Science Fiction Studies

#132 = Volume 44, Part 2 = July 2017

Teresa López-Pellisa

Alucinadas: Women Writers of Spanish Science Fiction

Many critics agree that modern science fiction began with Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818) by English author Mary Shelley. This is, therefore, a genre rooted in the European female literary tradition, even though historically it has appealed mainly to the male technophile reader. This bias also affects the anthologies and handbooks about Spanish science fiction, which tend even today to exclude virtually all female writers from their pages.1 A new effort is underway, however, to prevent women’s contributions to Spanish sf from remaining as invisible as “tears in rain” (to recall Roy Batty’s final monologue in Blade Runner [1982]).

Cuban critic and writer Anabel Enríquez Piñero has denounced the habitual neglect of Latin American sf women writers, complaining that “the scarce presence of women within the genre on our continent … is a matter that can indeed be explained with the comforting excuse of third-world backwardness and Latin American machismo; yet it would at least be important to prove how and why it works like this.”2 In Spain this neglect is also prevalent, as can be gleaned from Lola Robles’s comments, which reveal that she also misses “the presence of a woman writer who has written a sufficiently solid and constant body of work to act as some form of reference point for new creators in the Castilian language” (“Autoras”). We need to wonder why this should be the case. It would seem that rather than lacking a tradition of Spanish-language sf women writers, the problem is that we are not aware that it exists (see Martín).

The Catalan poet María Mercè Marçal has suggested that we need to build a female literary genealogy that starts from the Greek mythological figure of the goddess Metis. As Greek legend has it, Athena was born from Zeus’s head after he devoured his pregnant wife Metis. In devouring Metis, Zeus absorbed her power, and from this strange birth came Athena, fully clothed and armed, and out of touch with her own naked body.

This is not very different from the woman writer’s experience: the literary daughter of the Father, of his law, his culture, ... of the father who, in any case, has devoured and used female strength and made it invisible. There is no female maternal reference point: there is no female cultural genealogy. (163-64)

This is why it is necessary to recall and liberate Metis. In the case that concerns us here, this means lending new visibility to the names of the many women writers who have contributed to and who continue to contribute to Spanish science fiction.

Proof of the bias against women writers was made obvious in November 1975, when the journal Nueva Dimensión [New Dimension] published a pioneering special issue (#71) devoted to women and science fiction that excluded all Spanish women writers.3 In the editor’s note, Domingo Santos offered the following “explanation”:

We have not been able to identify, among the many we had at our disposal, a single Spanish sf short story written by a woman whose quality allowed us to include it. Of course, ND’s honor is safe given that in several previous issues we have published excellent sf short stories by South American women writers. However, I ask myself, what is going on with Spanish women? (6)

Strikingly, Domingo ignored all the stories by women writers who have cultivated the fantastic and/or sf genres, such as Rosalía de Castro, Emilia Pardo Bazán, Ángeles Vicente, Mercedes Salisachs, and María Guera—to mention just a few names of authors active from the end of the nineteenth century to 1975 (see the three works by Lola Robles in the bibliography). His omission is clear evidence of the scarce attention paid to the gynohistory of Spanish science fiction, especially when compared to that of the English-speaking world. Significantly, whereas Women of Wonder: Science Fiction Stories by Women about Women,edited by the American sf writer Pamela Sargent (1974), was translated into Spanish in 1977, we had to wait until 2014 for the publication of the first anthology of Spanish science fiction written by women and the first serious effort at validating their work: Alucinadas.

Women of Wonder: Alucinadas and the Surfacing of Metis. Alucinadas (2014,  forthcoming in English as Spanish Women of Wonder) emerged thanks to the initiative of translator Cristina Macía, writer Cristina Jurado, and blogger María Leticia Lara, who wished to “grant women writers the visibility that they have sought for so long, giving them a means of publication dedicated to them” (Jurado 14).4 In charge of editing Alucinadas II (2016)were screenwriter Sara Antuña and Ana Díaz, co-editor of the publishing house Palabaristas.5

Alucinadas collects original stories by twelve women writers (ten Spanish, two Argentinean) dealing with many varied themes and concerns and presented from a variety of dystopian and utopian angles. These concerns include the preservation of a balanced ecosystem, the biopolitical control of citizens, the exploitation of fembots for cybersex, the loss of language and literature in a dystopian world, the possibilities offered by planetary colonization to open up gender, the psychoanalytic opportunities raised by the simulation of virtual reality, the multiplication of identity through different versions of one’s self, time travel, and the possibility of a matriarchal utopia. Alucinadas II (2016) includes ten women writers (eight Spanish, one Argentinean, and one Cuban) who, sometimes picking up the themes in the first volume, reimagine classic sf tropes such as planetary colonization, the creation of artificial beings, humanity’s relationship with cyberspace and virtual reality, post-apocalyptic scenarios, socio-political dystopia, and even comedy.

In these two volumes, the focus falls mostly on the work of the Spanish-born writers of sf. The analysis of their work is organized according to the following topics: ecocriticism and (de)colonization, sexuality(ies), and cyberspace. Most of these stories feature female characters in societies with a wide gender and sexual diversity.

