How to get the little woman to try sci-fi


Well, I’ll tell ya.

I wrote this post at the urging of  a couple of guys who wanted suggestions of books and movies to try to interest their spouses in science fiction. So I thought, ok, it could be that many women have simply not been exposed to it, or are not aware of the range of science fiction styles that exist. Traditionally it has been the nearly exclusive domain of men, as writers and consumers. Not entirely, of course, although many people remain unaware of women’s contributions to and interest in the genre. Most famously, Alice B. Sheldon wrote under the pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr. to get her work noticed and accepted in the ol’ boy network. To the delight and amusement of sci-fi girls ever since, her work was deemed “ineluctably masculine” by Robert Silverberg. Anyway, point being, women have had a hard time being taken seriously in sci-fi, so you can understand how it can be off-putting to many women.

With that in mind, you must accept the fact that she may NEVER like sci-fi. You must. Accept it. Everyone has their own tastes, and just as you would no sooner read romance, it may be that she will never share your love of sci-fi. To each his or her own. It’s nice that you want to share, but allow for differences. Also, there are many flavors of sci-fi: military, hard, soft or social, cyberpunk, time travel, alternate history, apocalyptic, space western, and more. She may find some of these sub-genres appealing and not others.

However, that said, if she is open to giving it a try, allow me to suggest some of my personal faves in both books and movies that I think will appeal to women more than the military or ‘hard’ sci-fi. I happen to like most of it, but that’s me, not her. And you didn’t marry me. Your mistake, but we’ll let that slide.

Try to find out what she doesn’t like about any of the sci-fi you may have dragged her to in the past. Is she not interested in the attack sequences in BSG? Too much politics and intrigue and soldiers behaving badly? Skip the military. Was Avatar more of the same? I’m not even going to go into how much I hated that movie with its cardboard, two-dimensional stereotypical characters, not to mention the cultural strip-mining… OOPS. Well, anyway, I hated it but not because it featured military stuff. Maybe she doesn’t get Star Trek with all the talk of dilithium crystals, and warp nacelles, positronic matrices, venting warp plasma, rerouting control to the battle bridge… I love Trek, in all its incarnations, although TOS (The Original Series) is still probably my favorite. It was the chemistry between the main characters that made the show, much as the cast of “Firefly” inspired such a loyal (ok, rabid) following, of which I am one.

We aim to misbehave

So let’s dig back a little. One of my all-time favorite sci-fi movies was

Ice Pirates (1984)M8DICPI EC002

Yep. Love it. I think it was grossly underrated. The story had a real message, the characters were fun, there’s the romance between Jason (Robert Urich – be still my heart) and Princess Karina (Mary Crosby) which may help your wife/girlfriend/significant other ease into the rest of what’s happening. There’s some campy humor, villains, anti-heroes, swashbuckling pirates, froggy alien women, time travel.  What’s not to love about a movie with a character named Killjoy (John Matuszak)? This movie had it all. It’s lighter fare than Star Wars which preceded it.

Next up: Starman (1984)Starman

Oh, this is just too wonderful. Jeff Bridges plays the awkward but benevolent and curious alien who gives Karen Allen her heart’s desire.  It spawned a short-lived television series that sadly lacked the charm of the movie. In the movie you’re rooting for Starman to outrun the government agents chasing him as he tries to experience some earth culture (cherry pie being one of our good points). The humanity and relationship between Jenny and the Starman is what makes it go. But it makes you think. What would happen to an alien who came here to learn about us, and became the target of a manhunt by the government? What would you do? Help him, or turn him in? It received an Oscar nom.

Contact (1997)

Brilliant scientist Eleanor Arroway (Jodie Foster) devotes her career to searching for extraterrestrial life, to the chagrin of her superior played icily by Tom Skerritt. Matthew McConaughey plays her sometime love interest/nemesis Palmer Joss. When she picks up a real signal from space, the government once again steps in and takes control, almost shutting her out of the process of making contact. In the end, she realizes her dream, but then has little support when no one believes her. Jodie Foster took home the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama. It won several other awards, including the Oscar for sound.

John Carter (2012)

Just go see it or rent it on Netflix when it becomes available. It’s fun, the chemistry between John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) and Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) is wonderful. I’ve talked to lots of ladies who loved it, so it’s not just me. The guys like it, too. I’ve heard from guys who saw it three times in the theater. It’s got some steampunk-y flying craft on Mars, which was fun. The story is not so convoluted that you can’t follow who’s who, and even though it’s based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ vision of Mars which is all wrong scientifically, it is humorous, visually arresting, has interesting sympathetic characters, and a great musical score by Michael Giacchino. OMG I love this movie, I’ve got the DVD on pre-order through Amazon, but it’s not out until June 5. Argh.

