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Women Destroy Science Fiction! is a special issue of the Hugo Award-nominated magazine LIGHTSPEED entirely written—and edited—by women.
Women Destroy Science Fiction! is a special issue of the Hugo Award-nominated magazine LIGHTSPEED entirely written—and edited—by women.
Women Destroy Science Fiction! is a special issue of the Hugo Award-nominated magazine LIGHTSPEED entirely written—and edited—by women.
2,801 backers pledged $53,136 to help bring this project to life.

Personal Essay: "I Wanted to be the First Woman on the Moon" by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

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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. 

"I Wanted to be the First Woman on the Moon" 

When I was six years old, my teacher asked everyone to tell her what they wanted to be when they grew up. She went to each desk, one by one, and we were to whisper it in her ear, and then she would tell the class. When it was my turn, I whispered in her ear that I wanted to be the first woman on the moon. 

"You what?" 

The class tittered. I whispered it again. I wanted to be the first woman on the moon. 

She smiled and nodded. But then she started giggling as she told the room. Everyone laughed. The class stared at me, uninterested in Becky, who wanted to be a mom and Tom, who wanted to be a fireman. I kept my head up and stared at the blackboard. 

The principal walked past the classroom and our teacher beckoned him in. "Come here, you have to hear this. Sylvia, tell him what you told me." 

So in front of the whole class, I said it again. I want to be the first woman on the moon. 

He laughed and said, "But what if some other little girl, some little girl who is already sixteen, wants the same thing. What then?" 

I chewed my lip, looked at my feet. He patted me on the head and left the room. 

It was my first lesson that some things aren't worth trying for, because you aren't going to get them anyway. 

No one said, hey, so you want to be an astronaut! No one noticed that I had already internalized that women were only in competition with one another. I didn't want to be the first person on Mars or the first person to explore to the edges of the solar system. The best that I hoped for was to be the first woman to do something that a man had already done. This was our world. This was how it had always been. 

I gave up on that dream. When people asked what I wanted to be, I picked more realistic goals. A rock singer. A movie star. An author. And no one laughed anymore. 

But I keep thinking about the past and the future and how that six year old could have been told being an astronaut was a worthy goal, whether or not she was the first. Luckily, my mother encouraged me to dream, so all those dreams about outer space made it onto paper . . . and still do. I write about recreating recipes on far-off colonies and the trials of living a million miles from Starbucks. I write about the daughters and the mothers and the great aunts. I write about the lack of Tampax. I write about those left behind. And in the end, I believe that as a woman writing real science fiction, I bring more than I ever could have if I'd actually traveled to the moon. Although there's still time, maybe, if I act fast. 

__________

Sylvia Spruck Wrigley obsessively writes letters to her mother, her teenage offspring, her accountant, as well as to unknown beings in outer space. Only her mother admits to reading them. Born in Heidelberg, she spent her childhood in California and now splits her time between South Wales and Andalucia, two coastal regions with almost nothing in common. Her short fiction has most recently appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Crossed Genres and Lightspeed. You can find out more about her at http://intrigue.co.uk

Alexander Burns, Wendy Whipple, and 12 more people like this update.

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    1. Nivair H. Gabriel on January 28, 2014

      I always wanted to be an astronaut, too. I came as close as I could; for me that was graduating with a degree from MIT Aero/Astro, the program that has produced the most civilian astronauts. What I learned, mostly, was that America has a long LONG way to go before everybody has an equal opportunity to even apply.

      Now that we've collectively gathered tons of research on space and its effects on human biology, it seems ridiculous to continue restricting the astronaut pool to "flawless" able-bodied people who are overwhelmingly white, male, and heterosexual. Yet the status quo remains. No glasses, no Lasik, no disabilities of any kind. (What a stimulating, challenging diversity of thoughts, opinions, and experiences that must bring to every shuttle crew. What a fantastic, multifaceted presentation of humanity to send out into the Universe. Yes, that was all sarcasm.)

      It also seems that in this age of flight simulation software and control systems, when the majority of pilots in the Air Force fly only RPAs (remote-piloted aircraft), civilians should have the same access to flight training that military personnel do. Yet again, the status quo is as white, male, heterosexual, and legacy-based as ever. If you want to fly, your options are to get rich or to sign your life away to the military whether you are comfortable with war (let alone the violence you will likely incur as a female member of the US military) or not.

      Science fiction, at least, should have a place for us whose dreams are shut down before they start, for no legitimate reason.

    2. Alana Joli Foster Abbott on January 28, 2014

      We recently went to the National Air and Space annex at Dulles, where my daughter (3) saw her first space shuttle. "I want to go in," she said. "You can't," we explained. "Only astronauts can go in space shuttles." "Then I want to be an astronaut RIGHT NOW," she said emphatically. We certainly didn't sneak her onto the shuttle at the museum, nor did we explain that space shuttles like she saw are not (sadly) a thing of the past, but she's hanging onto that idea of being an astronaut pretty firmly, and we're glad to support her on that for as long as it's her dream.

      Here's hoping that the more women write science fiction and work in the sciences and do things like explore space, the more teachers will find such ideas laudable rather than laughable.

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      Dorothy L. Budar-Danoff on January 23, 2014

      In 1969, when I was 3, I woke up early, flopped down in front of our tv, and watched the big rocket take off. The only thing I ever wanted to be was an astronaut. I had a book called You Will Go To The Moon, and I read it over and over. Worlds away from each other (Hawaii-Germany), we became little girls having the same dream. I'm so glad to read the dreams in stories (and sometimes write about them).

    4. Roy Steves on January 23, 2014

      This is a great example of exactly why I love this project, and backed it. Thanks for sharing!

    5. Wendy Whipple on January 23, 2014

      I'm amazed at how unthinkingly cruel teachers can be.