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Introduction

"Science fiction turns out to be the realism of our time." - Kim Stanley Robinson (quoted in Flood)

The best way to read fictional texts, Debra Benita Shaw says, is to see "the very real conditions for which they are metaphors" (179). Realism gives fiction its importance by drawing parallels between fictional worlds and reality, allowing readers to view the world differently after identifying these parallels (MacKay 14). Current scholarship comprehensively examines how speculative fiction reflects reality and the truths of our world, including issues often analyzed and discussed in feminist discourse. Investigating two speculative fiction novels through a feminist lens reveals relevant critical commentary about women's experiences in our world. These worlds reflect the reality of women's lives by showing the negative effects of gender roles and gender inequality.

Speculative fiction provides feminist writers a means for discussing and analyzing the ideology surrounding a woman's life by applying general themes and experiences faced by all women to a fictional world. As an umbrella term, speculative fiction includes a variety of other well-known subgenres like fantasy, science fiction, and magical realism. On a basic level, speculative fiction investigates topics and encourages the reader to question these topics in response, but researchers widely debate the definition of speculative fiction (Canavan and Ward 238). Speculative fiction describes other worlds, making it unrealistic by definition, but many believe that it actually discusses reality because its "new" worlds reimagine our world while retaining fundamental human values and problems. In her novel The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula LeGuin echoes Debra Benita Shaw when she explains that "all fiction is metaphor. Science fiction is metaphor" (xviii). Speculative fiction uses elaborate, fantastical stories to tell truths that writers cannot say clearly and accurately without metaphor.

Although these stories differ from the reality around us, they allow readers to step back from and "offer a critical perspective on" their world (Shaw 2). This critical perspective "can have a social or political" purpose that the incorporation of feminism strengthens and clarifies (2). Merja Makinen attributes speculative fiction's "revolutionary potential" to "its structural premise to question things-as-they-are," which makes it an appropriate vehicle for feminists to show the inequalities women face (139). Women write speculative fiction because it offers freedom and a "language [that] enables the expression of radical and feminist ideas" (145). Through speculative fiction, writers question the norms of patriarchal society and provide critical commentary on the ways that women have to live. Feminist truths need the distance that fantastical metaphors and stories provide to present themselves to readers. Readers must ask themselves what they can learn from reading feminist speculative fiction novels in relation to our world, its truths, and its possibilities.

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