Monday, February 6, 2012

Guest Author Post: Michelle Murrain: Writing about sexuality, gender and family in science fiction

One of the things about science fiction that I enjoy, both as a reader and a writer, is that science fiction allows you to ask, and provide answers for big questions. Traditionally, those questions have been questions about the human species, biology, and the universe, and that sort of thing. Science fiction historically has been written by white, straight men, and so before the last twenty years or so, the number of SF (or Fantasy, for that matter) writers who asked questions about gender and sexuality, or included relationships that were not strictly heterosexual were few and far between. Luckily, these days, there are a lot of authors writing things differently.

As a lesbian, and someone who doesn't believe there are just two genders, and only three sexual orientations, I include exploration of gender and sexuality in all of my work, to some degree. In some novels, it's more of a backdrop, depending on the setting. In others, it's front and center. I like questions like "what would it be like if we had a society where people's varied sexualites were completely embraced?" I do this a lot in my writing.

In the first trilogy I wrote, set in the current time, a group of humans who had been taken from Earth thousands of years before, and had evolved their own society - one that did indeed embrace the varied genders and sexualities of humans came back to Earth, and a lot of the story is about how we on Earth deal with that.

One of the most enjoyable parts of writing that trilogy is writing what is the central love story of the trilogy, between an Earth woman, and a "Casitian" woman (Casiti is the planet these humans lived on.) It involves issues of culture clash, one of my favorite topics: each of them learning about what it really is like to live within the other's culture.

And I have to admit, my novels include a lot of love stories. They all are untraditional in one way or another. Much of my work includes writing about alternative family structures, and ways of being in romantic relationships. Just like space, or biology, or society - they are interested playing fields for science fiction, worth exploring. And alternative family structures provide all sorts of great plot devices. I just finished a novel where each family is made up of nine to eleven spouses (both men and women.) You can imagine what kinds of interesting things might happen in such a family. And, to boot, the protagonist is heir to a throne. Talk about intrigue!

I'm sure I'll always be writing about these issues, and coming up with new and interesting ways for people to relate to each other. Its such a rich vein of storytelling to mine.

Michelle Murrain is an African-American lesbian writer who lives in an intentional community in Oakland, CA. She has written scientific and technical articles, published three novels, and her poetry has appeared in two anthologies. When Michelle is not writing, she develops websites for nonprofit organizations and social enterprises.

Michelle received her B.A. in Natural Science and Mathematics from Bennington College, and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Case Western Reserve University. Michelle taught at Hampshire College from 1989 through 1999, as Assistant and Associate Professor of Biology. She started a consulting business to assist non-profits in web development projects in 1997, and, except for a brief break in 2005-6, where she spent 18 months studying theology, she has done that ever since.

Michelle Murrain has been writing science fiction since 2006, and has been an avid reader and fan of science fiction since she started to read. Since she has been both a scientist and a technologist by trade, and as a polymath, her interests span a wide range of topics, including science, technology, history, culture, politics, race, gender, sexuality, philosophy, spirituality, and religion. She brings all of these to bear in her science fiction writing, which has strong elements of exploration of all of these topics. She specializes in stories of culture clash and/or first contact, and has numerous strong female protagonists and characters.

You can find Michelle at her website


LVLM(Leah) said...

This book/ series looks really interesting.

I like the idea of nontraditional relationships/love stories.

And having lived in other cultures, I love the idea of exploring love relationships between people of different cultures. It both adds fascination and causes a lot of conflict trying to work out the cultural differences.

Mostly though, I'll buy your book because I like the idea of someone living in an intentional community interesting. :D