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Reproduction and pregnancy in speculative fiction

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Title: Reproduction and pregnancy in speculative fiction  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Assisted reproductive technology, Feminist science fiction, Gaylactic Network, Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, James Tiptree, Jr. Award
Collection: Science Fiction Themes, Works About Human Pregnancy
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Reproduction and pregnancy in speculative fiction

Because speculative genres explore variants of reproduction, as well as possible futures, SF writers have often explored the social, political, technological, and biological consequences of pregnancy and reproduction.


  • Themes 1
    • Alien–human hybrids 1.1
  • Reproduction and technology 2
  • Large-scale infertility or population growth 3
  • Politics and gender politics 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7


As real-world reproductive technology has advanced, SF works have become increasingly interested in representing alternative modes of reproduction.[1] Among the uses of pregnancy and reproduction themes regularly encountered in science fiction are:

  • Other modes of sexual reproduction;[1]
  • Parthenogenetic reproduction;[1]
  • inter-species reproduction;
  • the use of technology in reproduction ;[2][3]
  • gender issues and political concerns around reproduction;
  • Large-scale infertility;
  • horror themes relating to parasitism and slavery.
  • Gender politics.

The phenomenon of pregnancy itself has been the subject of numerous works, both directly and metaphorically. These works may relate pregnancy to parasitism or slavery, or simply use pregnancy as a strong contrast with horror. For example, in the film, Rosemary's Baby (1968) (based on the 1967 novel by Ira Levin) a woman is tricked into a satanic pregnancy by her husband.[4][5]

Alien–human hybrids

Inter-species reproduction and alien-human hybrids frequently occur in science fiction, and women being impregnated by aliens is a common theme in SF horror films, including I Married a Monster from Outer Space, Village of the Damned, Xtro, and Inseminoid.[1] The theme has even been parodied, such as in the soft porn Wham Bang! Thanks You Mister Spaceman.[1] They are sometimes used as metaphors for social anxieties about miscegenation or hybridization, and other times used to explore the boundaries of humanity.

In Alien Resurrection, the 1997 film, Ellen Ripley has been cloned to facilitate study of the alien queen embryo with which she was implanted[6][7][8] In Octavia E. Butler's Lilith's Brood trilogy (1987, 1988, 1989) alien and human females impregnated with the DNA of males by alien intermediary-sex individuals, in "fivesomes".[9][10]

Reproduction and technology

Speculative fiction in technology of reproduction may involve cloning and ectogenesis, i.e., artificial reproduction).[2][3]

The latter part of the 2000s decade has also seen an upswing of films and other fiction depicting emotional struggles of assisted reproductive technology in contemporary reality rather than being speculation.[11]

Large-scale infertility or population growth

Fertility and reproduction have been frequent sites for examination of concerns about the impact of the environment and reproduction on the future of humanity or civilization. For example, The Children of Men by P.D. James is just one of many works which have considered the implications of global infertility; Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison is one of many works which have examined the converse, the implications of massive human population surges. Numerous other works, such as Venus Plus X and More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon examine the future of humanity as it evolves, or particular breeding programs.

Politics and gender politics

Pregnancy and control of human reproduction have often been used as proxies for treating gender issues or broader themes of social control; works dealing with pregnancy and human reproduction have also been used to closely explore gender politics. For instance, "male pregnancy" has been used to comedic effect in mainstream literature and films such as Junior (1994 film, dir. Ivan Reitman),[12][13] and has developed a following in fan fiction — the "m-preg" genre.[14]

