developed that interest very as children or teenagers. I think it's very difficult to persuade an adult to take an interest in these genres if they never had previously.

Somewhat surprisingly, Megan doesn't mention the most common explanation for the relative paucity of female SF fans: that the genre is mysogynistic and/or lacks strong, well-rounded female characters. Although this conventional view probably had some accuracy forty or fifty years ago, I doubt that it accounts for the gender gap in SF today. Over the last several decades, many left-wing and libertarian writers have entered the SF and fantasy fields, portraying women very differently than in the early days of the genre. And even those early days weren't quite as completely sexist as some think. Say what you will about Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, which has plenty of flaws; but it did portray women serving in combat units on an equal basis with men back in the 1950s. Today, there are even quite a few prominent explicitly feminist SF and fantasy writers, such as Marion Zimmer Bradley, Octavia Butler, and Ursula LeGuin.

Even more fundamentally, the sci fi genre - like other genres - responds to market incentives. If there were a large unment demand for feminist SF or other types of science fiction that may be of special interest to women, publishers and writers would have a strong incentive to meet it. The portrayal of women in science fiction has been debated for at least forty years, and publishers are certainly aware of the issue, and would act on it if they smelled profit. The underlying reality, I think, is that SF has less appeal to women than to men independently of the ideology of the writers and the way they portray female characters.

That said, recent data suggest that the gender imbalance in SF fandom may be overstated. This 2001 National Science Foundation surveyshows that 31% of men say they read science fiction books or magazines - a number statistically indistinguishable from the 28% of women who claim to do so.

The NSF's results are so contrary to conventional wisdom that I wonder if there's something wrong with the methodology. The most obvious potential flaw is that many of the women say they read SF only do so on rare occasions and aren't real fans of the genre, whereas the men read more often. However, the NSF did a follow-up question in which 17% of female SF readers say they do so "regularly" compared to 16% of the male ones. The NSF data do still suggest that SF has greater appeal to men than to women. Other studies reveal that women generally read far more than men do, especially in most fiction genres. So if men and women read SF at roughly equal rates, that suggests that the genre is of greater interest to men once you control for their generally lower propensity to read. The same is true of fantasy. Even the wildly popular Harry Potter series, which successfully reached beyond traditional genre readers, apparently has more male readers than female ones.

Even so, I remain skeptical about the NSF data. I wonder if the study simply suffers from random error (i.e. - even a methodologically sound poll will sometimes get an unrepresentative sample just by random chance). Are there more recent surveys that confirm the NSF result or reach different conclusions? Alternatively, if you are a survey research expert, can you point out methodological errors in the survey that I have missed?

UPDATE: Various commenters point out that women in Heinlein's Starship Troopers can serve in some types of combat units (e.g. - piloting starships), but not others (e.g. - not in the infantry). Fair enough, I had forgotten this detail. However, the idea that women should serve in any combat units was well in advance of mainstream opinion in 1959, when the book was published. For that matter, the US military does not allow women to serve in the infantry even today. The main point still stands: Heinlein was not entirely free of sexism (far from it, in fact). But he was more egalitarian than the conventional wisdom of his time.

MarkField (mail):
The issue with Heinlein may have been that his characters seemed to be females as males would want them to be. I liked them, of course, but then I hail from the Y side.

I do think it's fair to describe the sci-fi of the 30s-60s as generally masculine in orientation (with some notable exceptions such as Alexei Panshin). Perhaps the problem is the founder effect: once the field gets an established reputation, it's hard to overcome that.

I'm curious. Does anyone have the demographics on viewers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? My subjective impression is that a lot of viewers were female.
6.25.2008 7:48pm
Ilya Somin:
The issue with Heinlein may have been that his characters seemed to be females as males would want them to be. I liked them, of course, but then I hail from the Y side.

That's quite possible. But how many 1950s men really wanted women to be combat soldiers. Probably not too many, I would guess.
6.25.2008 7:51pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
Explain to me again why we should care about this? I used to be a SF fan when I was a teenager. However when my tastes matured and the genre changed from action adventure to fantasy I stopped reading it. However, I am a fan of English murder mysteries. The vast majority of authors I read (Agatha Christy, Margery Allingham, Elizabeth George, Jeanne Dams, Martha Grimes, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Dorothy Sayers) are women. How can that possibly be? Shouldn't I only be reading books written by men?
6.25.2008 8:02pm
EPluribusMoney (mail):
Women prefer fantasies where their rich husband dies and leaves her all the money to mess around with the gardener. Warren Farrell calls it women's own pornography.
6.25.2008 8:04pm
J. Andrews (mail) (www):
The article said that Scholastic reported that more 'boys' than 'girls' read Harry Potter, not 'male' or 'female'. From the fan community and the adult-oriented HP conventions, I would say the numbers even out more when you include all age ranges. If not topple over into more female readers.
6.25.2008 8:13pm
ABC:
I too am curious as to whether there is data that takes into account all media, not just books. If you include comics and TV, you'd probably capture an even greater portion of the population, including women, that have some affinity for SF but who have been remiss in picking up a book or magazine.

I think an overinclusive study that takes into account not just "hard" SF but also sci-fantasy, space operas, and the like, would help show that the essence of SF (acceptance and exploration of new ideas) is actually mainstream and not confined to Comic Book Guy-type nerdiness.
6.25.2008 8:16pm
surrender_monkey:
Well, then just make it a rich orc husband who is killed by a troll and leaves behind his nightelf widow to spend all the gold together with a handsome (garden) gnome. Et Voilà.
6.25.2008 8:18pm
surrender_monkey:
... although this might just again depict females as males (well, some of them as it seems - for whatever reason) would want to see them.
6.25.2008 8:28pm
Nessuno:
I think a small part of any discrepancy might be in the terminology. Some people use the phrase "Sci-Fi" to mean just hard Sci-Fi and others use it to encompass Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Many bookstores, for instance, will label the entire section "Science Fiction" and include all the classic fantasy authors. Likewise, in some contexts, "fantasy" means only fairy tales, like Cinderella, and books like Bridge to Terabithia (which tend to be children-focused). Again, I have seen bookstores organized this way.

