The New York Times book review posted an interesting essay on the influence of A Wrinkle in Time on girls, science fiction, and the acceptability of girls reading science fiction.
I think the thing that interested me most, though, was not the discussion of how influential the book – and Meg – were on science fiction, or on female writers. The interesting part, instead, was some of the commentary made throughout about how girls and women simply don’t read sci-fi. They cited statistics to “prove” that women don’t read sci-fi, and said that the current apocalyptic-book and dystopia trend, and even paranormal romance, are dumbed-down, fluffy, chick-appropriate versions of science fiction.
What is it then that makes girls averse to science fiction? Could it be the pronounced boyness of the covers — the same signal that deters girls from switching to Superman after their Betty and Veronica days have passed? Science-fiction books, whether technologically elaborate, intergalactic stories by the likes of Arthur C. Clarke and Hal Clement or the so-called “soft” science fiction of Ray Bradbury and Philip K. Dick, often wear dark washes of black and navy blue with 3-D fonts and brutal images of fire and destruction.
Hmmm. Could it, perhaps, be that we’re still asking this question? That we’re coding books as “masculine” or “feminine” and therefore somehow inappropriate for the other gender to be reading? What makes a navy blue book “male,” anyway? I’m wearing navy today – does that mean I’m actually male?
Asking “Why don’t girls read sci-fi?” seems, to me, to be telling girls that there’s something weird about reading sci-fi, and that it’s not quite appropriate for them. Still. To this day.
I’m not a fan of this idea.
Isn’t there another way to talk about it? Another way to look at the situation? Can we say, instead, “Perhaps it’s because girls don’t see themselves in the stories as much” – because so many sci-fi protagonists – so many fantasy protagonists, for that matter – are male? Girls are there to be the helpmeet or the mother, not to be the hero. That is a huge reason I loved A Wrinkle in Time – Meg had agency. She was there, and present, and active, and badass. I think that’s a large reason why paranormal romance and all these YA romantic dystopias and whatnot have become popular – they put the girl front and center, even if she’s still largely characterized and/or identified by her relationships with men.
You know, this is why I love Broken, and Fly Into Fire, and Pilgrim of the Sky, and Matchbox Girls, Erekos, Hickey of the Beast…so many of our books show women being women. Being themselves. Being spunky and badass and loving and hesitant and fearless and trepidated, all at the same time. They’re there, and they’re human, and you can relate to them whether you’re male or female, a sci-fi fan or a fantasy buff.
We need more of this. And I’m proud to be able to help bring more of it to the world.