This blog is not neat and organized. It’s pretty much me chewing on some gender-thoughts in my writing. I want to share my thoughts on gender representation, especially in science fiction, and ask that you share yours, too.
I write a lot of near-future and general future speculative fiction. With the current state of the world, one of the things authors MUST ask themselves when writing believable futures is: what will gender look like? Will we continue to have binary? Will gender fluidity be more accepted? Will gender itself start to fade? Will there be pendulum swing to more conservative gender roles?
Unlike other mediums, it is really difficult to get around pronoun usage in writing. In film, you can have an androgynous character and never mention their gender. In writing, gender can be avoided in first and second POV, but even then it is difficult to eradicate it completely. Because of this, a decision about representing gender must be made every time we sit down to write a piece. We’re beyond the days when a writer can just say, “I don’t want to enter that debate.”
“That” debate… the one of gender, is our every day life. It is definitely our future.
Because of my personal views on gender (I am anti-gender) I try to include alternatives to our current gender binary in most of my stories. I love including agender characters and am wanting to start including gender fluid characters as well. Why? Because this is the type of future I’d like to see, personally, and so I enjoy exploring aspects of gender neutral and gender fluid societies.
The other day I started a near-future cli-fi novella. It’s been coming along at a good clip and I realized I wanted to change my main character from a boy to a girl. I rarely write male characters, and when I do I tend to write in third person, past tense. I don’t like the distance of this POV, so I thought I’d switch my MC to a bisexual female. Yay! Someone more like myself.
But then I wondered why a female? There are other genders to explore, too! In the end, I decided to leave the character as male. He’s based on a man I actually know and I want to keep some of the magical inspiration of truth in the character.
This made me realize how gender-washed my novella was. All of my characters fell on our current gender binary. I needed to add in some gender diversity! It sounds like a simple solution, but at the same time it is exhausting. Most of the time it is easier to default to our current binary because that’s what we grew up with. Additionally, the story has more markets. As soon as alternative gender systems are included in a story, it edges towards political. Sometimes I don’t want my writing to be political. Sometimes I just want to tell a simple story. Sometimes I need a break.
Of course, what we’re missing is the fact that any stories that DON’T have alternative gender systems are just as political. And there are so, so many more of them.
This led me to rededicate myself to exploring possibilities of alternative gender systems in my writing.
I don’t want to be “that girl who always writes about gender.” I want to be known for the emotion and movement of my stories. I do want to be known as a writer who seriously examines the wonderful potential of our future. If that means I am known as one of those gender explorers, so be it. Shouldn’t we all be?