Archive for Guest Posts
“Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth”
It’s a blazingly hot day, June 1993. I’m nine years old and this memory is the only one I have of that particular summer, although I can certainly fill in the blanks with memories from other years—swimming pools and sprinklers and summer camp enrollment designed to keep TV from melting my brain out through my ears. But those memories are generic. This one’s special.
The whole family’s going to the movies. Me, my mom, my dad, my brother. We pile into the car and drive down to the theater for the first showing at mid-morning, arriving nearly forty minutes early. We’re the only people in the theater for at first. This early-arrival-at-a-morning-show is a scheme of my parents, who frequently go to excessive lengths to avoid “the crowds.” (I won’t see the inside of an amusement park until I’m an adult for this reason.) We settle into the best seats in the theater, Cokes and popcorn at the ready, and wait.
The movie we’re waiting for is Jurassic Park.
There are a handful of movies I remember seeing in the theater, and Jurassic Park is one of the earliest, after The Little Mermaid. At nine years old, I was terrified throughout the entire thing, covering my eyes whenever I thought a dinosaur was about to eat someone, but when I walked out of the theater I was completely enamored. Jurassic Park was now my favorite movie; later, it would be my favorite book as well. I dreamed of becoming a paleontologist and wearing kicky high-waisted shorts like Dr. Sattler, and for the next few years, any trips to the dinosaur exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science were spent ogling up at the big T-Rex skeleton in the entryway, pretending I had a PhD and one of those brushes for dusting dirt away from bones.
Jurassic Park was the first science fiction property to capture attention and earn my love. Like others my age, I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation (and putting my headband over my eyes so I could be Geordi), and as a child I caught Star Wars on TBS one dreary Saturday afternoon, although for years afterward I would confuse it with Cocoon. Science fiction novels weren’t really on my radar unless they made their way to the Newbery Medal nominee list. But Jurassic Park changed all that. There is a sense of wonder present in that movie which has stuck with me—remember the scene when Dr. Sattler and Dr. Grant see the dinosaurs for the very first time? I still remember the chill I got when I watched their expressions of shock and delight, and that’s the same feeling I get whenever I experience great science fiction, whether I find it on the page, on the screen, or in my imagination.
I originally intended to write this blog post about Dr. Sattler—how she was given the save-the-day scenes in the movie, and had to face down velociraptors and turn the power back on while Dr. Grant was tasked with the more nurturing role of caring for Hammond’s two grandkids. And that’s worth mentioning, although as a kid I didn’t admire her for being Action Girl and Subverting Gender Expectations. Rather, I admired her because she was smart, and pretty, and a scientist. She was the sort of person I wanted to grow up to be—the sort of woman I wanted to grow up to be.
And no, I never became a scientist. I became a writer instead, a science fiction writer. But I do think in some small way, Jurassic Park—and Dr. Ellie Sattler—helped me find that path. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Continuing our celebration of International Women’s Day, today’s piece comes from one of our newest authors – Ishbelle Bee
In Space Only Men Scream
“That’s the only way. We’ll move in pairs. We’ll go step by step and cut off every bulkhead and every vent until we have it cornered. And then we’ll blow it the fuck out into space! Is that acceptable to you?”
One of the most influential female characters for me is that of Ellen Ripley from the Alien films franchise. Female power and Queenship are explored through Ripley and her demonic counterpart, the Alien Queen. Male power is usurped, weak and in some cases artificial (androids); their role reduced to ‘food’ for the alien. These themes have inspired my own work and Ripley remains to me, one of the most powerful and iconic female roles I have come across.
‘The alien is more than phallus; it is also coded as toothed vagina, the monstrous feminine as cannibalistic mother.’ (Creed, 1986, p. 69 ‘Horror and the monstrous-feminine: an imaginary abjection’ Screen 27)
Giger’s Alien Queen as a divine devourer; where humans are edible offerings, is both beautiful and terrifying. Any thought of a degrading stereotypical female role, which entertains the masculine voyeur is squashed underfoot.