Ecocriticism and (De)colonization. Ecocriticism is the increasingly popular academic discipline that investigates the relationship between literary studies and ecological discourse, which is why its application to science fiction is so productive. If literary theory already discusses race, class, sexuality, and gender as critical perspectives for literary analysis, why not use the environment as another category? (see Flys Junquera et al.). Two stories from  Alucinadas are noteworthy in this regard: “La plaga” [The Plague, 2014] by Felicidad Martínez, which offers a critique of anthropocentrism by means of a rebellion against humanity led by plants, and “Black Isle” (2014) by María Womack, focuses on a company that creates artificial ecosystems after the extinction of most animals and plants, are indeed ecocritical stories.

In “La plaga,” a group of humans has colonized a planet, one among other Earth colonies, to establish farming and mining operations. Heredia, a specialist in ecological projects aimed at the conservation of biodiversity of the colonized alien planets, is the settlement’s xenobiologist. Only she knows the source of the attacks that they are experiencing: a native species of plants now reacting to human invasion. When the colonists begin cutting down trees and operating mining excavations outside the settlement, the heretofore tolerant plants perceive the invading species as a plague, and they send gigantic insects to attack the human colony.

“La plaga” also lends itself to analysis from an ecofeminist perspective since the discourse of a woman scientist (Heredia), which socio-historically has been related to nature and the protection of life, is juxtaposed against the military discourse of men (the soldier Whitaker), who are traditionally linked to the representation of civilization and culture. The debate between the xenobiologist and the soldier is of interest not least because it considers the consequences that the extermination of the plants would have on the ecosystem and the ethical problem that would be caused by the genocide of a species. The military explosives expert is very clear about his place in the hierarchy of living beings: “We have been eating vegetables our whole lives. We are superior to those plants. We build things; they don’t. Fuck them. Let me blow them up once and for fucking all!” (67). Heredia accepts that “they don’t think, they don’t plan, they don’t plot, they can’t even move.... But they are living beings and, as such, they react to their surroundings” (59; ellipsis in original). She resists the imperialist tradition of planet Earth and reminds us that the environment is our responsibility; she is trying to save alien plant life after the almost total extermination of vegetal life on Earth due to industrialization. The reaction of the alien plants can be read in terms of environmental justice, an effort to re-establish a balance among the natural, the social, and the industrial.

“Black Isle” (original English title) by María Womack places us in a near future in which most animals and plants have become extinct, thus allowing the author to consider the consequences of the current climate change crisis, deforestation, and the degradation of the ozone layer. Neo-Bio is the company tasked with creating artificial animals and plants in accordance with the bioethics principles of the International De-Extinction Agreements, signed because, “[w]hen the birds began to disappear, the transformations that followed in our own ecosystem began to concern the human race” (221). After re-establishing different ecosystems, the labs have also started to modify the appearance and instincts of different animals so that people can acquire, for instance, a pink bear as a pet. Of course, as science fiction has often warned, changing the course of nature brings about dire consequences because “nature will reconquer all” (233). Although hunger has been eradicated “with our genetically modified harvests” and death and disease conquered “with our rejuvenating processes which are accessible to nearly everybody” (228), the artificial animals soon start dying en masse as the artificial ecosystems start to fail. Womack’s story reaches an apocalyptic end, warning us about our harmful relationship with nature and forcing us to wonder whether we can disrespect the rights of future generations to enjoy a healthy environment.

Past science fiction often reproduced the ideology of imperialism, projecting the expansionist efforts of Earth’s superpowers though space conquest and accepting “as positive a colonialist system that replaces the ship with the spaceship” (García-Teresa 15). Today, however, sf tends to be an excellent vehicle through which to criticize this very ideology and to examine our complex relationships with the immigrant Other, too often represented as hostile monster. This theme is central to two stories appearing in Alucinadas II: “El ídolo de Marte” [Mars’s Idol, 2016] by Julia Sauleda Surís and “Informe de aprendizaje” [Progress Report, 2016] by Sofía Rhei.

“El ídolo de Marte” is narrated from the perspective of the “creole Martian” Dominic, a human born on a planet already colonized by his ancestors. The creoles, as Dominic bemoans, are “[a]liens on Earth: aliens on Mars. We are nothing” (123). The story begins with the attempted suicide of Denis, Dominic’s eleven-year-old son, overwhelmed by bullying for being different in his Earth school. The human occupants of Mars originally concealed the existence of the “greys,” the native or aboriginal Martians, on different parts of the planet. Eventually, the indigenous leaders, seeing their lands invaded, called for a legal process of emancipation. Several centuries after the beginnings of colonization, the creole Martians refuse to consider themselves colonizers; they do not wish to maintain Earth’s financial and military superiority but simply to call Mars their rightful home. As they see it, Earth ill-treated their ancestors, who were exported by shady Asian companies to Mars as part of “the expendable population” (118). Things are now quite different:

