Here’s the penultimate (next to last) lecture in our Science Fiction class. It’s on Feminist SF and Afrofuturism, and it picks up the omitted reading from our last lecture by James Tiptree, Jr.
Apologies for the video being cropped. I didn’t realize until after I had recorded the hour long lecture that it cropped my screen’s resolution. I reviewed it and don’t think it is too detrimental. Listen to what I’m talking about and you can look up some of the images and details that are cut off from the video.
As a reminder, the last day of class is Wednesday, May 20. All assignments will be due by midnight that day. This includes your:
- research essay
- posted to OpenLab
- directions included in the lecture 11 post last week)
- weekly summaries
- posted to OpenLab as comments on each “Assignment: Lecture” post
- email a scanned PDF or photos of each page as JPGs to jellis at citytech.cuny.edu
- I will reply with confirmation
- final exam
- I will email the take-home final exam to everyone next week and post a copy on our OpenLab site.
- Read the directions carefully.
- Please write your answers to each question in your own words.
- There are several ways to submit your exam to me via email at jellis at citytech.cuny.edu–I will confirm receipt
- Write your answers into a Word docx file and attach it to an email
- Write your answers into a Word docx file and copy-and-paste your answers into an email
- Handwrite your answers on notebook paper and scan your responses into a PDF attached to an email
14 thoughts on “Assignment: Lecture 12 on Feminist SF and Afrofuturism”
In our last lecture class, lecture 12 we discussed Feminist Science Fiction and Afro futurism. Feminist Science Fiction includes sex, gender, sexuality, sexism, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and feminism. The first wave of feminist Science Fiction was in the 19th and 20th century deal with women suffrage. The second wave was during the 1950’s to the 1980’s, dealing with women liberation, post World War II. Some of the works included Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949) the English version was published in 1953. Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963) was a best seller. And Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex (1970). The third wave was in the 1990’s with Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble (1990) and Donna Harnway’s Cyborg Manifesto (1985). The characteristics of Feminist Science Fiction are that they explore social orders, construct alternatives, reimagining gender roles, undermine naturalized sex gender, posit varied men’s of reproduction, and illustrate various sexualities. Diane Cook defines Feminist Science Fiction as Science Fiction that articulates and brings awareness of women’s place in the political system and their connectiveness of women status. The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) was written by Ursula K. LeGuin. The Female Man (1970) was written by Joanna Russ. Pamela Zoline (1941) was a painter, illustrator and writer, she wrote The Heat of the Universe (1967). Joanna Russ (1937- 2011), she wrote When It Changed (1972). Alice B. Sheldon (1915- 1987), pen name James Tiptree Jr., wrote The Women Men Don’t See (1973). Nine Lives written in 1969 by Ursula K. Le Guin (1929- 2018) it was the first story written by a women to be published in playboy magazine. Octavia E Butler (1947- 2006) was the first well known African American Science Fiction writer who wrote Kindred (1979) and Speech Sounds (1983). Mark Dery coined the term Afro futurism in his essay/interview black to the future in 1994. Lisa Yaszek defines Afro futurism as Science Fiction written by afrodiasporic and African American authors.
One of the topics that can say is in the center of the public eye, the feminism seen from the perspective of the literature and its influence on the world of Science Fiction. There are some key terms attach to the movement. Those terms are sex, gender, sexuality, sexism, patriarchy, heteropatriarchy, and the feminism itself.
There are 3 waves of the feminism. Despise in the later years there are more and more voices that claim that we are in the fourth wave. The 3 original and accepted waves were described during the class. The 1st wave (19th century and early 20th century) fought for the women’s suffrage, educational rights, better working conditions, rejection of the idea of women being inferior to men. 2nd wave of the feminism (1950s – 1980s) invented conflicts such as women’s liberation, challenge the idea of nuclear family, reproductive rights, obtain equality. 3rd wave of feminism (1990 – present) this wave continues some ideas of the second and add recognize that there is not a universal female identity, affinity polities and talk about heteronormativity.
Margaret Cavendish is a precedent of feminism SF with his work the blazing world (1666) where she described the travel to another world and enlists the help of its alien inhabitant to help her save her homeland on Earth. There was a good instruction about some other writers of the feminism SF as Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Pamela Sargent, Marge Piercy, Pamela Zoline, Joana Russ, Alice B. Sheldon, and Octavia Butler.
