Let us start by this: I am a woman – shocker! I know. While I was growing up I would give little concern to the authors of the books I read, just as I would ignore who the director was in the movies I was watching. That is why I didn’t immediately pick up on the fact that I was only reading works by male authors. In fact, it took me a surprising amount of time to figure this out, given that I was always quite verbal about my rights. But, my rights were not aligned to women’s rights back then. I thought, if I wanted the same things, the same opportunities as boys, then – it stands to reason – I would have to be a boy.
I was proud every time I was called a tomboy and, naturally, that same attitude was applied to my reading material. I would try and find all the “cool” books the boys were reading and I would run like a maniac whenever someone tried to give me a love story or anything even remotely romantic. I wouldn’t want to be called a “girl”.
Somewhere along the line – I think it was when puberty hit me hard – I forgot about being a tomboy, I forgot about not reading women, and I just enjoyed my newly found geekiness in reading fantasy. While reading all the white male authors, sometimes, a woman would creep in unexpectedly: Marion Zimmer Bradley was one of the first to impress me; so much so, that I did notice that I was reading a woman, and that she was writing about women. I didn’t need to identify with a male character anymore and I didn’t have to identify with a weak female either. I could admire and become Morgana! Oh, the joy!
Later, while I was in college, I would be introduced to more women fantasy writers: Karen Miller, Trudi Canavan, Kristen Britain, Robin Hobb! They changed the way I was reading, since I became an actual fangirl and a voracious reader. I would stay home Saturday night just to read a bit more, just to find out what happens next. And then, I came across the superstars: Ursula K. Le Guin and Margaret Atwood, who made me fall in love with Science Fiction – a genre I was sure was not my cup of tea. A Handmaids Tale and The Left Hand of Darkness have influenced my life and my way of thinking so much, that I can scarcely imagine that there was a chance I might not have read them.
Aside from fantasy, though, I really owe so much to Virginia Wolf and her Orlando. A book that gave me a glimpse to the vastness of gender identity issues.
And now, we’ve arrived at my Master of Arts’ thesis, when I had chosen to write about the “other”: the alien character in women’s science fiction, who can take the guise of the foreigner, the woman, the LGBT person, the non-white non-male other. I’ve read so many works by women authors for this dissertation that, for a time, I couldn’t figure out why all people don’t read these masterpieces. Sheri S. Tepper gave me The Gate to Women’s Country, Joanna Russ The Female Man while the academicians like Judith Butler and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak gave me the theoretical tools I needed in order to really translate the works of fiction into sociological meaning.
In my search for true otherness, as I called it, I stumbled upon the works of Octavia Butler and never really recovered since then. I think she is the ultimate example of an underrated master in contemporary science fiction – and literature, in general. Don’t get me wrong, she has been studied by many a young and enthusiastic college woman. It’s just that she is not as widely read by readers of sci-fi and fantasy, as she deserves.
Her works, as so many books by her contemporaries, have influenced every aspect of my life. I try to become the living embodiment of my beliefs and also influence the people in my life, so they can become aware of the unseen problems and the hushed-up injustices occurring in modern society right now. But it takes time and, sometimes, it is painful to be constantly aware of how easily even your circle of friends and acquaintances can brush off your concerns about discrimination. And, sometimes, I wonder if it is worth my time and energy – my burned brain cells – to promote women’s writing. And then I nod to myself because I am a woman, I am a writer and I do really want to be able to relax one day and not concern myself with these issues.
In the future, there won’t be a need for modern Amazons; there will come a time when women won’t even remember there was ever an issue. Talk about Utopia!