jade_sabre: (sw:  scruffy-looking)
[personal profile] jade_sabre
And because this wouldn’t be something written by me if I didn’t mention gender
Let’s be honest, people: sci-fi/space opera is a genre traditionally dominated by men.

NOT THAT THERE ARE NOT PLENTY OF FEMALE SCI-FI WRITERS. A.C. Crispin. Andre Norton (another I haven’t read), Karen Traviss. But I think generally the original greats of science fiction were all men, and a majority of the current space opera writers are men. In contrast, while the original “great” of fantasy (in terms of the current canon NOT TO DIGRESS) was Tolkien, and you have Robert Jordan’s work all over everywhere, it’s a lot easier to start naming famous female fantasy writers as well, especially going back to the same time period as science fiction (c.f. Anne McCaffery being in SF&F magazine).

Anyway. Historically (which I’ve been mostly leaving out because again I haven’t done much research into it), when science fiction was taking off and the space race and all the rockets were happening, it wasn’t just the literature that was male-dominated; the actual space race was being conducted by male engineers. And male engineers tend to be more logic-oriented; they care less about pretty writing, but they can comprehend philosophical argument, to a point, some more than others. They care less about individual characters and more about ideas and systems. I’m not saying that they don’t enjoy or care about a good story, but they’re very technical people who are not necessarily bothered by the things that science fiction lacks. They enjoy reading about the Really Neat Idea for Ray Guns and care less if they get five pages of that instead of five pages of character development. (Both of my grandfathers were engineers during the space race, and both men love to read, and they will both read anything. My father is that rare creature, an engineer with a liberal arts degree who talk about both the ideas but also the crafting of sentences. WP is an engineer. I am speaking from a great deal of experience here.) I’m not going to start a chicken-and-the-egg thing here about whether science fiction got its characteristics from the engineers or vice versa, but I think at the least we can conclude that the engineers who worked on this, and their future-engineer sons who looked up to their fathers’ work and dreamed of going to the stars, devoured science fiction and didn’t care about its limitations because their brains simply pay less attention to it.

And even as time has gone by and we’ve moved away from science fiction into space opera/sci-fi, that male-domination and even engineer-domination hasn’t really gone away. Look at how many sci-fi writers are also programmers (i.e. people who couldn’t cut it as true engineers :-b). These are the future-engineer sons who grew up on the space race and Star Wars and who want to keep writing about being in space, no matter what. (Like how people will keep reading about Star Wars, no matter what, because they love it so much.) And now we’re getting into people who grew up on Star Wars and the space opera tradition and who want to keep writing about being in space, no matter what, and great writing isn’t necessarily part of that tradition, and engineer-style thinking is.

So is space military fiction. It probably has its roots in Starship Troopers, which I haven’t read yet. I’m only just now becoming exposed to this because I’ve never cared about military fiction but about all the sci-fi WP owns is military in nature, so it’s helped my awareness of how much of the sci-fi bookshelf is space military fiction. And if you don’t like military fiction, well, that cuts into the number of sci-fi books you might enjoy either. It varies in its hardcoreness, but given the number of series that WP enjoys*, I suspect that there’s a lot out there. And military fiction in general tends to be a male-read genre, so if you’re a girl who’s not into it (because it tends to focus on military systems and weapons and tactics and the characters are one-dimensional and God forbid the author try to delve into political machinations because they’re laughably simplistic) (to be fair the hero is a good honorable soldier who almost always triumphs and anyway you see why WP would enjoy it), you’re probably not going to be completely won over by military fiction IN SPACE, no matter how AWESOME YOU THINK SPACE IS.

Obviously I am not trying to say that all boys are engineers or all engineers don’t care about writing or no girl can enjoy military fiction in any form, I am just pointing out that these are general trends that can contribute to why people/women don’t like sci-fi. I observe this in my own relationship with WP—c.f. his love of that first BattleTech book and my complete detestation of it. We had several discussions about its approach, especially in terms of the romance (him: look, I had no clue it was coming, you have to be really direct and blunt when writing about these things, but whatevs, it makes sense; me: I was really hoping it wasn’t coming and then it did come and it was SO POORLY DONE UGH PEOPLE DO NOT ACTUALLY TALK LIKE THAT). He liked the honest simplicity and honorable-warrior-ness of the Disgruntled Idiot; I think y’all know how I feel about DI’s complete ignorance of political necessity. And yes, okay, WP and I are in some ways as gender-stereotypical as you can get, but there’s a reason stereotypes exist.

So anyway, there’s definite gender differences/expectations/traditions in the sci-fi realm that also affects enjoyment of the works found therein.

*I say this because he can be a bit picky. For example, I made him read the Thrawn Trilogy (which eventually led to how he proposed to me), which I adore because Thrawn is an EVIL MILITARY STRATEGIC GENIUS and his character is awesome and they’re just great fun. WP enjoyed them, but he complained to me that Thrawn was a micromanager—a real Grand Admiral would never have such direct control over individual ships. Granted, Thrawn’s direct control becomes something of a plot point, but it still bothered him that they weren’t following proper military structure. This is what I get for marrying an engineer-soldier in eleven days.

onto the conclusion!

back to the other problems!

back to the definitions!

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