In any event, this relates to my opinion that women now read fantasy at least as much as men, if not more so. Strong women characters are in vogue and female authors are common. Non-traditional sources of fantasy also seem to appeal to females in very large numbers, the humorous author Terry Pratchett or even the online PC game World of Warcraft come to mind.
6.25.2008 8:29pm
Steve2:
Professor Somin,

You're hitting on something I think is true: the genre's got a reputation for antagonism towards women that I don't think the substance of the genre supports. Take your short list of Bradley, Butler, and LeGuin. How much of the alphabet can you cover, off the top of your head, with other women who write science fiction? Well, I'll give you Catherine Asaro, Lois McMaster Bujold, C.J. Cherryh, Catherine de Camp (who's the only reason I can ever remember her husband was a man), Linda Evans, Tanya Huff (not Robin Hobb), Marjorie Kellogg, Elizabeth Moon (not Anne McCaffery or Lyda Morehouse), Judy Lynn Nye (not Andre Norton), Pamela Sargent (Not Elizabeth Ann Scarborough), Kathy Tyers, Connie Willis, Jane Yolen, Sarah Zettel (I think... might be fantasy only)... and give up because I'm glancing at my bookshelf and I'm thinking that Lackey, Rawn, and Weiss &Hickman are all fantasy-only. At least, all their stuff I've read was fantasy.

Ok, let's talk publishing. Well, there's Toni Weisskopf, but you could argue she's only in charge of Baen because she was Mrs. Baen - but then, how many publishers besides Jim Baen can you name, anyway? Ben Bova, Tom Doherty, and Judith Tarr round out the list for me, which gives 2/5 (or 1/4) - low, but not horrendous, and I'm not even certain Doherty was a real person and Bova's as much an author as publisher.

Then there's the Luna imprint, which as I understand it has the rules of "The author must be a woman and the work must be science-fiction or fantasy". Granted, it's a subsidiary of Harlequin (the romance publisher), so it's heavily slanted towards romance, but so what? Baen's a powerhouse in the genre and definitely has a stable of authors slanted towards military sci-fi (with mixed results).

Ok, what about female characters? Sure, you can find props with breasts in plenty of science fiction works, but there've been well-written female protagonists at least as far back as Heinlein's "The Menace from Earth" and probably earlier all the way on up to Kara Thrace (ok, in my opinion, Sharon's the real protagonist of that show, but the writers don't seem to agree with me). Speaking of the new Starbuck, science fiction's long been a genre with female characters having positive non-gender-traditional traits like gumption and intelligence and living without the constraints of traditional gender roles. It isn't limited to just taking a stock Military Character and giving it ovaries, either: take Remnant Population as an example. Came close to winning the Hugo, and it's a classic topic for the sci-fi genre - a first contact story - with a protagonist who is, I think, an indisputably accurate portrayal of somebody's grandmother.

Also note that when science fiction edges into other media than just books (especially) and TV/film, you still get better female characters than the medium otherwise has. Video games, for instance: generally women are there as either T&A or McGuffins. Mix in some sci-fi and who do you get? Samus Aran, that's who: the iconic star of the finest series from the Golden Age of video gaming. I can only wish my daughter, should I ever meet a woman who wants to have a kid with me, grow into someone like Samus.

Maybe female readership's low, though like you Professor Somin I'm not convinced of that. Granted, that's skewed by my circle of friends. Still, if that readership's low, it isn't for lack of women as authors, publishers, or characters.
6.25.2008 8:31pm
sun:
Have you considered and rejected the possibility that the conventional wisdom is incorrect and the survey is accurate? I'm a woman, 90% of the fiction I read is science fiction (0% of the fiction I read is fantasy), and roughly half of the friends I have who also read a lot of science fiction are women. I offer this information not to convince you of any statistical truth, just to explain why I find the survey results easy to believe. It's also worth noting that your "most common explanation" overlooks the by now fairly long tradition of what might be called feminist male SF writers, from (at least) Samuel Delany on. Although most of the science fiction I read was written by men, and most of my favorite authors (people like Alastair Reynolds) are male, I read almost nothing that hews to conventional gender stereotypes. In other words, my pretty extensive demand for non-sexist SF (regardless of authorial chromosomes) is acceptably satisfied by the market. And that satisfaction suggests to me that I'm not the only person out there stimulating the supply. SF is a huge category, with lots of producers--it's by no means limited to Heinlein and his followers.
6.25.2008 8:31pm
Ilya Somin:
Have you considered and rejected the possibility that the conventional wisdom is incorrect and the survey is accurate? I'm a woman, 90% of the fiction I read is science fiction (0% of the fiction I read is fantasy), and roughly half of the friends I have who also read a lot of science fiction are women.

I haven't rejected it. I merely haven't accepted it. What you say about your own experience is not necessarily indicative of a general trend. There are many, many people who are exceptions to even the most accurate statistical generalities. For example, the statistical generalization that men are on average taller than women isn't disproven by the fact that there are plenty of extremely tall women who are taller than the vast majority of men.
6.25.2008 8:41pm
Amber (www):
The percentage of women who read SF/F is going to be very inflated if fantasy includes "sexxxy vampires having magical sexxx" subgenre. Someone is buying all those Laurell Hamilton and Anne Rice books, and it's not dudes.
6.25.2008 8:46pm
Nels Nelson (mail):
Sci Fi Channel says that 43% of its viewers are female. Obviously its brand of science fiction is broad and includes fantasy, the supernatural, horror, etc., but those numbers suggest wide interest from women, especially with scenes like this.
6.25.2008 8:48pm
Joshua:
Speaking of the new Starbuck, science fiction's long been a genre with female characters having positive non-gender-traditional traits like gumption and intelligence and living without the constraints of traditional gender roles.

Indeed, I find it amazing that after all these posts no one's brought up Kathryn Janeway yet. Granted, her particular TV series left a lot to be desired, but still...
6.25.2008 8:51pm
sun:
Yes, I am well aware that I might be an outlier--in fact I included such a disclaimer in my post, but maybe it wasn't explicit enough. I offered my experience only to explain why I personally don't share your apparent skepticism about the survey. I can't point you to any comparable surveys, but I do think that there's a (demonstrably) much greater supply of SF that might appeal to women than you acknowledge in your initial post. The poster above me (the other 7:31) made exactly the same point in much more detail. To me, it seems that the "conventional wisdom" you cite is based on an armchair gender stereotype (along the lines of "the average woman likes Nora Roberts and given the chance would buy thousand-dollar handbags and get spa treatments all day") that might well have little to do with statistical reality.
6.25.2008 8:57pm
Steve2:
Oh, good point, Joshua! I have an aversion to Star Trek, though, so I wasn't going to be the one to do it. On the other hand, Kaylee Frye and Zoe Washburne...

