So I was reading the Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction again these past few days. Despite trying for a long time now, I have yet to actually finish this dense, gigantic tome.
I felt inspired to read the feminist theory chapter. It was written by Veronica Hollinger.
Although sf has often been called ‘the literature of change’, for the most part it has been slow to recognize the historical contingency and cultural conventionality of many of our ideas about sexual identity and desire, about gendered behaviour and about the ‘natural’ roles of women and men.
See, if it really was the literature of changes (or ideas, which I have also heard SF called), you would think odd and new ideas about gendered behavior would be right up SF’s alley. Don’t you think? It shouldn’t have been slow to recognize things like that.
Feminist theory contests the hegemonic representations of a patriarchal culture that does not recognize its ‘others’. Like other critical discourses, it works to create a critical distance between observer and observed, to defamiliarize certain taken-for-granted aspects of ordinary human reality, ‘denaturalizing’ situations of historical inequity and/or oppression that otherwise may appear inevitable to us, if indeed we notice them at all. The concept of defamiliarization – of making strange – has also, of course, long been associated with sf.
This, yes. As a writer, I don’t believe lofty goals like this should be the first aim of fiction (any fiction!). IMHO, the first aim of fiction is entertainment. But this makes a dandy secondary goal to shoot for. How to do it is another question . . .
It is also significant that many challenges to the conventions of male/female relations have focused on a radical critique of these relations as based in the inequities of what Adrienne Rich first identified as ‘compulsory heterosexuality’.
I am not entirely what this means, but it sounds interesting.