Comic-Con 2013: Move Over Boys, the Sci-Fi Girls Are Here
July 22, 2013
When Comic-Con was held over the weekend, it was announced that nearly half of the attendees were female. This doesn’t surprise me. I have been a sci-fi fan my entire life. However, if you see a picture of a science fiction fan in the media, they are predominately portrayed as geeky and male. Rarely are female fans, like myself, shown. And even more rarely are we acknowledged. As much as I love the genre of science fiction, it has been a little difficult being a female fan because most science fiction is still geared towards men. It is written by them, and it is written for them. Especially science fiction on screen.
The first show that I became obsessed with when I was a kid was Wonder Woman. After that came the original Battlestar Galactica. When it was cancelled, I was heartbroken. However, it was not long after that I was able to discover a little show on PBS called Doctor Who. And of course, this was around the time of the original Star Wars films. I was too young to see Star Wars (I refuse to call it A New Hope) in the movie theatre, but I was there for both The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. In fact, I remember vividly missing out on the first few minutes of Jedi because my father couldn’t find a place to park. Back then, good science fiction could be hard to find.
However, in recent years, there has been an eruption of science fiction on television and in film. That is really great news for those of us who have had to struggle for years to get the mainstream to appreciate how great it can be. I can’t forget how excited I was when the Sci-fi (now Syfy) Channel was launched. But you no longer have to go to a specific channel to get good shows about aliens, time travel, and parallel worlds. They are appearing with more and more frequency on the networks. However, they are still being primarily written by and for men.
Recently, there was a display of classic science fiction authors here at our branch, and when it was being put together, I lamented the lack of female writers among their ranks. The simple explanation was that until recently, there didn’t seem to be many women writing science fiction. That has changed, especially in the young adult arena. In fact, some of the best science fiction that I have read in that area has been written by a female author. It is great news that women are being more accepted in this genre and don’t feel they have to hide their gender the way that an author like James Tiptree, Jr. (born Alice Sheldon) felt she had to do. However, there just doesn’t seem to be as much progress in film and television.
So what do women bring to science fiction that is different from men? And what do women want from science fiction that is different from men? Well, I don’t want to speak for every woman. We are all different and have different expectations. But one major difference that I have noticed between the sexes is the need that women seem to have for a good story and good characters. Now, I do love the spaceships and special effects, as well as all the interesting aliens and unique weaponry. However, I also need to have some compelling characters to follow and good emotional storylines.
Since the advent of computer generated graphics, science fiction films and television series have been able to stage some spectacular looking battles and over-the-top action sequences. Unfortunately, this has often been at the expense of good characters and good writing. The need to get to the next explosion has meant there was little time to devote to the people who are doing the fighting. I think that this was shown most blatantly in the Star Wars prequels. The characters from the original trilogy had to be memorable because the technology, while groundbreaking, had still not reached the point where the effects could carry the day. With the prequels, it often felt like there was more attention paid to the visuals than to the characters.
Women writers have a tendency to keep the focus on the characters and to make sure that, no matter what is going on and no matter who it is happening to, the stories are relatable. Even if the events are happening to an alien with a weird looking forehead. As a female fan of science fiction, the emotional elements have always been just as important to me as the great spaceships. I think that this is probably the biggest difference. I have seen male sci-fi fans perfectly content with their battles and guns. Actually, I have seen many men complain whenever there is a break in the action for that annoying "emotional" stuff.
Female science fiction fans do have reason for optimism. There are more women reading and watching science fiction today than ever before. With this increase of popularity among our ranks, I can only hope that the writers and producers of TV shows and films will start to take more notice of us. I would love to have the explosion of female writers for the screen that we have had in literature. It would also be nice to see more women being represented as fans. As seen at Comic-Con, we are obviously out there, and it’s time that the industry began to really acknowledge us. So move on over boys, we Sci-Fi Girls are here to stay.
If you want to check out some great female science fiction authors, here are some that I recommend: Anne McCaffrey, Margaret Atwood, Andre Norton, Robin Wasserman, Mary Pearson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Beth Revis, and Kage Baker. (There are many more, these are just a few of my favorites.)