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A STEM career might just make you a Hollywood star

29 November 2017

In 2016 all eight prizes in the Nebula Award and Hugo Award went to female authors. In 2017 the Hugo Awards were again dominated by women. Having not done any formal research into what’s driving this growth in female authors or, rather, female winners, we have hazarded a guess about the phenomenon. The growth in female representation is due to the feminisation of the craft and/or is a by-product of more women enrolling in STEM subjects?

For many years there was a hierarchy of “hardness” in science fiction – the best was only written by people with scientific backgrounds. Take, for example, the work of Isaac Asimov, Fred Hoyle. The more ‘incredible’ stuff – an area in which more women worked - was classified as ‘fantasy’. Certain critics have pointed out that “This hierarchy of "hardness" in science fiction”… is “a dubious way of judging merit, [and] puts women at a distinct disadvantage, because there's a serious shortage of women working in science. Only 28 per cent of the world's scientific researchers are women.”

The development and growth of sci-fi writing in other cultures is another area where diversity has been lacking, which is why a young woman from Beijing is making such a blip in the time/space continuum.

Hao Jingfang is 32 years old. She lives in Beijing, has a degree in Physics (who’d have thought a career in STEM would lead to literary fame) and a PhD in Economics and Management. Her day job is as an economic advisor to the Chinese Government at a Beijing-based state-backed think tank. Between 5 and 7 in the morning, according to her own words, Hao writes. (In the evenings she is busy with her young daughter.)

Hao writes sci-fi, predominantly. In 2016 her novelette Folding Beijing won a Hugo Award, making Hao China’s first female Hugo award winner.

In a Quartz digital news outlet interview about her novelette’s adaptation to film, Hao hazarded her own guess as to why sci-fi writing is now dominated by women – siting growing numbers, and the fact women writers are less “utilitarian”, as reasons.

Male writers, Hao says, “are now more keen on writing screenplays or super-long novels that can be easily turned into films or television dramas to make money. Writing novels, novellas and novelettes is not good in terms of money, and is now full of female writers who are less utilitarian.”

Hao has been to Australia where she was a guest of Western Sydney University and Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture. It’s worth keeping in mind how a STEM career could help you become the next big thing in Hollywood?

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