Trying to Dress Science Fiction: Dresses, Doublets, or Duds?

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“It’s not knowing how to write that makes you interesting, it’s what you write.”
― Ally Condie, Crossed

Ally Condie wrote the Matched series, a science fiction novel that discusses what happens when society chooses a Match for you, how long you live or die, and what exactly is kept in terms of poetry, art, novels…anything that would be considered an Artifact.

Condie’s work is what I’d consider one of the first gender-neutral science fiction novels. Although there is a female protagonist, Cassia, and there are underlying themes of the female stereotypical love tropes, she has a masculine view of the world. Even Ky, another character, narrates in Crossed and Reached of the Matched series. We get the male perspective in there as well. Therefore, tying in with the title, I’d classify Condie’s work as the “duds” of science fiction; both men and women wear it, it’s gender neutral, and it’s casual.

But what about the other science fiction novels, the ones that the general population are familiar with?

More often than not, science fiction has been towards a masculine perspective.

 

Take for instance NPR’s list of top 100 influential sci-fi/fantasy novels. I’m familiar with 1984Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,  Frankenstein, and I am Legend. http://www.npr.org/2011/08/09/139248590/top-100-science-fiction-fantasy-books
Each time, there’s a male protagonist, and when a female character comes into play, trouble usually follows. More often than not, the female character is a love interest and can even be seen as an object. 1984 has Winston pining after Julia, and wants to treat her as an equal, but gets too caught up in the sex and eventually gets caught.

In Pomperantz’s “Un/Defining the “Girl”, she explains how there’s been two types of female characters; as an object, or as a bad-ass hero. With most novels, there’s a damsel in distress, or the women kicks butt. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/jeunesse/v001/1.2.pomerantz.html
The end spectrums could be Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver and Ms. Marvel: No Normal. However, even with Oliver’s work, although the female protagonist starts as the “object”, she works towards the third trope that’s emerging in today’s society.

Doctor Who, although I’m not immensely familiar with it, brings about the third trope that Pomperantz is talking about. The third trope is the generative, or one that asks herself her role, and leaving the choice up to her. In essence, contextualizing the issue. In Doctor Who, companions were commonly known as the lovers of the Doctor. However, Rose Tyler (under the Tenth Doctor) does find out her true identity, whom she wants to become. There’s an underlying arc of the third trope as the “girl being a generative”. She’s also known as what the companion could be, or the “modern Doctor Who companion”.

As Cassia states in Crossed, writing is important because ideas can transcend time. But most importantly, it’s what someone writes about is what makes the author remembered.

 

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