Afrofuturism is not a sub-genre of SF, it is more a movement inside of SF with clear rules that mark differences from the rest. Octavia Butler is the perfect example of how a writer can be in other sub-genre and be at the same time in Afrofuturism. These 2 worlds can in fact be mutually inclusive and support. The key element to know that we are in front of Afrofuturism work is a fiction written by both afro diasporic and African authors.
Today, feminism is a strong part of American culture. By now Women have spent centuries fighting for their place in societies throughout the world. Perhaps the biggest message being that women are not under the submission of men. Feminist SF goes back as far as the 19th and early 20th century. Our first assigned reading Frankenstein was by a woman named Mary Shelley. Her mother Mary Wollstonecraft was an advocate for women’s rights and also believed in higher education for women. Through our time discussing Wollstonecraft we discovered that feminism was nearly unheard of during her time period. During this first wave some main beliefs included better working rights and the idea that women are NOT inferior to men. The 2nd wave of Feminism took place in the 1950s-1980s. It was during this era that women fought for liberation, challenged the idea of post WW2 nuclear family, reproductive rights and founded organizations such as NOW (National Organization for Women). The 3rd wave main ideas recognized that there is not a universal femine identity and also fought back against 2nd wave backlash. Feminist SF explored social orders, constructed alternatives, reimagined gender roles, undermined naturalized sex-gender, varied means of reproduction and illustrated various sexuality. 4 Popular feminist SF authors we discussed included Diane Cook, Pamela Zoline, Alice B. Sheldon, and Octavia E. Butler. To conclude the lecture we discussed Afrofuturism. Afrofuturism aside from being an incredible branch (if you will) of SF also reminds us that SF did not originate through European ideology but rather it has been found anywhere where an industrial revolution has taken place. Authors of color use SF to explore science, society and race.
In this lecture we learned about the feminist age of SF and Afrofuturism. Some of the precursors to feminist SF include Margaret Cavendish’s description of the new world called “The Blazing World” in 1666 and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “Her Land” in 1915. The characteristics of feminist SF include the exploration of social orders such as patriarchal, matriarchal, and egalitarian. Construct alternatives governmental and organizational systems. Reimagining gender roles, undermining naturalized sex gender relationships. The major works of this era are “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K. Le Guin in 1969. “The Female Man” by Joanna Russ in 1970 and “Women on the Edge of Time” by Marge Piercy in 1976. Some of the well-known feminist SF writers include Pamela Zoline (1901 – present), Joanna Russ (1937-2011), Alice B Sheldon (1915 – 1887), Ursula K. Le Guins (1929 – 2018), and Octavia E. Butler (1947 – 2006). One of Pamela Zoline’s famous works is “The Heat Death of the Universe” which is about a housewife who is not satisfied with her life and turns to chaos. Alice B. Sheldon is famous for her stories in the magazine of fantasy and science fiction, one of them being “Women Men Don’t See” published in 1973. Ursula K. le Guin has won five Hugo awards and six Nebula awards, some of her important works include “The Hamish”, “Earthsea”, and “Nine Lives”. Finally, we conclude with Octavia E. Butler who was the first well-known African woman writer of SF. Some of her important works include “Kindred”, “The Pattern Of”, “Xenogenesis”, and “Speech Sounds”. Next, we move on to the subject of Afrofuturism where science fiction incorporates elements of black history and culture. Afrofuturism term was first coined by scholar Mark Dery in his Black to the Future interview in 1994. Some of the important works of Afrofuturism include the collection “Dark Matter” a century of speculative fiction from the African diaspora, and “Afrofuturism” a world of Black Sci-fi and fantasy culture.
In our previous lecture we went over a brief history of the feminist movement and what feminism means. There are three major movements of feminism that happened. The first wave of feminism happened between the 19th and 20th century. The second wave was between the 1950’s and the 1980’s. Finally, the third wave was in the 1990’s with overlapping ideas to the previous periods. This history set the lecture up for our discussion on science fiction female writers and their impact on science fiction literature. We went over seven major topics addressed by science fiction female writers and started off with reflecting back on our previous author James Tiptree JR. who wrote “The Women Men Don’t See.”
