Loving the Other in Science Fiction by Women

  • Karma Waltonen University of California, Davis


This essay interprets fantasy and mythology as the precursor/twin to science fiction, thus arguing societies have long told stories of gender bending, extraterrestrial impregnation, and the problematic eroticization of the "other". By examining the works of several contemporary female science fiction writers, this essay asks the questions once considered taboo: How does inter-species sex stand in for interracial encounters? Is cyborg sex a logical extension of current cyber-sex practices and the automation of our lives? If power differentials exist in sexual encounters, are the relationships always exploitative, or can they be viewed as symbiotic? Do our traditional family arrangements and sexual taboos still make sense?

Marge Piercy's He, She and It (1991), Johanna Sinisalo's Troll: A Love Story (2000/2003), and Octavia Butler's "Bloodchild" (1984/2005) and Fledgling (2005) probe these and other questions. The stories feature both men and women in non-traditional relationships with various "others" - androids, trolls, aliens, and vampires. In doing so, they undermine our preconceived notions of sex, challenging taboos and encouraging us to find new definitions and "norms" as we move further into the new century. As we get swept up in the stories, we find ourselves falling for machines, finding the erotic charge from another species, wondering how much age should matter (on both ends of the spectrum), preparing to carry the eggs of someone we love, overcoming jealousies, rejecting monogamy, and losing ourselves in the forest of the unknown.

Author Biography

Karma Waltonen, University of California, Davis

Continuing Lecturer

University Writing Program