Надо изображать жизнь не такою, как она есть, и не такою, как должна быть, а такою, как она представляется в мечтах.
(Life should be shown not as it really is, nor as it ought to be, but rather as it would be in our dreams)

—Anton Chekhov, The Seagull

 [ Issue 2010.19; Cover art © 2010 Robin Kaplan ]

Issue 2010.19

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Back in the first issue of 2009, we announced a feminist science fiction themed issue of The Future Fire. This is that issue. As we discussed back then and in the call for submissions, we are defining “Feminist Science Fiction” as social, political and speculative fiction which touches on issues or themes of sex, gender, sexuality or sexual identity. Each of the five stories we publish here is not only beautiful and useful (as we demand) but also crosses boundaries and challenges lazy expectations. We had so many excellent submissions in the areas specified above that we have decided not to publish them all in a single issue: this month we are publishing five stories that focus on sex and gender, on women’s experiences and the forces that shape their lives. In a following issue, hopefully within a couple of months, we shall publish a few more stories that focus more on sexuality and gender identity. Stories in both of these areas will of course appear in TFF in the future, as they are and will always be part of our remit.

Some may argue that feminism is no longer necessary, that we have gotten rid of the discrimination and prejudice against which the women's movement was fighting in the 1960s. This is wrong for so many reasons that I don't know where to start. One of our favourite writers, Isabel Allende in a TED talk (that is well worth watching in full), recently argued that the answer is that even if women have equal treatment in our culture, there are huge swathes of the world in which horrifying and terrible things still happen to women, legally and sanctioned by their culture (lack of access to education and family planning, rape, child abuse, domestic violence, torture, mutilation and murder). This is all true, and her message is as important as it is chilling to hear. But I do not think it is the only answer to this question.

The answer, we would argue, is also that women even in the wealthy northern countries still have problems—which is to say that society has a problem, because feminism is as important for men as it is for women. In every country there is a salary gap between both average and top-ranked male and female pay; in many countries women's reproductive freedom is curtailed, or their careers suffer as a result of unequal treatment of parents; there is the grotesque and dangerous rape culture perpetuated by advising women not to dress provocatively, get drunk or go out at night; the sexual objectification of women in high-street porn or the geek's wet dream that is the artifically intelligent sex-bot—how sad that perhaps the first “intelligent” humanoid robot will be an animatronic prostitute funded by the porn industry. At least it's not a military bot designed to kill people, I suppose.

We're not going to solve these problems with feminist science fiction, but we can do our bit to remind people that equal rights for the sexes are important for all of us. The stories in this issue address topics such as domestic violence, discrimination and repression, social inequality, the tyranny of beauty, broken families—all of course within the context of elegantly written and intelligently speculative science fiction and fantasy. Many thanks to all our authors and artists this month for making this an outstanding issue.

Djibril al-Ayad, January 2010

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