We always love it when worthwhile, interesting books are adapted to film or TV, as it invariably means that a multitude of readers will be drawn to the source. As sales figures and waiting lists and libraries attest, this has been quite a year for Margaret Atwood’s landmark 1985 dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale, owing largely to the recent Hulu series, as well as the current political climate. If you’re waiting for a copy – or if you’ve already read it – why not tap into the diverse tradition of feminist science fiction that explores gender and society in provocative and visionary ways.
Hillary Jordan’s 2011 title When She Woke offers a dystopian version of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter in which a young Texas woman is punished for having an abortion by having her skin genetically died red, making her an outcast in a near future American theocratic society that is increasingly hostile to women. P.D. James’s The Children of Men envisions a society doomed by a plague of infertility, and other writers have used this device to more overtly explore reproductive rights, such as in Meg Ellison’s The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, while it is too much fertility that leads to misogynist repression in Sarah Hall’s Daughters of the North. Sheri Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country envisions a world where men and women are strictly segregated into proscribed roles, giving rise to a matriarchal movement that seeks to unseat the dominant male order. One of the most original recent feminist dystopias comes from Finland. In Johanna Sinisalo’s disarming and offbeat The Core of the Sun, our heroine Vanna seeks escape from a deeply regimented patriarchal and misogynistic “eusistocracy” by exploring drug culture focused on chili peppers.
Though less common today than those ubiquitous dystopias, another approach to highlighting societal issues lies through envisioning utopian alternatives to the current state of things, and there is a robust tradition of feminist utopia. Utopian tales such as Bengali writer Begama Rokeya’s 1905 Sultana’s Dream, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1915 Herland, and Doris Lessing’s 2007 The Cleft reveal much about patriarchy by portraying purely matriarchal societies. Provacative titles such as The Female Man by Joanna Russ or Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy offer multiple versions of how the sexes might relate, while Ursula LeGuin’s thought-provoking 1969 classic The Left Hand of Darkness delivers us to a truly gender-fluid world, where individuals are no longer defined by an accident of birth.
Find these and many more intriguing works of gender related speculative fiction on this list in our catalog.
– Posted by David W.