And sun, I think Michael Moorcock was born a few years before Delaney. Don't know when he started writing, though.
6.25.2008 9:02pm
Colin (mail):
Explain to me again why we should care about this?

Did someone say that you should? Obviously lots of people do, whether or not they should. Some reasons include:

(A) Wanting to get a significant other involved in your interests (this is the reason that prompted M. McArdle's post);
(B) Being an author and wanting to increase your customer base;
(C) Being a consumer and wanting authors to cater to a broader customer base, in order to generate more diverse products;
(D) Being a Renaissance man with an interest in all sorts of arts, and those who consume them; and
(E) Hoping some cute sci-fi fanette is reading the page, and will be so impressed with your broad-minded appreciation of the topic that she will email you her contact information.

Oh, and (F), being a sci-fi fanette who is interested in how the industry/genre treats you as a customer.
6.25.2008 9:04pm
Bama 1L:
Say what you will about Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, which has plenty of flaws; but it did portray women serving in combat units on an equal basis with men back in the 1950s.

In SST, women don't "serv[e] in combat units on an equal basis with men;" they serve in completely different branches of service. Women pilot spaceships because they are biologically better at it; men form the infantry for the same reason. Men can't pilot starships; woman can't join the M.I.

The rest of Heinlein's oeuvre doesn't exactly advance a feminist agenda; more like a male fantasy agenda. Friday, I'm looking your direction.
6.25.2008 9:38pm
Dylanfa (mail) (www):
Amber beat me to the punch. Today approximately 130% of shelf space in the sci-fi/fantasy area of your typical Borders/B&N is given over to vampire/witch porn these days. If I visited with a notepad I could easily record a dozen Laurell K. Hamilton imitators with multiple volumes published.
6.25.2008 9:40pm
Steve2:

Amber beat me to the punch. Today approximately 130% of shelf space in the sci-fi/fantasy area of your typical Borders/B&N is given over to vampire/witch porn these days. If I visited with a notepad I could easily record a dozen Laurell K. Hamilton imitators with multiple volumes published.


Hey, at least it isn't Mary Janice Davidson: vampire/witch porn with the godawful sunny cheer of the Reading Rainbow theme song.
6.25.2008 9:45pm
Karl Stucky (mail):
The premise underlying the question is that we should be "equal" in our tastes and preferences. If that's the case, why do we single out SF? Why not long studies on why men don't visit Nordstroms as much as women? Or why women don't smash beer cans against their foreheads as often as men. Or why the fields of Psychology and Elementary School Education are completely dominated by womyn?

Just as I consider it a sellout position to negotiate with carbon-demon mongers (do we cripple mankind with "market" solutions like cap and trade or with straight-up "regulations"?), so it is a form of selling out to even entertain questions regarding how much SF chicks read.

Or, to put it another way, what if I were to ask how do we get blacks to drop this crappy rap stuff and start listening to respectable classical white music? Problem? No? Why not?
6.25.2008 9:55pm
Tom Veal (mail) (www):
While I have no empirical data on science fiction readers in general, I can claim a bit of expertise, derived from inter alia having chaired the World Science Fiction Convention, on the narrower subject of SF "fandom", the hard core who attend conventions, publish zines, etc. Among that group, women are as numerous as men, and a sex-specific SF vs. fantasy split is just barely discernible.
6.25.2008 9:57pm
Crane (mail):
As another woman who loves sci-fi (though I admit we may be anomalies), I also find the conventional wisdom that women don't like sci-fi questionable. My sister and I grew up on Star Trek and superhero cartoons, and despite our mother's general contempt for science fiction we persuaded her to give the new Battlestar Galactica a chance and she's now a dedicated fan. I think she's gotten at least one of my aunts interested in it, too.

The key with Battlestar Galactica, though, is good writing. As much as I loved Star Trek, I have to admit that many many episodes well deserved my mother's epithet, "Star Dreck".

One of my closest female friends at college is a huge fan of Dr. Who and Torchwood. And speaking of Torchwood, that kissing scene between two important (and hot) male characters? I think you can guess which segment of the fan population that was aimed to please.
6.25.2008 10:01pm
MarkField (mail):

But how many 1950s men really wanted women to be combat soldiers. Probably not too many, I would guess.


I was thinking more of Heinlein's attitudes towards sex. Like a great deal of the "free love" movement, his characters reflected a man's idea of what women should do about sex, i.e., behave like a man in a woman's body. It's not like this was subtle -- he wrote that specific plot.

In any case, I don't want to criticize Heinlein (he happens to have been a real favorite of mine when I was young), but to make the broader point that as I look back on that era, I can understand why women considered it male-dominated. That doesn't seem true (or at least not as true) today, but I suspect it just takes time to catch up.

One interesting comparison might be to Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters. What's the demographic which reads them?
6.25.2008 10:18pm
Tareeq (www):
Ilya, the despicable John Norman, and Boris Vallejo covers featuring all but nude women in chains, were on the same mainstream bookstore shelves as Marion Zimmer Bradley 15 years ago. Those books sold millions of copies. Fantasy and to a lesser extent SF, at least as presented in the bookstores, went out of its way to alienate women not too long ago.

I wouldn't want to stand next to a guy browsing through that stuff now. Don't you think that we need a few decades of affirmative action before the playing field is level?
6.25.2008 10:20pm
Bleepless (mail):
For Heinlein, Friday, Time Enough for Love and I Will Fear No Evil.
Also there is Joe Haldeman, The Forever War and its sequel, Forever Free.
All have strong women in starring roles.
6.25.2008 10:27pm
Justin (mail):
Most people who like SF pick it up as a youth, and fit a certain....demographic of popularity, should we say. Couldn't the difference between readerships be based, at least in part, on the diffences in how boys and girls mature and fit in to modern society?
6.25.2008 10:36pm
Ilya Somin:
Ilya, the despicable John Norman, and Boris Vallejo covers featuring all but nude women in chains, were on the same mainstream bookstore shelves as Marion Zimmer Bradley 15 years ago. Those books sold millions of copies.

I know nothing about Vallejo. Norman (who explicitly advocated male dominance, sexual bondage, etc., in his books) was widely attacked and was hardly representative of mainstream SF even in his heyday (the 1960s and 70s). I don't think I ever once saw his work on mainstream SF shelves in the 80s and 90s. Indeed, I never even heard of Norman until much later, when I saw his name mentioned in books on the history of science fiction.

