Home > Random Musings, Writing > Fire, Bad. Tree, Pretty.

Fire, Bad. Tree, Pretty.

I wanted to write something smart today, something witty. Something inspired by this post written by Kat Howard. I wanted to talk about women in ficiton. I wanted to talk about being the geek kid, sitting alone at lunch. And I wanted to laugh about Unicorn Sparkle Zombies, because that is a funny concept.

Unfortunately, my brain is currently mush. I did not sleep last night. This morning, my puppy punched me in the face (not kidding), and there is a lot going on. So, my intelligence level has been reduced to “fire, bad. Tree, pretty.” I’m not sure if I can be coherent, but I’ll try.

Kickass, strong female leads tend to do very well in television: Wonder Woman, Xena, Alias, Buffy, and hell, even Gilmore Girls. Those are some of my favorite shows. (I will admit to completely loving the Buffy movie. Am I the ONLY person who loved it? Possibly.) Compelling storylines, witty writing, and a girl with moxie? I’m there. I’m sold. And so are a lot of people.

So, why aren’t there are strong female protagonists in epic fantasy? Sure, there are a slew of them in urban fantasy. Holly Black‘s Tithe comes to mind, immediately. (I met her once, a very long time ago. We went to the same college. She has always had awesome hair. I don’t think she’ll even remember me. I was an undergrad at the time.) Libba Bray‘s Gemma Doyle triology is one of my favorite things, even (I’m not quite sure that’s urban fantasy, but it’s fantasy). Cassie Clare’s Mortal Instruments series is a lot of fun. Hell, I even have a complete and utter love for Phillip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials series.

Female protagonists are awesome. So, where is our Lord of the Rings? Where is some epic orc-killing, badass witch chick, who has a personality unique unto her — and fights the hordes of evil? Where is our literary She-Ra (okay, she’s not epic fantasy, but she is awesome)? I don’t know. I wonder if anyone’s written her yet. As Kat pointed out, there’s Joan of Arc, who had a magic freakin’ sword. So, Arthur gets an entire canon of literature, but Joan of Arc gets…what? The movie with Milla Jovavich? (Don’t get me wrong — I love LeeLoo.)

Here’s the thing, though. I’ve been happily reading fantasy novels since before middle school. I’m the geek who got a music box (pegasus with silver wings) when she graduated from Kindergarten (seriously, why do they have a graduation for that?). I’ve read novels about a girl who talks to dragons (I can’t remember the name. This is killing me, slowly, and without mercy.) I’ve read the retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I’ve taken on Hobbits, the Rising Dark, and the Dragonlance series.

I never stopped to wonder why there were no female protagonists. Sure, there are female characters, but that’s not really the same thing.

I can’t do it right now, but I have an urge to write one. I keep thinking about what Jean Rhys said, when she talked about writing Wide Sargasso Sea (the tale of Bertha, from Jane Eyre) – she “wrote her a life.” So many authors talk about doing this. Toni Morrison (and I’m paraphrasing this terribly) said that if there’s a story that you want to read, and it hasn’t been written yet, write it.

So, why don’t you?

  1. April 20, 2011 at 12:39 am

    You haven’t read Mercedes Lackey? Full of kick ass swordswomen and/or sorceresses. You may be remembering Anne McCaffrey – another excellent writer of strong women.

    • Ali
      April 20, 2011 at 8:06 am

      I haven’t! I’ll add those to my list. Thank you!

  2. April 20, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Well, hang on a second. What about Robert Heinlein? I am thinking “Glory Road” specifically, but pretty much all of his novels – fantasy and hard core sci-fi – have strong female characters.

    Our Russian sci-fi writer Ivan Yefremov was a huge fan of strong women, so his books have some amazing female protagonists as well. “Hour of the Bull” comes to mind, with its main character Fai Rodis – the female space mission director, who totally kicks ass both physically and intellectually. My editor is putting finishing touches on my translation of Yefremov’s “Thais of Athens” – that is a girl power book, if there ever was one.

    So, they are out there. Not all is lost.

    • Ali
      April 20, 2011 at 1:18 pm

      Is Heinlien a writer of epic fantasy, like Lord of the Rings? I don’t know much about him, except his name is familiar. Later, I’ll Google him and see if I’ve read anything he’s written. Thanks for the heads up about your book. 🙂

  3. April 21, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    Lloyd Alexander. He creates amazingly spunky female characters who are just so wonderfully feminine yet so passionate and fun. Chronicles of Prydain–his Eilonwy and Achren are fantastic.

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