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Dean's Latest Book (2018)

How to Create the Perfect Woman: A History of Female Representation in Science Fiction Cinema

Science Fiction Females 

Scheduled to be published by McFarland and Co. sometime in 2018.

From the book...
"We are living in a science fiction cinema age. This is the genre that delivers the grandest visions with the latest effects in the biggest blockbusters – and women are now at the center of many of its stories. But it hasn’t always been this way. In a unique survey of more than 650 films produced across 120 years, Dean Conrad charts a history of highs and lows, in which women have struggled to be seen and heard in a genre traditionally regarded as being of men, by men and for men. This is the story of female characters in science fiction cinema, from their absence and token presence in the silent pictures of the 19th century, through their roles as assistants, pulp princesses, sexy robots, scientists, soldiers, academics and more, up to their prominent place in the 21st century’s established franchises. World wars, social upheavals, cultural changes and advances in film technology have all had their effect on the development of the genre – and there is no better barometer for this than its female roles. Placed in context and supported by theory, these are the fabulous, furious, funny, fragile and frustrating women of science fiction cinema."

Contents

   
Preface Invisible Man  
Introduction Captive Women  
Chapter I THE SAUSAGE MACHINE ...examines the foundations of the genre as they emerged during the silent period, 1895-1929. Many recognizable female roles – robots, mothers, mediators – appeared during this time, but emphasis is placed for now on the basic female functions within the narrative, along with her relationship with male characters. Absence, token presence and support for men (especially during World War One) are representations that will follow female characters through the entire history of science fiction cinema.
Silent Science Fiction: Silents and the Establishment of Female Roles
1. Stereotypical Foundations
2. Narrative Traditions
3. Genre Inventions
     
Chapter II JUST IMAGINE ...picks up the baton at the beginning of the sound era, when women were largely confined to convention again – losing the gains made after WWI and through the 1920s. Female roles were fairly static during the 1930s and ‘40s, as the genre consolidated its audience and its aesthetics. Therefore, the opportunity is taken here to discuss central elements of female representation: sex and sexuality, along with some of the theory that underpins their use in the genre. Science fiction’s unique ability to enable men to portray their fantasies remains crucial to the way women are presented in these films, so theories and observations discussed in this chapter create a foundation for the rest of the book.
Science Fantasy: Sound, Technology and the Service of Male Desires
1. Creative Contradictions
2. Fantastic Sex
3. Frankenstein Syndrome
     
Chapter III WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE ...recognizes the effect that emerging post-WWII sciences and technologies had on the genre – and their impact on female representation. The Atomic Age, the Space Race and the Cold War would each play a part in women’s development as professionals, especially within the sciences. It was a period of oscillating fortunes though, as female characters bumped against the “glass ceiling” that protected roles reserved for men. In the 1950s’ battles for identity there was an expectation that women would return to traditional domestic roles in support of “us” against “them”.
Klaatu Barada Nikto Science Fact: Peace and the Emergence of Female Professionals
1. Social Earth
2. Professional Space
3. Narrative Place
     
Intermission SILENT RUNNING ...bridges the gap between the period of exponential growth experienced by American science fiction cinema in the 1950s and the worldwide genre explosion that came in the wake of Star Wars. This is a period of two halves: the shifting Sixties are characterized by sexual and social revolutions and the move to color film; the Seventies witnessed a retreat towards serious tales about “men and machines”. Between these two decades sits a watershed year for the genre: 1968.
Broken Dreams Watershed Years: Destination Unknown and an Annus Mirabilis
1. Shifting Sixties
2. Annus Mirabilis
3. Serious Seventies
     
Chapter IV A NEW HOPE ...begins with the release of Star Wars in 1977 and charts its impact on the genre’s female roles. This period would develop into the “golden era” for female representation, as characters not only took the lead, but, crucially, drove the narratives and made decisions in their own heroes’ journeys. Through the second half of the 1980s and most of the ‘90s, some female characters developed a “masculinity” and robustness that continue to affect the genre today. The machismo has largely disappeared, leaving the tough “femininity” that had underpinned the role of Princess Leia back in 1977.
Ripley Golden Era: Blockbusters and the Development of Female Heroes
1. First Steps
2. Hero(ine)’s Journey
3. A Thousand Faces
     
Chapter V ALIEN RESURRECTION ...begins by returning to the 1980s to examine the familiar elements of female representation that had continued to run alongside the radical female character revolution. These were the elements of tradition and stereotype that would begin to return once the genre became tired of its “masculinized” women. But female representation had come too far to allow a return entirely to convention. The result was a mixed-bag of characters, as the genre reached a postmodern phase – and the world approached the new millennium.
Best of times; worst of times... Dangerous Times: Identity Crises and a Millennial Mélange
1. Familiar Undercurrents
2. Alien Resurrection
3. Fin de Siècle
     
Chapter VI THE CLONE WARS ...brings this history up-to-date with a reflection on cinema’s widespread adoption of digital technologies. The millennium began uneasily for women, as the genre reverted again to telling stories about “men and machines”; however, enough influence from the Golden Era had trickled down to keep female roles ticking over. The huge success of Avatar in 2009 placed women close to the center of commercial science fiction narratives once again and kick-started a new revolution. It was one that has now brought female characters to prominence in some of the biggest genre franchises of all.
RIP 21st Century: Computers, Corporations and Consumers
1. Solid State of the Art
2. Déjà Vu
3. A New New Hope for the Future...?
     
Conclusion Invisible Woman  
Appendix THE PERFECT WOMAN ...provides short commentaries on fifty or so films that may prove useful to anyone interested in the history of female representation in science fiction cinema – especially those who have not yet had time to read the entire text of How to Create the Perfect Woman
Female Representation in Science Fiction Cinema: A Viewer
Literature Cited  
Media Cited    
Notes    
Index    
[130k words]