Science fiction for women

Newsweek says spaceships are fun for both genders.

Published January 17, 2006 7:35PM (EST)

About a year ago, a sci-fi-loving guy I know got sick of my Dungeons & Dragons jokes and dared me to actually read a work of science fiction instead of just making fun of his reading list. With a lot of eye rolling, I did. To my mild embarrassment, I got completely hooked and have now read about 10 books with spaceman-dominated cover art and titles like "Borders of Infinity."

So I wasn't too surprised by Newsweek's report that science fiction and fantasy aren't just for dudes. According to sci-fi and fantasy author Libba Bray (which sounds less like a real name than an almost anagram for library, but no matter), teenage girls are reading and writing otherworldly fiction in increasing numbers.

Newsweek's summary of how Bray customizes science fiction for a female audience -- "Think 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' but in corsets and with a heady infusion of historical detail" -- didn't sit well with me. (Corsets? Talk about one step forward and 37 steps back.) But the Q&A with Bray is worth reading for her funny and stereotype-challenging turns of phrase; when asked what inspires her work, she mentions her childhood friends, whom she describes as "somewhat feral and unsupervised."

And Bray has an interesting take on why sci-fi is the best place for female characters right now:

"Often, when it comes to girls and women, we don't show the full emotional spectrum of what we experience; there's still a lot of fear about showing anger in women. If you think about when they show women on TV or in the movies, if they're angry, it's either like: 'oh isn't she cute, she's angry' -- or it's scary, fatal attraction. There's no in-between."

Apparently, today's most realistic heroines are out of this world.

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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