That doesn't mean that no bookstores stocked it there. But I strongly suspect that those who did were the exception rather than the rule.
6.25.2008 10:42pm
Smokey:
Joshua:

I stopped reading about Janeway right about here:
"There are three things to remember about being a starship captain: keep your shirt tucked in, go down..."
Yep, she's one of my *ahem* favs, too.

Very well, then. Carry on.
6.25.2008 10:48pm
Bama 1L:
I think MarkField and I are getting at the same thing. So many female characters in science fiction are really expressions of male fantasies.

This strikes me as one of the weaknesses of a certain era's female science fiction characters--thus, its male science fiction authors. The future societies allow women the same possibilities as men, so future women are basically men with boobs. Same goes for warrior women in a lot of sword and sorcery novels: they've got the psychology of men and really the physiology, too, except they have female sex organs and are thus appropriate objects of the male characters--and readers'--sexual interest.
6.25.2008 10:55pm
HipposGoBerserk (mail):
Vallejo's work can be found on the Web, try

http://www.imaginistix.com/catalogs.cfm

I think it's unfair to call his work despicable, though it is art that I'd expect to draw strong praise and criticism. Personally, it never did much for me, despite its creativity. I'll note that I learned long ago not to judge works by their covers.

HGB
6.25.2008 11:00pm
HipposGoBerserk (mail):
"So many female characters in science fiction are really expressions of male fantasies. "

I think that's an unfair generalization. Take Friday. Will many women be like her? Of course not. Can any particular woman, with her history, be that way? I don't see why not. In a culture with strict gender roles, can that kind of a character be interesting and make people examine their assumptions. Maybe. But maybe it's just a story. Stories are about the protaganists, not the species. Like to much of litcrit, you seem to reflexively want to make the story more than a story.

HGB
6.25.2008 11:07pm
Orielbean (mail):
Boris worked very closely with Julie Bell who draws in a similar style.
6.25.2008 11:08pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Prior to LOTR, fantasy had its not-altogether-respectable-niche. Fantasy and Science Fiction was outsold, I gather, by Analog, a hard scifi mag. The former did Starship Soldiers--first effort at Starship Troopers--and the latter did Dune.
Both mags hit the big time, or at least were associated with some big time.
Most scifi was action, running from futuristic conventional war to fighting bemmies on strange planets, to dealing with belligerent aliens, and some of the worlds were frank reproductions of the Fifties garrison state. "Doc", "Sarge", Doc's daughter. Many were known as space operas for their resemblance to cheap westerns, horse operas.
If you were to think of what was known as military techno-thrillers, you'd see a version (designed to be more credible) of much of what went on in scifi prior to LOTR.
Do women read much of the military technothriller genre? If not, then why would they read a futuristic version?
That leaves other scifi which was not a matter of organized conflict, or lost explorers, or desperate fights on alien worlds. But that would be less than the whole and that less than the whole is, imo, what most women would prefer. Thus, fewer women reading it.
Since LOTR, we have bookshelves groaning with the sixth of a series of nine (avg 550 pages)in the Quest for The Sacred/Lost Thingamajig and/or somebody retrieving his rightful throne or driving off the dark forces of Whosits. Or all of it together. Plenty of room for soap there.
Would women be likely to read about Hammer's Slammers, or Redliners? They probably don't now--exceptions please speak up--and didn't fifty years ago.
6.25.2008 11:13pm
Steve2:
Orielbean, I'm pretty sure that Bell and Vallejo married each other, actually.
6.25.2008 11:22pm
Sk (mail):
I consider the entire issue bizarre. Reading is a solitary activity (or, at most, an activity between the reader and the writer). I like to read some books, and don't like to read the vast majority of books. My desire is to find books that I like to read and read them. Worrying about whether the insignificant proportion of books that I find that I like are also appealing to people I don't know (who happen to be women, or Mormon, or Hispanic, or 'fill in the blank') is incomprehensible to me.

Sk
6.25.2008 11:42pm
linc:
The wording of the questions (below) suggests that they are not finely tuned for detecting gender differences. "Ever" in the first question is not particularly discerning, nor are the two categories in the second question.

Question: E7a
Do you ever read science fiction books or magazines?
1> Yes
2> No
Question: E7 Ask if E7a=1
How often would you say you read science fiction?
Do you READ science fiction regularly or once in awhile?
1> regularly,
2> once in awhile

The survey was conducted by phone (random digit dialing) which today is a pretty iffy proposition, and was well on its way towards obsolescence in 2001.
6.25.2008 11:43pm
one of many:
Steve2, how in your list did you manage to forget James Triptree Jr.?

As for Heinlein, I have to point out the view that most of his later work (Fridaycough,cough) had only one character. Heinlein was a concept author not a character author and the point of reading his works was not see what the characters did but to see how the idea progressed. Can you honestly find his later male characters (say Lazarus Long) more believable or well developed than his female characters? A pity really, his early work showed promise of an author able to develop interesting and believable characters (Doorway In The Sky, Have Spacesuit Will Travel and even Starship Troopers come to mind) but somewhere around The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress Heinlein seems to have stopped worrying about characters.
6.25.2008 11:54pm
Mad Max:
Today approximately 130% of shelf space in the sci-fi/fantasy area of your typical Borders/B&N is given over to vampire/witch porn these days.

Yeah, I've noticed that, and find it baffling. Just who is reading this drivel?

Do women read much of the military technothriller genre? If not, then why would they read a futuristic version?

Hey, if you're a woman, what's not to like about John Ringo?
6.26.2008 12:10am
MarkField (mail):
I think Richard Aubrey pretty accurately described sci-fi in the 40s and 50s. Personally, I loved it and read as much as I could growing up. But that was me as an adolescent and, looking back, I can see some real limitations in the genre of that era.
6.26.2008 12:17am
Tony Tutins (mail):
Women were very much a part of science fiction from the Golden Age on -- I'm thinking of C.L. Moore and Judith Merril in particular. Andre Norton cranked out a huge amount of juvenilia at the same time as Heinlein. Many girls grew up reading A Wrinkle in Time. Zenna Henderson wrote a lot of excellent science fiction from a distinctly traditional female point of view (instead of "how would men live" under such and such conditions, it was "how would women and children live" under such conditions).

