Strong women in science fiction – a few thoughts

Earlier today, I read a comment from someone complaining that the women characters in science fiction are nothing but “men with boobs”. He longed for the days when female characters resembled those written by Jane Austen or appeared in Shakespearean comedies. The gist of his argument was that male conservative authors are basically giving preference to female leads who can hold their own with their male counterparts. There is more to it but, frankly, I’m not going into it. For one, my blood pressure just now returned to normal after reading the post. For another, I don’t want to start a flamewar.

Oh, hell, who am I kidding? I don’t give a flying rat’s ass if I start a flamewar. It’s bad enough to read someone who comments that a woman who is promiscuous is a slut but not a man who engages in the same sort of behavior. To throw fuel on the fire, there was the comment that women will do their best to avoid violence and abstract thinking — yes, I’m paraphrasing. Of course, there was a not at all subtle religious sub-text going on throughout the comment as well.

Now, I’m not going to rain on anyone’s religious parade. My own religious beliefs are very important to me but I don’t parade them around for everyone to see and ooh and ahh over. Nor do I try to beat my readers over the head with them. What I try to do is write entertaining stories that people want to read. As far as I’m concerned, that’s all any of us should have to do.

But his comments did make me pause and think for a moment. My books do have female leads. You’d expect that with the paranormal romances and the romantic suspense novel. The leads are strong women, sometimes stronger than they realize. Not in terms of physical strength but emotional strength. However, they are flawed, as are the male characters. One of them is, I swear, at times too stupid to live because she rushes headlong into trouble. But that is what a lot of us are like. We act — or react — without thinking. That’s called human.

The lead character in the urban fantasies is also female. She’s tough, capable and dedicated to her job as a police detective. But she also spends most of the first book, Nocturnal Origins, trying to figure out how she fell down the rabbit hole into the Twilight Zone. She doesn’t let it interfere with her job but it is interfering with her life and has her questioning her sanity. The reason it doesn’t interfere with her job isn’t because she’s superhuman or because she’s a “man with boobs”. It’s because the job has always been the one thing she could count on. It has rules and procedures that have to be followed. She is also standing for someone, the victim of a crime. As long as she is doing that, she can’t worry about what’s happening to her. Funny, that doesn’t sound like a particularly male — or female — characteristic. I sounds human.

Since the commenter specified science fiction, I looked at my novel Vengeance from Ashes (yes, yes, I know. I’m not a conservative male writer. I am, however, a libertarian female writer of science fiction. So, other than different plumbing, there isn’t all that much difference between me and some of the authors this person was referring to.). Female lead character? Check. Military? Check. Working in a man’s world? Waggles hand.

See, that’s one of my issues with the argument that women can’t be capable, strong officers in science fiction. Most science fiction is written about future timelines. Because of that, there will be differences in how the sexes interact with one another and what sorts of jobs they can hold. Don’t believe me? Just look at the differences between what women can do today and what they were allowed to do a century or more ago. I don’t know about you but I don’t know too many women who are content to be taken out of school before they enter high school — assuming they were allowed to go to school at all — or who want to be married off to a man much older than they are before they see their fifteenth birthday.

Does this mean women are equal on all levels as men? Absolutely not. But to say women will use words before violence fails to take into consideration what the situation is. I will deck a guy — or gal — who tries to cop a feel without permission. However, if they are simply in my personal space, words and then a well placed stomp on a foot if the words don’t work. However, go over someone I care for and all bets are off. I will not only fight but I will fight dirty because I play to win. For those who believe the female of the species is the peaceful one, go back to junior high and watch what happens there. If that doesn’t open up your eyes, I don’t know what will.

As for female characters acting like men in a work situation, get real. That is done now. It’s called fitting in. Beyond that, if you are writing a story which features a female soldier, whether it is set in outer space or or current day military, if you want that soldier to be respected by her compatriots — male and female alike — you’d better not have her having the vapors every other page. She has to be capable and competent. She has to be able to relate to her fellow soldiers, male and female. Most of all, when she’s on duty, she’d sure as hell better do whatever it takes to get the job done. You can let her angst all you want when she’s in her bunk afterwards.

Just because you put a female in a role that is traditionally male and actually make her competent, that doesn’t mean you’ve sold out to the feminists or are simply putting boobs on a man. It means you are writing a character to fit the situation you’ve placed her in. Most of all, as writers and as readers, we have to remember that as time passes, things change. Technology improves, wars are fought and the roles people play — whether you are looking at the sexes or sexual preference or race/creed/whatever — change. Women are no longer expected to stay home, get pregnant, raise the kids and have dinner on the table when hubby gets home from the office. In the distant future, it isn’t a stretch to have a woman being every bit as competent on the bridge of a starship as a male. Nor is it a stretch that they will be able to fight as well as a man — at least if in battle armor or something similar — due to technical advances to the armor and possibly implants, etc.

