When sci-fi fan Molly Flatt was asked to write a story about women in the future, she re-examined her relationship with the male-dominated genre – and why she remained immune to ‘the Scully effect’

Recently, I was asked if I could write a short story for a science fiction collection about “women inventing the future”. Could I write it in four weeks? I considered it. I have three day jobs, a two-year-old and was then knee deep in promotion for my debut novel. Out of those four weeks, I figured I’d have three days to write the thing – if granny could step up. “No problem,” I said breezily, and hung up. Then I panicked.

What on earth did “women inventing the future” mean? Was I supposed to write some sort of feminist space opera, full of menstruating aliens? A utopian version of the singularity, with robots who liked to talk about their feelings? A vision of a social media platform so woke and teeming with empathy that Zuckerberg would jack in Facebook and invest?

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