There was (and may still be) a series of articles going around the WordPress blogosphere that points to a lack in science fiction I have been aware of for some time. These articles began after Mother’s Day of this year, and they came to this author’s attention a couple of weeks ago. Several people, authors and fans alike, wrote posts in the wake of Mother’s Day which lamented the shortage of mothers in science fiction. Though a few cited examples of maternal characters in sci-fi stories with which I am unfamiliar, the general consensus was that there are not enough mothers in current science fiction stories.
This is a good question to ask; not long ago, there was only one major science fiction franchise I know of which gladly included children, motherhood, fatherhood, and families of medium to large sizes. That was the original Star Wars expanded universe, which, for some reason, was discarded a few years after Disney bought the rights to the franchise.
Still, others ask, why aren’t there more mothers in science fiction stories? In fact, why aren’t there more fathers in science fiction, not to mention more children? I am afraid that the answer to these questions is as simple, readers and future writers, as this: in “modern” times, children have become a pathology. Therefore, this makes motherhood and fatherhood – particularly fatherhood – irrelevant in the present (post?) modern mindset as well.
Let us refer to the dictionary for a moment to learn what this word means, so we can see why it is appropriate to apply it to this problem. Pathology, according to Merriam-Webster, means: “the study of the essential nature of diseases and esp. of the structural and functional changes produced by them 2: something abnormal… 2: b: deviation from the propriety or from an assumed normal state of something nonliving or nonmaterial c: deviation giving rise to social ills.” (Bold is my emphasis.)
There are many examples which show how this definition applies to the modern view of families, but a brief look at Netflix’s Jessica Jones ought to make the matter plain. In the sixth episode of its first season Jones is shown trying to help a woman who was raped by her (Jones’) arch-nemesis. This rape resulted in the other woman becoming pregnant and making her, by definition, a mother.
In the course of this show this woman describes her child – who did not ask to be conceived in this manner and who has no protection besides its unwilling mother – as a “tumor” growing inside her body while she begs for an abortion. Rather than show that both mother and child are innocent victims of the villain’s evil, the writer(s) for this episode made the unborn child a “tumor,” a disease. In essence, these authors made the child – and by extension motherhood and true fatherhood – a pathology.
While this episode is one which states the argument that children constitute a pathology most clearly, the sad fact is that this attitude is rife in most of fiction and science fiction. Consciously or not, many current writers promote this idea through their fiction – especially so in sci-fi novels, films, etc.
So why are there so few mothers, so few fathers, so few families of any size in modern science fiction stories? As I said above, the answer is that, in the so-called modern mindset, families (especially large ones) are considered pathologies. They are considered an abnormal “deviation giving rise to social ills.” When families are portrayed at all, they are made individually and collectively the butt of tasteless jokes; this provides the social reinforcement for the ideological notion that having a family is irresponsible. These insulting stereotypes encourage the absurd notion in our collective ultra-modern hubris that children, families, and parents are passé. This ideology is propagated as the “scientific” gospel and thereby that of science fiction as well. If that does not frighten you, readers and future writers, it should.
This is why there are so few mothers in science fiction, readers and future writers. This is also why the families, large and small, from the original Star Wars expanded universe were discarded when the new timeline was formed. It is, deliberately or not, a commonly stated reinforcement of the Malthusian Nihilism so currently in vogue today, which has been proven false in every case, every time.
It is something that The Hunger Games touched on in a very vivid way. Those who find fault with the trilogy often ask why the Capitol enforces the Games on the Districts, since they already control everything else in the lives of “their” citizens. The reason is simple and cold-blooded: with their young culled every year for the entertainment of the sheltered Capitolites, there will always be too few citizens capable of fighting against the ruling tyranny to achieve freedom than there were before the Dark Days.
“Dark have been my dreams of late,” Theoden said in The Lord of the Rings. In many ways, mankind was plagued by “dark dreams” during the twentieth century. As those various posts on mothers in science fiction have shown, more people are finally waking up to the fact that these dreams have led us to our own Infinity War, our own War of the Ring. We can now either forsake the darkness and become “as one new-awakened,” or dive into the nightmare that is The Hunger Games.
But in order to find the former and leave the latter behind, we don’t just need more mothers in science fiction: we need more fathers, more children – more families.
I am not ordering you to do this, future writers, nor am I preaching but not practicing. From the time I could tell stories, something inside of me felt this driving desire to have my heroes and heroines settle down to a “happily ever after,” and I have never wavered in trying to answer that silent call. Those posts addressing the lack of mothers in sci-fic tales show that this interior siren song is right: we need more science fiction stories with families, large and small.
Yes, it is true that after “the end” of my stories the wife and husband will argue; the children will be noisy, and bills will have to be paid, etc., etc. But how, pray tell, does that make family life – in and out of fiction – less valuable? Where in “happily ever after” does it say “and they had no more problems for the rest of their lives”?
It does not say that at all; in fact, that was never the implication of such endings. This reading is a modern misinterpretation of the term “happily ever after”; it does not mean a life full of bliss, peace, and ease for the hero and heroine. What it means is a life spent with those they love, even when circumstances make life difficult or their loved ones drive them crazy. Yes, the princess would eventually lose her looks, the king would grow too old to ride to war, and the children will grow up. But that’s life; a life well-lived, with the hero and his bride savoring the rewards for their hard service to the Good throughout their years together.
Stories with “happily ever after” exist in the real world, future writers. More than a few of us are the product of such endings and, without those “happily ever afters,” we wouldn’t be here. Why should we deny our protagonists the rich life they have earned by their labors against evil?
The answer is that we should not betray our characters in this manner, which is why I urge you to go out and write stories with “happily ever after,” future writers. Give us science fiction novels/series with children, with mothers and fathers, with wives and husbands, with families. They can be facing evil together or living in the peace and prosperity which follows its downfall. As we have seen there is a real need – and a desperate hunger – for such tales in society today.
Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
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