At the start of the movie, Galaxy Quest, the main actors are bickering before they go onstage at a con. Alan Rickman’s character, Alexander Dane, is bemoaning how he’s reduced from Shakespeare to one stupid line of dialog. Sigourney Weaver’s character, Gwen DiMarco, replies thusly. “At least you had a part, Alex. You had a character people loved. MY TV Guide interview was six paragraphs about my BOOBS and how they fit into my suit!”
Welcome to this month’s installment of Galaxy Quest, or “How We’re Trying So Hard to Pretend it’s 1953 Over in Science Fiction Land.”
As you may or may not know, the Science Fiction Writers’ Association (SFWA) is embroiled in some “fun” related to both the 200th cover of the organization’s official quarterly magazine, The Bulletin, and the article within it written by Mike Resnick and Barry N. Malzberg (in what I call their Two Old Guys Kvetching About Things That Happened Before Half the World Was Born column) being considered condescending, at best, and flat out misogynist, at worst and in reality, about women in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre. Excuse me, “ladies”. With lady parts fitting nicely into their bathing suits. Yes, they went there. In an industry magazine.
A lot of authors have spoken out about this, and fellow DAW author Jim Hines has put up a comprehensive list of such, in addition to his own rebuttal in the next issue of The Bulletin, wherein Resnick and Malzberg go on to accuse those who didn’t like be told to act like Barbie dolls of being censoring Nazis. (Yes, they went there, both theres.)
And yet, I was going to sit this one out. Not because I’m not enraged by this (trust me, I am), but because I’ve been on the planet for something-something decades and I’m not shocked by it. At all. And I’m on deadline, and my books say what I think on this subject potentially more eloquently than I would.
However, that was before Slice of SciFi’s executive producer discovered that my books and name were being tossed about in, as she brilliantly put it, the Boys Versus Girls SciFi Food Fight. Clearly, I needed to take more of an interest.
The Huffington Post is pro women getting to write whatever the hell they want, and Stuart Sharp appears to be quite anti, despite his explanation that he didn’t really mean it, he just meant a lot of it. The gist I took away from Sharp’s explanation is that he fears that women just can’t have possibly read classic SF and so will be at a disadvantage and probably muck it all up. (The poor dears.) (Okay, that’s my editorial addition.)
So, I guess it’s time for me to defend who the hell I am and why the hell I have as much of a right to write whatever the hell I want as someone with a full set of tackle, including but not limited to Stuart Sharp, whose tackle I can neither confirm nor deny as being fully there or intact.
This, however, is the second version of this article. I originally wrote about my life and the various barriers I’ve broken. About the few books and comics that gave me strong females to relate to, and how more of them arrived over the years. About how I’ve read all the hard SF and could write it if I actually wanted to. I wrote about how disappointed I was to be asked the Galaxy Quest Boobs Question at San Diego Comic-Con last year; asked by a man who professes to know better, too. And all of that was interesting. And long. But then, if you’ve read any of my novels, you know I can do long without breaking a sweat.
But ultimately, I realized that while it’s once again time to make a stand, I don’t actually have to defend anything.
The mere fact that these men are making women around the globe feel that we have to defend our right to write in whatever genres we want is the real crime. And it’s both ironic and insulting.
Actual masters of science fiction fought long and hard to be considered something other than trashy pulp writers (and, in fact, that argument still rages), and now some dudes clinging to outdated notions of what’s right and proper, all of whom should have learned better long before now, are turning around and dishing out the same treatment — denigrating anyone who isn’t in their perceived club, including authors who dare to have fresh voices, or take the old tropes in different directions. Oh, but only if they’re women. GUYS doing this is just fine and proper. Did I say they made us defensive? They have. But what they’ve really made us is angry.
But you know what the best revenge is? In this case, it’s getting the readers. I have as many male fans as I have female fans. I have rocket scientists who are fans, military of both sexes and all branches, homemakers, teachers, business owners, and more. My fans, unlike these male authors, have no problem with a woman writing science fiction, nor do they have an issue with strong female characters. Or strong gay characters, strong characters of color, or hot sapiosexual aliens (but I digress). Nor, I must add, do they have an issue with romance, action, or humor being in science fiction. Readers, it seems, just want to read good books, they will be the judges of what they each, individually, feel is a good book, and they don’t really mind if an author mixes in more than one ingredient or genre.
