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HollyB
08-19-2004, 01:57 AM
I'm interested in writing character-driven hard SF (that is to say, SF with realistic science, but the story is about the human responses to the science, not the science itself). As I'm becoming more familiar with the genre, I've read that most hard SF is written by men, for men, and as a new writer, I find that a bit intimidating.

What are all your thoughts?

Here's Dr. Debra Doyle's (Auntie Deb?) take on women writing SF:
www.sff.net/paradise/girlcooties.htm (http://www.sff.net/paradise/girlcooties.htm)

veingloree
08-19-2004, 03:08 AM
I think women have always read SF and a few have always written it. I don't have figures but I know that many products seen as masculine are approximately 50/50 in purchase statistics (like playstation games and rpg products). If only they would do a wee bit more for the female market they would make more money (I recent gave up a life long habit of buying comics, mainly in dusgust at the content of all of the mainstream names). As a pursuer of 'male' hobbies I think it is a stereotype worth bucking! But to draw a dubious analogy -- women always read erotica, it was just that it took a long time for someone to write women's erotica that was targeted at that market (Black Lace, Ellora's cave etc). These breakthrough publishers are reaping the rewards.

I think women's SF at its best has the hard science and the soft human componant's beautifully balanced and actually appeals across the board (as good writing usually does). There is a grand tradition laid out by luminaries such as Ursula le Guin, Octovia Butler, Vonda McIntyre and Margeret Atwood. Not to neglect great female characters written by men such as Asimov's Dr Calvin. Then there are the somewhat softer areas like space opera which are probably read by women more than men these days.

That's my 2c anyway :ssh

Nameless65
08-19-2004, 03:29 AM
One of my main gripes with the hard SF genre (at least the books I’ve read) is that character development is usually pretty weak. I can’t think of a single hard SF story in my library where the characters don’t take a back seat to the science.

As for “written by men, for men”, I’d say it’s more a matter of “written by scientists for scientists”. Most of the hard SF books that I’ve read were written by authors with a strong science background--physics, math, aerospace, engineering, etc. And when I went to school--I’m an engineer--the ratio of men to women in my science classes was usually quite high. So I find it reasonable that the majority of people that write and read these kind of stories would be men.

Still, I’d love to see a book that gives equal weight to both the science and the characters/plot.

ChunkyC
08-19-2004, 04:09 AM
James Tiptree Jr. (http://www.tiptree.org/) wrote some of the best SF out there, and 'he' was a she. AC Crispin (http://www.sfwa.org/members/Crispin/) is another respected SF author. Quite often in the past, pseudonyms were used by female writers to counter the gender bias.

I loved Hal Clement's 'Mission of Gravity', but some of his later work like Half Life (http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0312869207/qid=1092866830/sr=1-6/ref=sr_1_0_6/702-0643900-7508024) became so science-heavy that I just couldn't slog through it. Give me good characters any day.

Lori Basiewicz
08-19-2004, 04:52 AM
I would have to agree with Charlie and say this stereotype has less basis in reality and more in perception.

Honestly, when you first buy a book and aren't looking for a familiar author, how many times do you look at the author's name before you decide whether or not to buy it?

Nameless65
08-19-2004, 05:01 AM
Quite often in the past, pseudonyms were used by female writers to counter the gender bias.
I don’t think there is a gender bias in play with hard SF. I just think that the majority of writers in this sub-genre are male.


…became so science-heavy that I just couldn't slog through it.
But isn’t “science-heavy” the definition of hard SF? Unfortunately, what seems to go with this is “character-lite”.


I would have to agree with Charlie and say this stereotype has less basis in reality and more in perception.
What stereotype? That hard SF is predominated by scientists or that the majority are men?


Honestly, when you first buy a book and aren't looking for a familiar author, how many times do you look at the author's name before you decide whether or not to buy it?
Never.

ChunkyC
08-19-2004, 05:37 AM
Nameless ... yeah, 'science heavy' is another way of saying 'hard sf, but I said so science-heavy, as in much more sophisticated science than usual, even for him. It felt like I was reading a chemistry textbook, not a novel. One of the most boring reads I've ever experienced, you'd need a PhD to understand half of it. The only reason I finished it is because I liked his earlier work and kept hoping for something engaging to happen, but it didn't.

I consider a book like Arthur C. Clarke's 'Rendezvous with Rama' to be hard SF, which was a thousand times more fun to read.

As for stereotypes, I was making the point that in the past there have been a number of female SF authors that hid their gender from the reading public, therefore using author's names (the only method open to the average reader) to judge how many books were written by men was flawed due to this 'subterfuge'.

Nameless65
08-19-2004, 06:02 AM
It felt like I was reading a chemistry textbook, not a novel.Amen. I read a novel like that once only it was genetics/biology intensive which is definitely not my field. I had to read and reread the heavier sections and still had trouble. Ugh.

I think it’s safe to say that no matter how much (or little) science you put into a hard SF novel there will always be people that think that there’s too little (or too much). My personal preference is more character/story involvement, less science.

ChunkyC
08-19-2004, 07:11 AM
Yah, Nameless. Dead on.

A perfect example is a short story Isaac Asimov wrote in the fifties probably (damned if I remember the name) about a girl who stowed away on a ship bound for Venus, but the extra mass of her body + the extra air she breathed meant the ship would be off course and the air would run out before it reached Venus -- unless either the pilot or her got off before a 'point of no return'.