It is a shame, therefore, that we are still subjected to female protagonists who resemble little more than blow up sex dolls: gormless, restricted to minimal dialogue, and liable to puncture easily.
Here is the first of our posts celebrating International Women’s Day!
Female Protagonists in Traditional Fantasy.
Like many fantasy readers, I have grown up reading “The Lord of the Rings”. I adored these books and found myself deeply submerged into the worlds they opened to my imagination. For the longest time I took it for granted that many classical fantasies did not have any major female characters, definitely not among those who drove the events. True, there is Galadriel, and Arwen, and Eowyn, all of them memorable and powerful. But lead characters? Hardly.
Some of the newer fantasy books started successfully introducing women as lead characters and slowly expanding on their role. Many attributed this change to the emergence of major female authors, such as Marion Zimmer Bradley with her Darkover series and her all-time bestseller “Mists of Avalon”. Others said that, at least in fantasy, this had to do with the growing audience of female readers. I am not certain what the real reasons are. I have seen authors of both genders use males or females as protagonists, and I know for a fact that female readers enjoy both men and women in leading roles. In my view, this change has more to do with common sense, a realization that the world, even in books, is more complex than we used to believe. I tend to compare it to the change in painting technique, when, in 15th century, artists realized how to use perspective to show dimension. This happened in the society, especially in respect to women. It took longer in fantasy, but came as a natural step in the development of the genre.
These days we expect strong female leads in fantasy, and would feel unnatural reading a book prominently devoid of women. It is very interesting to observe how female point of view has enriched traditional fantasy, bringing a whole new angle into the story and enabling character development in a number of different ways. On a very basic level, leading female characters greatly expand the range of possibilities of what the main character should be all about. In the old days we got used to warriors, or dark mysterious strangers, or regular guys who are unexpectedly landed with the necessity of saving the world. All of these parts can easily be played by females. But more than that, female leads provide the previously missing second half, enabling the complexity of the interaction between sexes—romance, domination, or competition—with no rules in place. As an author, I find all these angles irresistible to explore.
The leading character in “Blades of the Old Empire”—an elite Majat warrior, Kara—seems fairly traditional on the outside. She is a fighter only a few can stand up to, and thus can easily fill the shoes of a traditional warrior type. She is also a beautiful woman many desire, and she can handle unwanted attention without a problem. But, unlike a typical attractive warrior in traditional fantasy, she is not competitive or aggressive. Instead, she has an inner strain that has to do with having to live with the combination of beauty and skill. This makes her enigmatic, an angle that emerged on its own and was so fun to build upon.
Initially I worked off a simple reversal of roles. Instead of the traditional pair, helpless but gifted girl protected by a strong male warrior, I have a gifted young man, not helpless but definitely a regular guy when it comes to fighting, protected by a strong female warrior. Building on this reversal, I found several aspects that enabled new levels of depth in the story. First, to enhance the enigma around Kara, I removed her point of view, showing her entirely through the eyes of a young man who is in love with her. Second, I gave her a nearly impossible problem to work with. And then it was literally down to sitting back and watching how everything about this woman I created feeds the major conflicts in the story. And yes, her point of view is coming, in the second book in the series. This reversal, getting into her head after I already learned so much about her, was even more fun.
As an author I feel fortunate to have entered the scene at the time when women characters are established an expected. I will probably never cease to feel amazed how female perspective in fantasy brings in a unique angle, a new dimension that both authors and readers can appreciate.
We’re delighted to present a brand new short story by recently-signed Angry Robot Author Emma Newman.
Emma has been writing and releasing a series of completely free short stories set in The Split Worlds, as part of the build-up to the release of her Angry Robot debut, Between Two Thorns, which we’re publishing in March 2013.
This is the twenty-seventh tale in a year and a day of weekly short stories set in The Split Worlds. If you would like Emma to read it to you instead, you can listen to a recorded version at SoundCloud.com. Read More→