In, “No Business in Space? The Female Presence in Series Science Fiction for Children,” Karen Sands details the history of female characters in the science fiction genre from the 1940s to the mid-1990s. Though a bit dated now, the article serves as a great comparison for how far female characters have come in children’s science fiction stories in recent years. While the article focuses on literary female characters in the science fiction, I chose to use the article for insight on the female protagonist in the videogame Broken Age, which was released in 2014.
At its heart, Broken Age is a science fiction game. Broken Age tells the story of two teenage protagonists, a male named Shay and a female named Vella. While Vella’s narrative begins in a traditional fantasy world, Shay’s narrative is firmly rooted in science fiction, taking place in a spaceship as Shay is on a mission to help his home planet of Loruna. The two narratives seem to have no relation, as the player progresses through the game, Vella and Shay’s paths cross and Vella take up residence in the science fiction world. As such, Vella can be used to illustrate how improved the female character is in the science fiction genre.
Though Sanders mentions that females were beginning to receive better roles at the time of her publication (1997), she outlines two major problems associated with female science fiction characters. First, female characters in science fiction stories are always characterized by their communication skills (Sanders 22). Regardless of their intellect (as female super geniuses and ordinary girls were common tropes at this time), female characters were always highlighted for their ability to communicate than their male counterparts who had more central roles and solved problems with their intellect, ingenuity, or physical skills (Sanders 17). Sanders explains this trope by saying that females, “solve mysteries (without using scientific knowledge),” by helping “to bring people together through their power to communicate” (19). Secondly, Sanders discusses the problem of female character rarely having, “the opportunity to work alone to show off their capabilities; girls and women are still under the direction of men and boys” (22).
Fortunately for Broken Age, Vella’s storyline actively works against these tropes. Vella’s communication skills are not highlighted as her strongest asset. In fact, Vella is a poor communicator, as seen by the way Vella is unable to effectively convince anyone of the problems with the Maiden’s Feasts and the mogs. Vella never solves a problem through communication; Vella actively chooses which object in the environment and in her ability to solve any predicament she is faced with. Similarly, Vella always solves problems on her own. There is no male character to claim Vella’s success, or to give her orders. Thus, Vella does have the opportunity to work alone and proves the worth of female characters, even in a science fiction setting. A stark contrast to the characterizations Sands describes, Broken Age shows just how far female science fiction characters have come.
Sands, Karen. “No Business in Space? the Female Presence in Series Science Fiction for Children.” Foundation 0 (1997): 15-24. ProQuest. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.