The Feminization of Science Fiction (and Fantasy)

The recent article by Pro Male/Anti-Feminist Tech on the “War on Science Fiction” at the Spearhead generated a lot of heat and discussion. Among them, are Science Fiction (and Fantasy) being feminized, and secondarily, if so are these bad things? The answer to both is an emphatic yes.

The reason for both of course, is that majority or near-majority female creators in any literary genre “crowd out” male concerns, themes, and characters, which women find tedious to offensive, and produce essentially a “gay-female ghetto” that men flee quickly. Making said genres alien and irrelevant to nearly half of the population.

Read the rest at my post at the Spearhead. You can comment there or here.

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28 Responses to The Feminization of Science Fiction (and Fantasy)

  1. Given that there's a sizable number of women who can't stand the feminine stories, either, I'd place it at half the population easily. (More, if figure the genre has an automatic turn-off for some folks, no matter how it's written.)

  2. Rob says:

    Now, "The Ghost Whisperer" is in syndication on Sy-Fy. Talk about women-oriented programming! Last night there was 3 or 4 straight hours of it. (At least Jennifer Love Hewitt is nice to look at.)

  3. Little look from the micro-perspective here. Not so long ago, I read Bryan Ward-Perkins' excellent "The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization" (I heartily recommend it to everyone interested in history – any kind of history!) and, because Ward-Perkins had actually mentioned it as a good approximation of an early post-Roman Europe, bought "The Winter King" by Bernhard Cornwell (I also recommend that one). Then I made a mistake. Instead of buying the sequel to "The Winter King", I decided to give Zimmer-Bradley's the "Mists of Avalon" a try. After all, it's placed in a similar setting and is counted as part of the foundation of fantasy literature of the past forty years by quite a many people. It's around a thousand pages in German. I put it aside after 30. It is well-written, but it is not a work that appeals to men. And that's not because its central characters are women. There is enough fiction where that is the case, too – but in the overwhelming number of cases, they have been written by men. Honor Harrington as the titular heroine of David Weber's series comes to mind. Bernhard Cornwell also presents us with believable female characters. So does George R.R. Martin, so does Steven Erikson, so do many other male authors, like Noah Gordon and Ken Follet. I wish I could say the same about female authors writing male characters, but I can't (even though I am willing to admit that there certainly are exceptions). Right now I am reading Sara Douglass' "The Nameless Day", a birthday present from my mother, and its male protagonist is unbearable and unbelievable.And a quick stroll through the local book store reveals that the number of female authors in almost every field – crime, scifi, fantasy, historic novels – has become enormous, yes, dominating. And yet my casual observations showed me that, despite the overwhelming supply of female authors' works for their beloved genres, male readers – adult or teen – largely stick with male authors. Five girls might buy books by Diana Gabaldon, Stephenie Meyer, Rebecca Gable and Sara Douglass; but the five guys at the same section will most likely overwhelmingly buy "The Winter King" instead, not touching the others with a ten foot pole.My question, Whiskey, however is, whether we are looking at a demographic shift here or rather at an interlinked problem of the marketing and publishing sectors? Both are highly influenced by feminist and gay ideas and staff, that much we know. I believe we are looking at a dearth in supply, not demand here, and those male genre fans simply concentrate stronger on what little supply there is. The "Malazan" series' success is proof of that, as is the continued success of Bernhard Cornwell's works (which, despite featuring strong female characters, center on strong male leads, like Sharpe, or Arthur, or Derfel Cadarn).As an afterthought, I'd also somewhat doubt the conclusion that video games destroy or replace male reading habits. The demographic we are looking at – the ones who have been reading scifi and fantasy before – are still doing so in no small amounts. For one, we cannot substitute the categories "gamer" for "scifi and fantasy reader", and secondly it is the latter group who has merely supplemented its habits with MMORPGs.

