Why is feminist science and speculative fiction such a powerful genre, and why did it made such a strong comeback in books, movies and shows from the last few years? Feminist speculative fiction emerges from the necessity of talking about female existence starting from a female point of view; From the urge of questioning the roles of authors, narrating voices and those who are in charge; From the desire of manipulating the mechanisms behind images and stereotypes’ creation. Women’s depiction in popular culture always had social, cultural and politic implications; In fact, centuries after the first, germinal examples of feminist sci-fi novel, speculations within the genre of science fiction are still crucial to imagine alternative realities and to affect readers’ attitudes towards those we currently live in. Urania takes its name not only after astronomy’s muse in Greek mythology, but also after the Italian celebrated sci-fi book series, which firstly translated works by renowned female writers such as Joanna Russ, Ursula Le Guin, Octavia Butler and Leigh Brackett as well as authors who long hid their identity behind masculine alias, like Alice Bradley Sheldon, Carolyn Janice Cherry and Joan Carol Holly. This exhibition gathers five international female artists who investigate feminist and queer issues in the context of speculative fiction, through a multiplicity of media, with the aim of shifting visions and pushing horizons of meaning beyond galaxies. of meaning, starting form a 70s space office.
"Science fiction and fantasy serve as important vehicles for feminist thought, particularly as bridges between theory and practice. No other genres so actively invite representations of the ultimate goals of feminism: worlds free of sexism, worlds in which women’s contributions are recognized and valued, worlds that explore the diversity of women’s desire and sexuality, worlds that move beyond gender."
— Elyce Rae Helford
Were we changing in different directions?
Ramnath Mishra’s life had changed forever one morning while he was reading the newspaper on the veranda, a ritual he had observed for the last forty years, when his wife, violently putting down her cup of tea, announced: "I finally know what I am. I am a planet".
The young man seated at a latitude of 2 degrees north and a longitude of 75 degrees west turned angrily towards the broken anti-fly ventilador, then continued to read the letter he had received.
The external skeleton of our insect cousins is made of a dark and shiny material called chitin, a substance that adapts well to the requirements of evolution. Thanks to bioengineering it was possible to sculpt our bodies in new forms; in the same way, evolution has transformed the moving parts of the mouth of primitive insects into chisels, siphons and stilettos, which their descendants employ today, using chitin to shape special instruments, like compartments for pollen, combs for cleaning their compound eyes and flutes that can be rubbed to sing a song.
He was wearing only a pair of shorts, but he was sweating profusely, in that sauna they had passed off as a hotel room in Cuyapàn.
When he enrolled in the bioengineering program, Harry chose the primate specialization, B-I program No. 4. He had evolved into a per- fect model: small with long limbs, eyes aligned forward to better assess distances and long fingers to never let go the grip.
His wife was standing and started to take off her sari.
Ramnath was nearly falling off his chair: "What are you doing? Have you gone nuts?". He pounced on her, grabbing a piece of blue sari fabric with one hand and her arm with the other, frantically looking around to see if the servants or the gardener were around. His wife, immobilized in his arms, looked at him menacingly.
"A planet does not need clothes", she told him with great decorum.
"It should be prohibited by law".
"To dress up as a woman. To look like something you are not".
Her voice sounded different, deeper, more powerful. He looked at her in dismay. ***
"Where’s all your people?", he asked in a conversational tone.
"You are on Whileaway", I said.
He still didn’t understand.
"Whileaway," I said, "don’t you remember? Does it not appear in your files? There was an epidemic on Whileaway". He seemed interested.
"An epidemic?" he exclaimed. "What a disgrace!"
"Yes", I said, "a great disgrace. We lost half of the population in one generation".
He seemed truly impressed.
"Whileaway has been lucky", I added. "We had been chosen for our intelligence, we had advanced technology and a large population where every adult was worth two or three experts. The soil is good. The weather is incredibly mild. The situation is evolving rapidly in the industrial sector - do you understand? Within seventy years, not everyone will have to spend three quarters of their life on a farm". And I tried to explain the difficulty, on the part of the female artists, of practicing full-time only in old age, when only a few, very few people can be free, like Katy and me.
"Where are all the people?" asked that monomaniac.
It was then that I realized he didn’t mean people, he meant men, giving the word a meaning, it hadn’t had for more than six hundred years on Whileaway.
"They died", I said. "Thirty generations ago".
It was as if I had given him a blow.
"A great tragedy".
I waited, without really understanding.