I think boys get started reading science fiction as preteens because along with a healthy dose of imagination, it involves males accomplishing important things. If parallel female empowerment tales were available, women would be more apt to read it.
6.26.2008 12:24am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I think that the reason that Sci Fi and Fantasy are still together in the bookstore is that there is a gradation between the two. A classic example is Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series. Most of the time, it is mostly fantasy. But those dragons turn out to be the result (if I remember right) of genetic engineering of small indigenous flying reptiles after they were stranded on the planet. Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series is similar, except that they psychic abilities developed in an ingrown population, again after being standed on a planet.

One way to get females interested is to catch them young. Watching StarTrek NG &DS9, Star Wars, and Firefly with them helps. There is a lot of young and young adult fantasy out there, and it sure beats the more realistic fiction from a parent's point of view. Of course, Harry Potter probably influenced a generation of kids, many now entering adulthood. Tamora Pierce and Mercedes Lackey are good for that age. And from fantasy, it is often a small step to the crossover stuff like McCaffrey and Zimmer Bradley mentioned above. And, of course, classic Andre Norton.

I find myself reading more female authors, whether fantasy or scifi these days, and mostly because they seem to spend more time on relationships than on pure action (though I do read that a lot too) or gee whiz science. Someone on Megan's thread mentioned Catherine Asaro who has some of the hardest science fiction around, but invariably combined with romance. I think they also do a better job at looking at complex subjects utilizing sci-fi as the vehicle. One author I like there is Sheri S. Tepper, and one of my favorites of hers is "The Gate to Women's Country".

I have managed to accumulate several thousand paperbacks of this genre over the last 30 or so years, and it is really nice to be able to pass many of them on to the next generation. When she discovers an author she likes, I can often provide her with the bulk of the books that that author has written in this genre. And for her, it all started with Harry Potter and Star Trek NG.
6.26.2008 12:26am
Bama 1L:
Take Friday. Will many women be like her? Of course not. Can any particular woman, with her history, be that way? I don't see why not.

No one can be like Friday because she's an Artificial Person. That's the point of the novel! She doesn't behave like a real woman because she isn't one. Some readers think Friday exposes Heinlein as a misogynist pig; I give him the benefit of the doubt.

Worrying about whether the insignificant proportion of books that I find that I like are also appealing to people I don't know (who happen to be women, or Mormon, or Hispanic, or 'fill in the blank') is incomprehensible to me.

It's comprehensible to authors and publishers, though. You only get the chance to enjoy reading books that are actually written and published.
6.26.2008 12:28am
Tony Tutins (mail):
Oh, and Heinlein abruptly ran out of gas right after The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, which was still excellent.

Thinking of Star Trek Voyager reminded me of the Simpsons' Comic Book Guy, who once surfed to Captain Janeway. Lace: The Final Brassiere.
6.26.2008 12:30am
Steve2:
one of many, I didn't forget Tiptree, I'd no idea who that was until you gave me the name and I wikipediaed it. Ignorance, not forgetfulness. Incidentally, the name's an opposite of ones like L. Sprague de Camp and R. A. Salvatore, that make me think male writers are female.

I agree with you Tony Tutins: living vicariously is a huge part of being a sci-fi fan. Or at least, it always has been for me.

Bruce, good point about the use of science fiction as a vehicle for tackling complex subjects. I think that's a large part of what made The Twilight Zone such an amazing and memorable show: the use of science fiction as a vehicle for fairly piercing and radical social commentary. Not that Rod Serling was a woman, but still... And yes, the Pern dragons were genetically engineered from indigenous lizards by human colonists on an alien world.

Mad Max, I've read some of John Ringo's novels, from the "There Will be Dragons" series. I don't think there's really much there for anyone to like, woman or not. Nor, unfortunately, is he anything close to the only science fiction writer who's used rape as an element of character development for one of his characters but done so with such a poor grasp of the matter (or maybe just poor writing ability) that it comes across as an offensively trivial obstacle for the victim to overcome. Which is why I'll give props to Charles de Lint: when he wrote The Onion Girl the man sure as shootin' didn't treat rape or child molestation or physical child abuse as things that happen in Chapter 4 and the victim's gotten over by the end of Chapter 6.
6.26.2008 12:49am
trad and anon:
"Although this conventional view probably had some accuracy forty or fifty years ago"

"Some" accuracy? Science fiction fans voted Ringworld the greatest science fiction novel of the year 38 years ago. The boobs-for-brains female "characters" and Mary-Sue male protagonist who gets laid a lot are almost self-parody. If that's what science fiction readers of the day thought of as a great novel, it wouldn't be a friendly place for a woman.
6.26.2008 1:11am
ForestGirl (mail):
Sigh. After reading Megan's post the other day and now this one, I'm starting to think there's something wrong with me. When I was a teenager all I wanted to be when I grew up was one of Heinlein's women. Deety Burroughs was my hero. Or maybe Hilda. Or Hazel Stone. Or Maureen Smith. What's not to like? All brilliant, strong, and sexy enough to have created their own universes.
6.26.2008 1:20am
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
http://vallejo.ural.net/1978/011.jpg

HipposGoBerserk wrote:
Vallejo's work can be found on the Web [...]

I think it's unfair to call his work despicable, though it is art that I'd expect to draw strong praise and criticism.


Occasionally he would even parody himself ... here, for example.

(I had a couple of friends who never did understand why I found that cover illustration hysterically funny, and I never did enlighten them.)
6.26.2008 1:23am
Tareeq (www):
To be clear, I was calling John Norman despicable, not Boris. I wouldn't call Vallejo's subject matter feminist (if there can be such a thing in fantasy cover art) by any means, but it's certainly not despicable.
6.26.2008 7:51am
griefer (mail):
It is most probable that "hard" scifi appeals to males in the same way that little boys play with trucks and guns. Hard scifi is the part of the genre of the deals obsessively with the technology.
Oldskool mysogyny was likely a cultural artifact of society at the time.
Read Niven's Fleet of Worlds or Bucknell's Ragamuffin for modern heroines. Or all of Richard Morgan-- Altered Carbon, Broken Angels, Woken Furies, Black Man (Thirteen).
Heinlein's stuff is pretty antique. Not that it isnt good, but, hey, culture evolves.
6.26.2008 8:29am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I liked Norton right through the first Witch World. That is, when she was doing hard scifi. Witch World was okay but from then on, there was too much deus ex machina. Got a problem, haul the secret decoder ring--or spell--out of your pocket where it had lain unnoticed and unmentioned by the author(s).

The Ringo-Weber-Flint axis is in need of editing. Far, far too much of what was referred to as the "had horrors". Useless description. Lousy dialogue.
But the series containing "Gust Front" is excellent. Not what one would think of as in the traditionally female line.

