Not long ago, I read a blog post by Caroline Furlong called Why Science Fiction Lacks Mothers and Fathers – and Why This Trend Needs to Change. At the time, I didn’t notice it was first published in July of 2018, but that doesn’t really matter.
Caroline lamented the abysmal lack of supportive parental characters, Moms in particular, in modern works of science fiction. She narrowed down the reason for this from her perspective here:
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.
I re-read the missive in more detail just now (as I write this) and started to wonder about my own reading and writing habits.
I’ve written before about Being Superversive in a Subversive World, and part of superversive writing is including family as a positive influence. But do I do that?
I keep a page on my blog with a running list of all of my published or soon to be published short stories, so I decided to take a look.
My short story “Homeward,” which will appear in the anthology DEEP SPACE 2: An Adventure into Science Fiction, is set aboard a shared American-Russian spacecraft decades in the future. The crew is investigating a Soviet era Soyuz capsule attached to a vast but damaged alien structure orbiting a moon of Uranus. My protagonist Cosmonaut Vladimir Goremykin has a secret motivation for having volunteered for the years long mission. It has to do with his Grandfather whose best friend was aboard the Soyuz when it disappeared (all characters and events are fictional) I included also the fact that both Vlad and his Grandpa are Christians.
That’s one for “family in a positive light.”
My time travel/steampunk short story “Wayback” which is available in Spring into SciFi 2021 includes my antagonist Amanda Westcott whose motivation is avenging the murder of her Dad in the mid-19th century by time travelers from the far future. Things turn out fine in the end, although we also discover that Amanda has a daughter by a very well-known real life author (read the story to find out who), plus one of my future time travelers (who didn’t commit murder) is married with three children, all again depicted positively.
“Saving the Apostle” in Saturn only prominently features two men, but one is an Israeli scientist whose reason for traveling back in time is to save, not only his wife and children, but his entire nation.
“That’s (sort of) three.
“The Tenth Second” in Tick Tock had to be only 500 words long, so I had to cut things down to bare bones. No family.
“The Haunted Detective” in The Trench Coat Chronicles has a police inspector and his wife, a librarian, who are Catholic and have several children, although only the detective has a prominent role.
Probably the shining star of my tales published in the past five or six months is “Sorcery’s Preschool” featured in L. Jagi Lamplighter’s anthology Fantastic Schools, Volume 2.
The most prominent characters are a grandmother and her four-year-old granddaughter who are both witches. They have a strong bond and the little girl is (somewhat) modeled on my own granddaughter (who is now almost six). I also show the child’s parents who are conflicted about their daughter’s abilities but loving, caring, and protective.
Additionally, I wrote an award winning short story about a scientist motivated by grief at the loss of his beloved wife, and a small horror tale that at the conclusion, positively depicts a Mom, Dad, and their daughter.
“Buried in the Sands of Time,” published by Zombie Pirate Publishing the better part of a year ago in RAYGUN RETRO: A Science Fiction Anthology features an African-American astronaut and Naval Commander named Amanda Juliet Nichols. She’s also (depending on your perspective in the story) the first person to step foot on the planet Mars. Her entire choice of a career and everything she did to put herself on the Red Planet was motivated by her Great-Grandfather, who was in NASA astronaut training program in the 1960s, but not allowed to fly because of racism (the character is based on a real-life Air Force Captain named Ed Dwight. His character also makes a strong appearance in my tale (I named Amanda after actress Nichelle Nichols who played “Uhura” on the original “Star Trek” series in the 1960s and beyond).
I don’t remember consciously deciding to include positive depictions of marriage, parenthood, and children in these stories. They just worked out that way.
But why not?
I tried to find an image that depicted a family in a science fiction setting, but only the old Lost in Space television show from the 1960s came to mind (see above). Of course, it is probably loosely based on the even older comic book series Space Family Robinson which was actually pretty good (I guess I shouldn’t discount the current Netflix series although I’ve never seen it).
I’ve got a collection of upcoming projects. Some don’t naturally lend themselves to including families, but I’ll try to make a greater effort to showing Moms, Dads, and kids as good and positive in the ones I can craft that way. Like Caroline, I can only make a suggestion to my writer friends and followers. It would be great if we could be “superversive” toward families together.
I’m curious. Of the science fiction and fantasy you read, have you seen any family life shows in a positive way, especially in more recent publications?