#1407: From Sci-Fi To Role-Playing Games, Here Come The Women

Jul 8, 2016

On this week’s 51%, we hear from a former NASA engineer about science fiction heroines. Then we meet a game maven, and the Army is opening its first autism therapy center.

There are a handful of female science fiction heroes in popular culture. There’s Ripley from the Alien franchise, Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, Ellie Arroway from Carl Sagan’s Contact…They’re all memorably strong female characters from movies, television and books. Historically, the genre has undeniably been dominated by men since it gained popularity in the early to mid 20th century. But that is changing these days. More and more women are stepping up on the pages and the screens in a genre that is exploding with popularity. Former NASA Space Shuttle engineer and sci-fi author Darren Beyer has written about the disparity of leading ladies in the Science Fiction genre. His newest novel, Casimir Bridge, follows the journey of a female science journalist, Mandisa Nkosi as she works to uncover a conspiracy within an intergalactic economy brimming with futuristic technology. 51%’s Jessica Bloustein Marshall spoke with Beyer recently about why he chose a female protagonist.  

Janyce Hill is a gamer. Not video games, but tabletop role-playing games – just think Dungeons and Dragons. Since 1981, she’s been a game master, the god-like leader of one particular game: Call of Cthulhu. For many years, Hill was the only woman at the table, but she’s been able to create a game that’s unlike any other. Lacy Roberts has the story. 

The Army is planning to open its first autism therapy center. It will serve about 150 children of military personnel in Tacoma, Washington. And it comes after years of complaints from military families that they have a hard time finding autism therapy while they're serving in the armed forces. Patricia Murphy reports. 

For orphaned children, sometimes there’s no cake or goodies to share on their birthdays. 21-year old Thabile Thabetes in South Africa is trying to change this by baking cakes for orphans around Johannesburg to celebrate their birthdays. One day each month she visits the care centers to celebrate all the children who had a birthday that month. DW Correspondent Loveday Wright presents this report by Stefan Mueller.  

And that's our show this week. Thanks to Patrick Garrett for production assistance. Our executive producer is Dr. Alan Chartock. Our theme music is Glow in the Dark by Kevin Bartlett. This show is a national production of Northeast Public Radio. If you’d like to hear this show again, sign up for our podcast, or visit the 51% archives on our web site at wamc.org. And follow us on Twitter @51PercentRadio This week’s show is #1407.