This post by Liz Bourke at tor.com caught my eye: Sleeps With Monsters: Where Are the SFF Stories About Pregnancy and Child-rearing?
Liz says at the end of her post: “I don’t particularly want to read an entire novel about the economics of child-rearing. But I’d like to see more books, more SFF stories, that consider its place in the world and how that affects people in their societies.”
I prefer a story to a philosophical treatise, but sure, this is something that’s great to see in fantasy and science fiction. Pregnancy is in general pretty rare in SFF, isn’t it? And small children even rarer. Except perhaps in epilogues right at the end of stories.
Given that rarity, a handful of SFF stories do rather spring to mind when I try to think of stories involving pregnancy and small children. The first three I think of are all by Lois McMaster Bujold.
1. Barrayar, which is the cover Liz Bourke uses for her post, is an obvious story where pregnancy and alternatives to ordinary pregnancy are front and central. In the Vorkosigan universe, we do indeed get to see how Barrayaran society is affected by changing modes of reproduction. Child rearing is also important; remember how startled Cordelia is when male aristocrats don’t seem to realize that having her involved in Gregor’s care when he’s little is going to have big effects on the man Gregor grows into.
2. Ethan of Athos, obviously, which again is mentioned in the post. Once more reproduction is absolutely central.
3. The Sharing Knife series. Pregnancy and customs revolving around pregnancy get the whole story started; and then of course the series winds up with Fawn pregnant through the last book and taking care of her infant daughter in the last scenes.
And then once you look away from Bujold, what else? How about these:
4. CJC’s Cuckoo’s Egg, which is *all about* child-rearing — and about what it means to be human. Wonderful story, one of my favorites.
5. Oh, hey, while we’re on CJC, how about Cyteen? Again *all about* childrearing, though certainly in a profoundly disturbing way. Young Ari is such a wonderful child protagonist, one of the very best, and we really get to focus on her while she grows up; and on all her young friends.
6. Come to think of it, Cajeiri in the Foreigner series gives us a really good view into childrearing among the atevi. At least among the aristocratic atevi.
7. The Raven’s Shadow / Raven’s Strike duology by Patricia Briggs. The children are pretty young in that story, so it might count as bringing childrearing to the forefront.
8. Dogland by Will Shetterly, which masterfully handles childrearing in Florida in the what, fifties — from the point of view of a quite young child. The reader is going to understand so much more than the child protagonist. Really brilliant book.
9. Eric Flint’s Mother of Demons is one of perhaps a recognizable subgenre — where a lot of children and just a few adults are stranded on an alien world. We don’t see much of the children when they’re little, so perhaps this story doesn’t count. Let me try again:
9b) The stories of the People by Zenna Henderson sometimes involve quite young children. I think they definitely count.
10. Bloodchild by Octavia Butler. One of the few shorter works which has really stuck in my head for decades. What a powerful story. Obviously something of a departure … all right, a complete departure … from ordinary human reproduction.
11. And speaking of Butler, the entire Oankali series, what is that called, oh right the Xenogenesis trilogy. Lots of emphasis on reproduction and young children there, plus the place of reproduction in society and, whoa, it sure gets complicated.
12 … … …
Okay! It is actually quite difficult to come up with a twelfth title, so I must concede that Liz Bourke is right: there don’t seem to be many SFF stories that focus on pregnant women or small children. Possibly more where pregnancy and childrearing are important, but mostly off-stage. What’s an SFF book I’ve missed that centrally features a pregnant woman and/or young children?