Then we moved on to the author we read for this week Ursula K. Le Guin who had a very interesting background that obviously impacted her work. Both her parents practiced anthropology which gives reason for her own work to have content of an anthropological nature. Her work has been described as anthropological fiction. In our reading for the week “Nine Lives” you can see these topics addressed. The story is about two men who are sent off to another planet in search of Uranium for Earth, because of apocalyptic events and the near extinction of human’s clones are made to help with these missions. Our second reading for the week was written by Octavia E. Butler entitled “Speech Sounds.” This story eerily correlates with what were experiencing now. I enjoy the topic that Butler has written about because it is one that could be a possibility, and she explores possible behavior patterns that could occur to those that survive.
Topics discussed in our 5/6 lecture included Feminist SF and Afrofuturism. Background established in order to understand the subgenre of Feminist SF included coverage of the ideas of sex (biological reproductive traits), gender (social and cultural constructs), sexuality (orientation), sexism (prejudices), patriarchy (male dominated society), heteronormativity (promotion of heterosexuality as the norm or preferred mode) and feminism, which at its core really means that all people are equal regardless of differences in sex, gender and orientation.
We discussed the three waves of feminism, with the first spanning the 19th to early-20th centuries and concerning women’s suffrage, educational rights, and working conditions. Mary Shelley’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, wrote a foundational work, “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” in this period. Second wave feminism spanned the ‘50’s to the ‘80’s and concerned women’s liberation, reproductive rights, equality amongst sexes; Simone de Beauvior’s “The Second Sex” (1949) was important. The third wave spanned the ‘90’s to the present and emphasized that there is no universal feminine identity and began the idea of affinity politics (emphasized shared themes with other groups, often other minority groups), as well as fighting back against “Second Wave backlash.”
Themes in feminist SF included exploring social orders, constructing alternatives to present organizations of society, reimagining gender roles, undermining naturalized sex-gender relationships, positing varied means of reproduction (M/F/alien/mechanical), illustrating various sexualities (human/animal/alien/mechanical) and discussing the ramifications of “masculine science” and “feminist science.” Diane Cook defined it as “SF that articulates an awareness of women’s place in a political system and their connectedness to other women, or which has a primary and feminist focus on women’s status.” Some major works of the subgenre include Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness” (1969), where a male explorer visits a world in which either sex can fulfill the female reproductive role, Joanna Russ’s “The Female Man” (1970), where four women from different times question their roles in their societies and together propose a revolution against men, and Marge Peircy’s “Woman On the Edge of Time” (1976), in which a Hispanic woman is wrongly institutionalized for abusing her daughter, and, in communication with a woman from the future, learns that her actions in the present have an immediate effect on the outcome of that future. Important feminist authors include Pamela Zoline (1941), Joanna Russ (1937-2011), Alice B. Sheldon (1915-1987), AKA James Tiptree Jr.!! (aka Racoona Sheldon), Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018) and Octavia Butler (1947-2006). Afrofuturism was less a sub-genre and more a genre intersecting SF. Mark Dery coined the term in his essay “Black to the Future” and described it as speculative fiction with AfAm themes that addresses AfAm concerns in the context of 20th century technoculture. The three goals of Afrofuturism lit., according to Lisa Yaszek, were to tell a good SF story, to recover the past and reconsider the present in its light, and to imagine or inspire new futures base on recovered histories and cultures.
Our readings included Sheldon’s (Tiptree Jr.’s) “The Women Men Don’t See” (1973), about two women (mother/daughter) who charter a plane in the Yucatan and allow a man to tag along. The woman, Ruth, and man, Don, go to seek a water source after the plane crashes in marshlands, and they see a UFO drop something off. Ultimately, Ruth begs the aliens they meet to take her and her daughter back home (to extraterrestrial planet) with them, because she is so sick of the life she has had to lead as a women and second-class citizen on earth. In Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Nine Lives” (1969 in Playboy mag.), 2 humans (Pugh and Milton) must get on with a group of ten clones (5 male/5 female; collectively John Chow) on a distant mining planet. The clones are completely self-reliant (as a collective) until nine of them die in a mining accident, leaving one left alive to navigate social relationships with the other two, in isolation from his fellow clones. Octavia E. Butler’s “Speech Sounds” (1983) was about a post apocalyptic world in which a pandemic has killed off most people and has crippled survivors’ ability to speak/communicate with each other. “Rye,” the main character, is a woman and former professor who has lost the ability to read and right. She meets a man (“Obsidian” or Stone or Black or Peter…) who, while giving Rye a ride home, is killed by an assailant who had just immediately beforehand killed what we are to believe was his wife. Rye kills the assailant in response and is left to care for the woman’s surviving children, who Rye discovers can still talk. Filled with hope, and in the wake of the loss of her own children, she takes on responsibility for these kids. The story touches on the vulnerability of women to sexual assault as well as the importance of communication to intelligent, modern society.
