These are not bad authors and they don’t write terrible books: that’s part of what makes the problem so jarring for me. And the nature of the problem? It’s that the stories they’re telling are set in a far future (hundreds to thousands of years hence), in an interstellar human polity (gifted with interstellar transportation technologies that are notably within the reach of ordinary people). And yet the civilization they portray can best be described as “Essex suburbia goes interstellar” in the case of “Pandora’s Star” or, in McDevitt’s case, Whitebread Middle American Suburbia to the Stars. The gender politics, religious framework, ideologies, fashions(!) and attitudes of today—specifically, of a type of Anglophone developed-world middle class lifestyle that lots of folks aspire to—has become a universal norm. And nothing else gets much of a look in.
–Charles Stross on the problem with far-future sci-fi.
This, incidentally, is why I abandoned Ray Bradbury. The story about the “far future” (2003) Mars colonizers wherein the Manly Men went to tame the frontier while the women stayed at home clutching their pearls and drinking at, of all things, a soda fountain1 was just… yeah, nah.
If you can imagine a future with space travel, but have trouble with one where women are astronauts? Then I’ve got better things to read. Sorry not sorry.
- What even is that? I’ve only ever heard of them in Ye Olde Timey American things. [↩]