While I was in college, I took an English course, specifically in science fiction. I’d been an sf (my professor preferred “sf” to “scifi”) fan for some time by then, having been introduce to it by my father. He suggested I read Dune, by Frank Herbert. I think that’s the equivalent of being tossed in the water to learn to swim. Dune was a long book, with a sprawling plot that eventually spanned six books in Herbert’s lifetime, and a few more after that.
Back to my college course, we read material by various authors, new and classic. We read Heinlein and Asimov but also A Door into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski, even a little cyberpunk, or pre-cyberpunk, perhaps. One short story that stayed with me was The Cold Equations (1954) by Tom Godwin. In this story a young girl stows away on a ship that is making a trip, but the trip has only enough fuel to make it to its destination and back, with its pilot and cargo — and no stowaways. The pilot works to save the girl, but in the end, she must be jettisoned out the airlock.
It is a good story (turned into a mediocre TV movie if I recall), but I was bothered by the thought that if the stowaway had been a boy, there wouldn’t have been a story. I know — the story was written in 1954 when cultural attitudes were different, not least between men and women. Still, it bugged me. This lead to two things. First, our prof said if you don’t like the story you read, write the one you want. Sound advice. Second, a male student made his observation that women couldn’t appreciate science fiction as much as men.
Right. So Ursula K. LeGuin, Andre Norton, Margaret Atwood — they just don’t get it. Pffft.
This is on my mind because I saw this article today. Headline: “Why Girls Hate Game of Thrones.” I have to hope this is some kind of satire, because otherwise it’s really depressing. The opening graphs:
Game of Thrones ranks somewhere on the Girl Dislike scale between NASCAR and that National Geographic show where the guy sticks his hand in a catfish’s mouth.
But why does she throw so much shade? If you just can’t understand why we’re intent on harshing your medieval buzz, here are some telltale clues.
- We hate gross things. Know what’s gross? Screwing your sibling.
- It’s hard to follow. Brilliantly developed storylines are great, but whipping out a dry erase board and Venn diagrams to figure it all out isn’t our idea of a good time. Unless we’re talking about soap operas. Those are perfectly fine.
You what? I love this show. I have seen every episode. I read recaps and reviews and HappyPlace.com’s Facebook episodes (hilarious stuff). Know what else is gross? Serial killers. Murderers and rapists. Yet I bet plenty of women watch Law & Order, and Dexter and The Following.
But worse than that is the second reason, and perhaps worse yet is that this article was written by a woman. I’m sorry — you can’t follow it? That has less to do with your gender than the fact that this is an epic story spanning not just continents but tons of characters. If you haven’t been in from the beginning, or haven’t read the books, you will be a bit lost and believe me, that would apply to men as well. As for the soap opera comparison — well, what the hell do you think Game of Thrones really is, minus the medieval trappings? If you can’t follow it because people ride horses instead of drive Priuses, that’s your problem.
As I write this, my husband and I are watching Star Trek: The Original Series on DVD. I have seen Star Wars many times (a gimme for sf fans, right?), and watched all the movies in the series. I loved Joss Whedon’s Firefly and its conclusion with the movie Serenity and have seen both multiple times. I have been a Doctor Who fan since I saw the original series as a kid, complete with cheesy props and costumes where you could see the zippers in the back. I love the new series and the Torchwood spin off. I watched Babylon 5 and one of my favorite more movies is Strange Days. I have read Asimov, Heinlein, LeGuin, Simak; my favorite fantasy series is Michael Moorcock’s Elric Saga. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics are amazing.
Have I established my bona fides? Would I be reading and watching all of this if I didn’t like it or appreciate it?
I do hope the article I linked to is a satire; in a way it’s hard to believe it isn’t. But you don’t have to look too hard to find articles about how women gamers still face all kinds of opposition, some of it minor insults and some of it dangerous threats. It’s frightening for those women, I’m sure, and it’s depressing to read any article by another woman that just reinforces these stereotypes.
Now go catch up on Game of Thrones, and then read the episodes as Facebook posts. And I don’t care what your gender is.