Feminism came in three waves. The first wave was in the 19th and early 20th century where women fought for a women’s right to vote, educational rights for girls, better working conditions, and the removal of the idea that men are better. The major work(s) that helped was Mary Wollstomecraft’s “Adventication of the Rights of Women” in 1792. The second wave was in the 1950s to 1960s where women fought for women’s liberation, challenged the idea of the past WW2 nuclear family, reproductive rights, obtained equality, and National Organization of Women (NOW). The major work(s) that helped was Simone D Dubois’ “The Second Sex” in 1949, Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique” (1963), and Shulamith Firestone’s “The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution” (1970). The third wave was in the 1990s to present where women fought the idea that there’s not a universal female identity, affinity politics with other groups based on class, LGBT, race and nationality, retaliate against 2 wave backlash, and form new networks of support and awareness. The major work(s) that helped was Judith Butler’s “Ginger Trouble: Feminism and Subversion of Identity” (1990), Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto” (1985), and Sansy Stone’s “The Empire Strikes Back: A Post-Transsexual Manifesto” (1987). Feminist SF technically began with Margaret Cavendish’s “The Description of a New World: The Blazing World” in 1666. Feminist SF was housewives became domestic scientist and efficiency experts. Diane Cook defines feminist SF as SF that articulates awareness of woman’s place in a political system and their connectedness to other women or which has a primary and feminist focus on women status. Afrofuturism intersects with science fiction. Lisa Yasik says “ authors naturally turn to SF as the premier story form of techo-scientific modernity. As an ideal means by which to critically assess new ways of doing economics, politics, science, and technology. authors of color used SF to explore the necessary relations to science, society, and race”. According to Lisa Yasik the three goals of afrofuturism are: 1) tell a good science fiction story. 2) recover the past and reconsider the present in their light. 3) Imagine or inspire new futures based on these recovered histories in culture.People who are considered afrofuturistic are George S. Schuyler, Samuel R. Delaney, Octavia Butler, Bill Campbell, Steven Barnes, and Nalo Hopkinson.
Lecture 12 consists of a discussion on feminism, Feminist SF, and Afrofuturism. Feminism is defined as the view that all people are equal regardless of sex, gender, or sexual orientation. There have been various movements to gain equal rights for women beginning with First Wave Feminism which began in the 19th & early 20th Century with women demanding the right to vote, the right to obtain an education, better working conditions, and rejecting the socially accepted idea that they were inferior to men. Second Wave Feminism occurred during the 1950s to 1980s calling for woman’s liberation, challenging the idea of the post World War II nuclear family, fighting for reproductive rights, and fighting for equality amongst the sexes leading to the founding of The National Organization of Women. Third Wave Feminism which began in the 1990s stresses the idea that there is no universal female identity, creates strong relationships with other underrepresented and marginalized groups, fights back against backlash caused by the Second Wave, and leads to the creation of new support and awareness resources.
As feminism grew its ideas were ever more present in literature. Notable feminist female authors contributing to the fight for equality and recognition throughout the feminist waves include Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797), Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986), Betty Friedan (1921-2006), Shulamith Firestone (1945-2012), Judith Butler (born 1956), Donna Haraway (born 1944), and Sandy Stone (born 1936). Feminist ideas are present in SF as well. Some works of SF by female authors that can be considered foundational to Feminist SF include The Blazing World (1666) by Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673), Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851), and Her Land (1915) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935). Some notable Feminist SF writers include Pamela Zoline (born 1941) who is an author, an illustrator, and a painter, Joanna Russ (1937-2011) who was a professor and a writer, Alice B. Sheldon (born 1915) who was a member of the Army, the Air Force, the CIA, worked at the Pentagon, later earned a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology, and the author of “The Women Men Don’t See (1973) under her pen name James TipTree Jr., a story about a woman willing to go to the extreme of leaving the planet with aliens in order to escape a repressive society, and Ursula K. LeGuin (1929-2018), the winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards, who was exposed to anthropology by her parents from a young age and held a Masters Degree in Romance Literature from Columbia University. Ursula K. Leguin is the author of Nine Lives (1969), one of the assigned readings for this lecture, which is a story originally published in Playboy Magazine under the name U.K. LeGuin to hide her gender. The story is about a group of ten clones, five males and five females, that travel to a mining colony. While there, nine of them tragically lost their lives during an earthquake, forcing the remaining clone to adapt to society as an individual capable of free thought. Especially interesting to me is the feminist message put forth when describing the clones as all being equally capable and prepared and the fact that a story with this message was published in a magazine that was at the time marketed for a male audience.
Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006), the first well-known African American SF writer, who was the first SF writer to be awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant and to be named a MacArthur Fellow. Butler was mentored by Harlan Ellison and throughout her successful career produced works that included various themes including time-travel, biology, the social sciences, slavery, victimization, classism, racism, and identity. Her works are not only works of Feminist SF but of Afrofuturism as well. Other notable authors of Afrofuturism include George S. Schuyler, Samuel R. Delaney, Bill Campbell, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, Nalo Hopkinson, and Nettie Okurafor. Afrofuturism is used by writers of the genre to bring awareness to issues that particularly affect the African American community. Writers of Afrofuturism seek to create futures that contain elements of science and technology that are inclusive of African Americans. Three goals of Afrofuturism per Lisa Yaszek, a recognized SF scholar, are to tell a good story, to recover the past and reconsider the present in their light, and to imagine or inspire new futures based on these recovered histories and cultures. Octavia E. Butler wrote the short story Speech Sound which was published in 1983 in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. The story, another of our assigned readings and a great example of Feminist SF and Afrofuturism, is about a society where people have lost their ability to communicate. The female protagonist, Rye, a former professor and writer who has lost her ability to read and write, sets off on a trip to find her relatives. She instead meets a man named Obsidian, with whom she has a sexual encounter, and decides to suspend her journey and instead bring Obsidian back to her home to live with her. On their way home, Obsidian is tragically killed trying to defend a woman in need. Shortly after, Rye discovers that the woman, that Obsidian unsuccessfully tried to protect, has two children that possess the ability of speech. She decides to bring the orphans home with her, regaining her purpose in life.
This lecture covered Feminist Science Fiction and Afrofuturism. Feminism is said to have come in three waves. The first wave took place in the 19th and early 20th centuries and revolved around issues concerning the women’s suffrage movement, educational rights for girls, and the rejection of the idea that women are inferior to men. The second wave happened from the 1950s to the 1980s where issues surrounding women’s liberation, challenging the idea of the post-nuclear family, women’s reproductive rights, and equality amongst the sexes were concerned. In the 1990s the third but definitely not the final wave of feminism occurred. This was a time that overlapped with the second wave mentioned but women began to form alliances (affinity politics) with other classes that were considered inferior to the white male patriarchy – they were able to establish new networks of support. Hearing this lecture touch on the brief history of feminism makes me wonder how this fourth wave in the 2000s will be summarized and presented in works of SF in the future. Currently, women are dealing with some of the same issues: economic inequality (wage gaps), lack of women in power, defying the role of motherhood, reproductive rights, and not to mention the Me Too Movement.
Feminist SF may be defined as works that explore social order, constructing alternatives, reimagined gender roles, undermine naturalized sex gender norms, means of reproduction (as told in Charlotte Perkins “Perlands” 1915 which tells the story of a society in which women have advanced technology that allows them to reproduce without men), and various sexualities. Even Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” can be read as a feminist critique of science due to how Viktor was able to accomplish without the help of woman, and the way women do not have a voice in the story: ie Walton writes to his sister, and Viktor tells Elizabeth what to do and doesn’t involve her in his works at all. During a later time, housewives were even described as “domestic scientists” and “efficiency experts.”
During lecture 12 we also got into several important authors and works pertaining to Feminist SF. Such as Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Left Hand of Darkness” (1969), Le Guin who has won 5 Hugo Awards as well as 6 Nebula Awards. Her works usually tell an anthropological story (most likely due to her parents both anthropologists), where man makes s a breakthrough on a quest during the winter which brings various groups together. Le Guin had a focus on a balanced whole instead of separation of opposites. Joanna Russ’s “The Female Man” (1970) was also mentioned. Russ was an English professor and a writer who focused on social and cultural theories. The themes of her stories were space opera, “small persons,” alternative histories, and duals.
Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006), was the first well known African American woman writer. She was also the first Science Fiction writer to be awarded the McArthur Genius Grant and accepted into their fellowship. She was mentored by SF writer Samuel R. Delany and her themes included time travel, biology, social sciences, racism, classism, and identity. Butler was both a feminist SF writer as well as an Afrofuturism writer. Afrofuturism is described as the use of SF to explore the necessary relations of science, society, and race. It is a term first coined by scholar, Mark Devy in an essay/interview in 1994 and is not necessarily a subgenre of SF but makes an intersection with the genre. There are goals to Afrofuturism: to tell a good story, to recover the past and reconsider the present in its light, and lastly, to imagine and inspire new futures based on the past/present.
As we reach our final online classs lecture. We hit on one of the most popular and strongest part of modern American culture. “Feminism” in Sf can date all the way back to sf its self! “Frankenstein” arguable the birth of science Fiction. Was by a woman named Marry Shelby. Ironically had a mother fighting for female rights. Women till this day are fighting for their place in society even in developed countries like the united states and Canada. A message that will soon be immortalized in the near future. Ultimately there are 3 main waves that shaped feminism in SF. The 1st wave was during the early 20th Century. Fought for women suffrage, better working conditions and educational rights. And the flat rejection of the idea of “women being inferior to men”. The second wave which was pretty long one. From the 50s all the way to the late 80s women fought for liberation and challenged the idea of a nuclear family. Reproductive rights, and obtain equality
The 3rd and finale was is still on going to this very day (1990-present) this wave recognizes that there will never be a universal
Female identity. Blazing world 1666. Is by Margaret Cavendish. Is a precedent of femmenism SF. Which revolves around her leaving her own planet in order to help a dying alien planet. Affrofusim is a sub genre that covers SF from a “black lens” perspective and has been explored from the early 1990s.
In Lecture 12 we discussed Feminist SF and Afrofuturism. There were three waves of Feminism: First Wave Feminism occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries. The major ideas were women suffrage, educational rights for girls, working conditions, and rejection of the idea that women were inferior to men. During the Second Wave Feminism that took place from 1950 to 1980, major ideas were women liberation, reproductive rights, equality, etc. Important work was Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex(1949). Lastly, Third Wave Feminism began in the 1990s and overlapped with many ideals of Second Wave Feminism. The main ideas were recognized that there is not a universal female identity, Affinity politics, fight back against Second Wave backlash and form new networks of support and awareness. Characteristics of Feminist SF were to Explore social order, construct alternatives, reimagine gender roles, undermine naturalized sex-gender relationships, posit varied means of reproduction, illustrate various sexualities, and consider the ramifications of both masculine science and feminine science. Major works were Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness(1969). She brought an anthropological and linguistic awareness to her unique SF. Other SF writers were Joanna Russ(1937-2011) her writing was the application of social and cultural theory into actions. Alice B. Sheldon(1915-1987) she used the pen name James Tiptree Jr as well. Her story, The Women Men Don’t See(1973). Ursula K. Le Guin(1929-2018) her fiction was anthropological and strives to understand the alien other. Her work Nine Lives(1969). We also discussed Octavia E. Butler(1947-2006) she was the first well known African American woman writer of SF. We were assigned her story, Speech Sounds(1983). The story is about a mysterious pandemic that leaves civilizations in ruins and severely limits humankind’s ability to communicate. The protagonist, Rye has lost her ability to read and write. She makes her way towards Pasadena with a companion but in the midst of a woman being hurt by a man, Obsidian is killed in his attempt to stop the act, and Rye gets vengeance for his death. Rye takes in the two children of the woman that died on her journey and learn that Rye has the ability to speak. Finally, Afrofuturism according to Lisa Yaszek is speculative fiction or SF written by both Afro Diasporic and African Authors. Speech Sounds was interesting and I will be sure to check on more Afrofuturism novels