Don’t try to start off with Alien or Event Horizon or Mad Max. And hold off on the comic book characters. If she’s not into graphic novels and doesn’t already know and love the characters, most of the movies based on them are not going to help.

On to the books. As much as I love books like Neuromancer by William Gibson and Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan, they’re not for everyone. Gibson in particular is not an easy read. He introduces a lot of tech and ideas and lingo, and there are a lot of threads and intrigue, a lot of layers to it. It’s not beach reading. It is also violent. Not the best choice to start someone off in the genre. Brilliant, but it’s heavy duty cyberpunk.

Instead, I suggest starting with something like Clifford D. Simak (I loved Way Station), Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Liebowitz, Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, or Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber.

Just about anything by Ursula K. Le Guin (The Earthsea Trilogy might be more fantasy than sci-fi, but a great intro to her work. Just ignore that terrible SyFy channel movie based on it), Anne McCaffrey’s “Dragonriders of Pern” series, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan novels, Joan D. Vinge’s The Snow Queen, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake (although she has repeatedly denied the classification of sci-fi for her work). Maybe your wife doesn’t know women write sci-fi, as well as read it. Starting off with a book written by a woman might make it more palatable, less like a ‘boys club.’

So there are a few ideas run up the ol’ flagpole, see if anyone salutes. But honestly, unless she’s got some latent geek tendencies, it’s probably unreasonable to expect her to suddenly take an interest in space ships and ray guns. Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

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29 thoughts on “How to get the little woman to try sci-fi

      1. Possibly. I was just drawing on personal experience, movies and books I have enjoyed. I bet a lot of women have read it, and don’t really think of it as ‘sci-fi’. I wanted to focus more on books and movies men and women might both enjoy.

  1. Some great suggestions here. I’ve never seen Ice Pirates, so I’m going to have to see if I can stream it on Netflix tonight! The other movies suggestions are excellent. Great book choices as well. !

  2. Thanks Liz! :) I’m sure you’ll like Ice Pirates, it’s really fun. It’s too bad it’s not better known. It’s one of the movies Mel Brooks drew on for his spoof, “Spaceballs”, which is a hoot if you haven’t seen that.

  3. I had to smile when I saw all my fave books from my teenage years on your list. Smiled again to see the movies you suggest NOT starting off with, as I remember watching and loving those too. I’ve never thought of SF as a male or female thing; just read it, first because it was on my parents’ bookshelves (both parents read it) and then because having started, I couldn’t stop. Maybe that’s the key–the books that are at hand when you’re young and starting to read. Btw, never saw Ice Pirates or Spaceballs. Will have to check them out. Fun post!

  4. Thanks Chris! I never thought of sci-fi as a ‘guy’ thing either, but I’ve never looked at anything with that sort of dichotomy. I cut my space-faring teeth (so to speak) on Star Trek (TOS) as a child. It was a Friday night ritual in our house: cheese pizza (as Catholics had to do meatless on Fridays) and Star Trek :) I read “The Martian Chronicles” when I was nine. I just think some of those movies are less inviting than others (I’m watching “Predators” while I type this ;) ) but I do think there’s something for everyone under the ‘sci-fi’ classification.

  5. Great suggestions D.D. I’m going to pass on some of the Book titles to the wife and see what she thinks! I know she is already a big Pern fan.

    And speaking of Fans, you’ve got one certified browncoat here!!

    In fact, I need to link a picture for you here in a minute.

    1. Does your wife like Firefly? They did a great job casting that show. It’s tragic that it only got one season. I still pull out the DVDs and watch it once in awhile, so fun. I hope your Missus will like some of the other suggestions.

      1. Yes, it was at Comicon this year in New Orleans. And yes, my wife is a browncoat as well, also a “castle” fanatic since Nathan Fillion is on there now.

        Yes, Adam Baldwin was a very friendly guy. His panel was awesome and hilarious. He told a lot of ‘behind the scenes” stuff about firefly.

        My wife is a strange bird when it comes to Sci-fi movies. She will watch certain things and then dismiss other movies that are kind of in the same vein. Star Wars is in her blood. She has only a mild interest in Star Trek. While I am a fan of both with only a slight lean towards the Trek side. She did enjoy the new Trek movie however, very much! She hates anything to do with Sci-fi Horror.

        As far as fate would have it, I married the right girl when it comes to compatible interests. I just have a few authors which I love: Heinlein, Gibson, Donaldson and I’ve tried to get her to take a peak at them and maybe at least read the first chapter or two. But she usually turns her nose up at them.