Perhaps what’s upsetting these men is the fact that it appears women seem to be better at writing science fiction the majority of readers want right now, which is, most likely, the real cause of all the misogynist brouhaha — girl cooties be entering the realm and stealing the readers! And, no one could read both soft and hard science fiction, let alone other genres, don’tchaknow. So these men bluster and accuse the men and women who point out that they’re being dismissive, rude, misogynist, and stupid of being the bad guys. Okay, I get it — as Elton John said, sorry seems to be the hardest word.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that there are, of course, men out there who aren’t afraid of women entering their field. Authors like the wonderful Eric Flint, Jim Hines, Joshua Palmatier, Nathan Long, Jeff Marriotte, Weston Ochse, and more besides — authors who support women with more than platitudes, and who write female characters that are fully three dimensional.
By the way, my wonderful publisher, DAW Books (owned and operated by two amazing and exceptional women), doesn’t publish romance — they publish science fiction, fantasy, and horror. That many consider that I write science fiction romance is considered a plus by DAW and myself both, not a minus, but still and all, I’m a science fiction author, whether I have permission to be so from the old men who want to cling to outdated notions and hide behind bullshit rhetoric or not.
It’s time to, once again, make a stand. To stand up against the Antiquated Boy’s Club and share that it’s six decades past 1953. To remind them that they pissed us the hell off in the 1970’s and there are a lot more of us now that it’s 2013. To state, plainly, that women don’t need any man’s permission to write whatever we choose, however we choose to write it.
And, on a personal note, the next man who asks me the Galaxy Quest Boobs Question had better be wearing an iron cup or be able to run exceptionally fast. Because I’m now once again mad as hell and, like so many of my fellow authors out there, I’m not going to take it any more.
I think some people just fear change of any kind, and can’t accept it when what’s been the status quo so long changes.
Tamara Baker says
As always, you rock. i prefer a story that has many different layers. Part of the enjoyment I get from a story is the relationships developing, and great characters that, after a few books, you feel like you know. Keep writing, and ignore the old stick-in-the-muds. Ohh, and if you ever do injure the the next man who asks you the Galaxy Quest Boobs Question, please record it and upload for our viewing pleasure 😉
A. S. Koi says
If an author’s or characters’ genitals upset a critic, perhaps they should switch to a media where genitalia are never discussed… perhaps children’s books?
Paul Sparks says
First off this is the modern day not the 40’s or 50’s. I for one don’t care what gender or what every the author is, if it is a good book I will read it. Soft or hardcore Sci-Fi, one would think that people would be able to grok it. The topic of women being able to write strong Sci-Fi, hmm there is Anne Mcaffery and her Tower series, Louis McMaster Bujold, Gini Koch, Margaret Weis, Mercedes Lackey, Ursula K Le Guin, Andre Norton to name of a few of the great women writers in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Lit. What makes them any different that the greats like Heinlein, Bradbury, Herbert, Card, Dick and so on. It doesn’t matter the gender of the writer it matters if they can write well, and from how popular some of these female authors books are, seems that a lot of other people do not care either. As with anything people fear change, especially some people who consider themselves the old guard. As for strong women chars not being able to carry a series, let me name a few series by male authors that routinely have strong female leads. David Weber, Honor Harrington series, the leaders of both Star Nations are female, the main heroine is a female Honor Harrington and it is a beloved book series and a beloved character. There are fan sites set up for the Royal Manticoran Navy, people Cosplay as the officers. Look at Dragoncon and SDCC at the amount of people who Cosplay as from that series. Another male author John Ringo, he has a whole book series were the main char is a soccer mom, who kicks some major but. He also has other series were women talk just as strong of roles in it. Jim Hines, and his Princess series, nothing like seeing Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty kicking the proverbial tail. The Star Wars authors both male and female, some of the strongest characters, and some of the meanest bad guys are women. Tenal Ka, Jaina Solo, Princess Leia, Mara Jade, Ysanne Isard, Admiral Dalla, Aboleth to name a few of the chars. It boils down to people just need to get with the times and move on and realize women authors are here to stay, and so are strong female characters, they can either accept it and continue to get new blood and readers in their series, which I think it is great more and more women are getting turned onto Sci-Fi and Fantasy books. Or they can wallow in the past and bitch and moan about the good ol days and end up loosing fans and just being bitter.
