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In this episode, we discuss all things reproduction. That’s right: sex, pregnancy, birth – the whole shebang around creating new life and what it means to a woman’s position, as represented in genre fiction.
We (supposedly) have a biological drive to propagate our species… as a result, it’s natural that a certain preoccupation with procreation exists in art. What perhaps isn’t so natural is how the ability to give birth is used to force women into a very narrow set of roles and expectations.
In fantasy, it rarely appears…Pregnancy is seen to be unheroic. It’s not part of saving the world.Lucy
Pregnancy is something we all know happens but it tends to happen off-screen – before or after the story takes place. But it is vital to the continuation of our species… doesn’t it deserve air time? When it is discussed, it is used to keep women in their place, keep them from the action.
Why is pregnancy seen as a weakness in women when men so desperately crave the life-creating power we possess? One theory is that men try to reclaim the power they covet by suppressing women’s value and rights through the very gift men wish they had.
Babies aren’t encouraged in fiction unless they are used as a motivator.Charlotte
Pregnancy is often portrayed as something to fear. There are many historical reasons for this, most importantly, the high risk of death for the mother. Giving life to a new creature is not easy, whether it is a natural human birth or something supernatural. It can be terrifying for everyone involved. As Lucy says, ‘If it goes wrong, it goes horribly wrong.’
We want to see reproduction represented in new, more nuanced ways where women are allowed to be both creators or life as well as in charge of their bodies and lives.
Texts mentioned in this episode include:
- Monty Python’s Life of Brian
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- Game of Thrones
- Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
- The Belgariad and The Mallorean by David Eddings
- The Terminator franchise
- Aliens (extended edition)
- Witches books by Terry Pratchett
- City Watch books by Terry Pratchett
- Star Wars Expanded Universe novels by Timothy Zahn
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy
- The Vagrant by Peter Newman
- A Quiet Place
- Bird Box
- The Copper Cat trilogy by Jen Williams
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Children of Men by PD James
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley
- The Snow Queen by Joan D Vinge
- Wool by Hugh Howey
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- Battlestar Galactica
- The Girl with All the Gifts by MR Carey
- The Boy on the Bridge by MR Carey
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Enjoyed the discussion of pregnancy/childbirth today, but it seemed rather focussed on fantasy with SF only getting a mention in the form of dystopias. Within SF there have been a lot of feminist works that look at pregnancy and womens’ choices more positively
– way back to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s parthenogenic births in “Herland”. Marge Piercy’s “Woman on
the Edge of Time” from 1976 has an ex-uterine method of birth in the “utopian” world of Mattapoisett, but shows both women and men breastfeeding and caring for the children. It’s a bit clunky but surely worth a mention!
A more recent option is the “uterine replicator” in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkiverse, which gives women the choice of this or “body birth”, and is actually pivotal to the plot in the early books.
I came up with so many SF examples which felt more like ‘alternative kinds of procreation’ that it felt like an entirely separate topic. So I definitely agree with you but hopefully we will get around to dedicating an entire episode to that as well…
And, of course, we can only speak to what we know of! So it’s great to hear from our listeners on what we should be checking out! Thanks 🙂
Good talk. Was a little taken aback at the either or of some of the view points, I get it for some of them but the reasons behind them seemed …stereo-typed… while I agree that the patriarchal mindset in writers has forced some of these conditions you didn’t mention the publishers and booksellers and such. I mean even in the 80’s mentioning sex and contraception in a book scfi or Fant. would get it pushed into a different category “Adult” and writers would lose most of their target audience. In more modern days the YA category generally doesn’t allow much past the “fade to black” scene… On the mothers on adventures one book that explores several of the topics you discussed is kDira’s World by Ken McClellan a world with several different sides on the women with children and women with the power of procreation tropes.