Though it received fewer comments on Yahoo Voices, this tribute to Star Trek pioneer Dorothy “DC” Fontana remains popular among science fiction fans.
In Dorothy’s Footsteps
The Legacy of a Star Trek Pioneer and Legend
April 2nd, 2013
On March 25th, the legendary Dorothy “D.C.” Fontana turned 74 years old. Dorothy has been a pioneer in science fiction since first beginning her work with Gene Roddenbury in 1963. She wrote some of Star Trek’s most famous episodes, including “Journey to Babel” for the original series, “Yesteryear” for the animated series, Star Trek the Next Generation’s opener, “Encounter at Far Point,” and “Dax” for Star Trek Deep Space 9 (see Startrek.com’s recent interview with Dorothy Fontana).
Babylon 5 also owes some of its glory to Dorothy Fontana with “The War Prayer,” which is one of my favorite episodes from season one, a poignant story about racism, politics, and love. A famous line from that episode is delivered by Londo Mollari, “My shoes are too tight, and I have forgotten how to dance.”
I remember reading Dorothy’s work in junior high when I first discovered Star Trek on a serious basis, books marked “D.C. Fontana” on the cover, disguising the fact that my favorite science fiction author was a woman.
Growing up, I never saw any examples of women science fiction writers, as if it were a complete oxymoron — rather like a female physicist or astronomer. Women were teachers or nurses — not writers and certainly not scientists! Women were supposed to get married, have children, stay home, and promote their husbands’ careers. And if their marriage was abusive or unhappy, women were supposed to just put up, shut up, and hope to not be killed by her husband.
As a child I often questioned this expectation for my life as a girl growing up in a very conservative, Evangelical Christian home. My feelings were dismissed as defiance and rebellion. There was something unnatural about me for loving science.
Without knowing that my favorite science fiction writer was a woman, I had no clear evidence my family was wrong. Only in later years, when Ms. Fontana’s real name came forward to me, did i realize that across the many years of my life, my role model for great science fiction writing was a woman.
In the aforementioned interview, Dorothy (no longer D.C.) talks about the barriers she faced as a woman daring to defy gender stereotypes and the discrimination that forced her to publish under pseudonyms. No one would take “Dorothy” Fontana seriously in the 1960s and 1970s when some of her most cherished works were first published and produced on television; using her initials masked her gender from sexist eyes.
Hidden from view, Dorothy Fontana changed our world. Everything we think of as “Vulcan” we owe to her pen and her willingness to not let gender stereotypes define her nor lesson the quality of her work.
More than perhaps most of the visible icons of the “women’s movement,” she quietly followed her talent and imagination, opening doors for the rest of us who dream of the stars, understand science, and embrace our gift for language.
The legacy of Dorothy Fontana is in every single woman who dares to be more than “just” a woman, who follows her passion, no matter where it takes her, including and especially to the stars.
Forty years after “Journey to Babel,” the barriers are not completely gone for women in science fiction. But they are fewer. Today, no woman feels she needs to conceal her gender to the world when she writes. We are allowed, finally, to pursue the “final frontier” as Star Trek puts it in ourown right.