By Guest Blogger, Kathy Porter, Science Fiction Novelist, The Gray Guardians Series
It’s not easy getting published in the in Science Fiction genre – especially if you’re a woman.
Science fiction has been a male-dominated genre in the past. Science fiction garners an extremely loyal following of primarily male readers and is a genre many women have avoided. I believe this is because science fiction often has not provided what women are looking for in books and movies. With perseverance, support, and passion for my writing, I am now a published female science fiction author.
There are a few science fiction movies like Alien that had a tough gritty female lead. In my opinion the best part of the Alien trilogy was the relationship between Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the child she rescued in Aliens, the second in the trilogy. Ripley showed us her maternal defense system was her true strength. She was a fascinating multifaceted character.
I find that many science fiction books failed to fulfill female desires. Endless techno babble, nanobots, clones and how they were created, or the technical aspects of space flight are of little interest to many women. Please, and most of all – not another story of fair maidens in distress waiting to be rescued! What most of us are looking for is a story about what happens to the heart of a family if something as strange as aliens began to interfere in our lives.
One day at the bookstore I grew frustrated looking for a good alien science fiction book and left without one. I went to bed that night with nothing to read. Early the next morning I woke up to a dream, a short little dream that set my imagination on fire.
Over coffee that morning I told my husband about my dream – the story that unfolded in my mind. “If someone wrote a book like that, I would love to read it,” I told him. To which he replied, “If you want to read it, you’ve got to write it.” With the support of my husband and daughter, Earth’s Ultimate Conflict became the first novel in the Gray Guardians Series.
The difficult journey of getting published and finally ending up with the great publisher I have today was one of the topics of discussion in my interview with Jennifer S. Wilkov on WomensRadio.com. I recommend you listen to it, especially if you are planning to become an author.
There were other obstacles to overcome. While looking for a publisher, I spoke to an owner and publisher specializing in horror, sci-fi, fantasy, alternative history etc. He declined to read my work saying, “I just can’t take a woman writing science fiction seriously.” Granted, this was one publisher among thousands and I hoped that it wasn’t an industry bias. This incident did make me consider using a pen name like K.C. Porter instead of Kathy Porter, which was obviously female.
I have attended several writers’ conferences, and I encourage all potential authors to do so. I am also a member of two writers groups and Toastmasters, which I suggest all new writers get involved with. Through these connections I met Ray Bradbury, who eventually endorsed my book. I also met Dean Koontz, James Patterson, Dean Devlin, and Stephen J. Cannell. Each of these men were extremely supportive and encouraged me.
One evening I had the honor of having dinner at a Thai restaurant with WC Jameson, who is a real life Indiana Jones. He was inspiring.
At one conference during lunch we went around the table stating our names and our writing genre, a great way to meet new friends. After introducing myself, one gentleman laughed and stated, “Science fiction, I would have taken you for a romance author. What do you write romantic sci-fi Harlequin novels?” He obviously didn’t know the success Harlequin authors have achieved. I realized then that the bias, perhaps wide spread, was out there.
Following that experience I decided since I am a woman writing science fiction from a women’s perspective, I would use my own name.
At another conference I paid a well-known author to read and critique my work. She asked me, “Why do you write about aliens? They are so passé.” Instead of the encouragement I was looking for, I left filled with doubt but not discouraged. I was writing what I’d like to read and I felt confident that I was not alone.
Yes, I am an anomaly in my genre. I’m not the only female science fiction writer. I feel I am paving new ground as an alien sci-fi writer who writes about what happens to the heart of a family if and when aliens become a reality. Instead of macho men protecting the Earth and rescuing fair maidens in distress, the main characters are strong women who are devastated, yet very capable of defending themselves, their children, and Earth.
In a crisis, it is the women that make all the difficult decisions. They are the ones in charge of protecting their children. They make the heart wrenching choices of who should care for the children if they are ill and have to be separated. How can the children be safe if they are no longer in control? Who do they trust?
These are some of the questions I wanted answered. These questions drove me to write a character-driven series with women as the leading characters.
Each of these women is facing the toughest choices of their lives. You may or may not agree with their choices. However, you will be forced to wonder just what you would do in their situation.
I chose a woman as President of the United States, because I believe if faced with such a crisis a woman would be the ideal person to have in office; a strong woman who could understand what a family goes through in such a situation.
I wanted to write a story that would intrigue women, especially women that have never read science fiction.
Science fiction is a genre I’m very passionate about. I had to overcome publishing obstacles and biases. My biggest challenge is connecting with the very audience I write for – women, who have never read science fiction. Mostly men read Earth’s Ultimate Conflict and they have given me some of my best reviews.
To interest more women, I market in a variety of venues that draw women. I focus on them at book signings, book festivals and when speaking at book clubs (which are dominated by women). I also had my book trailer created by a woman, ensuring its appeal.
Women who have read Earth’s Ultimate Conflict have said, “I never knew I liked science fiction so much. I love your book and can’t wait for the next one.”
With perseverance and passion I am accomplishing my goal. My message to new writers is that not everyone will like your writing or genre and you will face challenges that will slow you down. But don’t let that stop you from reaching your dream. The first person you need to believe in is you.
I wish you success.