Atiya W Townes says
As an aspiring Sci-Fi writer myself I shudder to think that some old boys club could dictate what I was allowed to write. I absolutely agree with Gini. The time for exclusion is over and done.
What scares me is that some of these folks are beloved and looked upon as royalty. I think it’s time to break down the monarchy if that is the case. Science Fiction has evolved so much since it’s humble beginnings. Just as Science has, and they’ve long given up on the antiquated notion that women couldn’t make legitimate break throughs. I think it’s time that these folks take their cues from true life and forget all this nonsense about who is allowed to make true Sci-Fi.
This was a great article. I’m glad I got to read it.
Mariann Asanuma says
Awesome article! Gini Koch is one of my favorite authors and I read and re-read her books constantly. Being as I’ve read Sci-Fi since I was a kid, what was lacking was more female writers. Anne McCaffrey was one of the only notable authors I had as a teenager and I read (and still read) many of her novels. There were no Gini Koch’s when I was young, and I am so glad that there are now.
And being as I’m literally the only female in my career (I’m a freelance LEGO Artist) I know how lonely it can be to be the lone female in a world of mostly men. We (women) shouldn’t have to defend our right to do what some see as “men’s” work. We’re just as good, if not better — which is what I think they most fear.
You go girl! Great article!
Sharon Stogner says
Lol, I love the way you think and express yourself it takes events like this to get people talking and therefore change. As the old dinosaurs die off change will happen and they will be looked at poorly by history, karma is a bitch not a Barbie after all.
Sad. I always hoped men could get over this issue of theirs. These two obviously cannot. They have no concept of true writing. It boils down to a good plot, great characters, and written well enough I don’t want to put the book down. I really love the novels that make me wish the story would never end.
Why these dinosaurs of literature believe men are the only ones that could perfect the process of storytelling is beyond me. It seems to be beyond the understanding of most readers. Otherwise we would never buy a book written by a female.
I’m going out right now and buying a bunch of books, none of which will have been written by a man! (that sounds so bad. Okay, I’ll buy whatever I want regardless of who wrote the novel- HEY, that’s what I already do!)
Keep up the fight, girls. We don’t deserve being treated badly for writing wonderful works of art. The only people that win in these “battles” are the ones that keep writing.
Are they just afraid the “competion” of all the wonderful new and younger authors is cutting into their bottom line? But I do agree with you Gini, they really should modernize themselves and stop being so dense. You think guys who write about the future, would know better.
Personally, I tend to read female authors, with only a few exceptions. But I do read lots of genres.
Sam Gafford says
I am dismayed that this is even a topic of conversation. Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror are genres of imagination. What should matter is how well an author tells a story and not which type of body parts they own.
I think these ancient writers would wet their depends if they trolled through my collection of 1940’s 50’s and 60’s science fiction. I have early ACE dbl’s from the best of the Golden Age writers. My Asimov (who I met one on one a number of times) , Heinlein, Norton, Brooks, Anderson, Blish, Bradbury, Brunner, Bulmer, Campbell, Bertram Chandler. I could go on and on.
These two guys who only talk bikinis need to go back to their retirement villages and hang out at their clubhouse… just leave the world to itself. If all they can talk about is how women should not and can not write sci-fi then just shut the hell up!
Stephanie Priestley says
Educational and entertaining. As usual, well said Gini. As someone who’s currently banging her head against the 3rd draft of an SFR, I find the whole thing interesting. It’s a lot less scary for a newbie however, due to the change in the publishing industry because of ebooks and successful self-pub authors. It’s a whole new world and the dinosaurs will die off soon enough.
