The day is special to us here at Book View Cafe and Book View Press, of course, because Ada King, whow was Countess Lovelace and the only legitimate child of the infamous Lord Byron, as well as one of the inventors of modern day computing, is a prominent character in our steampunk anthology THE SHADOW CONSPIRACY.
But the day itself was inaugurated as a day of blogging to draw attention to women and technology; inventors, entrepeneurs, executives, at all levels of the dynamic and continually unfolding world of the high-tech.
We all know the familiar song, women are present, but invisible. Media depictions of the technological professions focus soley on men. Women don’t enter engineering in numbers anything like parity, and there are still reports of discrimination, subtle and overt against girls and women at the graduate level of high-tech and hard engineering schools. I wish I had new insights in how to deal with this problem, but all I can say is it’s trench warfare now, and each of us has to tackle the problem closest to us.
Closest to me personally would be the publishing industry, specifically, science fiction. The list of problems for women in science fiction is a long one, and sadly familiar. I’m re-reading Ray Bradbury’s masterpiece FAHRENHEIT 451 for a talk I’m scheduled to give, and could not help noticing that the tally of female characters reads like this: 1 enchanting waif girl who ignites instant love in the protagonist and vanishes. 1 old woman who suicides with her library after, 1 brainless wife who turns traitor on her noble, tormented husband, 3 stock harridans who are either bad mothers or who have elected not to have children, friends of the wife.
Now, to be fair, the book was written in 1953, but it’s still widely taut as a classic, as are things like 1984 and Brave New World and other famous literary SF texts where the women are absent, weak or actively viscious. So, it’s perhaps not surprising that girls and women get the idea in their heads that SF is simply not for them, about them, or written by people like them. And the female readership has been the great missing portion of the equation for women and SF. Of all the popular literature genres, science fiction is one of the very, very few that does not have a readership that is majority female.
But, there are signs of life and hope. There are more women authors in SF than ever before, and, perhaps more importantly, there are more women editors in SF than there have ever been. This is vital because not only do editors buy the stories, they guide the writers in their efforts, suggesting changes to character and setting, assiting in the creative process in a hundred different ways. A diverse range of editorial voices, greatly increases the liklihood of a diverse range of authorial voices making it onto the shelves.
SF written by and about women is also showing up in interesting and unexpected places. Like the Romance section. You heard me, the Romance section. There, it’s called futuristic, or suspense, but coming out of science fiction, I’d call these books space opera, techno-thriller, time travel and even first contact stories. Why is this important for the portrayal and work of women in the science fiction genre? Because it points out that women and girls do in fact read SF. They read about technology, space, aliens, and all the other grand and wonderful settings and ideas that those of us who love SF immerse ourselves in. When these books make money alongside the books shelved over in SF, it digs the idea that women simply won’t read about science and technology a little deeper into its grave, which is where it belongs.
So, let’s tackle this problem. Bring out your books! What’s out there? What’s new, what’s good, what’s sitting expectantly on your To Be Read pile? Share your favorites new and old, as well as what you’re looking forward to.