One of the questions I see sci-fi authors getting a lot is this:
Why is your book still so full of misogyny?
What’s with the patriarchy? The heternormativity?
Can’t you imagine a world without these things?
Why aren’t things perfect in the future?
Fantasy seems to be excused from this phenomenon. We accept that fantasy is rooted in the past, when things like patriarchy, slavery, crusades, and pillaging were generally more commonplace than they are today or should be in the future. Back then, women were breeding stock, captives were no better than cattle, being gay was punishable by death, and it was totally okay to get married at thirteen. Your fantasy novel would lack realism without these elements. We just didn’t know any better!
Right? And now we do? That seems to be the gist of the argument. And obviously, any author that can’t imagine a future without these things must be a close-minded prick.
Certainly there are a lot of close-minded pricks out there. People who don’t even believe these problems exist or that they’re “not that bad”. Certainly there are a lot of others who may not be close-minded pricks exactly but who… just don’t think about these things because they aren’t affected by them. Or want to pretend that they aren’t affected by them.
But certainly there’s a case to include these things even if you’re sick and tired of fighting them in your everyday life. Patriarchy, misogyny, and heteronormativity is the society most of us live in. It’s the world we know and the challenges that are relevant to us and will probably continue to be relevant to our offspring. And maybe their offspring. And maybe their offspring, too.
So when I write an alternative-history or far-future tale that features the marginalization of women, exploitation of minorities, or black-listing of entire religions or sexual orientations, it is a manifestation of both my cynical view of human nature and my self-indulgent desire to smash these things into bloody pieces.
I can’t do that if they don’t exist.
At its best, sci-fi juxtaposes the world as we know it with something more ideal. A vision of what life should be–and could be–if we got our shit together. Maybe someday I’ll write a book where humans are more enlightened, open-minded people and our society is free of all of its oppressive patriarchal norms. As a cynic, I may doubt we’ll ever get there, but I know it’s a fight worth fighting all the same. I know it’s a future worth dreaming of, and a dream worth instilling in our future generations, because you can’t build something you can’t even imagine.
But right now, I want to explore the feelings of depression and desperation our society engenders in the marginalized–and then I want to