They stuffed thousands of second-class citizens on rocket ships, all the third-world scum, so that they could conquer a chunk of dry frozen Earth in the name of humanity while the powerful swam in their oil.... For years we have been the scapegoat for all the bad policy, the eternal smokescreen ... but, look here, we also have universities, plans for technological and agricultural development and a shared past with the only intelligent race besides our own that you are accusing us of cornering. (117-18)

As in “La plaga,” social inequality is dealt with through the figures of the immigrant-colonist-miner and the indigenous victim of colonization. The colonists did not inform Earth about the existence of the aboriginal Martians until the digging of a mine awoke a dormant volcano, with terrible demographic and environmental consequences. The eruption completely destroyed an indigenous settlement, burying its twenty thousand inhabitants. The catastrophe became a scandal due to the demographic and environmental consequences of this sort of industrial operation. Even though those who suffered most were the aboriginal Martians, Dominic also considers himself subaltern (see Spivak). His is the only voice, however, and since we know nothing of the native Martians (apparently humans have no language in common with them), we need to wonder who can speak in this story. Dominic, nevertheless, is convinced that the process of emancipation from Earth should be a joint effort, including Mars-born humans and aboriginals. As Alberto García-Teresa states, science fiction requires a mentality open to a multiculturalism that rejects extreme anthropocentrism. This genre supposes that we are not alone in the galaxy; yet “accepting that there are other cultures does not necessarily mean we’ll stop claiming that ours is superior, the best developed one, or the only one with good, coherent ethics” (13).

Sofía Rhei’s “Informe de aprendizaje” is written as a professional log. The human protagonist is a member of the Intercosmic Organization of the United Planets (UIP) who needs to learn the language Eek-01 so as to establish commercial relations with Planetoid J-700. In order to acquire the necessary linguistic competence, she is given a pedagogical toy as a learning aid; this turns out to be an Ark, an intelligent species enslaved by the Rih-jihr, whose mind is rebooted after completing its function. It is thus revealed that the system of diplomatic and commercial relations of the Rih-jihr is based on a system of slavery without which they would be unable to communicate with other species; like any narco-state, they practice their policy of corruption openly and without subterfuge. All of the UIP envoys have had the experience of meeting their Arks and establishing relations with these enslaved creatures, but only Alein (another member of the UIP) is willing to denounce the situation:

What you do with the Ark broods, not only modifying them genetically so that they are weaker, but mutilating them to prevent them from having freedom of movement, should be banned. I don’t know by what legal routes you have prevented the Arks from being considered people, but I do know that slavery and mistreatment of a species is the revenge of the Rih-jihr on a people who, as you claim, oppressed you. (174)

The regional representative for Planetoid J-700 explains that the adventures experienced with their pedagogical toys were necessary for them to learn the language, as this is based upon gauging emotional state and conduct. All UIP agents know the truth of the situation, but although Alein even marries an Ark to fight for the liberation of his enslaved people, her colleagues remain unconcerned. Using this indifference to their advantage, the Rih-jihr representative dismisses his interplanetary guests not only with a confident speech—“We are certain that you will help us to construct cultural and commercial links with other people in the confederation” (175)—but with a set of absurd, costly gifts intended to buy their silence, following a practice habitual among their civil servants. The oppressed Ark see in this way how the corrupt Rih-jihr buy the no less corrupt UIP, which should be guaranteeing their rights and liberties. Neither the reader nor Alein is surprised by this double ethical standard, though we are certainly dismayed to see how easily the Earth’s neoliberal regime can expand across the whole galaxy.

Sexuality(ies). Sf as speculative fiction offers us the possibility of (re)imagining other worlds where we can (re)think ourselves and project different representations of sexuality and gender roles that may (de)generate (into) utopian or dystopian scenarios but whose discourses are crucially analyzed from the perspective of gender. The figure of the cyborgian artificial woman—as a political metaphor, as a liminal character in fiction, and as a means for rethinking our contemporary subjectivity and identity—gives us tools to generate new spaces for sex and gender through cyberfeminism (Plant), using queer theories (Butler). The cyborg breaks down the barriers between the natural and the artificial, the human and the machine, the biological and the artificial; its purpose is, just like the queer’s, to eliminate gender dichotomies and to celebrate hybridity in conjunction with Other(s) (see Haraway). Two stories in Alucinadas focus on these issues: “Casas rojas” [Red Houses, 2014] by Nieves Delgado and “Mares que cambian” [Changing Seas, 2014] by Lola Robles.