Dave Duncan does women well.
6.26.2008 8:43am
Celebrim (mail) (www):
"So many female characters in science fiction are really expressions of male fantasies. "

To a certain extent that is true, but what of it?

Amongst Sci-Fi books by women, I could just as easily claim that the male characters are really expressions of female fantasies. Heck, I could also claim that the female characters in Sci-Fi books by women are really expressions of female empowerment fantasies, and that the male characters in Sci-Fi books by men are really expressions of male empowerment fantasies and further that the self-empowerment fantasies on both sides are attractive to the opposite gender.

And I could probably extend this observation to virtually all pulp fiction in any genera, virtually all heroic fiction in any genera, and even the vast bulk of fiction primarily intended to entertain.

Naturally, heroic figures are predominately strong, intelligent, charismatic, and sexy - regardless of gender and regardless of who is writing. I'm not sure I would call this a bad thing. Tolkien is often criticized as having too few women, but go to a Tolkien discussion site and you'll find scores of female fans, many of whom will claim that they like the stories because they have so many 'dreamy', 'sexy', male heroes. Likewise, the average male 'nerd' dreams of some sexy female engineer/professor/starship captain who is great at calculus and likes to play chess. The vast majority of female leads in the last 50 years are hyper-compotent, regardless of whether the book is written by men or women.

Someone asked whether the average male in the 1950's wanted in a women someone who could pilot a starship. I don't know. But I do know the average male nerd in the 1950's would have thought that really attractive in a woman.

My experience with Sci-Fi and fantasy is that while the tastes between men and women vary somewhat, there is really not a discernable difference in its relative popularity between men and women. There might have been long ago for all I know, but by now the prejudices which claims SF was a man's pursuit have long been broken down by female writers appealing to women, sisters reading thier brothers books, daughters reading thier fathers books, girls reading thier boyfriends books, and wives reading thier husbands books. We are now well past the point where I can point to the bookshelf and call the sci-fi and fantasy, 'my books', because about half of them belong to my wife who has developed quite independently her own tastes and preferences.

Right now there are an enormous number of talented female writers in Sci-Fi and fantasy. Steve2 listed a few off the top of his head. Off the top of my head, a few that he missed include Margaret Atwood, Nancy Kress, Audrey Niffenegger, Mary Doria Russell, Sherri Tepper, and Amy Thompson. Some of those (Atwood and Tepper) are radical feminist authors whose characterization of men is at least as questionable and misandronist as early Sci-Fi is 'misogynist'. (At the very least, even the bad early Sci-Fi stuff was intended to portray women in a way that was attractive to the author.) However, even if I don't agree with the politics or conclusions, there is no doubting these womens talents with a pen. At present, regardless of your taste, you can probably find someone in Sci-Fi appealing to it. And there are female authors out there like Bujold who probably have at least as large of a male audience as they do among women, and male authors like Brin whose appeal among women is probably nearly as strong as it is among men.

Forget conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom is wrong more often than it is right. I'd trust the NSF results.
6.26.2008 9:25am
holdfast (mail):
David Weber's long running Honor Harrington space-opera series features a strong woman as the main protagonist.
6.26.2008 9:29am
Stacy (mail) (www):
I'd tend to agree that the female characters in Starship Troopers were meeting men 7/8 of the way i.e. "women as men would want them to be". I also read something else once - can't recall the title or author - where women served in the military but were "compliant by law and social norms". Made me LOL, and I was definitely in the no-other-plans-on-Friday-night demographic at the time. FWIW, John Scalzi's treatment (in Old Man's War) of senior citizens suddenly finding themselves in teenage bodies manages to be sexy while still portraying male and female characters in a way that rings simple and true to grownups who've seen friends and relatives go through life changes.

In short, I think SF's reputation was fairly earned back in the pulp days, and it's going to take while longer for the new deeper-thinking version to replace that old stereotype.
6.26.2008 9:45am
RAH (mail):
IIyan,

I started reading SF around 10 and read it all through teen years. I still read SF primarily. My login name is from Robert A Heinlein. He who stated, "An armed society is a polite society"

You said you know nothing about John Norman. Well I bought and read all those books and I am a female. I bought those books in the mall stores like Dalton's and Walden’s. They were very popular.

I loved the Boris Vallejo drawings. They made women beautiful. How many women fantasized about being gorgeous, sexy, and strong. How about Red Sonja of Howard’s Conan fantasy series.

I also read Harlequin, Regency and fantasy. My father read the SF fantasy and regency novels and Harlequin too. We called the romance filler reading material. The Georgette Heyer romances were keepers. We have a SF collection that goes back to the 1940 from 2 generations.

I really did like the strong, competent female characters of James Schmitz. Telzey and Trigger and Niles. These were written in the 50's and 60's.

I think your conventional wisdom is from a limited life experience. As evidence by your lack of knowledge of Norman popularity in regular bookstores and Vallejo paintings. My conventional wisdom indicates almost as many women read SF and fantasy as men.

Conventional wisdom without any fact or surveys is not truth. Baen is highly popular and as many women as men read there books. Go to a SF convention and look at all the women.

Women may not like hard SF as much as good characters and good story and dialog. Bujold who is SF space opera has male characters that women love.

I think the survey is correct and your conventional wisdom is wrong.
6.26.2008 9:48am
pete (mail) (www):

Today approximately 130% of shelf space in the sci-fi/fantasy area of your typical Borders/B&N is given over to vampire/witch porn these days.

Yeah, I've noticed that, and find it baffling. Just who is reading this drivel?

Lots of women. I work in a public library and romance novels get checked out more than any other type of book and from what I have read this is common at pretty much all public libraries. And the vampire/witch ones are among the most popular of the genre in the last decade or so.

I have to agree with the critique of Heinlein. As much as I like some of his books and am no feminist, I read Stranger in a Strange Land for the first time a few months ago and the portrayals of women were silly and very dated stereotypes.

Only one person has mentioned Connie Willis so far. She has won a couple of Hugo awards and is fairly popular and I would think her novel To Say Nothing of the Dog, which is sort of Quantum Leap meets Jane Austen, would probably be more popular with women then men. I liked that a lot and plan to read more of her books when I get the chance.

