2015 Reading Challenge, Book 20: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

This was originally lots of interconnected shorts and was formed into a collected edition you can pretty much read as a novel, chronicling several abortive attempts to colonise Mars and the stories of settlers etc. It’s a fascinating collection, with a great deal of brilliant analysis into various topics: treatment of indigenous peoples, racism, censorship, mankind’s attitude to Earth and colonisation in general. But it has a massive problem – for me anyway – the way women are portrayed and excluded as equals in the stories.

Not only are we framed as hysterics, helpmeets, irritations or housewives (and yes I understand this was published in 1951, which by the way was after two world wars in which women had done the work of men and proved more than capable – not only that but Bradbury was very well read, therefore likely fully cognizant of the contribution of women historically) but we’re barely in it at all. Relegated to the outsides of the stories on the whole and framed as basically idiotic or unpleasant when made integral.

In a writer of Bradbury’s intelligence I find this inexcusably lazy. There is no excuse for the dismissal of half the human race, and it’s somewhat of a feature of older science fiction and fantasy. There are in fact a couple of groups of very unpleasant men in the SFF community who want to move away from the more progressive and inclusive fiction being written now and back to this old school of SFF, which to my mind highlights how very damaging this exclusion has been, not just for women in SFF (or people of colour, with disabilities etc who also see very limited inclusion in these older stories) but for the genre as a whole.

This is a gloriously written book, with many valuable things to say, but its significant omission makes it a lesser work in my eyes. You are of course welcome to disagree, even if you are the same gender as me, but I want to make clear that I did not jump to this opinion. I agonised and considered and looked for evidence to the contrary: I found none.

You can buy this book here in the UK

And here in the US


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