Author Evangeline Denmark writes in about what science-fiction means to her and why it’s important that more female voices are added to the genre.
Denmark’s debut novel, Curio, is about finding the hero within yourself. Grey Haward always kept to herself, trying to go unnoticed, but when she runs into the Chemists’ enforcers, it changes her forever. Soon, she finds herself in another land where porcelain and clockwork people are real.
Sci-fi isn’t just for guys by Evangeline Denmark
As a teen raised in religious communities, I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with greedy awe. I found liberation, even relief, in the idea that within fiction you could explore such topics as humans crafting other humans without an obligatory statement of personal beliefs. Instead of angry interpretations of moral to-do lists, fiction offered the endless “what if” — a chance to throw the mysteries of the universe into a story and tease out threads of meaning, purpose, and intent.
This was my introduction to the sci-fi genre. Or perhaps more accurately, this was my awakening to a woman’s voice within the ongoing chronicle of scientific discovery. I learned that like my other literary favorites the Brontes, Mary Wolstonecraft Shelley did not reveal her gender upon initial publication of her work. And when she did claim the title of author, her critics were indignant that a female mind would tackle the subject of corpse reanimation. Such topics were considered inappropriate for the gentler sex.
There is no instrument more in tune with injustice than the teenage psyche. I was indignant on behalf of Shelley and dreamed of setting her society straight. I’d arrive in 1818 London to deliver my scathing lecture and step from my time machine sporting jeans because in 1990s America, women were free to wear what they wanted. (Never mind that I attended a school with a dress code: girls MUST wear skirts on chapel days.) Those short-sighted critics would listen to me. Why? Because in the future we’d figured out that women’s ideas belong in all aspects of culture.
Except we haven’t figured that out have we?
In some bastions of the scientific community and sci-fi circles, a mutated strain of the Man’s World virus remains, a subtle perception that scientific pursuits are a natural bent of the male mind and females have little interest in how the world works. We see symptoms of this syndrome when female students believe they can’t succeed in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) or when books are sorted into Boy Reads and Girl Reads.
We can’t afford to let this infection continue. We can’t afford to miss out on female input and skill due to misogyny that’s poisoned us since Shelley’s critics muttered into their snuff boxes.
Perhaps more than any other modern pursuit, science and science-fiction are concerned with big ideas. If you haven’t looked around at the world lately, let me assure you we are in need of big ideas. We need cures and solutions. We need minds like Marie Curie’s and Deepika Kurup’s. At 17, Deepika Kurup was honored with the “President’s Environmental Youth Award” for her work in developing an inexpensive method to purify water. Imagine our loss if Kurup believed STEM was for men.
If science is the horizon of discovery, then sci-fi is the realm of the visionary. But within the pages of novels, we find not only fantastical entertainment but also tools of the conscience. Mary Shelley wielded these tools, chiseling away at the concept of creating life until she exposed humankind’s responsibility to humankind. Margaret Atwood took them up to craft a terrifying theocratic society, and Suzanne Collins used them to examine how far we might go to keep the semblance of peace. These women writers and others like them gave vital perspective on the progress of humanity by creating windows of speculative fiction open onto what might or could be.
Within the fields of actual science, we are figuring out how our universe works. Within the pages of science fiction we are figuring out what it means to be human. We will never be done with either endeavor. And if we are to have these discussions and dreams of what could be possible, then both genders must be represented. We can never hope to more fully grasp our humanity if half our voices are diminished.
Since I can’t time travel to 1818 London for a Solidarity Sister chat with my girl Mary Shelley, I’m doing what I can to share the notion she took up. As a science-fiction author, as a mom, as a woman who wears what she pleases, I’ll shout it to world. Sci-fi isn’t just for guys!
About the author
Evangeline Denmark cannot sing. The tragic discovery of this truth led to bouts of angst-ridden poetry writing in her teens, several ill-advised relationships with literary characters, and the compulsive creation of her own fictional worlds. Having found her true voice, Evangeline now writes fiction with hints of whimsy, glimmers of fantasy, and strokes of the supernatural.
Her debut novel, Curio, a young adult steampunk fantasy, releases January 2016. She has also co-authored two children’s books, The Dragon and the Turtle and The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari (Waterbrook Press.)
Evangeline lives in Colorado in a house stuffed full of animals and creative people that would surely go to ruin were it not for the watchful eye of a cattle dog named Willie.