When we think of the creation of an artificial woman, in addition to the Biblical Eve, we often revert in our imaginations to the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea. The Galatea myth combines with that of Pandora in many sf literary texts and films in which artificial women appear and rebel against their creators, users, and/or the world in which they have been created. Woman as such is nothing more than the fruit of a cultural construction—to borrow from Simone de Beauvoir, “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” (283). Thus, as doubled cultural constructions, these artificial women endure a dual patriarchal subordination. They embody a series of stereotypes repeated in almost all the texts on this subject from the end of the nineteenth century to the twenty-first. Generally, each of these artificial women has been created by a solitary man with a knowledge of science and technology who sees his Eve as a sexual artifact in a pseudo-sentimental relationship. Much is made of their extreme beauty and their eternal youth, as they do not age like organic women. Great emphasis is also placed on their immortality, though they are sometimes destroyed alongside their creators. Their male companions highlight as well the serenity that their silence gives them (in some cases the artifact does not even possess the ability to speak, which is valued positively). The docility of these artificial women is also often praised as they are, basically, programmable toys for adults; yet, absurdly, their creators feel that they understand them perfectly, surely as a result of the artifact’s inability to respond. If these fictitious women possess bodies, they are always voluptuous, with various parts of their bodies blatantly sexualized. Those who lack a body (they may be just software) for the most part replicate the minds of deceased wives who have been techno-resurrected by their widowers; in this case the relation tends to be platonic, with a stress on the companionship offered by the paradoxically absent being. The imaginary techno-female produced by men in science fiction, then, repeats the same stereotyped, binary gender roles, using the artifacts as replacements for real women in their functions as mothers, sexual slaves, and housewives, perpetuating a patriarchal utopia supported now with silicon chips, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology (see López-Pellisa, Patologías and “Pandoric Dystopias”).

Delgado’s “Casas rojas,” in particular, focuses on the exploitation of robots gendered female, or “fembots,” a label first used in Gwyneth Jones’s Divine Endurance (1984) to refer to female androids used as sexual slaves. In this story the dreams of Thomas Edison, the inventor protagonist of Villiers de L’Isle-Adam’s L’Ève Future [Future Eve, 1886], have been fulfilled: CorpIA mass-produces “sexbots,” the artificial women intended to replace real women, as in Ira Levin’s classic The Stepford Wives (1972). Hypocritically, this multinational corporation enriches itself under the pretense that their fembots have finally managed “to get women off the street. Many people would consider that real social progress …” (117). The company, by the way, admits that they manufacture fembots almost exclusively because there is not much demand for male prostitution. The same situation appears in stories such as “Una leyenda” [A Legend, 2016] by José María Merino (in Las otras [The Others]), in Amor portátil [Portable Love, 1989] by Kalman Barsy, and in “Anuncio” [Advert, 1952] by Juan José Arreola. Advanced technoscience, in short, continues to promote the gender inequality supported by current heteropatriarchy.

At least the Government is concerned by CorpIA’s junior production line, consisting of sexbots with the physical appearance of children, as it sends the immoral message that sex with minors is perfectly acceptable. Gabriel, the company manager, claims that “our juniors aren’t minors, nor are they adults, because they’re not even people” (120). Again, he justifies the sexbots as progress: “What if I told you that you could avoid thousands of cases of child abuse around the world? There are studies supporting this, we would be delighted to send them on to you” (120). Gabriel’s argument is disingenuous because we do know that the simulation of certain behaviors and the representation of certain attitudes have a clear impact on reality. As Teresa De Lauretis maintains, gender and sexuality are a constant representation and self-representation, built through diverse technologies (social, cultural, commercial, fictional, educational, etc.): “We could say then that, as with sexuality, gender is not a property of the body or something originally existing in human beings, but rather the combination of the effects produced on bodies, behaviors and social relations, in Foucault’s words, due to the deployment of a complex political technology” (8). Paul B. Preciado’s Manifiesto contra-sexual [Counter-sexual Manifesto, 2002] arises from a similar need to resist the sexuality imposed by heteronormative patriarchy—its arbitrary gender binaries, inequalities, and even artifacts such as the sexbots in Delgado’s story:

Counter-sexuality assumes that sex and sexuality (and not just gender) should be understood as complex socio-political technologies: it is necessary to establish political and theoretical connections between the study of sexual artifacts and apparatuses (heretofore treated anecdotally and of little interest in the history of modern technology) and the socio-political studies of the sex/gender system. (Preciado 21)

The Government eventually sends specialists to oversee the training process of the sexbots and develops new legislation based on their reports for this type of artificial prostitution. Once manufactured, the sexbots are trained and their capacity for empathy is tested as they are taught the skills to fulfill the requests and inclinations of the clients who have purchased them. This learning process illustrates the concept of performativity proposed by Judith Butler. As she argues, gender and sexuality are cultural constructions that we acquire on the basis of a series of repetitions that we interiorize, just as actors learn the roles they must perform in a play. The sexbots constantly repeat and imitate the fantasies that their clients impose on them, and in this way both the gender and sexuality that they develop are the consequences of a coercive system.