Also Ilya mentioned the late Octavia Butler and the short stories I have read by her, Speech Sounds and Bloodchild, were both very good. Her last novel, Fledgling, was pretty bad even though it had a decent premise: Little girl wakes up naked in a cave covered in blood and not knowing who she is. Turns out she is really a vampire.
6.26.2008 10:04am
Tatter (mail):
Strong female roles. That totally explains the runaway popularity of Star Trek: Voyager with women.

Except that popularity didn't actually exist, except in the minds of women who already happened to be sci-fi fans.

I don't think it's so much a male/female thing, but more of an empiricist/spiritualist thing, which has the side effect of splitting the issue along gender lines just enough to inspire loads of shrill drama from both sides of the divide. Empiricists are generally bored by fiction that doesn't engage their brain or follow any sort of internal logic ("That makes no sense at all!" ) while spirtualists are profoundly irritated by fiction that does ("You're destroying the magic!").

Of course, nobody wants to hear that this can't be fixed except by telling a completely different story that drives the established fanbase you're trying to draw people into straight up the wall. So tossing on some more "strong female roles" is pretty much all sci-fi writers can do.
6.26.2008 10:05am
CJColucci:
It's always a mistake to overlook the possibility that Yogi Berra had the situation figured out before you got there. As Yogi once said, "If people don't want to come to the ballpark, you can't stop them."
6.26.2008 10:05am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

Various commenters point out that women in Heinlein's Starship Troopers can serve in some types of combat units (e.g. - piloting starships), but not others (e.g. - not in the infantry). Fair enough, I had forgotten this detail.


Actually, that was an editorial change. In the original ms., Dizzy Flores was female, as she is in the movie.
6.26.2008 10:05am
BZ (mail):
Couple of points not yet made:

1) Women S.F. authors were once (recently) discouraged from writing under their own female-sounding names. The argument was that boys would not read a woman's novel. Hence a friend wrote under her initials; since she didn't have a middle name, she used "N" for "No middle name." Thus, some of the novels are being written by women but not recognized that way.

2) You can't mention SF movies with mentioning Will Smith. One of the few remaining stars who will sell a movie (can you say "Hancock"?), Smith told Parade that early in his movie career, he and his agent sat down and figured out that the best box office draws were movies with big CGI and a romance. So that's what he did, and prospered. Not all those tickets were sold to men. And those are the kind of movies that aren't necessarily kind to women (i.e., I, Robot, where Susan Calvin becomes . . . what? Wozniak? Paul Allen? Certainly not the star of Asimov's tale, but a functionary assistant to a mega-tycoon.)
6.26.2008 10:16am
BZ (mail):
Couple of points not yet made:

1) Women S.F. authors were once (recently) discouraged from writing under their own female-sounding names. The argument was that boys would not read a woman's novel. Hence a friend wrote under her initials; since she didn't have a middle name, she used "N" for "No middle name." Thus, some of the novels are being written by women but not recognized that way.

2) You can't mention SF movies with mentioning Will Smith. One of the few remaining stars who will sell a movie (can you say "Hancock"?), Smith told Parade that early in his movie career, he and his agent sat down and figured out that the best box office draws were movies with big CGI and a romance. So that's what he did, and prospered. Not all those tickets were sold to men. And those are the kind of movies that aren't necessarily kind to women (i.e., I, Robot, where Susan Calvin becomes . . . what? Wozniak? Paul Allen? Certainly not the star of Asimov's tale, but a functionary assistant to a mega-tycoon.)
6.26.2008 10:19am
Gwynedd (mail) (www):
As a 50-something woman, I've been reading hard SciFi for about 40 years. Today, I probably read more non-fiction than fiction, but SciFi novels remain around 75% of my fiction reading. And my husband and I watch the SciFi channel as much as anything on TV.

I scored equally in the Math and the Language SAT tests in high school, and spent much of my life in relatively geeky technical professions. I think the tendency toward tech skills and interests is related to interest in SciFi in adults of either gender.

I suppose that hypothesis is testable, and may have been explored... but I haven't taken the time to look for support for it.

Since in the past there's been a dearth of women in engineering and computer trades, the Conventional Wisdom you reference wouldn't surprise me. But, as many technical areas have been becoming less exclusively male domains, women's interest in SciFi would logically be increasing, as well... assuming my hypothesis to be true.

Several of my favorite SciFi authors have been trained in Physics or other sciences.... certainly unusual among fiction authors in general. And teenagers who dislike the sciences in school would probably be less likely to develop an interest in their style, whatever their gender.

In other words, I suspect preference for SciFi correlates closely with aptitude and interest in math, science and technology. Does anyone have any evidence pro or con?
6.26.2008 10:20am
NM (mail):
This isn't going to be a particularly well-organized post.
I am speaking only of myself -- (and if I repeat what someone else has said, apologies - I skimmed some posts)
I am a woman who grew up in the American midwest in the 60s. I more or less went from reading Greek myths as a child to science fiction/fantasy. I remember reading Lord of the Rings and Dune in grade school. I was (and am)a Star Trek fan.

I am from a large family, but I was the first SF fan. I have one sister who also became interested in it. On the other hand, my mother recently asked, do you still read that stuff? As if she had expected me to outgrow it.

I loved reading Andre Norton - without disputing another poster's criticisms - her books were exciting when I was young. I read somewhere that her book, Ordeal in Otherwhere, was the first SF book with a female protagonist.

I read the male authors when I was young because that was more or less what was available. I have not read much of the Golden Age catalogue. I did enjoy the Heinlein juvenile books. Its been a long time since I read Stranger in a Strange Land - but my impression of poorly written female characters stands. While I thought Friday was not a believable female character, I gave Mr. Heinlein points for trying to write a female protagonist. (And I have to say, it's not like Tolkien had any really good female characters in his repetoire.)

I read comics when I was young; watched as much SF on TV as I could and absolutely loved the (first) Star Wars trilogy. And by first I mean numbers 4 5 &6.

I wasn't looking necessarily for female characters to identify with - I was looking for good stories that were fun and well written.

I enjoyed Sherri Tepper's early stuff, but stopped reading her as her books got more opinionated - I read for fun, not to be lectured.

I enjoyed John Ringo's early stuff, (including Gust Front) but have stopped reading him specifically because of the way his female characters are written.

I'm spending time these days reading nonfiction and rereading favorites - David Eddings, Steven Brust, Terry Pratchett - (all fantasy) -- I don't have too many SF books that I want to reread. Nor am I finding much SF by new authors that appeals to me. That may be my fault for not looking hard enough. Oh, as an exception to that statement - I highly recommend Kristine Rusch's Retrieval Artist series - that is definitely SF.