  4. Instead of buying the sequel to "The Winter King", I decided to give Zimmer-Bradley's the "Mists of Avalon" a try.*flinches in sympathy*Don't need to go beyond that, honestly…ugh.Have you tried any of PN Elrod's earlier stuff? I had no idea the author was a woman for the first five-six years I read the Vampire Files. I'm not really quick on the uptake for bad parts of poorly written stuff, though– I tend to enjoy a story, and it's only when something is _really_ poorly done that I notice. (I can tell you exactly why the Drizzt books are bad writing, thanks to a great English teacher I had– and I adore them anyways….)I think a possible reason that there's more output of feminist (wrote feminine first, but that _really_ doesn't cover Anita Blake) stuff is because women, for whatever reason, will buy horrible romances, new, by the metric ton, and keep them. Meanwhile, my husband has three Warhammer series he's really into– he gets them mostly second-hand, and is loaning them to my little brother and my mom.I vaguely remember a Catholic blog pointing out that comparing bodice rippers to "what guys read" isn't very accurate– comparing it to, well, porn in various forms would be more accurate. They were making a moral point, but it seems relevant here.One of the few ways to avoid the buckets'o'body fluid approach to light fantasy is to shop in the kids' section. Sad, that.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately, it's the fault of men that their stories get "crowded out". When women show up to a male-dominated interest, most (or at least a large minority) of the guys embrace whatever it is that brought them in.It was good that some guys were willing to say "Twilight ruined Comic-Con", but how many other guys were sitting there saying "Whoa, chicks!" It's not even about getting laid per se, it's just not feeling like a fag/nerd/etc…I'm sure that I don't have to tell you how, especially for small groups, the presence of a few or even one girl can turn a bunch of fun-lovin' bros into an alpha-male pissing contest, a beta-male supplicationpalooza, or some combination of the two depending on the guys involved.From personal experience, there is a similar effect on the introduction of an alpha male to an all-female group. But a beta male will be "just one of the girls".

  6. Here' something right on topic, Whiskey.…and I wish they left a description for how to include hyperlinks into the comments box).It's basically a long look at James Cameron's work, but the first column really underlines the process we're talking about. Especially these two quotes here:“With ‘Avatar,’ I thought, Forget all these chick flicks and do a classic guys’ adventure movie, something in the Edgar Rice Burroughs mold, like John Carter of Mars—a soldier goes to Mars,” Cameron told me. The hero of “Avatar,” Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), is a paraplegic ex-marine who travels to Pandora, a moon in the Alpha Centauri star system, where there is a human colony. Humans can’t breathe the air on Pandora; Jake lies in a casket-like vessel, while his consciousness, projected into an “avatar”—Vishnu-blue and nine feet tall, like the native population, the Na’vi—explores Pandora’s rich interior.Set roughly a hundred and twenty-five years in the future, “Avatar” is, like most speculative science fiction, a cautionary tale. Humans have turned Earth into a wasteland and, in their pursuit of a precious superconductor called Unobtanium, are beginning to do the same to Pandora. Jake, through his avatar, falls in love with a Na’vi princess, who teaches him to live in harmony with nature, and then he leads her people in an insurrection against the colonists. “Of course, the whole movie ends up being about women, how guys relate to their lovers, mothers—there’s a large female presence,” Cameron said.Am I the only one who senses quite the discrepancy between the first and the second quote? Because nothing in the second one relates to he first one! A preachy environmental tale about a supposed hero going native with 'the enemy' is not what one would call a 'classic guys’ adventure movie'. I feel my trailer-based hate confirmed.Note also the lacklustre background. Apparently they can spend 300 million dollars on that project, and apparently in universe humans have interstellar travel… but they couldn't come up with a better name than "Unobtanium" and can't get a guy out of a wheel chair?!? Hell, we almost can do that now!It looks great, amazing, really.Yet it is riding on an incredibly lame environmental plot where humans can't control themselves, wreck every world they touch, and then the noble savages…. err, natives show the humans the errors of their ways.Then the world, which is failing… people will leave and in an act of bleeding heart compassion, will doom themselves to species-wide extinction rather than force the Na'vi to give up this Unobtanium.Even for Hollywood that is an exceedingly weak plot. And weak plots seldomly mix very well with great designs. The average soccer mom might be drawn and convinced by the romance in it, but the average intelligent audience, and the above average educated genre fan audience will not. Because even for a 'classic adventure' movie, you need motivations that the rational audience can relate to. We trust Indiana Jones because we know he has his heart at the right spot, and because we know that keeping the Nazis away from the Holy Grail is the right thing to do. Here it's something different. On a different forum I stated this:"[…] how one could possibly support the human aggressors in such a movie, the answer is quite simple: by putting the well-being of mankind over the existance of a small, tribal, savage and alien people. If it really comes down to "We need these ressources to make X/to keep our economy running/etc." vs. "nature-bound alien natives & a love story", you'll never find me supporting the latter."Now, of course the discussion degraded rather rapidly from that point on. Most scifi boards are just too liberal. 😀