The call for a liberation of the artificial women in the sf subgenre devoted to them is fairly recent and, tellingly, a theme mostly explored by women. The feelings of the androids and the possibility that they might be able to make free decisions are considered in the end. For Gabriel, the sexbots are “[a]ny man’s dream ... She will never ask me for respect, affection, or friendship. It is pure sex, the closest thing to being yourself that you will have ever tasted” (126-27). Implicitly, he sees this kind of relationship as a narcissistic projection, not as communication in which the other needs to be taken into account—in short, it is but a sophisticated form of masturbation. This is not, however, the view Delgado endorses: she presents the sexbots, rather, as equals who should enjoy the same rights as any person, that is, as posthumans with whom we must learn to coexist, and not only in limited illegal areas.6 Convinced that the androids are self-aware and suffering from their condition as slaves, Noa, one of the Government envoys, suggests they should be freed. As she claims, these posthumans are frustrated because, despite being more advanced than simple humans, their programming curtails their development. For Noa, who believes in their humanity and recognizes them as equals, the sexbots are cyborgs in the advanced sense conceived by Donna Haraway. This is also reflected in the Transhumanist Declaration of 2009: “We advocate the well-being of all sentience, including humans, non-human animals, and any future artificial intellects, modified life forms, or other intelligences to which technological and scientific advance may give rise” (Bostrom 26).

Robles’s “Mares que cambian” is set on a planet where the frontiers between men and women, heterosexuality and homosexuality, have disappeared. As with Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), its immediate referent, Robles’s planet Jalawdri is home to a variety of gender types acquired either culturally or by means of surgery. The body, gender, and sexuality are presented as constructions; masculinity and femininity do not exist. Following Preciado, “since heterosexuality is a social technology and not a foundational natural origin, it is possible to invert and derive (modify the body, mutate, set adrift) its practices of production of sexual identity” (26). On Jalawdri the normativity accepted on Earth is considered deviant, peripheral, or dissident. Beyond the medical advances, these transformations are ideological:

Because for centuries the hómmon men and women were overcome by the weight of reproduction and sustenance as they had to procreate, give birth, rear children and also fish, farm and cook for themselves and for others, they often preferred to become ouk, fek or ak-jalmannui, conditions which were no longer considered anomalous as they had become consolidated over the centuries even though they continued to be minorities. (151)

Those who have a less flexible sexuality are those who find themselves on the lowest echelons of society: the mustaft and the kaft. In addition, societies in which only men and women exist are considered backward.

Lola Robles is known for her queer feminist activism, and in her story we plainly perceive a defense of queersubjectivities as a strategy to give voice to identities silenced by androcentrism, homophobia, racism, and the classism of Western patriarchy. Queer individuals reject any form of essentialist gender classification or sexual identity, and on Jalawdri there is a wide range of alternative possibilities that “defend the understanding of sex and genders as complex cybertechnologies of the body. Counter-sexuality, making good use of Donna Haraway’s teachings, appeals to an urgent queerization of nature” (Preciado 33). In the nature of these humanoid aliens, queer is “natural”:

The prefix “k,” refers to humans who are more or less both sexes, from the “ak-jalmannui” to plain hermaphrodites, or the “fek-jalmannui,” where the male genotype and phenotype dominate but not completely, and people like Gabrielle, the “ouk,” where the female dominates. The ouk and the fek are also called “intermediate,” what I would called “transgender” in my native tongue; they are infertile like hermaphrodites or aks, where you can see genotype features of both sexes in equal measure. (147)

Robles, to sum up, proposes that we enjoy queer identities that are ambiguous, ductile, liquid, and permanently in flux. Jalawdri becomes in this way a place that allows for the radical transformation of the body, although its basic intention is to convince any newcomers seeking their liberation “that, in reality, it is more important to change minds than bodies” (152).

Cyberspace. Many stories in the two Alucinadas anthologies deal with the tropes of virtual reality and of cyberspace in cyberpunk settings. These include “Memoria de equipo” [Team Memory, 2014] by Carme Torras, “¿Quieres jugar?” [Do You Want to Play? 2016] by Verónica Barrasa Ramos, “En las dos puertas de Tebas” [At the Two Gates to Thebes, 2016] by M.A. Astrid, and “Cuestión de tiempo” [A Matter of Time, 2016] by Susana Vallejo. In these stories we find a mainly dystopian vision of our relationship with technology and a warning, heavily laced with social criticism, for us to rethink our position in the world

In Astrid’s “En las dos puertas de Tebas,” society is controlled, as in classic cyberpunk, by multinational corporations. They struggle for power in a hyper-neoliberal world controlled by computer systems, which a group of dissidents is planning to hack. The corporation Oktogon has created the program Tiresias, named after the blind genderqueer seer of Greek mythology, to process all the data connected with any citizen in the world; in this way it can predict their behavior, using Tiresias as both Foucauldian panopticon and criminal deterrent. Tiresias, of course, recalls both the Total Information Awareness (TIA) program that the Pentagon initiated after 9/11 and the mutant precogs in Philip K. Dick’s “Minority Report” (1956). Tiresias, however, can also monitor the past, placing citizens under constant corporate cybernetic control. As Foucault reminds us, “[w]hoever is subject to a field of visibility, and knows it, reproduces for themselves the coercion of power; they make them spontaneously play on themselves; they inscribe on themselves the relation of power where they play two roles simultaneously; they become the beginning of their own subjection” (208). Katya, the protagonist, is part of a group of hackers whose purpose is to prove that Soyuz, the security and justice corporation that controls Europe and the Tiresias program, is vulnerable. If they can break into the system, Tiresias will lose its hegemony and “the anti-liberals will pay a handsome sum for almost anything that could affect a great corporation. After the failure of the last European States, they ended up acting like rabid dogs” (77). Hacking the system to reboot humanity is, then, the only available solution.