I guess what really threw me about the comment was the fact that the poster apparently didn’t see the underlying problem with what he was saying. Take away those strong, competent and capable women and where are the role models for our girls to dream about? Should we deny them the stars simply because, right now, a woman isn’t equal to a man on all levels? I don’t know about you but I want the younger generations, female and male alike, to dream to be more than previous generations have been. It is up to us, as writers, to find a way to show that women can do much of what a man can — and vice verse — without making the woman a “man with boobs” or the man a milquetoast.

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Friday starts the Labor Day Promotion I mentioned yesterday. At last count, there were more 30 or more authors taking part and more than 80 titles being offered for $2.99 or less. You can find a complete listing here. (It has been updated since yesterday) Below is just an sampling of some of the titles you’ll find on sale starting Friday (although some have already been marked down).

VfASam Schall
Vengeance from Ashes

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

conventKate Paulk
ConVent

A vampire, a werewolf, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. Whoever picked this team to save the world wasn’t thinking of sending the very best. But then, since this particular threat to the universe and everything good is being staged in science fiction conventions, amid people in costume, misfits and creative geniuses, any convetional hero would have stood out. Now Jim, the vampire, and his unlikely sidekicks have to beat the clock to find out who’s sacrificing con goers before all hell breaks loose — literally.

ConVent is proof that Kate Paulk’s brain works in wonderfully mysterious ways. A sarcastic vampire, his werewolf best buddy, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. The “Save the world” department really messed it up this time.

 

ConSensualConSensual

There are vampires in the lobby, succubi in the beds, and bodies in the bathroom. It’s ConSensual, where the editors are demons, the writers are crazy and the vampires and werewolves might be the most stable people in the room.

If that isn’t enough, Dracula is staying at the hotel on a business trip for his wood-based hardware chain, Kit Marlowe is one of the authors, and there’s an out of control baby vampire to deal with. Once again, the “Save the World” department is caught with its pants down.

 

PixieCedar Sanderson
Pixie Noir (Pixie for Hire Book 1)

You can’t keep a tough Pixie down…

Lom is a bounty hunter, paid to bring magical creatures of all descriptions back Underhill, to prevent war with humans should they discover the strangers amongst them. Bella is about to find out she’s a real life fairy princess, but all she wants to do is live peacefully in Alaska, where the biggest problems are hungry grizzly bears. He has to bring her in. It’s nothing personal, it’s his job…

“They had almost had me, that once. I’d been young and foolish, trying to do something heroic, of course. I wouldn’t do that again anytime soon. Now, I work for duty, but nothing more than is necessary to fulfill the family debt. I get paid, which makes me a bounty hunter, but she’s about to teach me about honor. Like all lessons, this one was going to hurt. Fortunately, I have a good gun to fill my hand, and if I have to go, she has been good to look at.”

 

tricksterTrickster Noir (Pixie for Hire Book 2)

After the battle of Tower Baelfire ended, Lom lay dying. Bella was tasked with not only the job she never wanted, but the one she did. Could she keep Lom alive long enough for him to come to the rescue when their kingdom needed them? And what did Raven, mysterious trickster spirit and honorary uncle to Bella, want with them? If the threat was big enough to have the trickster worried, Bella knew she needed to have Lom at her side. Underhill might look like a soap-bubble kingdom, but Bella and Lom knew there was a gritty underside. Why else would fairyland need a dark man willing to carry a big gun and be the Pixie for Hire?

 

the eternity symbioteThe Eternity Symbiote

Earth sits at the center of a galactic power struggle humanity knows nothing about. Then an alien delegation suffers a fatal accident and hidden plans unravel around the wreckage in the Alaskan wilderness. Infectious disease expert Gabrielle McGregor discovers the hidden machinations and what they’ll mean for her and her family.

 

 

HuntedEllie Ferguson
Hunted (Book One of Hunter’s Moon)

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

(This is a new edition of Hunted and includes new back material.)

Hunters DutyHunter’s Duty (Book Two of Hunter’s Moon)

Maggie Thrasher is looking for a man, not to love but to kill. Duty to her pride and loyalty to her family demands it. Joshua Volk has betrayed pride, pack and clan. All he cares about is destroying the old ways and killing anyone, normal or shape-changer, who gets in his way. Jim Kincade is dedicated to two things: upholding the law and protecting the pride from discovery. When Jim is called to the scene of a possible murder, the last thing he expects is to discover the alleged killer is a tracker from another pride. Now he’s faced with a woman who is most definitely more than she appears. Complicating matters even more, there’s something about her that calls to him and his leopard is determined to claim her for his own. Joshua Volk is looking for revenge. Maggie killed one of his own. His vengeance will bring Maggie’s worst nightmares to life. Is the passion between Maggie and Jim enough to defeat Volk’s plans or will Maggie’s determination to fulfill her duty to her pride be the death of them both?

