Tag Archives: strong female characters

Anthology Announcement: Stories of Strong Women

So you might have noticed a lack of posting around here. *watches tumbleweeds roll past* There are several reasons for that, including me getting distracted by my garden, but here’s the best one:

Under Her Protection edited by Siri Paulson

We at Turtleduck Press have been working hard to bring you our best anthology yet (okay, I might be a teeny bit biased). This one features four fantasy romance stories about women rescuing, well, dudes in distress:

Sometimes men are the ones trapped in a tower, or bound by a curse, or doomed to stay in the underworld. Damsels or not, they need rescuing too. And these are just the women to do it…

A swordswoman and a scholar.

A grim reaper and a dead man.

A maidservant and an inventor.

A new university grad and a prince.

Fantasy romance stories from four indie writers about strong women…and men who need their help.

Stories by Kit Campbell, KD Sarge, Erin Zarro, and yours truly. Full disclosure: I am also the editor.

As you can see from the above, we’ve written four very different stories (as usual!) — a paranormal, a fairy tale, and two secondary world adventures. But they all feature female leads who are strong in their own ways, and handsome love interests who are deserving of their affections.

In other words, just what (I hope) you’ve come to expect from Turtleduck Press.

Buy it direct from our printer here, from Amazon (Kindle or paperback) here, or in other ebook formats here. Enjoy!

 

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Divergent, Frozen, Hollywood, and the Strong Girl Character

Divergent film posterSo the film adaptation of Divergent came out a few weeks ago. It’s the latest in a string of movies starring girls. Twilight* kicked off the trend six years ago, and then Hunger Games and Catching Fire blew the box office away. On the animated side, we have Tangled, Brave, and most recently Frozen. And for adult female protagonists last year, we got the Academy Award–winning Gravity, Best Picture nominee Philomena, and a pretty awesome supporting character in Pacific Rim.

* Note: I’m not holding up Bella as an example of a strong girl character. For the purposes of this argument, I’m chiefly interested in her existence as a female lead. But if you want to argue that some of the female leads I’m citing are problematic, I’m happy to listen.

Is this a trend? I sure hope so.

I’m a big SF&F watcher (and reader, and TV viewer). I try to see most of the big genre movies in theatre as they come out. If there’s a well-told story and a good character arc to suck me in, I love explosions and superheroes and aliens and dystopian futures and all that. I’m the target audience.

I can, and do, identify with male heroes in these genres. But it gets tiresome after a while, seeing the girls (or women) as sidekicks or objects to yearn after (*coughHercough*) or nice butts in tight outfits. Even Divergent is guilty of this — check out the poster above and tell me, based on the poses, who looks like the protagonist and who looks like the sexy sidekick / love interest.

Frozen flim posterBut then along comes something like Frozen. Here we have not one but two princesses who stand up for themselves and fight for what they believe in. And they’re not just strong because they kick ass — but that’s another rant.

Better yet (SPOILERS HO)…

…their closest relationship is with each other, and that’s what the whole story revolves around. Sure, there’s a prince, and there’s a commoner love interest, but they’re subplots. The main plot is a love story between two sisters. The climax isn’t a kiss, or a proposal, but the culmination and expression of sisterly love. How cool is that? How much did you not expect that from Disney?

(Another reason to love Frozen is the wonderfully earnest MALE sidekick, Olof. Thinking about him still cracks me up, months after I saw the film. But I digress.)

Films like this give me hope. If even Disney, bastion of heteronormative roles and romances, is getting into the act, surely we’re making headway. And Frozen is the highest-grossing animated film in history. Surely the legions of female film lovers — and their interests — are finally getting noticed.

Now, Divergent didn’t crush the box office like the Hunger Games movies, nor has it received the same level of critical acclaim. But it did finish first on its opening weekend, a good enough showing to ensure the making of sequels…and, if we’re lucky, lots and lots of copycat productions.

Long live the strong girl character!

Your turn! What female-led films have you enjoyed recently? What girl heroes from SF&F books would you love to see onscreen?

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy Strong Girl Characters: YA and MG Classics and The Gothic Novel and the Feminine Touch.

Movie Review: Gravity

Gravity movie poster 1Have you ever been to a science or aeronautics museum where they were showing an IMAX film about the space program? (If you’re over a certain age, you might remember when that was the only place you could see an IMAX film, and they were all documentaries and only 40 minutes long.) Remember the giant panoramas of Earth from orbit, the spacewalks, the space shuttle, the sense of immensity?

The new film Gravity has all of that.

(This is one of the official posters for the film. For some gorgeous alternate posters, check out this roundup at the Huffington Post.)

Director Alfonso Cuarón (and his cinematographer and special effects team) have done a beautiful job of capturing the feeling of being in zero gravity in Earth orbit…or so I imagine, anyway. It’s especially effective if seen in 3D…and I’m not a big fan of 3D, so take note. There’s the sense of being — literally — ungrounded (though not too bad on the motion-sickness front, after a few minutes early on), the lack of reference points, the hugeness, the beauty of space. This is what 3D is for.