"Yes", he said, holding his breath with a strange smile on his lips. " A great tragedy. But it’s over". And once again he looked around with a strange deference. As if we were disabled.
"I’m not sick," she said, "I had a revelation. I’m a planet. I was a human being, a woman, a wife and a mother. All this time I wondered if there was something else, something more. Now I know. Being a planet is good for me. I stopped taking the medicine for the liver".
This morning when I woke up, I realized that bioengineering had acted on my body during the night.
"Blimey!" she exclaimed, staring at her torn white nightgown and the speckles of blood on it. When she reached out to touch the small wounds, he drew back.
"Why didn’t you wake me up? I would have talked with them and they would have understood, they wouldn’t have hurt you".
"What are these beings?" he whispered.
"Inhabitants", she answered, "I am a planet, you remember?"
She smiled when she saw his eyes.
"Don’t be afraid, probably the youngsters were looking for a place to colonize. If ever you want to be a satellite, Ramnath, let me know. These small animals are good for the planets. Thanks to them, my health has been restored".
I became sleepy and new emotions churned inside me.
During the following week, Kamala tried twice to take off her clothes. On both occasions, Ramnath managed to stop her in time, even though she nearly made it to escape the second time. He shoved her into the bedroom and tried to bring her back to her own self with slaps, but she would not stop crying and squirming. In the end, exasperated, he pulled out a dozen saris from the metal wardrobe and spread them out on the bed. "Kamala", he said in despair, "even planets have an atmosphere. Look, doesn’t this grey sari remind you of a cumulus of clouds? What do you think?".
I was following my instinct and didn’t bother to answer him.
As if we had to reproduce a carbon copy of their mistakes! I serious doubt that gender equality has been restored on the earth.
I got up for the second time and groped my way to the kitchen.
"Tell me, what’s it like to have those" those animals inside you?"
For sure, this work had not turned me into a kinder and more flexible human being. What had driven me to throw myself into marketing?
"Most of the time I’m not even aware of it, Ramnath", she said. "I would like you to accept the proposal to become a colony. It would do you good and help them - the younger ones are protesting because they need a new world ".
"The company covers half of the costs and does not ask questions. You’d have a faster career, with a few tweaks".
"You have enough cells to drown in"
Ellis settled on the backrest. "Many of those men didn’t like women very much. They met somewhere to get away from the women, to do something together. The women didn’t think the same way, they didn’t behave like that – they never did everything the men did". He shielded his eyes for a moment. "I don’t know" sometimes one of the old men tells you that the world was kinder then, or more beauti- ful, but I don’t know if it’s true. However, many of those women seemed to agree with the men. Look what has happened" as soon as we managed to get a pill that allowed you to decide the gender of the baby, most women began to give birth to males, because deep inside they too were convinced that males were better".
The second article was undoubtedly the result of Barney’s black humour.
UP / Vatican City, 19th of June. Pope John IV today announced that he will not release official statements regarding the so-called "about the Pauline Purification", that propose the elimination of all women to justify the presence of man in the eyes of God.
When one culture has powerful weapons and the other has not, it is easy to predict the outcome. Perhaps the men would have arrived on Whileaway anyway.
Alan threw that thing in the garbage can and sat down rubbing his forehead and eyes. He was completely out of his mind, as if he had landed by mistake on another planet.
He followed a photocopy of a recent issue of Science, printed on thin paper.
The initial episodes occurred globally at the latitude of the 30° parallel, the area responsible for the outflow of high-altitude winds from the intertropical convergence zone.
The clue, he says, lies in the current position of the Intertropical convergence zone. I do not understand any of this, but maybe it makes sense for your big eco-friendly brain.
"You certainly understand that this type of society is unnatural".
"Humanity is unnatural", said Katy.
"I agree", the man said. "Humanity is unnatural, I should know. I have capsules on my teeth and metal nails here". He touched his shoul- der. "But there is still missing something on Whileaway. You understand it intellectually, of course. There is only half of the species here".
What I must write is this: I saw an angel too. This morning. He was big and was shining from inside. Let me repeat this: he was really there. Barney, if you’re reading me, there is something down here. It was them who did what they did to us. Eliminate our very own species.
Well, it’s not bad down here if it weren’t for all these people. How you get rid of the people? Find the weak link, take your time, be sure we do it ourselves. Until there are only bones left: an excellent fertilizer.
Farewell, Barney, my dear. I saw him. It was there.
But it was not an angel.
It was a real estate agent. ***