(This is the second edition of Hunter’s Duty and includes new back material.)

Nocturnal lives boxedAmanda S. Green
Nocturnal Lives (Boxed Set – includes Nocturnal Origins, Nocturnal Serenade, Nocturnal Interlude)

Special price of $2.99 though September 5th.

This “box set” includes the first three novels in the Nocturnal Lives series.

Nocturnal OriginsNocturnal Origins

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

Nocturnal InterludeNocturnal Serenade

Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

Nocturnal Interlude2Nocturnal Interlude

Lt. Mackenzie Santos swears she will never take another vacation again as long as she lives. The moment she returns home, two federal agents are there to take her into custody. Then she finds out her partner, Sgt. Patricia Collins, as well as several others are missing. Several of the missing have connections to law enforcement. All are connected to Mac through one important and very secret fact — they are all shapechangers. Has someone finally discovered that the myths and bad Hollywood movies are actually based on fact or is there something else, something more insidious at work?

Mac finds herself in a race against time not only to save her partner and the others but to discover who was behind their disappearances. As she does, she finds herself dealing with Internal Affairs, dirty cops, the Feds and a possible conspiracy within the shapeshifter community that could not only bring their existence to light but cause a civil war between shifters.

ATONSarah A. Hoyt and Sofie Skapski
A Touch of Night

When Netherfield is let at last, Mrs. Bennet is very much afraid that the new neighbors will be shape shifters. The English countryside is much plagued with the creatures and the Royal Were Hunters have their hands full. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Bennet tries to hide a deadly secret, one that could destroy the whole family. In a world where being a dragon is a crime can a dragon ever find love?

The novel is set in the world of Sarah A. Hoyt’s Magical British Empire.

doamSarah D’Almeida
Death of a Musketeer (Musketeers Mysteries Book 1)

April in Paris 1625. D’Artagnan, and his new friends who hide their true identities under the assumed names of Athos, Porthos and Aramis, discover the corpse of a beautiful woman who looks like the Queen of France. Suspecting an intrigue of Cardinal Richelieu’s and fearing the murder will go unpunished they start investigating. But the enterprise will be fraught with danger, traps from the Cardinal, duels with guards and plotting from the king himself.

 

Musketeers SeamstressThe Musketeer’s Seamstress (Musketeers Mysteries Book 2)

Aramis emerges from the water closet to find his lover, a duchess, murdered on her bed. The room is locked, and Aramis is the only one who could have entered it. He’s sure he didn’t do it, but no one else believes him. Even Monsieur de Treville, Captain of Musketeers, doubts Aramis’s word. Aramis must leave Paris and go on the run, entrusting the solving of the murder, and the defense of his honor, his freedom and his very life to Athos, Porthos and D’Artagnan. Can “one for all” carry the day when every powerful person in France believes Aramis a murderer and when powerful interests would gladly frame Aramis for it?

 

Musketeers apprenticeThe Musketeer’s Apprentice (Musketeers Mysteries Book 3)

It’s August in Paris 1625 and Porthos, once a dancing and fencing master, has taken as apprentice a young nobleman, whom he’s teaching to fence and ride. When the young man dies, poisoned, the stories of his ancestry and domicile unravel into layer after layer of deception and blackmail, involving Porthos’s relatives and his own past.

Can Porthos, Athos, Aramis and D’Artagnan dodge the Cardinal’s guards while finding the real murderer? Who was Guillaume Jaucourt, and who could have killed him? And why?

It’s one for all and all for one with the swashbuckling sleuths, in a race against time and their own misgivings.

 

Musketeers InheritanceThe Musketeer’s Inheritance (Musketeers Mysteries Book 4)

THIS BOOK WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY BERKLEY PRIME CRIME UNDER THE TITLE “A DEATH IN GASCONY.”

A letter from Gascony calls D’Artagnan home. His father is dead and D’Artagnan must come and take charge of the estate. His friends, of course, accompany him. But what Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan don’t know is that the older D’Artagnan was murdered and that they must find the killer, if they want to keep the younger D’Artagnan alive.

By award winning author Sarah A. Hoyt writing as Sarah D’Almeida.

16 Comments

  1. Well, I’m a white conservative male and I enjoy reading about Strong characters, “boobs or no boobs”. [Wink]

    While in general I dislike the “writing about role models for [Fill In The Blank Group], more and more I’m in favor of Strong Women characters who are not people who would be called jerks/assholes if they were Men.