The genre of feminist science fiction has explored single-sex reproduction in depth, particularly parthenogenesis, as well as gendered control over the ability and right to reproduce. See also numerous dystopian stories about state-controlled reproduction, abortion, and birth control, such as Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, or her short story, "Freeforall". These works have often been analyzed as explorations of contemporary political debates about reproduction and pregnancy.[15][16]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Kuhn, p. 215
  2. ^ a b John Allman, "Motherless Creation: Motifs in Science Fiction", North Dakota Quarterly, v.58, n.2, pp. 124–132 (Spring 1990).
  3. ^ a b Valerie Broege, "Views on Human Reproduction and Technology in Science Fiction", Extrapolation, v. 29, n.3, pp. 197–215 (Fall 1988).
  4. ^ Lucy Fischer, "Birth Traumas: Parturition and Horror in Rosemary's Baby", Cinema Journal, v.31, n.3, pp. 3–16 (1992).
  5. ^ Karyn Valerius, "Rosemary's Baby, Gothic Pregnancy, and Fetal Subjects", College Literature, v.32, no. 3, pp.116–135 (Summer 2005).
  6. ^ A. Samuel Kimball, "Conceptions and Contraceptions of the Future: Terminator 2, The Matrix, and Alien Resurrection", Camera Obscura, v.17, n.2 (2002).
  7. ^ Aline Ferreira, "Artificial Wombs and Archaic Tombs: Angela Carter's The Passion of New Eve and the Alien Tetralogy", FemSpec, v.4, n.1, pp. 90–107 (2002).
  8. ^ Barbara Creed, "Alien and the Monstrous-Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection" in Alien Zone: Cultural Theory and Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema, ed. Annette Kuhn (1990).
  9. ^ Eva Federmayer, "Octavia Butler's Maternal Cyborgs: The Black Female World of the Xenogenesis Trilogy", Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies, v. 6, n.1, pp. 103–118 (Spring 2000).
  10. ^ Roger Luckhurst, "'Horror and Beauty in Rare Combination': The Miscegenate Fictions of Octavia Butler", Women: A Cultural Review, v.7, n.1, pp. 28–38 (Spring 1996).
  11. ^ --> Heartache of infertility shared on stage, screen By Colleen Mastony, Tribune reporter. June 21, 2009
  12. ^ Amy Cuomo, "The Scientific Appropriation of Female Reproductive Power in Junior", Extrapolation, v.39, n.4, pp. 352–363 (Winter 1988).
  13. ^ Robert J. Sawyer, Male Pregnancy
  14. ^ "Within fan fiction, a number of subgenres are well recognized....mpreg, where a man gets pregnant."
  15. ^
  16. ^ Linda Badley, "Scully Hits the Glass Ceiling: Postmodernism, Postfeminism, Posthumanism, and The X-Files", in Fantasy Girls: Gender in the New Universe of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television (2000), pp. 61–90.

Further reading

  • John Allman, "Motherless Creation: Motifs in Science Fiction", North Dakota Quarterly, v.58, n.2, pp. 124–132 (Spring 1990).
  • Marleen Barr, "Blurred Generic Conventions: Pregnancy and Power in Feminist Science Fiction", Reproductive and Genetic Engineering, v.1, n.2, pp. 167–174 (1988).
  • Jes Battis, Investigating Farscape: Uncharted Territories of Sex and Science Fiction (chapter on pregnancies)
  • Valerie Broege, "Views on Human Reproduction and Technology in Science Fiction", Extrapolation, v. 29, n.3, pp. 197–215 (Fall 1988).
  • Carol Clover, Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film (1992).
  • Jane Donawerth, "Illicit Reproduction: Clare Winger Harris's The Fate of the Poseidonia in Daughters of Earth, ed., Justine Larbalestier (2006), pp. 20–35.
  • Carol Duncan, "Black Women and Motherhood in Contemporary Cinematic Science Fiction", in Andrea O'Reilly, ed., Mother Matters: Motherhood as Discourse and Practice (2005), pp. 79–86.
  • Maria Aline Salgueiro Seabra Ferreira, I Am the Other: Literary Negotiations of Human Cloning (2005), including discussion of male pregnancy, sexual politics, and parthenogenesis
  • Dominick Grace, "Frankenstein, Motherhood, and Phyllis Gotlieb's O Master Caliban!" Extrapolation, v.46, n.1, pp. 90–102 (Spring 2005).
  • Zoë Sophia, "Exterminating Fetuses: Abortion, Disarmament, and the Sexo-semiotics of Extraterrestrialism" Diacritics, v. 14, n. 2, pp. 47–59 (Summer, 1984)
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