  7. Generally has to be a girl-girl, but yes–folks' behavior can be utterly nuked by having someone "pursue-able" around.(Qualified because it was highly annoying when my Geeks would suddenly start having a pissing contest because there was someone showing cleavage at the group. Oh, and there's always the men or women who can't ever get their minds around someone being off-limits–depending on the strength of the group, this is either ignored by all but the doesn't-get-it, or it destroys the group.)

  8. Book mark a page that shows how to make HTML links and go there every. single. time. that you want to make a link, eventually it'll stick in your head. (at least, it worked for me)Unobtanium? And yes, it does sound like a really bad eco-preach. (as opposed to, say, Tolkien- who had a nicely melded eco-heads-up)Wish they'd talk to old ranchers and farmers to find out about living in harmony, instead of (apparently) talking to that guy down the hall who just loves learning about early cultures, because they were so in tune, you know?

  9. Anonymous says:

    "“Of course, the whole movie ends up being about women, how guys relate to their lovers, mothers—there’s a large female presence,” Cameron said."Chick-goddamn-flick. This is what really gets my piss boiling. First of all, the mistaken assumption that male literature, movies and media in general must be completely devoid of character analysis, and secondly and more importantly, botched attempts at adding these elements which end up turning it into a chick's paradise and leave male consumers alienated.What people do not seem to grasp is that character analysis in male media is present, but different from that of female media, for historical reasons.Historically, males were the decision-makers and women those with the interpersonal skills.Women would find girls for their sons to marry, and evaluate the worthiness and respectability of a boy's family if one asked for her girl's hand, for example.Therefore it is natural that character development in the female realm would focus on their relationships to others and the like.Males, as I said, were the decision-makers. So male character development did not focus too much on interpersonal relationships, but on the decisions men made, their morality, whether they could live with them and keep their integrity and ideals.Just think of any major novel for guys. This theme will constantly pop up. Will our hero leave the family he promised to protect behind to risk his life in a war, fulfilling the oath he made to his country? Will he abandon his ideals to rise in the political hierarchy, or will he keep his integrity and condemn himself to obscurity?Same thing for movies, TV shows, and games. Will the undercover cop kill an innocent man to keep his cover, or will he stick to his oath to protect the innocent and blow the operation, possibly causing larger loss of life in the future? (This one constantly pops up.) Will he rat on his corrupt colleagues whom he considers his brothers, or will he keep silent and watch the institution he so cherishes slowly deteriorate?This is the kind of character analysis guys like and want. Tough decisions, how we would choose if we were the protagonist, if we came to regret our decisions, and how we could live with ourselves afterward.Sadly none of this involves hugs and crying, just boring old stuff like stoicism, reason and honor, so of course it does not count.

  10. Question: Stargate SG:1; would that be a decent example of good guy-friendly TV?It had people-relations all over the place, but didn't do the "alright, stop all action so we can angst on how Teal'c is feeling… now fifteen minutes of dialog on O'Neil's dead kid… k, we can get back to the action, now!

