Within the sf field, ‘feminist science fiction’ is not the misnomer it once was, although its existence still evokes surprise from some (mainstream) quarters. Feminist sf, while subject, as is sf generally, to definitional uncertainty, can now claim its own history, canonical authors, fans and dedicated branch of criticism. Indeed, as Veronica Hollinger observes,
the large number of feminist science fiction texts produced over the last twenty years or so now comprises a body of work no longer well served by criticism that reads it as a unified undertaking, i.e., individual texts all grounded upon the same ideological foundations and all working together for the promotion of a single coherent feminism.
‘Feminist sf’ is thus a rather indeterminate and contested signifier, entailing potential disagreement over which texts fall under its rubric. A better approach may well be to focus on the impact of ‘feminisms’ (varying according to historical period, culture and generation) within sf. Lacking space to explore this further, I continue to employ the term ‘feminist sf’, while recognizing that it can refer to a broad and disparate range of texts, reflecting multiple articulations of feminism(s).
Despite postmodernist claims for the dissolution of hi/lo culture boundaries, and arguments claiming sf's special status as a literature of the postmodern, within the literary mainstream sf is still devalued as a pop culture product to be consumed by the masses rather than analysed by literary critics. Nevertheless, there is an array of critical stories about feminist sf both within and without the field, although for the most part, dialogue across the genre–mainstream border has been rare.
Feminist sf criticism is the most visible and authoritative discourse to speak of (and for) feminist sf. A less recognized source of critical knowledge within the sf field is the body of feminist authors and fans, who, at least within the sf (fan) community, are intimately engaged in the construction and development of ‘feminist sf’. Outside the field, significantly different analyses are found in feminist literary criticism, utopian studies and genre studies, where sf is often incorporated into a more palatable tradition of feminist writing.