Reproduction and pregnancy in speculative fiction


Speculative and science fiction writers have often addressed the social, political, technological, and biological consequences of pregnancy and reproduction through the exploration of possible futures or alternative realities.


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;[citation needed]
  • the use of technology in reproduction;[2][3]
  • gender issues and political concerns around reproduction;
  • Large-scale infertility;[citation needed]
  • horror themes relating to parasitism and slavery.[citation needed]
  • Gender politics.[citation needed]

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 hybridsEdit

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,[citation needed] and other times used to explore the boundaries of humanity.[citation needed]

In the film Alien Resurrection (1997), 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 technologyEdit

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 growthEdit

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 Implosion, The First Century after Beatrice, 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 politicsEdit

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 alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Creed, Barbara (1990), "Gynesis, Postmodernism and Science Fiction Horror Film", in Kuhn, Annette (ed.), Alien Zone: Cultural Theory and Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema, London: Verso, p. 215, ISBN 9780860919933.
  2. ^ a b Allman, John (Spring 1990). "Motherless Creation: Motifs in Science Fiction". North Dakota Quarterly. University of North Dakota. 58 (2): 124–132.
  3. ^ a b Broege, Valerie (Fall 1988). "Views on Human Reproduction and Technology in Science Fiction". Extrapolation. Liverpool University Press. 29 (3): 197–215. doi:10.3828/extr.1988.29.3.197.
  4. ^ Fischer, Lucy (Spring 1992). "Birth Traumas: Parturition and Horror in Rosemary's Baby". Cinema Journal. University of Texas Press. 31 (3): 3–18. doi:10.2307/1225505. JSTOR 1225505.
  5. ^ Valerius, Karyn (Summer 2005). "Rosemary's Baby, Gothic Pregnancy, and Fetal Subjects". College Literature. Johns Hopkins University Press. 32 (3): 116–135. doi:10.1353/lit.2005.0048. JSTOR 25115290.
  6. ^ Kimball, A. Samuel (2002). "Conceptions and Contraceptions of the Future: Terminator 2, The Matrix and Alien Resurrection". Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies. Duke University Press. 17 (2): 69–107. doi:10.1215/02705346-17-2_50-69. S2CID 146524270.
  7. ^ Ferreira, Aline (2002). "Artificial Wombs and Archaic Tombs: Angela Carter's The Passion of New Eve and the Alien Tetralogy". Femspec. Cleveland State University. 4 (1): 90–107.
  8. ^ Creed, Barbara (1990), "Alien and the Monstrous-Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection", in Kuhn, Annette (ed.), Alien Zone: Cultural Theory and Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema, London: Verso, pp. 128–144, ISBN 9780860919933.
  9. ^ Federmayer, Éva (Spring 2000). "Octavia Butler's Maternal Cyborgs: The Black Female World of the Xenogenesis Trilogy". Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies. University of Debrecen, Hungary. 6 (1): 103–118. JSTOR 41274076.
  10. ^ Luckhurst, Roger (Spring 1996). "'Horror and Beauty in Rare Combination': The Miscegenate Fictions of Octavia Butler". Women: A Cultural Review. Taylor and Francis. 7 (1): 28–38. doi:10.1080/09574049608578256.
  11. ^ Mastony, Colleen (June 21, 2009). "Heartache of infertility shared on stage, screen". Chicago Tribune.
  12. ^ Cuomo, Amy (Winter 1988). "The Scientific Appropriation of Female Reproductive Power in Junior". Extrapolation. Liverpool University Press. 39 (4): 352–363. doi:10.3828/extr.1998.39.4.352.
  13. ^ Sawyer, Robert J. "2020 Vision: Male Pregnancy (rehearsal transcript)". Robert J. Sawyer.
  14. ^ Hellekson, Karen; Busse, Kristina (2006), "Introduction", in Hellekson, Karen; Busse, Kristina (eds.), Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet: New Essays, McFarland, p. 11, ISBN 9780786426409, Within fan fiction, a number of subgenres are well recognized....mpreg, where a man gets pregnant.
  15. ^ Spicer, Arwen (January 23, 2007). "Impossible, Yet Inevitable: Unintended Pregnancy in Farscape, Deep Space Nine, Star Wars, and The X-Files". Archived from the original on December 19, 2008. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
  16. ^ Badley, Linda (2000), "Scully Hits the Glass Ceiling: Postmodernism, Postfeminism, Posthumanism, and The X-Files", in Helford, Elyce Rae (ed.), Fantasy Girls: Gender in the New Universe of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television, Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 61–90, ISBN 9780847698356.

Further readingEdit

  • Allman, John (Spring 1990). "Motherless Creation: Motifs in Science Fiction". North Dakota Quarterly. University of North Dakota. 58 (2): 124–132.
  • Barr, Marleen (1988). "Blurred Generic Conventions: Pregnancy and Power in Feminist Science Fiction". Reproductive and Genetic Engineering. Pergamon Press. 1 (2): 167–174. OCLC 16678507.
  • Battis, Jes (March 30, 2007), "Moya: births, biomechanoids, and companion species", in Battis, Jes (ed.), Investigating Farscape: Uncharted Territories of Sex and Science Fiction, Investigating cult TV series, London: I.B. Tauris, pp. 41–64, ISBN 9780857713650.
  • Broege, Valerie (Fall 1988). "Views on Human Reproduction and Technology in Science Fiction". Extrapolation. Liverpool University Press. 29 (3): 197–215. doi:10.3828/extr.1988.29.3.197.
  • Clover, Carol (1992). Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. London: British Film Institute. ISBN 9780851703312.
  • Donawerth, Jane (2006), "Illicit Reproduction: Clare Winger Harris's The Fate of the Poseidonia", in Larbalestier, Justine (ed.), Daughters of earth: feminist science fiction in the twentieth century, Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, pp. 20–35, ISBN 9780819566768.
  • Duncan, Carol (2005), "Black Women and Motherhood in Contemporary Cinematic Science Fiction", in O'Reilly, Andrea (ed.), Mother Matters: Motherhood as Discourse and Practice, Toronto, Canada: Association for Research on Mothering, pp. 79–86, ISBN 9781550144369.
  • Ferreira, Maria Aline Seabra (2005). I Am the Other: Literary Negotiations of Human Cloning. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger. ISBN 9780313320064. Google preview. Including discussion of male pregnancy, sexual politics, and parthenogenesis.
  • Grace, Dominick (Spring 2005). "Frankenstein, Motherhood, and Phyllis Gotlieb's O Master Caliban!". Extrapolation. Liverpool University Press. 46 (1): 90–102. doi:10.3828/extr.2005.46.1.9.
  • Sophia, Zoë (Summer 1984). "Exterminating Fetuses: Abortion, Disarmament, and the Sexo-semiotics of Extraterrestrialism". Diacritics. Johns Hopkins University Press. 14 (2): 47–59. doi:10.2307/464758. JSTOR 464758.