In October of 2009, the “Men’s Rights” website, spearhead, published an article entitled “The War on Science Fiction and Marvin Minsky”. The article generated quite a debate and it is not my intention to rehash that here, but I’ll quote just one piece from it that I think nicely highlights just why I felt the need to write fission:
“With women killing science fiction on television, the current generation of boys won't have this opportunity to be inspired to work in these fields. There is still a great deal of written science fiction that is real science fiction so all is not lost. However, many boys who would have gone on to make scientific discoveries and invent new technologies will not do so since they will never be inspired by science fiction as boys.”
When Lise Meitner was born in 1878, the Austrian Empire was at the height of its splendour, Queen Victoria still had more than 20 years to reign, the first telephone exchange was opened, Edison had just patented the gramophone, the US senate proposed female suffrage and a university education for women was prohibited.
The first great accomplishment for Lise Meitner was not just getting into get into Vienna University, but to break into the male dominated world of science. I find it sad that some people, even in today’s so called enlightened times, still believe that science (and science fiction) should be the exclusive domain of men; partly because by denying women access to careers in the sciences we are short-changing ourselves, but also because this idea that men are better at science than women is more propaganda than fact. History is full of men who took credit for scientific discoveries made by women; fission is just one example of this.
Women have made enormous contributions to science: Émilie du Châtelet, Mary Anning, Rosalind Franklin and Grace Hopper to name a few – and Lise Meitner, of course. Spearhead wants to talk about inspiration? That these women could accomplish so much while at the same time dealing with such hostility – that, I find inspirational. I wrote fission, not to discourage boys from entering the field of science, but to encourage more girls to do so, because if we don’t, apart from the equal rights thing, we are only applying half our potential brain power to the problems of the world. We need more women in science, not less, to inspire all us boys and girls.
About Tom Weston:
Tom Weston’s work includes the fantasy based Alex and Jackie books, First Night and The Elf of Luxembourg. His latest project is fission, a novel based on the true life story of scientist, Lise Meitner. Prior to its scheduled paper publication in 2011, fission is being serialized online for Tom’s fans. To find out more about Tom and his work, or to read fission, please visit Tom's Website or his Facebook.