Dublin-born Kim Curran studied Philosophy at university with the plan of being paid big bucks to think deep thoughts. While that never quite worked out, she did land a job as a junior copywriter with an ad agency a week after graduating. She’s worked in advertising ever since, specialising in writing for video games. Her first book Shift was published in autumn 2012 with the sequel Control out August 2013. You can find her on her website kimcurran.co.uk and on Twitter as @kimecurran.
No one ever told me women didn’t write science fiction. Or that it might be odd for me to want to. It simply wasn’t an issue. My mother bottle fed us while watching Star Trek. I grew up on Dr Who, Space 1999, Ulysses 31, Back to the Future, E.T, etc.
I was also obsessed with science; with understanding the world around me and spinning tales using whatever snippets of science I had gleaned. My primary school teacher even called me her ‘poet scientist‘ when I was nine, in a strange bit of foreshadowing.
So when it came to reading, it made sense I would reach for the SF shelves. And when it came to writing, the same thing applied. I never stopped to think ‘this isn’t something for a woman.’
In short, I was blissfully unaware that gender even came into it. So to have arrived in the community of SF writers and readers and realised there is a battle raging between the genders, well, it came as a bit of a shock.
I had always assumed that SF, which so often imagines possible futures, would be a forward thinking field. One that would welcome all, no matter what their gender, sexual orientation or race. As a niche interest, SF automatically attracts ‘outsiders’. And so I naively assumed that as many SF fans probably grew up being excluded they would never aim to exclude others.
And yet, this doesn’t appear to be the case.
While I personally have never experienced any resistance or had any sexist comments thrown my way, the presence of this issue is inescapable. Only 20-30% of SF books being published are by women, compared with 51% in other genres. Fewer women are reviewed, awarded and bought.
Then there are SF conventions. At each one I go to there is still a ‘Women in SF’ panel. There are arguments over panel parity and whether it’s a good thing for women or not. Plus, the disturbing revelations over ‘creepers’ in cons and the vitriol thrown at those who’ve been strong enough to speak out is nothing short of disgusting.
So it’s clear the misogynistic beast is very much alive and stomping around the SF world.
Mostly, I scratch my head to try and understand why this might still be the case. SF should, by its very nature, be progressive. There’s no clear reason to me that the field should be so dominated by men. I assume it’s something to do with the science part of SF and the fact that girls have, historically, not been as encouraged to study or enjoy science as boys. So maybe there’s a feeling that if you don’t hold a science degree, you can’t fully understand SF. And dear god, don’t attempt to write it!
And yet, so many women are writing it. And writing it wonderfully. Lauren Buekes, Margret Atwood, Madeline Ashby, Tricia Sullivan, Aliette de Bodard, Jo Walton. Cassandra Rose Clarke. And those are just the names off the top of my head.
So why are so many men still spitting at the idea of ‘girls playing in their sandpit’? Why are women facing even more resistance than they were ten years ago?
I like to believe it’s because we’re so close. We’ve come so far, we’ve made our mark on their territory, and we’re not going anywhere. And that scares them. By them, I’m not of course talking about all men. I’m talking about those few individuals who are holding on to the legs of patriarchy, like frightened children, wailing because someone is sharing their toys.Well, yes, we are sharing your toys and we’re going to keep on doing it. Because you know what? They’re cool toys. Spaceships! Robots! Lasers! Time machines! And above all IDEAS! They’re not ‘boys toys’, nor have they ever been. Since Mary Shelly speculated on what would happen if Galvanism might one day restore life, these ideas have belonged to both genders equally.
Society has tried, in various, pernicious ways, to divide the genders. To place men in the blue corner and women in the pink corner, and keep us fighting. But we’re starting to see through their schemes. To refuse to play by their rules. Women and men are joining forces to try and make SF a healthier place for everyone. It may take us time, but we’ll get there.
So, yes, we’re still fighting. And we’ll keep fighting till there’s no need for ‘Women in SF’ panels or sexual harassment procedures at conventions.
Until we can all return to the blissful state I existed in as a child, where gender simply wasn’t an issue.