In this week’s lecture, we discussed Feminist Science Fiction and Afrofuturism. We discussed a short history of feminist SF which includes three waves of feminism. The first wave occurred in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It had to do with the right to vote, educational rights, better working conditions, and rejection of the idea that women were inferior to men. The second wave occurred from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. It had to do with women’s liberation, challenging the idea of the post WWII nuclear family, reproductive rights, obtaining equality among sexes, and the founding of the National Organization for Women (NOW). The third wave occurred in the 1990’s and onward. It had to do with recognizing that there is not a universal female identity, affinity politics such as LGBT, race, and nationality, fighting back against second wave backlash, and forming new networks of support and awareness. We also learned about Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) who was Mary Shelley’s mother. She wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792 which explained that women need to have access to education and rights because they are responsible for raising the next generation. We then learned the characteristics of feminist SF. We also learned Diane Cook’s definition of feminist SF which is science fiction that articulates an awareness of women’s place in the political system and their connectedness to other women or which has a primary and feminist focus on women’s status. We then learned about various feminist SF writers such as Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018), Joanna Russ (1937-2011), Pamela Zoline, born in 1941, and Alice B. Sheldon, also known as James Tiptree Jr. and Raccoona Sheldon (1915-1987). We also discussed two stories we read for class, Nine Lives and Speech Sounds. Then, we covered the topic of Afrofuturism. This is when people of color entered the field of SF after the European collapse of colonialism and the rise of the civil rights movement in the US. Authors of colors use SF to explore the necessary relations of science, society, and race to state claims for themselves and their communities in the global future imagined. Afrofuturism is not a sub-genre of SF, but intersects with SF. We also learned the three goals of Afrofuturism and the meaning of diaspora.
Lecture 12 focuses on Feminist Science Fiction, as well as Afrofuturism. I was really excited as I sat through this one because I got to see the impact that women had on this genre, along with women of color, like myself. The author of one of my favorite novels, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, was shortly mentioned due to her writing of “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” within this era, which was a foundational piece. There are multiple waves of feminism:
The first wave of feminism takes place within the 19th and early 20th century. The major ideas included women’s suffrage, educational rights for girls, better working conditions, and rejection of the idea that women were inferior to men.
Second wave feminism takes place between the 1950s and 1980s. The major ideas within this wave included women’s liberation, challenge the idea of the post World War II nuclear family, reproductive rights, obtain equality amongst the sexes, the founding of the National Organization of Women (NOW). In the lecture, there were a couple of important works of this period named: “The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir, “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedon, and “The Dialectic of Sex” by Shulamith Firestone.
Lastly, third wave feminism was within the 1990s, and partially overlaps with the second wave feminism beliefs. The main ideas of this era were to recognize that there is not a universal female identity, affinity politics with other groups based on class, LBGT, race, and nationality. It also fights against the backlash of second wave feminism, and formed new networks of support and awareness, such as RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest Network).
For this lecture, we had to read Sheldon’s Tiptree Jr.’s “The Women Men Don’t See” (1973). This story was about a mother (Ruth) and her daughter (Althea) attempting to find salvation after a plane crash. This leads to Ruth having to work with a man named Don Fenton. It was interesting to see how irritated Don became as he saw Ruth didn’t react to situations how he expected a women to. I liked seeing Ruth school him on who women actually are as people.
Feminist Science Fiction articulates an awareness of a woman’s place in political systems. Feminist Science Fiction has six defining characteristics. It explores social orders, construct alternatives, reimagined gender roles, posit varied means of reproduction, illustrates various sexualities, and considers the ramifications of both masculine and feminist science. Alice Bradley Sheldon (1915 – 1987) better known by her pen name James Tiptree Jr. published The Women Men Don’t See in Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1973. It is about a woman and her daughter who survive a plane crash. A man named Don becomes in increasingly annoyed with the mother because she is not acting in a panicked state, the way he believes a woman should be acting in such a serious situation. The women choose to leave earth with aliens leaving Don to wonder why they would rather seek the unknown than stay on the patriarchal earth. Octavia E. Butler’s (1947 – 2006) Speech Sounds was published in Asimov’s Science Fiction in December 1983. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where a virus has killed many people and crippled the survivors ability to read, write, or speak. The main protagonist is a woman named Rye who was a professor before the virus caused her to lose her ability to read and write. Ursula K. Le Guin’s (1929 – 2018) novelette titled Nine Lives was published in 1968 in Playboy magazine. It is about two men on a distant mining planet who are working with ten clones. The clones are completely reliant on each other. An accident causes nine of them to die leaving the one surviving clone struggling to facilitate relationships with his two non-clone companions.