Amen Gini – YOU ROCK!!!!!
Has it ever occured to any of these guys that, without strong women (namely mothers), they wouldn’t even be here?!?
Michele Schenck says
I could not believe my eyes as I viewed that cover! Can you say throwback? One only has to look as modern era sci-fi/fantasy to see sexy kick ass women and men wearing real armor.
I LOVE reading about strong characters and really have loved seeing so many terrific books written by women. As a girl I wanted to write and there were few role models to follow that I easily gave up that dream when life got in the way. My daughter has so many wonderful role models to choose from, thanks to people like Gini!! Thank Gini!
Jeff Mariotte says
Thanks for citing me as one of the good guys, Gini. This whole nonsensical mess reminds me why I never renewed my SFWA membership–because the members mire themselves in these idiotic situations, which could be avoided if they were simply thinking, feeling human beings, and the whole thing gets exhausting. The W in SFWA stands for writers, and “writer,” as I understand the English language, is a non-gender-specific word. Simple as that, and I cannot understand why the morons among us who don’t get it.
S. Ray says
Very good. Of all the things I’ve seen so far on this mess, I quite like yours. Thanks
Denise Zaky says
I am in that category of I do not care who writes it, male, female, or alien – I want a good book and if it has a good storyline with characters I enjoy – I will read it and be a happy happy fan. This issue is right up there with writing the next great opus – I don’t care – give me a good book I can enjoy and share with others who love to read as I do. Thanks for sharing with us, it always amazes me that this issue comes up in the book community, it is not a new battle, and not exclusive to the SciFi genre. I say let a writer write the story they have to tell and be enjoyed by those who enjoy the reading of a good story period. 🙂
Well, I’m male, and of the generation that these writers belong to. I grew up on Heinlein et al. And you know what? There are always old farts who are so freaking scared of anything new, that they’ll try to shout it down, smear it around, and pretend that it really has no point/skill/relevance. Basically rigid, cowardly folks. Go right ahead ladies and keep writing. In the past 10 years, I’ve read more of your SF/fantasy than that written by males. Why? IT IS BETTER. Recent male writers, with the exception of a few, are still stuck in cliched roles. (Modesitt in particular is an exception – his stuff is great.) So keep those books coming, I need more good stuff to read. (Especially Gini and Kylie – lol)
Adrian Payne says
Readers enjoy good stories regardless of who writes them.
Authors should be promoting reading, and in this case SciFi because as the pie gets bigger, everyone’s slice can get bigger.
It is the 21st century – we should be over sexism by now ….
Ed Hoornaert says
As an writer of both romances and science fiction, I’ve been following some of the many posts about the whole SFWA-sexism issue with great interest, and I’ve come across several variations of the following of Adrian’s comment:
Maybe we should be, but we won’t be. Probably ever. Ditto for racism or most other “isms”. Overcoming sexism is an ongoing process, not an achievement that, was done, is done forever.
Mary Lemieux says
Well said, Gini. I choose books by what looks interesting, not the gender of the author.
It really bothers me when I read a new Sci Fi or Fantasy book that still assumes male/female roles reminicent of bigone eras. That’s why I love Kitty so much–she (and her mom, who totally rocks!) doesn’t wait for Prince Charming to rescue her, and she does more than stay at home and care for the baby. I much prefer the female characters in whatever genre I read to be as active in reaching out for their dreams as the males.
What those guys and others like them are really complaining about is not that women are or are not writing science fiction. They’re bemoaning a world that is past and will never come again. They forget that science ficiton is about the future, not the past. Pity them, and get on with writing more books! 😀
Rich Atkinson says
I agree with you wholeheartedly, Gini. As a reader, I’m looking for content that will entertain, and I couldn’t care less about the gender of the author if I tried. I’ll spare you the list of exactly which authors I currently read; the point of the exercise would be to highlight the fact that about 60 percent of them are women. As soon as there are more men writing books that I consider indispensable, I’m sure the numbers will even out, once again.