Harder science there ain't, but the story revolved around this horrible decision they had to make. A powerful read that brought tears to my eyes.

HConn
08-19-2004, 07:37 AM
I like less science, less character, more BEM and ray guns.

P-yoo! P-yoo!

HollyB
08-19-2004, 07:50 PM
Very interesting responses, everyone. Thanks! So the bottom line is: don't worry about it. Editors will buy and people will read good SF regardless of the writer's gender.

Regarding hard SF, I like this quote from Heinlein: "There are at least two principal ways to write speculative fiction -- write about people, or write about gadgets." I'll pick people any time!

(Chunky, that Asimov short story sounds fascinating... if anyone can come up with the title, I'd love to read the story.)

ChunkyC
08-20-2004, 01:00 AM
I have it in a short story collection at home I believe (behind the furnace in box #32, under the Wookie costume maybe...) :grin

I'll see if I can dig it up. It got made into an Outer Limits episode, at least I think it was the Outer Limits ... geez, maybe I should go looking for my memory first.... 8o

Terra Aeterna
08-20-2004, 03:51 AM
I hopped into this thread thinking it was going to be about gender issues such as women in a military setting ala David Weber's Honor Harrington or differently gendered people such as the variously gendered folk in Melissa Scott's Shadow Man. Interesting discussion anyway. :)

HollyB
08-23-2004, 02:19 AM
I found this interesting article when I was poking around HConn's SF resources. Susan Urbanek Linville did an analysis of women publishing short fiction in the major SF magazines:

www.sfwa.org/bulletin/art...nville.htm (http://www.sfwa.org/bulletin/articles/linville.htm)

Her bottom line is that the SF magazines publish less fiction by women, but probably because less women submit fiction to the mags. The moral of the story? Submit, submit, submit! (So I'm off to the post office tomorrow. Wish me luck!)

HConn
08-23-2004, 03:05 AM
Everyone who writes spec fic should subscribe to the Bulletin.

Seriously.

ChunkyC
08-23-2004, 09:09 PM
Thanks for the prod, HConn, I think I will go sign up for the Bulletin.

And Holly -- good luck indeed!

HConn
08-24-2004, 02:54 AM
Chunky, you won't be disappointed.

evanaharris
08-25-2004, 01:49 PM
That story's actually Ray Bradbury, I think. I'm almost certain of it.

Primarily because I remember reading it, and also because I can't *ever* remember reading *any* Asimov stories.

*Edit*

I take that back. It was in my High School English textbook, and I do remember it being Asimov. Good story

HConn
08-25-2004, 02:04 PM
A perfect example is a short story Isaac Asimov wrote in the fifties probably (damned if I remember the name) about a girl who stowed away on a ship bound for Venus, but the extra mass of her body + the extra air she breathed meant the ship would be off course and the air would run out before it reached Venus -- unless either the pilot or her got off before a 'point of no return'.

Chunky, I missed this the first time through this conversation. Are you referring to The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin?

The Cold Equations. (http://home.tiac.net/~cri/1999/coldeq.html)

ChunkyC
08-25-2004, 09:09 PM
That's the story, all right. Odd, I seem to remember it being a ship launched from Earth orbit to Venus, but I read it so long ago I'm obviously mistaken on those points. Being a huge Asimov fan, over time I also obviously forgot who wrote it and ended up attributing it to him. Hell, with over 500 books to his credit, it feels like he must have written just about everything in the field. :grin Perhaps it ended up in an anthology edited by Asimov, and that's where I ran across it.

Regardless, it was the so-human tragedy that could not be avoided because of the laws of physics that got to me. I think it's a great example of how hard science doesn't have to make for an overly technical read and can provide the crucial element of a very emotional story.

HollyB
08-26-2004, 12:45 AM
HConn, thanks for finding the story. My latest short story is about limited resources on a multi-gen spaceship, so it's great background for me.

Chunky, you said it perfectly: "I think it's a great example of how hard science doesn't have to make for an overly technical read and can provide the crucial element of a very emotional story." That's exactly the kind of SF I love to write and read.

HConn
08-26-2004, 02:43 AM
Funny thing is, I've never read the story.

It's pretty famous, though.

Flawed Creation
09-01-2004, 08:07 AM
interesting, the comment about RPG products.

i've played RPGs for a while, and i've noticed a huge majority of men.

however, the female players i've had the pleasure of playing with have been among the better players.

(mostly- there was one...)

veingloree
09-01-2004, 03:58 PM
My rpg groups were about 50/50, but these are groups that by definition had at least one women in them and hence contained men with a minimum level of cross-gender social competance.

Of course not so many of the woman go to the big conventions because they are, to be honest, horrible. Halls full of stink man eating pies, looking down your cleavage and debating the exact statistics of a 40K elven cleft warrior of doom :grin It's a stereotype, but there's some truth to it.

I prefer to be the GM, then if any of the fanboys annoys me a passing dragon can carry him off. i.e. at cons if one of my players says upon meeting me 'You're the GM... really?!' with great amazement, their characters does not have long to live.

veingloree
09-01-2004, 08:55 PM
A picture that might amuse rpg-players: www.geocities.com/nuelow/bugs.html (http://www.geocities.com/nuelow/bugs.html)

Yeshanu
09-01-2004, 09:05 PM
veingloree,

:rofl

ChunkyC
09-02-2004, 12:58 AM
I second the :rofl