    Mackenzie Santos, Ashlyn Shaw, and Honor Harrington have their flaws but they aren’t jerks and/or assholes. [Smile]

    1. Paul, thanks. I just want to write characters people want to read. I do, however, object when someone comes in with absolute statements saying writing characters like I do means I — and especially men who write similar characters — are promoting the feminist agenda and we should, basically, turn in our libertarian membership cards. And yes, btw, I am hoping a certain Wench Winch decides to ‘educate’ him.

  2. But to say women will use words before violence fails to take into consideration what the situation is.

    If the woman in question is in a situation, like, say, serving in the military in wartime, then she’d better be ready to use violence without hesitation or she needs to be in another line of work.

    1. Absolutely. But, according to this person, what is best for society is for women to be good wives (housekeepers) and mothers. We’re to let the men go out and be the providers. And, yes, he included housekeepers in parens in his comment.

  3. Those who say women shy away from violence or military action obvious haven’t heard of Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi or Golda Meir.

    I had not set out to write about strong female characters, but Annabelle in The Rebel With basically narrated her story to me. She is also the principal character in The Rebel Trap and a co-protagonist in Rebels Divided. She is a strong character because of her inner drive and having to deal with what she sees as injustices. I don’t see her in any of the traditional stereotypes, which is why I enjoyed writing her story.

    1. Lance, exactly. I have a number of characters who are like that. Only two of my females leads started out in careers that might be seen as traditionally male. But neither are anything but female. It’s just that their situations have caused them to have to adapt or die. Apparently, however, that isn’t something we’re supposed to do. According to the guy who is about to be placed on my blocked list out of respect for my blood pressure, for the good of society, women should be housewives, housekeepers and mothers and we should leave the providing for the family and security to the men.

  4. Well, I am be getting myself in trouble but….

    I suspect that there are more women suited for the demanding role of housewives (including at home mothers) than there are men suited for the demanding role of househusbands (including at home fathers).

    On the other hand, I doubt that many would want to read about the typical lives of housewives and househusbands.

    On the gripping hand, it is quite arrogant for somebody to say all women must be housewives and just as arrogant to say that no woman should “settle” for just being a housewife.

    IMO this “individual” is as arrogant as the radical feminists.

    1. How many hands do dragons have? 😉

      I agree, however. I dislike absolutes, especially when it comes to saying what someone should or should not do based on their sex, race or whatever. So I was evil. I sicced the WW on him.

  5. Amanda, I won’t recap my experience at InConJunction this year, on a panel (Strong female characters), but will *condense.* “Women are (typically) smaller, weaker physically, so they ‘stuck closer to home.” Last line of defense, so to speak. Men (bigger, stronger) went out to meet the attack.” Obviously, smaller men, stayed closer, bigger women went out with the men. IMO, that;s why women tend to plan more than men do. At least until the “men” gain enough experience to semi-plan. 🙂
    My first book (due out soon), has a “strong female MC.” At least she comes across that way to me. *She’s* the one who “told me the story.” _IMO_ anyone who thinks that a “strong woman is just a ‘man with boobs, and different name’,” is a _*lazy*_ writer. You aren’t, and neither are the others who write them as characters. Weber’s War Maid’s story is no “man w/boobs.” Neither is Elizabeth Moon’s Paksenarrion.
    Now, drop your blood pressure by dreaming up ways to kill that slime mold in a book. Make it long, slow and painful. 🙂

    1. Walter, the guy has continued to prove that he has his own agenda that is so far out in left field that it is out of the park, past the parking lot and into the next town.As Kate commented elsewhere, his is suffering from such a case of cranial rectal insertion that she doesn’t know how he can eat. And, now that you mention it, I was just telling someone that I needed to write the guy into the current WIP. There is a nice death scene awaiting.

    1. Cyn, I have a feeling no one dared call you that and I doubt that you came across as a shrill bitch wearing her victimhood on her sleeve.

  6. Dragons have as many hands as we need. [Wink]

    Oh, I got the “gripping hand” thing from Niven & Pournelle’s _The Gripping Hand_, the sequel to _Mote In God’s Eye_. If you remember the books, the Moties had three arms with one of the hands used mostly for gripping. [Smile]

  7. My stories, mostly, have strong female characters — but they are strong in other areas than physical strength. They are smart, they are mentally tough and they are wicked plotters when called upon. I have never had a complaint that my characters are “men with boobs.” Mostly I get complaints about my proof-reading. 😀

    1. LOL. Don’t talk to me about proofreading. I’ve been going over a novella I previously published and I can’t believe the errors that slipped past me and the editor we brought in for it.

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