A "good enough" mom muses about alpha moms, adoption, computers, the State Of The World, Internet quirkiness, and the Kosmik All
The "strong woman" in science fiction
When OmegaMom was a child, OmegaGranny was always searching out intriguing books for her to read in the local secondhand shops. As a result, OmegaMom has an interesting collection of kids' books from the turn of the century (that would be the previous century, folks), beautifully illustrated fairy tales and stories of adventure and intrigue. Unbeknownst to me, one of OmegaGranny's criteria was strong women in fiction. One area where she located some was science fiction. One day, when OmegaMom was almost nine years old, OmegaGranny handed her an issue of Astounding Science Fiction with an interesting dinosaury-looking winged thing on the cover, and said, "Read it." It was sort of a command. Being a dutiful dotter, I complied. The story was called "Dragonrider", by a woman named Anne McCaffrey. It started quickly, slammed you into the story, and swept you up. And it had wicked cool illustrations. OmegaMom was hooked on science fiction and fantasy from that day on. (My bank account damns you, OmegaGranny!) In later discussions with OmegaGranny, she told me that she gave it to me because she was so glad to come across a story with a woman hero. Not a "heroine", a "hero". Someone strong. Someone who was intelligent. Someone who made her own destiny. She pushed that and other science fiction stories on me to show me that women could hold their own in a man's world, both in being authors and in being the main character of exciting, interesting novels. At some point in the early '90s, seeking refuge from days and weeks and months of immersion in mathematics and computer science, I discovered a subset of science fiction that I term the "Female Warrior Archetype". It's sort of a cross between what OmegaBrother dubs "Tank Books" (Tom Clancey's books fit this description), science fiction, and romantic fairy tale. A "Tank Book" contains lots of page-long descriptions of military machinery, battles, strong men, and politics. The FMA style of SF contains a space-age version of same. The first batch I read were by Elizabeth Moon; the "Deed of Paksenarrion" books were fantasy, but then she did a series focusing on a female starship captain cashiered from the starfleet service due to Evil Machinations of Corrupt Powerful Noblemen Striving To Bring About the Downfall of the Righteous, the Heris Serrano series. I gobbled them up. Then I discovered Honor Harrington. Once again, we have a female military person in the far future dealing with the Evil Machinations of Corrupt Powerful Politicians Striving to Bring About the Downfall of the Righteous. I gobbled them up. Lately, I have come across the Kris Longknife books. Once again, we have a female starfleet officer dealing with the Evil Machinations etc. Are you beginning to see a pattern here? Typically, these female military types are offspring of nobility...or the daughter of millionaires...or a cousin of the emperor. That's the romantic fairy tale part; it would be nice to have one of these Archetypal Female Warriors be, say, from a totally uninspiring bourgeois family from the suburbs of the big town on a small world, y'know? After reading all of these series (I think that David Weber's Honor Harrington was the first), while I'm glad to see the Strong Woman Saving the Day, I think it tends to perpetuate the myth that a Strong Woman has to have connections to be a success. Frankly, my eyes tend to glaze over when the various authors get into the battle scenes. It's the politics behind the battles that really intrigues me. In the Heris Serrano/Esmay Suiza/Kylara Vatta universe, the driving force behind all the intrigue is the impact of longevity drugs on society, and how a certain faction of the established powers that be are trying to consolidate their power before the younger generation realizes just how much the longevity drugs will affect what is seen as "youth" versus "maturity". In the Honor Harrington novels, we have two threads: the conflict between the UK-like Republic of Manticore versus the entrenched welfare state of Haven, plus the impact of the realization that treecats are actually sapient beings. Alas, I cannot remember the political backstory of the Kris Longknife novels; I think I have become jaded by the Woman Warrior genre. Take all this with a grain of salt: I am the person to whom the shenanigans in Babylon V and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and novels by writers such as C.J. Cherryh and Dawn Friedman are aimed. Gimme murky plotting and cynical manipulations, with a dollop of aliens (or a big lump of aliens) and some battles, and I'm a happy camper. (A post that didn't mention horses. I could have, as the Heris Serrano novels have a great deal of horsiness about them. But I wanted a break.)
posted by Kate @ 3/27/2006 06:36:00 PM  
6 Comments:
  • At 3/27/2006 10:23:00 PM, Blogger PAgent said…

    You just rattled off some of my very favorite series, starting with the Pern books and going through the Honor Harrington series.

    And I once gave a copy of The Deed of Paksenarrion to my niece, because I was thrilled to find a strong female character for whom sex was just, well, not important.

     
  • At 3/28/2006 07:01:00 AM, Blogger Kate said…

    Paks was great. It occurs to me that she definitely didn't fit the romantic-female-warrior-from-nobility cliche; she rose up from desperate poverty.

    Of course, that was a fantasy series, not the gleaming spaceships plunging into battle to save the Righteous From the Evil Machinations, etc. And Paks had gods on her side, which always helps.

     
  • At 3/28/2006 01:50:00 PM, Blogger Momma Star said…

    OmegaGranny rocks.

     
  • At 3/28/2006 08:14:00 PM, Anonymous journeywoman said…

    You might want to pick up the Queens Own books by Mercedes Lackey.

    Also Elvenborn by Mercedes Lackey.

    Also Laurell K. Hamilton...Anita Blake and Merry Gentry.

     
  • At 3/28/2006 08:35:00 PM, Blogger Kate said…

    I've never been able to get "into" Mercedes Lackey. I think part of it is I have an innate mistrust of authors that can churn out four books in a year. (Shoot me, I'm a snob!)

    Laurel Hamilton...hmmm...I'll check her out.

     
  • At 5/18/2006 09:25:00 PM, Anonymous Vox said…

    Just one small detail...Honor Harrington is *not* connected...at least not in the way you mention the others being. She's the daughter of a yeoman family from Sphinx, which means...lower middle class in a lower middle class planet. She becomes connected out of raw ability or luck...first luck, in Saganami Island, when she ended up with Michelle Henke as her roommate, and then raw ability when she impressed the hell out of the then Rear Admiral Courvasier.

    The next connection came as part of her mission in Grayson, and was the result of personally saving the life of Benjamin and his family...and so on and so forth.

    Honor hasn't had anything easy, not even when she became friends with the elite of her two nations.

     
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About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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