“I’d love to call you Aunt Marilla,” said Anne wistfully. “I’ve never had an aunt or any relation at all—not even a grandmother. It would make me feel as if I really belonged to you. Can’t I call you Aunt Marilla?”
“No. I’m not your aunt and I don’t believe in calling people names that don’t belong to them.”
“But we could imagine you were my aunt.”
“I couldn’t,” said Marilla grimly.
“Do you never imagine things different from what they really are?” asked Anne wide-eyed.
“Oh!” Anne drew a long breath. “Oh, Miss—Marilla, how much you miss!”
(Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables)
This exchange between Anne Shirley, the intrepid dreamer, and her ever practical guardian, Marilla Cuthbert, expresses very neatly the way I always feel when a woman I know says to me, "I don't read science fiction or fantasy. I prefer books set in the real world."
Like Anne, I want to say to them, "Oh, dear friend, how much you miss!"
Don't get me wrong. I fully grasp and celebrate the beautiful truth that we are all different. If your tastes are just different from mine, I can completely respect that. I mean hey, I don’t like Oreos.
By transporting us on breathtaking journeys to imaginary places, these genres offer us the opportunity to temporarily step back from the world we live in and look at it from a new perspective.
But one of the beautiful things about science fiction and fantasy is the insight they offer into the real world. By transporting us on breathtaking journeys to imaginary places, these genres offer us the opportunity to temporarily step back from the world we live in and look at it from a new perspective.
Science fiction and fantasy teach us to genuinely empathize with people who are physically, culturally, and experientially different from us. They allow us to explore the possible consequences, for good or ill, if current societal trends are carried to their logical conclusions. They help us imagine new technologies, new ways of organizing societies, and new ways of relating to each other as individuals. In fact, it is precisely because they are set outside of our reality that they enable us to experience the real world more richly.
And that is why I find it tragic that so many of my women friends actively avoid these genres. How much they miss!
I’m intrigued by the diverse worlds created by the human imagination, and I find the beings that populate them intensely fascinating. So I often find myself wondering why so many women are so deeply convinced they don’t like science fiction or fantasy. In the next three posts I'm going to explore some of the reasons I've been given by my friends.
Have you talked about this with your female friends? What do they say?