Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Writing Week: Issue 11, Year 5

Hi all,

A few things I have read lately have had me contemplating the way females are portrayed in stories set in the future.
In the novel I am currently writing I tell a story from five different points of view, three of which are female. The novel is set over 300 years in the future and the three female POV characters are all highly trained crew members of a starship. One is a doctor, one is a communications specialist, the third is a scanning /computer expert.

Each of the three female crew members have their own personalities: the doctor is always cheerful; the communications specialist is very analytical and weary of authority and; the scanning expert does not feel like she fits in.

When I think about the future, I imagine a world where genetic engineering is the norm. Where men and women can be as athletic or cosmetically perfect as they or their parents want them to be. I am not one to think that genetic engineering will cost too much and be only for the privileged few. Years ago computers cost too much and seemed destined only for the privileged few. In my vision of the future women can be as fast, tall and strong as men, and can compete with men on every level.  
Another factor influencing the way female characters should be portrayed is the fact that people will live much longer in the future. Living lives that last centuries will mean that child rearing will be a much smaller part of a woman’s  life.  Instead of raising children for about a quarter of their lives, most females will spend a much smaller fraction of their lives child rearing. If a woman lives a thousand years, 18 years spent raising a child is only 1.8% of their life.

The nurturing nature of women, I suspect, will decrease in the future. Less nurturing and more male like physical abilities should lead women to behave more like men. Of course there will be exceptions.

I recently read Kim Westwood’s novel, The Courier’s New Bicycle, which is set in a world where nearly everyone is sterile. So the women have no children to nurture. The main character describes herself as transgender. The novel is dominated by female characters, many of whom fill roles that have been traditionally held by men, eg, drug baron, steroid abusing bouncer, and even bicycle courier. I was wondering if the author had made the connection between the women having no children and them behaving like men.

In my novel, none of my female POV characters have children. All of them can match male crew members in physical roles. They are not subservient to men. The ship’s commander and chief engineer are both women. Seven out of the eleven crew members are women. As a result, I am writing the women a lot more like men.

I think in the future that the gender divide will lessen for most of humanity, but of course there will be those who head to the extremes and those who change gender. I think the emotional intelligence of women through nurturing children will be a lot less important, replaced by the emotional intelligence gained through life experience from much longer lives.

I think the gender of a character will become less important in the writing of that character the further into the future a story is set. The non-gender characteristics the writer gives a character will come more to the fore.

What do you think?


Karen Tyrrell said...

Hi Graham,
Very interesting comments on the role of women in the future and how women will be portrayed in books especially sci-fi.
All I know that more women read books than men. And the wave of strong women portrayed in spec fic books is running high at the moment.
Good luck with your novel:)

Graham Clements said...


Then I am on the right track because I would describe all the women as strong (in their individual ways) in the novel I am writing. None of them are about to trip over and twist their ankle or scream at the sight of a bug.


Anthony J. Langford said...

I hear Sigourney Weaver screaming, 'Get away from her you bitch!' The best female showdown of all time..

I think these days, none of it really matters..and you can do what you like..

Your novel does sound full of good ideas though.. the living longer and 'fine tuning' human norms... bit interested to see where depression etc fits in.. living for centuries throws up the obvious question.. what about the population factor?

Sounds like an epic!

Good luck with the exporations....