I have written and modified this article over and over again. It’s first incarnation contained egregious errors and loaded questions. After discussing this topic at length with two close individuals, I was finally able to suss out the points that I wanted to make: Why are women generally less interested in science fiction and science and fiction in general? It is my tightly held belief that humanity in general would be better off if they were part of the conversation related to the new age of exploration: Space.
I must confess that I find science fiction an enthralling look at the possibilities of the future. Each work builds upon humanities history and explores what could be and the consequences of our actions today. Often times these works of science fiction deal with philosophical questions and the very nature of humanity. Though, more and more women are becoming interested in sci-fi and involved, there is still a long way to go. Part of this is a direct result of gender roles influencing our own biases. But also, it just doesn’t hold very much draw for women and that’s the part that I just don’t get.
When I look back on history and juxtapose the lessons learned with the discoveries of today and the implications on the future, I find much valuable insight explored through works of science fiction. Some of the ideas put forth by the authors are incredibly exciting. They are also my favorite argument for reasons why I would like to live to see my 300th birthday. We live in the future, we are discovering more and more every single day, and are on the cusp of what can very well be the new age of space discovery and incredible advancement for all of mankind. We need intelligent women now more than ever to be a part of this discourse and help steer the way for all of human kind.
Before going further I would like to take a quick look back at the last age of discovery. Think back to your history classes as a child. Specifically on the class that covered global exploration. I remember when I was in the fifth grade and I had to do a report on Sir Francis Drake who was among the first men to circumnavigate the earth. That was about four hundred years ago. At that time if you were part of an expedition to explore the world/new world, that meant playing a game of Russian Roulette. Hundreds of ships carrying thousands of men sailed over the horizon never to be seen or heard from again. Magellan, credited with being the first to sail around the world, was killed in the Philippines before completing his journey back home. Commanders had to constantly deal with hostile, sometimes cannibalistic, locals, mutinies, pirates, enemy ships, terrible weather, and, most importantly, not knowing where the hell they were exactly, where they were going, and how big the freakin’ pacific ‘desert’ was. Disease, starvation, and dehydration were waiting around ever turn. BUT – if you survived all of that, the money that you would return with from each (or your only) trip would basically set you and your family up for life.
Without all the risk and sacrifice and loss of human life, there is no America, there is no you, there is no here and now. If you are reading this, you are a by product of that age of discovery. Electricity, our trip to the moon, the internet, your cell phone – this is all a direct result of a bunch of men playing Russian Roulette 500 years ago with their lives in the hope for a better future (for themselves, for their country, for their families – not so much mankind).
Let’s fast-forward to the present day. We have a slew of amateur astronomers and professional astronomers who are studying data from NASA’s Keplar satellite mission. In 2012 they had discovered more planets around distant solar systems than we ever thought might exist. I’ll spare you the details of how they are doing this, but it is fascinating. It is likely that within our lifetimes we will discover another world capable of supporting life. It seems very probably that humans will discover the Earth 2.0 within the next 50 years. Maybe two!
If humans can avoid becoming victims of their historical shortcomings and we live to prosper for the next couple hundred years, there will almost certainly be another age of exploration and this time it will be interplanetary exploration. Like the age of exploration before, it will cost hundreds, possibly thousands of lives. People will perish not only to the failures of ships, equipment, and human’s imperfections, but also as a result of things unforeseen such as microorganisms from foreign planets and other living beings on these planets that might treat us with hostility, or people may parish as a result of extreme, harsh conditions on these planets.
I must ask again, would you take a chance to discover something amazing and new and ultimately be set for life? If you could see a star-set on a new world more spectacular than any sunset here, if you could discover the ruins of an ancient, alien civilization, would you take the chance and fly among the stars? Why doesn’t this stuff interest more females??
The first age of exploration was funded by regents and the ‘superpowers’ that they governed in hopes of acquiring vast quantities of minerals and spices (spices were more valuable than gold for much of the age of exploration) and land. Portugal, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and England were the ‘superpowers’ that funded these expeditions of discovery. In the future, (from this 2013 mindset) it seems logical that those who stand to gain the most from space exploration – and those who can similarly afford to invest in it – are private corporations. As of right now they are funding research into asteroid mining and private space tourism. It seems likely that they would be able to profit the most from interstellar resource mining and from owning the rights to mine certain planets (God I hope it never comes to that).
In my imagination, I think that the best way to go about this age of discovery would be to start with a launching point. Like a lunar space station on the (from the earth’s perspective) dark side of the moon. Lets say that people are smart and forward thinking and they create a large international space hub on the moon where spacecraft are assembled from parts made on earth before launch (heavy components are lighter, less gravity to blast off from, etc.). Companies can pay to occupy a dry dock by the year which would fund the space station research labs and service operations. They would use the dry dock to assemble spacecraft which would in turn be launched to mine from asteroids and distant worlds that are rich in minerals. Or for colonizing other planets in hopes of finding and mining more resources. Much like the expeditions hundreds of years ago, many missions would fail, but ultimately the advancement of the human civilization would be built on the many mission successes.. Since we are screwing this planet up, this might be the only way we can ultimately survive – by packing up and moving to another planet. Loads of sci-fi works have dealt with this issue and are rather optimistic that we will get to the point of interstellar travel. Personally I have my doubts that we can get to that point before it’s too late, but that is an article for another time.
Back to my point about women in science, as noted here, the women who do enter and graduate with accredited degrees in science and physics tend to slow the progress of their career to have children and focus on families. So why don’t they build upon their love and knowledge of science and create compelling works of science fiction? I don’t think that it’s a far stretch.
This could be you!
In closing, I want to know two things: 1) Would you be a part of a space expedition to another planet? Even if there was a strong possibility that you might perish before ever returning home? 2) Why doesn’t this stuff interest more girls?
Share your thoughts in the comments.