Friday, November 29, 2013

The Important Role of Science Fiction Romance

The Leaky Pipeline wants to know: Where are the women in science fiction? (Via SF Signal). Kathy Kitts' article explores various reasons behind the marginalization of women in science fiction. Here are a few of them:

This pipeline metaphor reflects the female experience in SF as well. The first leak originates in Hollywood. SF has allowed itself to be defined by visual media. Previously, SF attracted all types of readers and writers because of its promise to examine all facets of what it means to be human. However, the blockbuster mentality/economic model has effectively neutered the types of stories SF publishers accept. The topic must appeal to everyone and offend no one.

Subsequently, publishers discourage stories that target women because they won’t appeal to the entire audience. Taking this argument ad absurdum, middle grade boys don’t read; and therefore, Rowling’s Harry Potter books should not be published because there’ll be no market.

The next leak occurs in both formal and informal education. In formal education, the AWP reports few writing programs accept genre writers and women are actively discouraged from writing genre-based fiction. I suspect this stems more from a bias against all genre literature rather than SF. But regardless of the exact cause, writing programs shunt women away from writing speculative fiction.

The other reason I wanted to bring this article to your attention is because it acknowledges that romance is a place where women can find SF stories that speak to them and their interests:

This is true for women SF writers. They don’t stop writing, they move to a different form or genre…the only genre that has increased both its number of new authors and total books published during the current market contraction is romance.

It bears repeating: "They don't stop writing." And when writers move "to a different form or genre," ambitious readers--like those who enjoy SFR--follow them.
Based on my experience, in the romance community, readers and authors of SFR are accepted and their interest in SFR is viewed as valid. That response is in stark contrast with the male dominated SF forums/communities, where sexism and hostility rear their ugly heads on a regular basis. For this reason alone, it's important to continue the women-in-genre conversation.
We already know women are active participants in SF. In addition to adding more women authors and readers to the arena, the issue has also evolved to explore ways to decrease their marginalization, foster an atmosphere wherein women authors and readers are routinely validated, and increase their visibility.
Kathy Kitt's article concludes with the question of how we can "...patch up this pipeline?"
The sci-fi romance community, along with digital-first romance publishers, has already been employing a number of strategies:
* hybrid SF-romance stories serve an under-served market.
* Authors regularly harness ebook technology to the genre's advantage.
* SFR integrates formerly segregated genres and genre elements.
* SFR creates a safe place for women to write and read SF-themed stories
* Behind SFR is the idea that women like science. Subsequently, the genre focuses on thematic issues important to women readers using technology-based settings.
* SFR creates vehicles such as the SFR Brigade, the SFR Galaxy Awards, the Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly, a close-knit blogging network, and ongoing events like the Midsummer Blog Hop to create more opportunities for connecting books with readers.
While SFR can offer a separate place for women to enjoy science fictional elements, it also serves as a bridge between traditionally female dominated (i.e., romance) and male dominated (i.e., science fiction) genres. Therefore, SFR plays an important role in fostering a more integrated and diverse SF fandom.
Joyfully yours,