I've been a big fan of S.J. Pratt since reading her debut novel - YA sci-fi The 716 - last year. She's an inspiring indie author creating really unique stories, and I'm so excited to have her on the blog today to discuss feminism in sci-fi!
Andy dreams of being an engineer. But there's a problem: only women can go to university in Meliora. His dream is impossible. When Andy’s life becomes entangled with Olivia’s and he gets the chance to prove himself on the female stage, everything starts to change. Fans of Divergent, Legend and The Lunar Chronicles will enjoy this original and thought-provoking young adult dystopian adventure.
S.J. Pratt loves writing young adult science fiction and fantasy. She runs an aerospace engineering company by day and writes by night (well, early hours of the morning), is a rock climber, and adores a good cup of coffee. S.J. lives in Christchurch, New Zealand with her incredible husband and incredibly needy cat.
Science fiction often explores the question: what if? What if aliens visited us? What if we locked teenagers in a terrifying maze? But I love science fiction that asks what if about social constructs. And my favourite one to explore? Feminism.
Feminism is often seen as a dirty word. For a long time, even I didn’t want to openly admit I was a feminist. But do you know what a feminist is? Someone who believes in equality, regardless of gender. That’s it. Based on this, shouldn’t we all be feminists? And be proud to be one?
But feminism and science fiction, do they really go together? you ask.
Hear me out. Unfortunately, at the date of writing this blog post, universal gender-based equality doesn’t exist. So as regrettable as it is, the concept fits perfectly in the realm of what if.
Science fiction invites us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to view something from their perspective, to wonder what it might be like to face what they face. It gives us a chance to empathise. Every feminist sci-fi book is an opportunity to explore what our world (or a different planet) would look like with a fundamental feminist change.
For example, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin asks many questions, including: What if there was a planet of ambisexual human beings with a pregnant king? How might society look if we weren’t predisposed with ideas of fixed binary gender identities and the social expectations that often accompany them? These questions underpin Le Guin’s incredible worldbuilding with implications on who is in charge and how people are treated. It’s strange and wonderful and you should definitely check it out.
Here's another set of what ifs for you:
- What if we didn’t judge each other based on gender identity?
- What if typical gender roles were reversed?
- What if femininity was heralded?
- What if pink was an awesome colour?
- What if being empathetic was valued more than being strong and independent?
These are some of the questions I explore in my novel, The 716. Set on a future version of earth, we follow Andy, a scrawny but intelligent guy who wants to be an engineer. Unfortunately, in this matriarchal society, men aren’t allowed to go to university, so Andy must be content with his future as a househusband. That is until he meets Olivia, the daughter of Meliora’s leader, and gets a chance to prove himself on the female stage. There’s no spaceships in The 716, but there is a social rebellion brewing and an adorable robot who asks the real questions and enjoys tea.
There are some glorious feminist science fiction novels out there if you want to explore this topic further. Everything from YA gems like We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia and Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao with their boss female protagonists, through to potentially more alarming but excellent adult sci-fi books like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Power by Naomi Alderman, and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin.
It’s never too late to question, to wonder, to empathise. Dive into some feminist sci-fi, you won’t regret it. Discover what life might be like in someone else’s shoes. And go on, I dare you—own up to being a feminist next time someone brings it up.
Because if you’re for equality, then that’s what you are. And I love you for it.