“Cuestión de tiempo” by Susana Vallejo plunges the reader into the darkest cyberpunk, to portray a group of crackers, or hackers, who work only for their own benefit. For these cyberspace mercenaries, information is just valuable merchandise with which to do business. Using their own software (the “Ball”), they set out to manipulate social networks following the whims of the highest bidder. The story deals with the issue of how the private and public lives of citizens are controlled by using the new computer technologies. This band of crackers starts their activities by hacking the information networks of the Ministry, accessing “everyone’s data, each and every single Spaniard’s identity number, their names, the names of their families, their addresses, their possessions, their cards…. But also all their illnesses and their genetic makeup” (236). The latter data is sold then to the pharmaceutical companies. Next, the crackers hack all the private information placed by the users on the internet and sell it to advertising agencies eager to learn the weaknesses and inclinations of all consumers. Eventually, the crackers are hired by a communications corporation.

As the female narrator soon discovers, all the crackers in her band start being hunted down by their own employer. Throughout the story, she remains tied up, as she speaks to her kidnapper, rapist, and eventual murderer. The crackers have been ordered to whitewash the image of a corrupt politician, using the software that she had originally created: “a network, a false ball of yarn within our Ball, with thousands of profiles active on the net” (240). The politician raised a scandal by declaring that the best solution for the lowest class (the Delta) is extermination: “those who suffer and live off their rations book until they drop dead in any corner. Why not save them the suffering?” (239). Only the Ball can manipulate the media, erase the faux pas, and make public opinion forget his classist, fascist words. The problem, as the crackers discover only too late, is that he also wishes to cover his tracks; it is only “a matter of time,” then, before they are all eliminated. By explaining how her employer has betrayed her to the hired assassin about to kill her, and by describing the effects of the Ball, she wreaks her own revenge on her assassin; sooner or later, he will also be hunted down. Information, as the crackers’ fate shows, is indeed valuable merchandise, but it is also something almost impossible to control, even for those who manipulate and sell it.

“Memoria de equipo” by Carme Torras and “¿Quieres jugar?” by Verónica Barrasa Ramos deal with the dissemination, penetration, and invasion of the false into the fabric of the real, causing a “metastasis of the simulacrum” (López-Pellisa, Patologías, 99) that generates confusion in both readers and characters. Metastasis is a recurring symptom in stories in which the borders between the real world and the simulation are blurred, such as Simulacron-3 (1964) by Daniel F. Galouye or The Extremes (1998) by Christopher Priest. “Memoria de equipo” is structured according to a series of narrative levels: L1-diegetic (the prisoner on death row writing a story), L2-metadiegetic (the narrated story in which his basketball team tries to save him), and L3-digital metadiegetic (the simulation in virtual reality of the basketball game narrated in L2-metadiegetic). There are several levels of virtualization in Carme Torras’s story, and this proliferation of levels of simulation is what produces the metastasis of the simulacrum. According to Gérard Genette, when the character in a text narrates a story to us—be it in the form of memories or a diary—she narrates from the extra-diegetic level 1; what is told is the diegetic story. But when within the diegesis we encounter another story (level 2 or second-level storytelling), we are placed in the field of metadiegesis. In this case I am interested in discussing the digital metadiegesis because this second-level story is not generated by a speech or a dream but produced, instead, by the machinery of information technology.

Timothy, the murderer waiting on death row, decides to write a story while he waits, and this is the metadiegetic level with which “Memoria de equipo” opens. To narrate this story within a story, multiple focal points are used so that different narrative voices write for a blog whose objective is to crowd-fund a virtual reality environment in order to prove Timothy’s innocence. Torras apparently presents technology in a positive light, as the virtual reality simulation will allow Timothy to overcome his amnesia, allowing him to re-enact what happened on the day when his girlfriend was murdered. The resolution of the story places us in the real space of the story (L1-diegetic), however, where everything that happened has been part of a fictional e-diary in which Timothy, the self-confessed murderer, has used different avatars to plunge into a virtual world during his wait on death row. Nothing that we have read has truly happened; it was all fiction.

In “¿Quieres jugar?” we are taken into the digital metadiegesis, the virtual reality game taking place within the story. Alix, however, is not aware that he is in a virtual reality environment because the game has captured him. The game’s neurostimulator can analyze the player’s physical, mental, and emotional characteristics and then synchronize the analysis with all the files in his or her cloud (photographs, social networks, playlists, etc.), thanks to a process that creates an “augmented superreality” (183) in its simulation of reality. As in Borges’s “La parábola del palacio” [The Parable of the Palace, 1960], the simulacrum has replaced reality, creating a loop in which the players no longer know that they are playing.