  11. Dan says:

    Foxfier, SG-1 was wonderful guy entertainment — action-oriented, exciting, and a hell of a lot of fun. The male characters were very strongly drawn; Teal'c in particular had some of the best moments on the show. His internal conflict was of exactly the type the anonymous commenter above you described: Could he reconcile his abandonment of his wife and son to a very dangerous situation on their homeworld, when he chose to go to Earth to help in the fight against the evil force that had enslaved them? Was being branded a traitor to his people too high a price to pay, for himself and his endangered family? Daniel Jackson had a similar conflict regarding his adopted people back on Abydos, and faced a very male crisis of purpose upon the ultimate death of his wife, whom he had sworn to rescue. The death of Jack O'Neill's son was dealt with a few times, and allowed the best glimpses into the humanity of his character beneath the wisecracking exterior, but the issue was never overplayed or allowed to overwhelm his good-natured, upbeat persona.Compare this to the new Stargate Universe, which has done a complete 180 from the manly atmosphere of early SG-1, and is very much a sluggish, emotion-driven chick show. So far there's hardly any action at all; that's been traded for a brooding, dank show about the feelings of unlikeable, one-dimensional characters. And oh, do we have feelings. Do we have crying. The 26-year-old lieutenant whose name I don't remember after four episodes weeps in church in a flashback (in the first regular ep), apparently over having knocked up a 16-year-old girl. Much bawling from the daughter of the Senator who sacrificed himself in the pilot (the concept of a U.S. Senator who would do something that noble and unselfish is by far the most fantastic thing we've yet seen in the show). Col. Young does a mind-swap so that he can go home and mope with his faithless girlfriend/wife/whatever. The blonde-headed medic is constantly bitching and complaining about how she's not even supposed to be there. Nearly everyone seems to have something seething beneath the surface, and this constant internal chaos keeps us from warming to this rather large cast of characters.One of the worst aspects of the show is its constant harping on the premise that this is a group of incapable, incompetent people locked in constant conflict with one another; or, as Young put it, "these are the wrong people in the wrong place". This, too, is an unwelcome departure from SG-1, which presented an efficient, disciplined, and highly capable military force out in the field that was supported by a top-notch command back on base. There is something immensely satisfying about watching a team of seasoned professionals approach a given problem and work together to solve it. This simple quality gave SG-1 much of its appeal, and it's a quality that has been wholly eliminated from Universe in the name of shallow, contrived, artificial "conflict".The trajectory of "Stargate" over the last dozen years is a telling indicator of the feminization of science-fiction and the increasing emasculation of men in our culture. I'm about to give up on Universe and go enjoy the first few seasons of SG-1 again.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Foxfier, if you want one example of a current "guy's show" which is largely character-driven and has minimal reliance on violence and explosions, check out "Breaking Bad."A modern lower middle class everyman (Walter White, chemistry teacher at a high school) is diagnosed with lung cancer and told that he has only a few months to live. The first tough decision he makes is whether or not to use his skills to produce drugs so he can care for his family (pregnant wife and disabled son) after his death.From then on he is thrust into a hellish world of thugs, violence, intimidation and general insanity. At every turn his morals and ethics conflict with the situations which pop up in the drug trade (for example, he must decide whether or not to kill a major drug dealer whose cousin he murdered in self defense and who he suspects will be out for revenge because of that).There are lame attempts at PC and feminine character analysis, but they are mercifully short and few.For some reason people consider Don Draper from Mad Men the example of a real man, even though he is a coward who solves all his problems by running away, who only stands up to those weaker than him, and who cares little about his family.Walter White (for whom actor Brian Cranston got a well-deserved Emmy) is the only real man on TV right now. No he does not lay chicks left and right, neither does he wear expensive suits and put his feet on the desk in his office at an upscale Manhattan ad agency.But if the two ever met, Don would shrink in face of the determination, willpower and integrity of Walter.

  13. I also just read "The War on Science Fiction and Marvin Minsky" over at the Spearhead. Didn't read all of the 680+ comments, but I felt was rather disturbed by how every second commenter seemed to miss the point the author was trying to make. Time and again I read things like "sorry to inform you but girls have always been part of the fanbase" or "of course scifi does encourage females to pursue scientific carreers". The author never claimed anything else. He did not bemoan the existence of female scifi writers, fans or their social choices – he criticized the paradigm shift in the main themes the genre used to tackle, and that paradigm shift occurs due to the desire to cater to average female topics of interest!In another blogpost linking to the story some feminist rambled on about how Ellen Ripley was a female hero and hence therefore scifi was gender-neutral territory or something like that. Which, naturally, completely missed the point again. David Weber, for example, usually employs strong female lead characters in his series – and yet his readership is male-dominated (the same counts for John Ringo, whose writings also, but not exclusively, feature strong women).