What I've always enjoyed about SF is the ability to use the story to explore ideas that can't be addressed in the "real" world. Not all SF does that, but when it is done well, it makes for a very interesting read.
6.26.2008 11:10am
Celebrim (mail) (www):
I have to agree with the critique of Heinlein. As much as I like some of his books and am no feminist, I read Stranger in a Strange Land for the first time a few months ago and the portrayals of women were silly and very dated stereotypes.


To a certain extent that is true, but let's be perfectly frank. Most of us probably adore Heinlein, but the man's skill did not lie in his subtle characterization. His portrayals of men are equally shallow and sterotyped. In fact, due to his penchant for didactic exposition, I would go so far as to claim that Heinlein has only three characters: himself, his father, and his mother. The portrayal of Gillian as the universal mother/lover/crone goddess up on a pedastal in 'Stranger in a Strange Land' is I think pretty much representative of how Heinlein views and relates to women, or if not then at least the women in his stories are representing women in this idealized form rather than real women.
6.26.2008 11:50am
Chris S. (mail) (www):
All I have is anecdotal evidence. But having attended a scifi club in college and gone to a couple of scifi conventions, I can say that in those instances participation was not overwhelmingly male. I don't know the exact percentages, but gender representation seemed fairly equal.

I graduated a few years ago, so this would be fairly recent. Maybe its a generational thing?
6.26.2008 12:02pm
whiskey (mail) (www):
Sci-Fi (hard) appeals to male geeks who were not exactly overflowing with women all over them. So it does what it sets out to do, show men/boys a "manly adventure" using smarts and technology to save the day and get the girl.

Simple.

Female fantasy is as noted vampire/witch female porn, or variations thereof. It is of course REPULSIVE to the male geeks or really any male without tons of women all over him.

Whereas, male sci-fi with a strong female character both "worthy" of the male hero and interesting to girls/women can cross-over.

Female sci-fi cannot.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer had almost no male viewers after it's first two seasons. It did things to actively repel them. I would expect the number of boys/men reading vampire or witch porn is approximately zero.

Remember, about 80% of guys don't have women falling all over them, like "cool stuff" particularly technology, and want stories where they get the girl.
6.26.2008 8:07pm
whiskey (mail) (www):
Let me add, the number of straight guys watching TORCHWOOD? Close to zero. Gay stuff absolutely repels the male geek, for obvious reasons. He wants the girl not the guy.

You can have male appealing sci-fi that has some cross-over appeal if the girl is interesting, but not the other way around.
6.26.2008 8:09pm
Steve2:

Off the top of my head, a few that he missed include Margaret Atwood, Nancy Kress, Audrey Niffenegger, Mary Doria Russell, Sherri Tepper, and Amy Thompson. Some of those (Atwood and Tepper) are radical feminist authors whose characterization of men is at least as questionable and misandronist as early Sci-Fi is 'misogynist'. (At the very least, even the bad early Sci-Fi stuff was intended to portray women in a way that was attractive to the author.)


Celebrim, I've got to admit, I've only read a minimal amount by any of them: I've forced myself about a third of the way through The Handmaid's Tale. Someday when I'm in a good enough mood to handle the resulting crash, I'll finish it. Talk about a dystopian novel... And I recognize Tepper's name, but haven't read any of her work.

Not that I've any intent to diss explicitly feminist sci-fi universally. I've read some Pamela Sargent, and The Shore of Women is a terribly gripping post-apocalyptic epic - not to mention a self-examination of 2nd-Wave Feminism that delivers a damningly effective critique of some of its strains on "plus c'est change" grounds.

Oh, and Celebrim, you're spot on, I think, regarding the elements of sex appeal in science fiction. Or at least as applied to me and what traits I love for a woman to have.



Now, when did Octavia Butler die? Nobody told me she was dead!


Stacy, you found Scalzi's portrayal of elderly believable? I had some trouble with it, though I did love Old Man's War, enjoyed meeting Mr. Scalzi, and am looking forward to getting a paperback of The Last Colony. But I never really believed the characters were actually elderlies. Didn't act, talk, or think like them.


NM, what you said about "What I've always enjoyed about SF is the ability to use the story to explore ideas that can't be addressed in the "real" world. Not all SF does that, but when it is done well, it makes for a very interesting read."? So true. Scifi done well, there's little better. Scifi done poorly, there's little worse.
6.26.2008 8:32pm
Steve2:

Off the top of my head, a few that he missed include Margaret Atwood, Nancy Kress, Audrey Niffenegger, Mary Doria Russell, Sherri Tepper, and Amy Thompson. Some of those (Atwood and Tepper) are radical feminist authors whose characterization of men is at least as questionable and misandronist as early Sci-Fi is 'misogynist'. (At the very least, even the bad early Sci-Fi stuff was intended to portray women in a way that was attractive to the author.)


Celebrim, I've got to admit, I've only read a minimal amount by any of them: I've forced myself about a third of the way through The Handmaid's Tale. Someday when I'm in a good enough mood to handle the resulting crash, I'll finish it. Talk about a dystopian novel... And I recognize Tepper's name, but haven't read any of her work.

Not that I've any intent to diss explicitly feminist sci-fi universally. I've read some Pamela Sargent, and The Shore of Women is a terribly gripping post-apocalyptic epic - not to mention a self-examination of 2nd-Wave Feminism that delivers a damningly effective critique of some of its strains on "plus c'est change" grounds.

Oh, and Celebrim, you're spot on, I think, regarding the elements of sex appeal in science fiction. Or at least as applied to me and what traits I love for a woman to have.



Now, when did Octavia Butler die? Nobody told me she was dead!


Stacy, you found Scalzi's portrayal of elderly believable? I had some trouble with it, though I did love Old Man's War, enjoyed meeting Mr. Scalzi, and am looking forward to getting a paperback of The Last Colony. But I never really believed the characters were actually elderlies. Didn't act, talk, or think like them.


I would expect the number of boys/men reading vampire or witch porn is approximately zero.

Well duh, whiskey. Everybody knows men read wizard porn, with stoic spellslinging private eyes getting it on with a bevy of busty babes. Or am I overestimating Jim Butcher's male readership?
6.26.2008 8:34pm
MarkField (mail):

Buffy the Vampire Slayer had almost no male viewers after it's first two seasons. It did things to actively repel them.


I seriously doubt this is true. At least in discussions on the internet, I'd say the posters split 50-50.
6.26.2008 9:01pm