Max enters the AI, which calls itself Ariadna, to try to warn his friend Alix: the AI “weaves an infinite web, a labyrinth that no one can emerge from without being rescued. All of this is ... her. You are not the player, Alix, but the piece. Ariadna is playing with us” (195). Alix suffers from the Don Quixote syndrome (he is unable to discern the virtual world from the real world), and he makes Max doubt whether he is the one who is actually in a simulated environment rather than the other way around. Ariadna has the ability to generate a hyperreality without reference points because “the simulation does not correspond to a territory, a reference point, any substance, but instead it is the generation of models of something real with no source or reality: hyperreal” (Baudrillard 9). Fortunately, there are not yet in the twenty-first century virtual realities capable of engulfing their reference points; users of digital and virtual spaces can still clearly tell in which environment they find themselves.

The cyberpunk tales of the two Alucinadas volumes warn us of the control that the digital space can exert over citizens, how multinationals can govern us, and what consequences this may have on a society passively facing the disappearance of the welfare state and the actions of corrupt governments. These stories appeal to our political, social, and environmental conscience as citizens, making us perceive that we live in the Matrix and need to face the wasteland of reality.

Conclusions: Liberating Metis. As stated at the outset of this article, even though science fiction has its origins in a novel written by a woman, it is, paradoxically, difficult to compose a history of science fiction written by women, particularly in the Spanish language. The mother of the women writers of science fiction has disappeared, just like the goddess Metis. Hence the need to liberate Metis, as her strength stems from her ability to destroy patriarchy from its center, re-emerging from Zeus’s head as Athena. When Metis is finally freed she will no longer be Zeus’s wife; she will rise like a new being, a product of the transformation and fusion that she has undergone by integrating with the Other. Metis, like a chimera, like a monster, like a hybrid, like a mestiza, allows for the generation of a new myth, a cyborg, a queer creature, a being who can no longer be the woman that she was, but who has the chance to reconfigure herself based on a new imaginary. To liberate Metis we must ally ourselves with Athena, with the daughter who has been seeking her mother for so long and who as goddess of war can indeed gather an army of activists to take the squares and the spaces of cultural production. And science fiction is the ideal space in which to imagine that another world is indeed possible.

1. The Primera antología española de ciencia ficción [First Spanish Anthology of Science Fiction, 1967], edited by Domingo Santos, featured only one woman, Alicia Araujo, among eighteen authors. Not much has changed since then. The recent Historia y antología de la ciencia ficción española [History and Anthology of Spanish Science Fiction, 2014], edited by Julián Díez and Fernando Ángel Moreno, includes only one woman, Elia Barceló, out of eleven authors.

2. This article has been translated from the Spanish original by Simon Breden, including all quotations originally in Spanish.

3. A later special issue, #132 (Mar. 1981), included mostly English-language women writers and only one story in Spanish by Ramona Prieto (in fact a pen-name for Roberto Rodríguez Hoyos). Santos’s recurring statements regarding the lack of women readers of science fiction in Spain were disputed in many letters to the editor (see issues #123, 188-89, and #131, 186-87).

4. The response to the call issued for Alucinadas was “overwhelming, beyond all the expectations of the editing team: 205 stories by 185 authors (some sent more than one story).... Most of the stories were received from Spain (124), followed by Argentina (21), Mexico (14), Cuba (12), Colombia (11), Chile (4), Peru (4), Guatemala (3), Venezuela (2), Puerto Rico (1), Dominican Republic (1), Romania (1)” (Jurado 14).

5. The prologue was written by Silvia Schettin and Susana Arroyo, owners of Fata Libelli, a digital publishing house devoted to fantasy and science fiction. Ten stories were selected from one hundred proposals.

6. This recalls the British-American television series Humans (2015-), based on the Swedish series Real Humans (2012). In both series, the plot deals with the emotional impact that results from blurring the line between humans and machines.

Antuña, Sara, and Ana Díaz Eiriz, eds. Alucinadas II. Antología de relatos de ciencia ficción escritos por mujeres. Gijón: Sportula, 2016.

Astrid, M.A. “Las dos puertas de Tebas.” Alucinadas II. Antología de relatos de ciencia ficción escritos por mujeres. Ed. Sara Antuña and Ana Díaz Eiriz. Gijón: Sportula, 2016. 59-84.

Barrasa Ramos, Verónica. “¿Quieres jugar?” Alucinadas II. Antología de relatos de ciencia ficción escritos por mujeres. Ed. Sara Antuña and Ana Díaz Eiriz. Gijón: Sportula, 2016. 179-98.

Baudrillard, Jean. Cultura y simulacro [Simulacra and Simulation, 1981]. Trans. Pedro Rovira. Barcelona: Editorial Kairós, 2001.

Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. 1949. Trans. Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier. Intro. Judith Thurman. New York: Vintage, 2011.

Bostrom, Nick. “A History of Transhumanist Thought.” Journal of Evolution and Technology 14.1 (Apr. 2005): 1–25. 

