Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In which I plan to unleash the Pussy Hurricane

The title for this post came to me from a cherished friend who is one of very few people in my life from whom I'd accept large-scale guidance on the direction of my fiction.  She's earned this right by being the only person to have read absolutely everything I've written in the last four years.

She's read a few things in draft which you, the world, haven't seen yet, since I haven't sold them yet.  She says my fiction really comes to life when I write women protagonists, and she asks me to do more of that (the above-mentioned hurricane).

This advice comes at an interesting time for me.  When I first started writing seriously, in university, I had a hard time writing believable female characters.  Partly due to internalized misogyny: it's only recently that women's works have become more included in the cultural canon, and the literary education I received as a kid was pretty heavily weighted in favour of the dominance of men's works and men's stories, which in turn influenced how I write.

More personally, I'm told I'm a pretty atypical woman in some ways.  When I tried to write characters like myself, I'd get feedback that they weren't believable as women even though they were just reflecting my own experience.  The woman who was supposed to be a mentor to me in university told me in front of an entire seminar that I didn't know how to be a woman.  I'm still not sure what she meant, but at the time, sadly, I believed her.

I've gotten over a lot of this, thanks to repeated encounters with smart feminists making arguments like this one (thanks, Foz Meadows!) and also thanks to the process of growing up and owning my experience.  I'm feeling excited and confident about my writing, and more than ever, I'm feeling that it reflects and develops my own best self.

But all of that is about me, and I sometimes worry that what's good for me isn't particularly good for the world.

And then I come across something like this discussion begun by Liz Bourke.  It's a lively, wonderful post about the dearth of older female protagonists in speculative fiction.  The comments section includes recommendations...and even when defining 'older' women as over 35 (!), the list is disappointingly short, although full of things I look forward to reading.

It's a timely reminder that writing my own truth--as a woman over 35, as a queer person, as a person who experiences gender unusually, as a person--is not only good for me.  It's good for readers.  It's good for other writers.  It's even good for the business.

I'm not saying I'm now going to plan some kind of authorial-insert cookie-cutter version of myself for all of my protagonists, but I am feeling like I no longer have to go through the process of translating my characters into cultural defaults.  They can be who they are.  They must be who they are.  And if that means they're odd women, older women, other women, so be it.

We can be soldiers now, you know.  (We've been soldiers all along.)

2 comments:

Kristin Craig Lai said...

I would love to read the women you would write and I know a lot of other sci-fi and fantasy fans who would too. I can't wait.

clairification said...

Now if only I was a faster writer...

And thanks! :)