        However, I did reread “Stranger in a Strange Land” recently and after telling her about the plot line, she did show a glimmer of interest!

        I guess I am mostly just curious to see what she thinks about them and how she interprets the story.

        I’ll let you know if anything you suggested catches on.

      2. Sci-fi horror is not my fav either. I prefer ‘concept’ stories, exploring potential alien worlds and civilizations, inner motivations. Action, drama, all good. Horror is good at times.

        I’ve never been to a big con like that. Hopefully one of these years I’ll get to one.

  6. I’m looking forward to seeing John Carter. With all the positive reviews it’s getting despite its lukewarm box office, I think it may slowly beccome a sleeper hit.

    My own recommendation would be Farscape if she likes quirky humor. In that show you get the sci-fi without as much techno-talk, drama, romance, bits of comedy, and many interesting, prominant female characters.

  7. Come to think of it. Firefly and Farscape kind of had the same legacy, Dead before their time. Though Farscape did get at least 3 years I think. Miss that one too. Aeryn was so bad ass! And very sexy too if I remember correctly, even wearing all of her clothes most of the time.

    1. Very true. But Aeryn looked like she could do it, be the hardcore soldier. Too often they cast waif-like young women in roles like that and expect us to believe they could single-handedly take out an entire herd of banthas. with a nail file. :::insert eyeroll::: Linda Hamilton is another good example of a believable woman soldier in T2: Judgement Day.

  8. I must defend The Time Travellers Wife, much more than a mushy romance, the book is a investigation of family dynamic, friendship, parent child relationships and all in a non linear time traveling fashion. It would have been a fitting inclusion to this already very enjoyable blog.
    In fact as I was reading it I became jealous that I had not written a similar blog and of course my take on it would have been slightly different.
    Ice Pirates looks like fun, I will keep an eye out for it, Robert Ulrich, (with out going to google) I remember him from some cop show of the 1980′s was it called Vegas?
    I would have included His Dark Materials, the fantastic trilogy that as I read when I was in my thirties I wished I has read when I was a teenager. Mainly because the two main characters are a teenage boy and girl with of dysfunctional parentage who pass between parallel universes in search of answers and themselves, It rivals Lord of the Rings in my eyes as it appeals to the teenagers in us all.
    Anyway thanks for a good blog :-)

    1. Thanks, Ben. I haven’t read The Time Traveler’s Wife so it didn’t occur to me. Anything that gets made into a movie with Rachel MacAdams is usually a sappy love story (The Notebook, The Vow). It seems like she’s getting typecast. I just read a review of the movie, and I admit it does sound better than expected. I may have to give the book a try. Thanks for the recommendation.

      Yes, that was Robert Urich in Vega$. He was also in “Spenser: For Hire” (along with a lot of other stuff).

      I haven’t read His Dark Materials. I did see the movie “The Golden Compass” though. It’s a shame it didn’t do better at the box office.

      I think you should do your own post on the topic! It would fun to see what other people would recommend for genre newbies :)

  9. You have gotten me, who’s such a snob reading wise, interested and that’s to your credit because you write so poignantly about it. Seems the Dame’s enthusiasm is infectious.

  10. I’m glad to hear it! There is a lot of very fine literature that just happens to be sci-fi, it’s not all spaceships and rayguns! Although there’s plenty of that, too. Kathleen Goonan is another excellent writer you might check out. I’ve got ideas for a couple other posts I’m working on re: science fiction, so more to come ;)

  11. Great tips and suggestions! I almost forgot about Contact. At first I was thinking of another movie with Charlie Sheen “The Arrival” then I had to watch youtube to jog my memory to say oh snaps! I can’t believe I almost forgot about it. Also I am glad you bought up the many subcategories of sci-fi. I use to label sci-fi as sci-fi and that stop today. Because as you mentioned not all sci-fi are good depending on one taste and as you mention sometime depend on the actor/acress.

  12. Hi Lora. Yes, Contact is one of my faves. I know I watched “The Arrival” but I don’t really remember it much. I guess it didn’t impress me. There’s such a variety in sci-fi, it’s really grown up as a genre and gotten past the old pulps.

  13. I’ve been meaning to mention – if any of you guys think you could interest your woman in a candy-colored retro ’80′s confection of a sci-fi rom-com, I fondly recommend “Making Mr. Right,” with Ann Magnuson and John Malkovich. It is a screwball comedy that takes place in Miami, by the same director as “Desperately Seeking Susan.” As in “Susan,” mistaken identities figure prominently, but this time they are both played by Malkovich, who appears as both a dour, misanthropic scientist, and his sweet-natured lookalike robot. Hilarity ensues; also romance ;)

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