  14. I sure wouldn't cross the Dame in Mr. Weber's War God series– but I don't think the series would attract the same folks as, say, Anita Blake's books. Even though the lady is a main character, tough as nails, smart and brave.

  15. I have written a little something about The Coming Failure of James Cameron's "Avatar". It touches the subject insofar as the movie relies on themes and topics not really enticing to a male audience.

  16. My bet: a decent number of folks will take their kids to see Avatar, mistaking it for Avatar: The Last Airbender. (Seen many promos for Airbender, none for Cameron's– my husband and I both assumed the movie poster we'd seen labeled "Avatar" was just a really bad promo for Airbender; odd, but not inconceivable.)

  17. Yup, that's pretty likely to happen.

  18. Anonymous says:

    No mention of Avatar: The Last Airbender is complete without mentioning these hilarious whiners.

  19. Anonymous says:

    OT: VDH has a post up at Works and Days titled 'Confessions of a Cultural Dropout'. You may find it of interest Whiskey.

  20. TGGP says:

    That comment you made about Truman over at Steve's was ridiculous. Basic logic says that an effect cannot precede a cause, unless you have time travel.

  21. rob says:

    Whiskey, TGGP implies a couple good questions. First do you have time travel? Second, now that you have been presented with evidence that is not consistent with your beliefs, will change what you think, or disbelieve reality?Once upon I time, I thought you were too cowardly to admit mistakes. Now I think you're too psychotic.

  22. demosophist says:

    I haven't seen any commentary on "The Legend of the Seeker" which, it seems to me, represents the counter-trend to the feminization of fantasy. There are some superficially feminine aspects to the series, most notably in the representation of the "confessors" who are all female, and the assumption that a male confessor would be unable to exert the self control to keep from using his power for evil, but that's (and the dominatrix phenomenon of the Mord Sith) are really superficial distractions. At bottom the series promotes the ideals of gender equality and complementary, responsible and attractive maleness (the Seeker, Richard Cypher), chastity, and a host of other values that would skew toward males, and that have a universal appeal. Based on *The Sword of Truth* by Terry Goodkind, produced in New Zealand and distributed on the SciFi channel, the 21 episode first season is also available in entirety on "instant Netflix."And Bridget Regan is so gorgeous in her confessor robes with realistically dirty hem that she alone is worth the price of sitting through some of the more tedious aspects of a fantasy series.

  23. Yup, that's a good one. Pretty standard fantasy fare, but good under these circumstances.

  24. demosophist says:

    Agree about Walter White and *Breaking Bad*, which is played by the same guy who played the father in *Malcolm in the Middle* in a character as different as night and day. It immediately follows Mad Men, so it's easy to watch and compare.The second season of *The Legend of the Seeker* has begun with a dilemma. Does the hero accept or deny his route to power, which must involve doing "not nice" things to those who would harm him. It initially appears that he will, giving the Wizard the dilemma of whether or not to choose a new Seeker. I wondered how they'd extend the story, which seemed to reach a satisfying and stable conclusion at the end of the first season. But this would be the natural dilemma faced by the "winner" of such a contest, so the plot revolves around an archetypal male choice, an option that both Socrates and Christ also rejected. What will the new Seeker be like? Will he be legitimate, or a shill of the witch?

  25. It'd be a nice change if they went with the "accepts that 'not nice' things will have to be done" route, as that would elevate the series above the standard fantasy fare. But I doubt Disney has the guts for that.

  26. Why I Hate Star Trek by Charles StrossMoney Quote: "Star Trek and its ilk are approaching the dramatic stage from the opposite direction: the situation is irrelevant, it's background for a story which is all about the interpersonal relationships among the cast."Soap Opera In Space. No wonder I couldn't stand it either.

  27. jsabotta says:

    Sorry, but whether science fiction is "feminized" or not matters only to pretentious boneheads like yourself. SF and videogames are not literature. Who cares what subclass of mouthbreathers and engineer/computer nerd types -male or female – dominates a worthless genre?

  28. What maybe an interesting field to look into is the way creative writing and literature classes at college and them being dominated by female teachers and Freudian psycho-analysis affects publishing.

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