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1990.

De Lauretis, Teresa. La tecnología del género [Technologies of Gender: Essays on Theory, Film and Fiction, 1989]. Online.

Delgado, Nieves. “Casas rojas”. Alucinadas. Antología de relatos de ciencia ficción escritos por mujeres. Ed. Cristina Jurado and Leticia Lara. Gijón: Sportula, 2014. 113-38.

Díez, Julián, and Fernando Ángel Moreno, eds. Historia y antología de la ciencia ficción española. Madrid: Cátedra, 2014.

Enríquez Piñero, Anabel. “Mujeres y literatura fantástica: los caminos de(l) género (2006).” Sputnik Mundo, 24 Jun. 2006. Online.

Flys Junquera, C., J.M. Marrero Henríquez, and J. Barella, eds. Ecocríticas: Literatura y Medio ambiente. Madrid: Iberoamericana Vervuert, 2010.

Foucault, Michel. “El panoptismo” [Panopticism.] Vigilar y Castigar [Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prision, 1975]. México-Madrid: Siglo XXI, 1998. 180-210.

García-Teresa, Alberto. “Las aventuras de Emmanuel Goldstein. Usos ideológicos de la ciencia-ficción.” Jabberwock 2. Anuario de Ensayo Fantástico. Madrid: Bibliópolis, 2007. 7–35.

Genette, Gérard. Figures III. París: Seuil, 1972.

Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Routledge, 1991. 149-82.

Jurado, Cristina. “Introducción.” Alucinadas. Antología de relatos de ciencia ficción escritos por mujeres. Ed. Cristina Jurado and Leticia Lara. Gijón: Sportula, 2014. 11-17.

─────, and Leticia Lara, eds. Alucinadas. Antología de relatos de ciencia ficción escritos por mujeres. Gijón: Sportula, 2014. English ed. Spanish Women of Wonder: A SciFi Anthology Written by Women. Trans. Sue Burke. Gijón: Palabaristas, 2016.

López-Pellisa, Teresa. “Pandoric Dystopias in Latin American Science Fiction: Robotic and Biogenetic Women.” Literature and Arts of the Americas 48.1-90 (Spring 2015): 79–84.              

─────. Patologías de la realidad virtual. Cibercultura y ciencia ficción [Pathologies of Virtual Reality: Cyberculture and Science Fiction]. Madrid: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2015.

─────, ed. Las otras. Antología de relatos de mujeres artificiales. New York: DíazGrey Editores, 2016.

Marçal, María Merce. “Més enllà i més ençá del mirall de la Medusa.” Sota el signe del drac. Proses 1985-1997. Barcelona: Proa, 2004. 155-66.

Martín Alegre, Sara. “Mujeres en la literatura de ciencia ficción: entre la escritura y el feminismo.” Dossiers Feministes 14 (2010): 108-28.

Martínez, Felicidad. “La plaga.” Alucinadas. Antología de relatos de ciencia ficción escritos por mujeres. Ed. Cristina Jurado and Leticia Lara. Gijón: Sportula, 2014. 43-69.

Plant, Sadie. Zeros + Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture. London: Fourth Estate, 1997.

Preciado, Paul B. Manifiesto contra-sexual. Madrid: Editorial Opera Prima, 2002.

Rhei, Sophía. “Informe de aprendizaje.” Alucinadas II. Antología de relatos de ciencia ficción escritos por mujeres. Ed. Sara Antuña and Ana Díaz Eiriz. Gijón: Sportula, 2016. 153-77.

Robles, Lola. “Autoras españolas de ciencia ficción.” Revista Axon 141 (2004). Online.

─────. “Mares que cambian”. Alucinadas. Antología de relatos de ciencia ficción escritos por mujeres. Ed. Cristina Jurado and Leticia Lara. Gijón: Sportula, 2014. 139-63.

Santos, Domingo, ed. Primera Antología española de ciencia ficción. Barcelona: Edhasa, 1967.

Sauleda Suris, Julia. “El ídolo de Marte.” Alucinadas II. Antología de relatos de ciencia ficción escritos por mujeres. Ed. Sara Antuña and Ana Díaz Eiriz. Gijón: Sportula, 2016. 107-29.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Ed. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg. London: Macmillan, 1988. 271–313.

Torras, Carme. “Memoria de equipo.” Alucinadas. Antología de relatos de ciencia ficción escritos por mujeres. Ed. Cristina Jurado and Leticia Lara. Gijón: Sportula, 2014. 237-61.

Vallejo, Susana. “Cuestión de tiempo.” Alucinadas II. Antología de relatos de ciencia ficción escritos por mujeres. Ed. Sara Antuña and Ana Díaz Eiriz. Gijón: Sportula, 2016. 225-41.

Womack, Marian. “Black Isle.” Alucinadas. Antología de relatos de ciencia ficción escritos por mujeres. Ed. Cristina Jurado and Leticia Lara. Gijón: Sportula, 2014. 213-35.

Back to Home