When we set out to destroy science fiction with this Kickstarter, we didn't want it to be your ordinary, run-of-the-mill campaign. We wanted it to be full of smashing, crashing women's voices, telling what it really means to be a woman reading and writing science fiction. One of the ways we hope to do that is by sharing a series of personal essays by women about their experiences as a woman in science fiction.
Personal Essay: Seanan McGuire
I didn’t choose the science fiction life. I want to make that very clear. By first grade I knew that there were “girl things” and “boy things,” and that if you wanted to be the kind of girl who had friends and got invited to sleepovers and didn’t sit alone in the weird kid corner of the classroom, you would like the things that were intended for you. I yearned for the world of the cool kids, the ones who floated in a cloud of crinoline and hair bows, who spoke authoritatively of Barbies and ponies and other acceptable hobbies. It wasn’t that I didn’t love those things—I did, and I still do, as my vast collection of creepy dolls and My Little Ponies will demonstrate—it was that I loved other things, too. Things that had a nasty tendency to come spilling out of my mouth every time I opened it.
Things like “I spent the weekend watching Doctor Who on channel 54,” and “I want to go to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters next year,” and “if unicorns are real, do you think they’d let us ride them?” The unicorn questions were less immediately isolating within my peer group, but as for the rest . . .
This isn’t a long-winded way of saying “I wasn’t like those other girls,” because I was really just like those other girls. We all loved weird and wonderful things, and I know I wasn’t the only female science fiction fan in my elementary school. I was just the only one with the runaway mouth, the one who couldn’t learn that what I loved was aberrant and wrong.
One by one, I watched the other girls drop away and hide our shared interests, not because they didn’t care about the voyages of the Starship Enterprise anymore, but because they couldn’t stand the teasing. It came from the boys first, accusing us of being dumb, having cooties, and destroying the very things we purported to love. Then, it came from within, as the girls who had already learned to conceal their stripes whipped around and attacked the rest of us. They were good girls, who liked girl things, and the best way to show that was to shame the bad girls who liked boy things. We needed to be put in our place. So “we” dwindled, and dwindled, until it was just me, and I thought I would be alone forever.
Because see, that’s the thing about being a woman in science fiction: we start getting told “you are destroying the thing you love” really, really early. It’s in the marketing and the media. It’s in the messages that are passed to our schoolmates, and hence the messages that are passed to us. It’s in the social norms that everyone wants to enforce. Boys get giant robots, girls get fashion dolls. “Both” is never an option.
I didn’t choose the science fiction life. The science fiction life chose me. If I had been able, as a child, to control what I loved, I would have chosen to love something that didn’t come with the specter of “your love will be the end of everything.” I would have chosen love without rejection, love without cooties, love that was viewed as gender normative, because I was living inside of a false binary. We create it, and then we enforce it, and we don’t understand why everyone is unhappy all the time.
I’m down with the idea that my love is destroying science fiction. We can build it up again, and this time, it can have room for everybody.
Seanan McGuire was born and raised in Northern California, resulting in a love of rattlesnakes and an absolute terror of weather. She shares a crumbling old farmhouse with a variety of cats, far too many books, and enough horror movies to be considered a problem. Seanan publishes about three books a year, and is widely rumored not to actually sleep. When bored, Seanan tends to wander into swamps and cornfields, which has not yet managed to get her killed (although not for lack of trying). She also writes as Mira Grant, filling the role of her own evil twin, and tends to talk about horrible diseases at the dinner table.