And oh yeah, the plot is good too.

An accident in orbit strands two astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, both believable in their roles). With their ride home out of commission, aid is scarce in the cold environment of space, and the physics of being in orbit are relentless. But their worst problem may be their own fear…

Gravity movie poster 2Or at least Sandra Bullock’s fear. She’s the rookie to Clooney’s old space jockey, which makes him the mentor figure and her the main character. Sadly, their emotional states — especially early on — are pretty stereotypical along gender lines (panicky woman, calming man). For a story that relies so heavily on two characters, it would’ve been nice to see some deeper, more complex emotional arcs.

But it’s still very refreshing to see a strong female main character in a hard science fiction story. More of that, please, Hollywood!

And hard science fiction it is. The problems they face have to do with (literal) inertia, orbital mechanics, orbital debris, mechanical breakdowns, and similar — kind of like Apollo 13, but with less jury-rigging and more physics. It’s almost a “(wo)man versus nature” story, if you remember your English high school lessons, but it also makes this astronomy lover geek out.

Possibly the coolest part: this hard-SF setting is almost contemporary. Cuarón has done a little fudging, so the story can’t be dated exactly, but the space shuttle is there, the Hubble Telescope, the International Space Station. Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, I remember being inspired by the space program (back when it was actually going somewhere…I may be slightly bitter about that). Seeing it dramatized is pretty damn awesome.

Your turn! Have you seen Gravity? What did you think?

If you liked this post, you might also like:

Pacific Rim Analysis: Is Mako a Strong Female Character?

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Star Trek Into Darkness Analysis

Book vs. Movie: The Hunger Games

Strong Female Characters: Many Ways of Being Strong

The Hunger Games movie posterI’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of strong female characters. (Yes, I know, I’m late to the party.) What does “strong” mean? Which characters and traits qualify?

Kick-Ass Female Characters

A lot of “strong female characters” in the media are physically strong – kick-ass women who can fight and take names. Think of Mako Mori from Pacific Rim, Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, Buffy, Zoe from Firefly, Kira Nerys from Deep Space Nine. In books, you have Tamora Pierce’s Alanna and just about every urban fantasy heroine.

But that’s not the only kind of strength. In fact, it’s a masculine strength. Alanna is celebrated because she becomes a knight – she’s “as good as a boy” at masculine pursuits. One of the books in the series is even called The Woman Who Rides Like a Man. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Alanna, and I don’t mean to single out Tamora Pierce, who was writing girls in fantasy at a time when not many were.

Other Ways of Being Strong

Sansa Stark in "The North Remembers"But what about other ways of being strong?

Women and girls whose strength takes a different form — one might even say a non-masculine form — are often not seen as “strong characters”. For example – and I’m as guilty of this as anyone – in A Game of Thrones, everyone loves Danaerys Targaryen and Arya Stark and Brienne of Tarth, but who likes Sansa Stark? Not me.

Yet Sansa is learning to play the women’s role in the “game of thrones” better than any of the other young women whose POVs we get – and she’s learning from the best, Cersei Lannister and, in her own generation, Margaery Tyrell.

Maybe she deserves a second look.

(For a great article about Sansa, read In Defense of Sansa Stark. And another: Sansa Stark Does Not Kneel.)

Being Yourself

Pippi Longstocking coverI grew up reading girl characters, and you can probably guess some of them. Anne of Green Gables, Laura Ingalls, Pippi Longstocking, Ramona Quimby, Trixie Belden, Menolly from Anne McCaffrey’s Harper Hall trilogy, Lyra Belacqua from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

Each of these is quirky, unafraid to do her own thing, resourceful and clever, rebellious against society to some degree (although several of them “settle down” in the end, or show signs of heading that way), and often flawed (like, say, real women). Some of them are more “girly”, others are more “tomboyish”, but they all dance to their own drummer.

Notice something else? The only one in the above list who can literally kick ass is Pippi Longstocking, who is so strong she can lift her horse above her head. And that’s only one of her character traits. Her general quirkiness and independence are far more predominant. She’s not particularly feminine, but she’s not masculine either. She just is.

And that’s the way it should be.

Further Reading

If you’re interested in reading more, I recommend the following articles:

Women in SF and Fantasy – my own recommendations of female characters and writers. (YA version coming soon!)

I Hate Strong Female Characters – Sophia McDougall explains why the term itself is problematic.

On the Subject of the “Strong Female Character” – Chuck Wendig argues that strong just means “well-written”.

Strong? Weak? How About Women with Agency – Shoshana Kessock proposes a different measuring stick.

What’s in a “Strong Female Character”?” – Juliette Wade celebrates “feminine traits”.

Your turn! What’s your definition of a strong female character?